At long last, my Italy series is coming to the blog the next two weeks!! I’m starting with this Rome Travel Diary, followed by Venice tomorrow, Cinque Terre/Pisa Wednesday, and Tuscany Thursday! Next week I’ll cover Florence/Siena, and the Amalfi Coast! I’ll also be sharing budgeting tips, what I wore, and other helpful tidbits along the way. Each post will start with a diary and photos, and end with some short bullet points on tips, as well as links to what I wore.
As a family, we chose to fly in and out of Rome, knowing that the Pope would be back for his Wednesday benedictions in August. So this post will cover the first 2 and the last 2 days of our 3 week trip! Let’s start with where we stayed..
Rome is mostly interesting for people that are fascinated with history and architecture. And yes, it’s quite touristy and dirty. We chose to stay at this HomeAway (comfortably slept our family of 5) because it was not even a 10 minute walk to the Colosseum. You could actually see it turning into our street which was pretty exciting! From the Colosseum and our HomeAway, most of the famous monuments are within walking distance.
After dropping our luggage off, we headed to a cafe down the street called La Botegga del Caffe which was a true gem with good Wi-Fi (haha!). They also had the best bruschetta we ate on the entire trip.. so naturally we ate there like 3 times (not an exaggeration). Rome has a lot of tourist-trap type restaurants, but we did run into someone in Greve that told us there is a $2 app you can download called Katie Parla’s Rome. It works offline too, that way you can still find food recommendations near you even if you’re not on Wi-Fi! So this is my biggest food tip for you! 🙂
The first evening in Rome we walked to the Trevi Fountain (*cue Lizzie McGuire reference*), the Spanish Steps (underwhelming in my humble opinion), and had dinner at a restaurant called Trattoria Tritone, covered in a facade of vines and flowers. So cute! Right next to our HomeAway there’s also a gelato place called Il Gelatone that I recommend.
On the second day, we saw the Colosseum (no need for a reservation honestly, if you get there around 8:30 a.m. the line was only about 10 minutes long). We had no intention of a guided tour, but if you do there are plenty of vendors out and about looking to add you to their group so you can skip the line. Again, if you are into history like me, then the Colosseum is super fascinating!
Across the Colosseum is the Palatine Hill where you can see ancient Roman ruins and the Roman Forum. There’s a mini “hike” to the top where you get a really amazing panoramic view of Rome. But let me just tell you.. Rome in July is HOT. Like almost Texas hot. And for budgeting purposes, I will tell you to budget A LOT for water. You will need to pay for bottled water at every meal in Italy (you need to specify natural as opposed to sparkling, or in Italian, “frizzante”), plus during the day walking around.
In the afternoon, we saw the beautiful white building Altare della Patria, Rome’s war/military memorial. I think this was my favorite structure in Rome! We also explored the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, all within walking distance of each other.
I read so many blogs and tips about how to go about seeing the Pope for his Wednesday Benedictions. As practicing Catholics (and as my dad suffers from Stage 4 Lung Cancer), this was really important for our family! Here’s what I learned. First of all, the Pople is absent in July. Every other month of the year (BESIDES AUGUST), you need tickets (they’re free) to get in to see the Pope. You can read about how to request papal audience tickets here. I also read that the doors open at 8 a.m. and the Pope comes out around 10 a.m., but that if you’re not there around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., you won’t get seats and will have to stand.
As a family, we decided, screw it, we came this far.. let’s wait 4 hours to see the Pope! LOL. We did buy our Vatican Museum tickets in advance, giving ourselves a 3 hour window after the papal audience to have lunch and walk back to the Airbnb to cool off. [P.S. we stayed in this Airbnb close to the Vatican. The host was WONDERFUL and it had amazing Wi-Fi and A/C. Comfortably sleeps 6 I would say.]
We got to Vatican City around 7:00 a.m. but the police in the area have no idea about any of the events.. they are literally just there for protection. It’s the Swiss Guards that can give you directions for any questions you might have. It turned out that because of the heat, the Pope was actually going to give his benediction in the Paul VI Audience Hall rather than in the plaza.
After figuring this out, we were finally in line! Had we known sooner, we would have been much further ahead in line. However, we got good seats in an air-conditioned building so our complaints were few, considering what we were expecting! The trick is to sit closest to the middle aisle where he walks down, even if it’s towards the back of the room. Pope Francis takes a considerable amount of time shaking hands and kissing babies and people have NO SHAME standing on chairs, screaming, and pushing to get a good #Papalselfie!
After the Pope’s blessings, we picked up some groceries to make sandwiches, headed back to the apartment to eat, and take quick naps! Then we ventured back to the Vatican to visit the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums) remind me of Versailles in the way they’re set up. You basically move from room to room observing the artwork and ceilings and are herded to the next room. Yes, there are people everywhere. It’s Italy.. in July.. haha!
St. Peter’s Basilica is stunning, and I could have spent hours inside of the church. I also wasn’t aware that Pope John Paul II’s tomb is now inside, which is of interest to me because many of my friends went to John Paul II High School in Plano.
My mom and I decided to continue on our adventure that day towards Trastevere, a trendy neighborhood with fun cocktail bars and local artisans. We observed lots of people in their 20s grabbing happy hour with friends, so we decided to drink some beers at a a cocktail bar. (I can’t remember the name of it but there are plenty in the area with good music!) One of my readers asked me about some non-touristy things to do in Rome, and exploring Trastevere is what I recommend for those of you that want more of an “authentic” experience. Later that night we had a family dinner at Osteria Centouno. (The night before we had dinner at La Fiorentina, both of which were recommended to us by locals).
After 3 long weeks in Italy, it was time to say arrivederci! Federica, the owner of the Airbnb, was kind enough to call a van for us to get to the airport! She was super helpful and her apartment was family-friendly, in the case that you’re ever to travel with young children one day!
Tips in Rome:
-Download Katie Parla’s food app.
-Get to the Colosseum early in the morning if you didn’t pre-book your ticket.
-Budget for water and wear comfy shoes. Remember “frizzante” water means sparkling water.
-Beware of pickpockets.
-Wear something that covers your shoulders and your knees when visiting the Vatican.
-Purchase your Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel ticket online in advance. Afternoon times are less crowded than morning slots.
-Remember the Pope gives blessings on Wednesdays only, and 10 months out of the year you need to request [free] tickets in advance.
What I Wore
Chicwish was kind enough to send along some outfits for my trip! I styled the top in the picture below to see the Colosseum and walk around Rome. It fit oversized and is lightweight so it was perfect for a long, hot day!
Have you ever been to Rome?! What were your highlights?!