Saturday, 26 October 2013

T R A V E L: When In Rome

things to do in rome
DESCRIBE ROME IN 5 WORDS: Beautiful / Romantic / Historic / Great Atmosphere

A few weeks ago I was extremely lucky to be able to visit a beautiful part of the world which I'd never ventured to before, that funky little boot-shaped country we've all come to know and love... Italy. I spent 9 days in total between Rome and Sorrento, and I have to say, it was probably one of my favourite trips abroad. Because I was so taken with the place, and because I love to harp on about things in general, I thought it would be nice to put a travel guide together for anyone who may be considering their first trip to Rome over the next few years. I hope this information proves useful to somebody as I could've really done with knowing this stuff before I went - but never mind!! I learnt the hard way!

First of all let me start with the obvious. If you're looking for a relaxing, beach break holiday then Rome is definitely not for you, although Sorrento would be! (Don't worry, there will be another blog post coming soon about Sorrento.) Rome is the perfect place to immerse yourself in both historic and modern Roman culture. Whether you're interested in ancient Roman history and the Colosseum, the grandeur and religious past of Vatican City or even just the amazing Italian food, there's a lot of culture to surround yourself with in such a bustling city!

PLACES TO VISIT

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City in Italy
inside st peter's basilica
Vatican City is technically it's own city or 'state' within Italy. Prior to going there, I heard rumours that you need your passport to get into the Vatican as it's a separate state - I'm going to quash the rumours right now, you don't need a passport. It's open territory, the currency is in Euros, etc etc. Luckily for us, our accommodation - Hotel Michelangelo - was based right next to Vatican City. We could walk to St Peter's Square in the space of 10 minutes which was pretty ideal.

If you're planning a trip to the Vatican then there are a few things to consider: 
 1) If you want to see the Pope then there is an official 'Papal Audience' every Wednesday which is held in St Peter's Square (weather permitting). To attend the audience you need to request tickets from the Swiss Guard who are located at the bronze gates by St Peter's Basilica. All you need to do is approach them and ask for tickets to the Papal Audience (they're free!) and hey presto, you get to see Monsieur Pope himself. Please bare in mind though that it gets SUPER busy at Vatican City on a Wednesday as hundreds of people from across the world make dedicated pilgrimages to see (and be blessed by) the Pope. So, if you just want to go to see the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and Basilica then avoid this day at all costs!

 2) When you enter St Peter's Square, you will see that there are hundreds of tour guides flocking around trying to sell tours. My advice would be to go with a licensed and official tour guide. We ended up paying €45 each to skip the lines and have a tour of the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel* and St Peter's Basilica - the company we went through was called Maya Tours. This included skipping the line for all three tourist attractions, entry fee for each attraction as well as a 2-3 hour audio tour with an English speaking guide who was an old Italian guy full of personality and very knowledgable. All in all, it's definitely worth the money particularly as the queue for St Peter's Basilica alone can be about 2 hours wait. Not fun to wait in that, especially when it's baking hot! Nobody wants to end up as a roast potato.

Overall I'd say the Vatican is well worth the visit. The architecture is breath taking, the art and treasures in the museum are outstanding and there's just a real luxurious vibe about the place.

*Please note - if you want to visit the Sistine Chapel you have to cover your knees (guys wear trousers, ladies wear long dresses / trousers / skirts) and shoulders.

the Trevi Fountain in Rome
The Trevi Fountain is a rather large and ornate fountain situated near to the main shopping precinct in Rome. It's a beautiful site to behold but because of it's obvious beauty it gets extremely busy there making it a bit of a pick pocket hot spot. (Just don't put your bags down or leave them unguarded!) Whilst you're there, throw a coin into the fountain and apparently if you do, it means you will visit Rome again. I nearly threw my whole purse in when I heard that!

TOP TIP - Watch out for the guy with the extendable magnetic rod (not a euphemism, honest) who just poaches all of the coins you throw into the fountain and walks off... No seriously this happened.

the Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum was a weird attraction to visit. I blame the fact that there was a storm on it's way because the atmosphere within the Colosseum itself was so stuffy and close that it was uncomfortable and almost unbearable. In contrast to the dense atmosphere, the view inside the Colosseum is (to want for a better word) awesome, and if you've seen the film 'Gladiator' then you can really use your imagination to picture in your mind how things would've been thousands of years ago. You can see where the trapdoors were, where the affluent Romans would've sat, where the animals and Gladiators were kept underneath in little cells. It was a very brutal part of ancient Roman history and sadly there was a lot of death there, but I'm glad I went to see it.

TOP TIP - If you want to get tickets for the Colosseum but can't face the ridiculously large queue (it was one of the biggest queues I'd ever seen, think of Alton Towers and multiply it by ten!) then walk down the road to where the entrance for Palestine Hill is and buy your tickets there for The Roman Forum, Palestine Hill and The Colosseum. The queue is far shorter so it's definitely worth it.

the Roman Forum, tourist attraction in Rome
the roman forum
The Roman Forum is situated very close to the Colosseum, so it makes sense to cover the two in one trip!! This place is filled with old Roman ruins and we hired out some audio guides for three hours so that we could hear about each ruin and what it used to be - I'm pretty sure Julius Caesar's tomb is there too. It's a really interesting place to visit, and it's amazing how temples and archways are standing with such detail still carved into the brickwork thousands of years later.

TOP TIP - If the guys dressed up as Romans come near you then RUN AWAYYYY. Just kidding, don't run away, but equally don't let them persuade you to have your picture taken with them unless you want to fork out €20!

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RESTAURANTS WORTH A VISIT

Cantina & Cucina
My Verdict - Beautiful food in a lovely, romantic restaurant located down a small but bustling street. The interior of this place was amazing, the service was fabulous and overall it was a really enjoyable experience!!

Osteria Barberini
My Verdict - This place was quite high up in the restaurant ranks on Trip Advisor and it's no wonder. The food served is of a very high quality (albeit small portions) and very tasty! They specialise in truffle dishes (and no, I don't mean the chocolates I mean the mushrooms) but that's not to say that ALL the dishes include truffles. The menu is so extensive and the service was very good.

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Have you ever been to Rome? Which sites did you go and see?

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2 comments:

  1. What beautiful photos! I'm dying to go to Rome, and Italy in general! The Vatican city looks gorgeous x

    The Little Things

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  2. I adore Rome - I've been twice in the last couple of years and the Roman Forum is my favourite tourist attraction. I also like the Travestire area south of the river - it's great for appertivos and cocktails :) x

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