Four Amazing Days in Rome
As part of our long 3+ week honeymoon we decided to spend 4 amazing nights in Rome, Italy! This was the first stop on the European section of the trip. We had just wrapped up relaxing in Punta Cana and we were fortunate enough to get business class tickets to Europe for nearly free. After all that beach time and pina coladas we were ready to be active and explore! Rome was the perfect stop for us!
For accommodations we stayed at the Radisson Blu Rome which had both its positives and negatives but overall we liked our stay there. The plan was to explore during the day, take a little siesta at the hotel pool in the afternoon, and then go out for dinner to enjoy Italy’s amazing food. We followed through everyday!
Day 1 – Arrival & the “Caesar Shuffle”
It was a whirlwind of a day after taking the flight from Punta Cana to Dusseldorf in business class. From there we had to connect again in Vienna until we finally landed in Rome around noon. It wasn’t the most ideal routing but it was nearly free thanks to miles so we couldn’t complain too much. From the airport we took the express train to the central station which was conveniently located next to our hotel.
Even being sleep deprived and not at all adjusted to the time difference we decided to go out and explore! After checking in to our hotel we headed out and picked up the all important Roma Pass and sim card from TIM at the train station. From there we headed towards the Spanish Steps to start the “Caesar Shuffle” through many of the main sights. We wandered through the sea of people to the Trevi Fountain. It is truly amazing how many people walk in the tourist areas.
After walking for a couple of hours we realized how hungry and tired we were and got suckered into one of the tourist trap restaurants. It wasn’t bad but definitely was overpriced based on the quality. We soon learned it was worth while to walk even just a couple blocks away from the tourist areas for better and cheaper food.
Being fueled up we got our second wind and continued forth, making our way all the way to the historic Pantheon! It is incredible seeing how such an old and beautiful temple could last for such a long time. Make sure to stop by if you are in Rome, remember it is free!
Eventually we made it all the way to Piazza Navona just as the sun was beginning to set. We didn’t complete the entire “Caesar Shuffle” but we covered a lot of it in just a couple of hours. Walking back wasn’t the most fun as we didn’t realize how far we had really gone. Luckily our map and GPS on our phone worked great so we didn’t get lost. We had a data plan but even without one you can use Google Maps if you download an area before heading there. Honestly, we were surprised we got so much in despite being there just a half a day in Rome!
Day 2 – Colosseum, Roman Forum, & Palentine Hill
Our first full day in Rome we went to the granddaddy of them all first, the Colosseum. It was a mere 20 minute walk from our hotel and took us about 30 minutes of waiting in line to get in. Having the Roma Pass helped skip part of the wait as there is a whole separate line for tickets and then it requires you to go into another line. I would recommend the Roma Pass as it gives you access to two attractions and public transportation for three days. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palentine Hill is all considered one attraction.
The Colosseum is a truly an amazing structure. It is quite amazing that it is still standing and is easy to imagine the gladiator battles happening in the center of the arena. It is a must for any tour of Rome.
After admiring the Colosseum we took the short walk over to the Roman Forum which is also included on the Roma Pass. This is the ancient part of the city and still has some impressive buildings standing. We spent a couple hours walking through the old city trying to go back in time. Keep in mind there are crowds everywhere especially on a perfect day like we had. We lucked out in Rome with sunny days and 75 degrees almost the entire time!
The Roman Forum is essentially connected to Palentine Hill with no need to wait in any lines to enter. Up on top of the hill you can see over the entire Roman Forum and get a nice view of the Colosseum. Palentine Hill is where all the royalty lived with their massive palaces. One even had it’s own small gladiator ring to host their own shows.
With the Altare della Patria right next door to all the ancient ruins we decided to pop in. There are a couple of museums here but we took a pass with it being so nice out. Instead we opted for our first taste of gelato! Honestly, our favorite gelato stop we had! We were pretty exhausted so we took a bus back to our hotel. Another nice perk of the Roma Pass, free public transit all throughout the Rome metro area.
Back at the hotel we relaxed at the rooftop pool with great views of Rome. As for that night we headed north of the train station to the restaurant, La Pentolaccia, and had one of our best meals of the entire vacation. A lot of wine sure helped too!
Day 3 – Vatican City
No visit to Rome would be complete without visiting Vatican City and we set out on our third day to visit the smallest country in the world. Yes, the Vatican is a country inside of Italy. From our hotel we took the metro line once again taking advantage of the Roma Pass for the free public transportation.
For the Vatican we opted for a guided tour and we are really glad we did, the place was a maze! It also helped us skipped the massive line. We booked our tickets online a couple days prior and that let us skip the line to get in. The line was massive and had to be over an hour wait. If you don’t book online you can try your luck with one of the many tours trying to sell you on the way to the entrance. These tours skip part of the line but not the entire thing.
Our tour was for about 4 hours with visits in the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peters Basilica. While Beth and I are not art buffs we did appreciate much of the art work. It is good to go outside of your normal boundaries anyway.
The highlight of the tour was walking through the Sistine Chapel and then into St. Peters Basilica. It was quite impressive to be in the largest church in the world. The sheer size with the vaulted ceilings is insane. In the center of the church they compare how much larger St. Peters is to many other churches.
Exiting the church into St. Peter’s Square was surreal. A small storm was brewing making the scene ominous with all the empty seats. It is crazy to think they conduct Sunday service with thousands of people in these very seats.
Our official tour ended so we grabbed lunch nearby. In order to complete everything on our papal adventure we took a 20 minute walk to Castel Sant’Angelo which used to be the Pope’s castle if there was an emergency. We took our time exploring all of the castle’s corridors and rooms. There is even a small restaurant near the top. The view is impressive with the Vatican and Tiber River in the background.
Day 4 – Ostia Antica
The fourth and final day in Rome was surprisingly one of our favorites. We decided to get outside of downtown Rome and explore Ostia Antica. It is an easy 45 minute train ride from the center of Rome. It actually requires two trains but it is extremely easy and the tickets are once again covered on the Roma Pass. Also the Roma Pass can be used to enter Ostia Antica and counts as an attraction.
Ostia Antica is the ancient port of Rome dating back over 2000 years ago. What is interesting is that this port is now a solid two miles inland! Crazy to see how mother nature works but because of the changing of the land Ostia Antica was buried underneath sediment stopping the perils of time.
Ostia Antica is extremely well preserved with a theater, bathrooms, entire buildings, and sculptures still intact. Many people said it is even better than Pompeii (haven’t been) and without the crowds! We had many of the ruins to ourselves and they let you walk almost everywhere.
It was crazy seeing a lot of the art and even signs still legible. I would suggest buying the guide book at the entrance as it has some great overlays of the buildings to show you how it would have looked 2,000 years ago. It felt like we were just wandering around a town way back in the day!
On the way back when switching trains we took a detour at the Testaccio stop where you have to stop anyway. We walked to a small market where we grabbed lunch to get a more local feel. Food was delicious and cheap. We then wandered through an old cemetery which was very serene.
But the real reason to stop in Testaccio is that there happens to be an Egyptian inspired pyramid… The Pyramid of Cestius which is over 2000 years old. Pretty crazy to see a pyramid in Rome. Now whether to count this on my travel goal list as seeing the pyramids of Egypt… Hmm.
The eternal city, Rome is a most stop for anyone heading to Italy. Our four day itinerary proved to be perfect for us. We managed to hit all the main attractions and even go outside of the downtown area. I would recommend staying at least four days to get a good feel of the city and not be rushed. If you have more time in Rome there is plenty of other attractions too!
What are some of your favorites things to do in Rome?