Rome {4 Day Itinerary}

12 Jun

During our trip to Europe in October of 2013, my husband Andrew and I visited LondonParis, Cinque Terre, and Rome.  Months of planning went into our trip, especially concerning what we were actually going to do while we were visiting.  There’s so much to choose from!  Because there’s an endless array sights to see and things to do, I highly recommend planning your days before you arrive.  As first-time visitors, we wanted to utilize our time to the fullest, and make sure we didn’t miss something important.  I know that some people advocate the “wander and you’ll have more fun” method, but for us, we were less stressed knowing that we didn’t need to figure-out what to do.  And our itineraries were designed with wiggle-room and down time, so that we could do some impromptu things, and not get exhausted.  I hope the following is very helpful as you’re planning your own trip!  Warning: our itineraries are very active, mostly based around walking.  Expect to be on your feet for most of the day!

4 Days in Rome

TIPS FOR ROME

  • Rome does not have an extensive subway system.  The Metro only has two lines: Line A runs east to west, and Line B runs north to south.  That about sums it up.  Granted, Rome is OLD–they probably had trouble building a subway through a city that has been around for thousands of years.  So just be aware that the subway won’t get you everywhere you need to go, unlike in London or Paris.  The bus system kinda makes up for it, it just isn’t as easy to use {we used Google maps to for the bus routes}.
  • The Roma Pass is worth it.  This pass allows free entry to the first 2 {participating} sites you visit, then discounted tickets after that.  It’s good for three days, which was perfect for our timeline.  Public transportation is free also, a huge perk.
  • Buy your tickets in advance for the Vatican {there is zero affiliation with the Roma Pass}.  I cannot stress this enough!  EVERYONE visits the Vatican while in Rome…don’t make the mistake of waiting in the endless lines.
  • Learn some basic Italian words and phrases.  Although most people speak English, especially in the touristy areas, don’t assume.  Get on the locals good side by trying, and they’ll be great sports about it!  We printed-off a cheat sheet to help us out.
  • Bring a guidebook…and your imagination.  Rome is the only city we visited where it was actually necessary to carry a guidebook with us.  The history and landmarks are not as well labeled as other cities we visited.  Plaques were either short on information, or completely in Italian.  On top of that, remember that Rome is ancient.  Many sights will {literally} be a pile of rocks in front of you, or in the process of crumbling.  It takes imagination to view the sights, and think about how it might have looked originally.
  • 5 general tips for traveling Europe.

DAY ONE

When we arrived in Rome {coming from Monterosso in Cinque Terre}, our first impression was…interesting.  The subway is dirty and covered in graffiti, so just be aware this this won’t be the immaculate public transportation of London and Paris.  Also, we happened to arrive in Rome the day after street demonstrations took place.  We were greeted by news helicopters hovering over the city, brigades of police, and street cleaners cleaning up broken glass and debris.  Although we arrived to kinda sketchy circumstances, we were ready to go find our apartment.

And what an apartment we found!  We rented through AirBnB again, and once again the reviews did not disappoint.  Our flat in Rome sported a large terrace overlooking a quaint street full of restaurants and shops.  It had a kitchen and washer.  The fold-out couch bed was decent, definitely not bad.  But the best part was the view.  When we sat on the terrace we looked out over rooftops and church domes.  It was so picturesque.

On our first day we simply acquainted ourselves to the neighborhood and got our bearings.  Our walk took us to a police-protester stand off in the middle of a large square, which was kind of intimidating at first, but Rome is full of tourists and we never felt like it was a dangerous situation.  We ate at an amazing restaurant right down the street from our apartment, and we viewed the largest memorial I have ever seen.  It’s called the “Altar of the Fatherland”, and it’s ginormous.  Any visitor won’t be able to miss it, it sits pretty close to the Colosseum.

Rome Collage 1

{Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 2

{Rome, Italy, October 2013}

DAY TWO

On our first full day in Rome, we did as the Romans used to do: we visited the Colosseum and the Forums.  It was within walking distance from our flat, so we got breakfast and headed out.  Side note–finding American breakfast in Rome was challenging!  After a weeks worth of pastries and fruit for breakfast {don’t get me wrong, it was amazing}, we were craving good ole eggs and bacon.  Much harder to find that we thought it’d be.  We ended up at a sidewalk cafe with sky-high prices.

Anyway–back to the Colosseum.  When you arrive, it’s very confusing where you need to go.  There are people everywhere insisting that you need to join their guided tour {scams}, and the directions are minimal.  But don’t be rattled…just take your time, and show your Roma Pass to the official-looking people.  They’ll point you in the right direction.  The Colosseum was one of the only places on our trip that we didn’t opt for the audio guide.  We had brought our guidebook, so we felt like we were fine on our own.  Once you’re inside the Colosseum, it’s still confusing to figure-out the route they want you to take.  Andrew and I did a lot of backtracking at first, trying to find our way along the right path.  But eventually we got it right, and we got to explore the Colosseum..or what’s left of it.  This is where it’s important to “bring your imagination”, like I mentioned above.  In its current condition, you certainly get the impact of the size of the Colosseum.  What you don’t get is the visual of what it looked like in its prime.  It’s crumbling, and even the parts that are still intact are different from what it was like over 2,000 years ago when gladiators were fighting for their lives there.  So, you really do need to just take it all in, and try to piece together the visuals.  The history is amazing, and it really is astounding that we were walking through a structure that has survived for over 2,000 years.

It took us about an hour and half to explore the Colosseum, then we moved over to the Forums.  A friend we know who had visited Rome told us before we left, “Be prepared to look at a lot of rocks, then read a description about what they used to be.”  And to a certain extent that’s pretty accurate 🙂  The Forums is large, there’s a lot to explore, but hardly anything is intact, so it doesn’t take very long to wander through.  We read through our guidebook, and learned about the history and all the significant landmarks.  In total, we probably spent a good two hours there.  To be completely honest, it was kinda underwhelming.  As a history major, I found the reading fascinating, but the sightseeing just isn’t that thrilling.  Andrew expecting this day to be his most favorite, since he loves all thing ancient and archaeological, but he was just as ready as I was to leave the crowds behind.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing.  Since we had an amazing terrace with wonderful weather (mid-70’s), it was hard to stay away from our own flat 🙂

Rome Colluseum

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 3

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 4

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 5

{The Forums, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Panorama

{Rome panorama, October 2013}

DAY THREE

Vatican City.  When you are in Rome, plan to spend an entire day at the Vatican.  A LONG day.  But what a day it’ll be!

Please, start early.  As a tourist, there is no greater advice I can give other then to start early.  Get there at opening.  I know that this is a vacation, but sleeping in isn’t an option when you’re dealing with such a highly concentrated tourist area.  So get outta bed–there are amazing things waiting for you!!

The Vatican is its own city-state, meaning that they are their own sovereign territory, and are not ruled by Italy.  Which automatically makes it super cool.  It’s the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and is ruled by the Pope, it’s most famous resident.  But it’s also home to the some of the most well known art in the entire world, plus the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  We bought our tickets beforehand online {link above}, which you should absolutely do.  The lines at the Vatican are record setting.  Literally, hours of waiting to just get in.  I don’t understand how people simply assume that they can buy ticket when they show up!  If you already have a ticket, you get to pick what time you enter {we chose 9 am}, and you skip all the lines.  Grab your audio guide and commence the tour.

First, everyone starts at the Vatican Museums.  Be prepared to be on your feet, because you’ve now committed to walking through 54 different galleries.  Umm…yeah.  That’s a lot of art.  Everything leads up to the most important part of your visit, the Sistine Chapel.  It’s last–they make you work for it.  You’ll be asked to be quiet, to not take pictures, and they will be very strict.  But the extravagance of the room is breathtaking.  And the history is enthralling–not only are you viewing a masterpiece that was painted over 500 years ago, but you’re standing in the very room where the Papal conclave happens {Dan Brown anyone?}.  It really is a spiritual place.

Once we escaped exited the museums, we stopped for lunch at the cafeteria before heading over to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The line was long, and there’s no way around it unless you’re on a group tour {extra money}.  But the reason it’s long is because of the security, since they use metal detectors as people are admitted {a lot like an airport}.  So it moves fairly quickly.  Now at this point, Andrew and I had visited our fair share of churches.  Westminster Abbey in London, Notre Dame in Paris, plus many others.  But let me tell you…St. Peter’s Basilica is HUGE.  It actually is the largest church in the world.  It’s incredibly impressive, and even more interesting is its history.  It’s the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles; it’s home to Michelangelo’s Pietà; and overall it’s an architectural marvel.

As we exited the church, there are some good photo ops with the Swiss Guard {the personal security of the Pope}.  And of course the iconic St. Peter’s Square is perfect for pictures.

For many people, Vatican City is a historical and art attraction.  But for others, it’s a spiritual mecca.  Andrew was raised Catholic, and as Christians, it meant a lot to us to visit what many would consider the foundation of Christianity.  The history behind what we hold so dear to our hearts was beautiful, emotional, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Rome Collage 6

{Vatican City museums, October 2013}

Vatican City

{St. Peter’s Square, October 2013}

Holy Door

{Holy Door, St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}

Rome Collage 7

{St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}

Rome Pic

{St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}

DAY FOUR

This was our “explore Rome” day!  When I planned this day beforehand, I thought that I might be kinda crazy to pack as much into it as humanly possible.  It was the last full day of our trip, and I knew we’d be exhausted.  Plus, when you see it all laid-out on a map, it looks like a lot of distance to cover.  I based our day around a super helpful itinerary on Fathom.

Rome Walking Tour

{Walking tour – Rome}

But I’m happy to say that the map version of our day was much more intimidating then the reality.  All the sights we saw were relatively close to each other, and we ended up walking everywhere {originally we were going to rent bikes to help us move along faster}.  We took the bus from our flat to the (1) Piazza Navona {numbers correspond to the map above}, where there are 3 churches with original Caravaggio paintings {details in the article linked above}.  The piazza is beautiful, with big fountains, vendors, and of course an obelisk.

Piazza

{Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

From Piazza Navona we walked up Via della Scrofa, where we passed the (2) mausoleum of Augustus Caesar {1st century AD} and the Museo dell’Ara Pacis.  We continued north on Via di Ripetta to the (3) Piazza del Popolo.  It’s home to Rome’s most northern gate, along with the second oldest obelisk in the city.  Next, we headed south on Via del Babuino.  Our next stop was the famous (4) Spanish Steps, in Piazza di Spagna.  Then we criss-crossed through the streets {which is always a great way to discover random things!} while making our way to the Piazza Colonna, home to the (5) Marcus Aurelius Column.

Rome Gate

{Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Spanish Steps

{Spanish Steps & Marcus Aurelius Column, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Just a few blocks east is the (6) Trevi Fountain, the iconic Roman landmark.  It was as beautiful as the pictures.  Funny story–I almost fell in.  While I was up against the rim, my back to the fountain, Andrew was taking a picture of me.  My feet slipped–just completely flew out from under me.  My butt hit the rim, and I almost toppled over into the fountain, except that my knees were able to hang onto the rim ridge until my arms could catch-up with my body and grab on.  I immediately started laughing, I couldn’t believe it had happened!  But I was also super happy and relieved I wasn’t that tourist who was dumb enough to slip into the fountain 🙂  We tossed our coins in, and moved on.

Trevi Fountain

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Trevi Throwing Coins

{Tossing coins into Trevi, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Again criss-crossing through streets, we made our way west to the (7) Pantheon.  I have to say, after visiting the Pantheon in Paris, I wasn’t super excited to visit this one.  How different could they be?  Wow…was I wrong.  The Pantheon in Rome, the original, is really cool.  It is an architectural marvel, one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings.  Unlike the Colluseum or Forums, where everything was crumbling, the Pantheon is amazingly unchanged.  It was so impressive to see in person, and imagine what kind of history the building has survived.  The famous painter Raphael is entombed there.

Pantheon

{Pantheon, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Immediately east of the Pantheon is (8) Sant’Ignazio Church, which we just happened to pass and decided to step into.  It’s infamous for it’s “dome”, which is really just a flat ceiling painted to look like a dome.  After seeing so many extravagant churches throughout our trip, it was a funny dose of reality to find one that hadn’t been able to afford finishing its dome, so they improvised 🙂  Heading south we ended our day at the Alter of the Fatherland memorial.  We toured the inside military museum and took-in the amazing city views from the top.

Ignazio

{Sant’Ignazio Church, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Wandering our way back to our flat in the mid-afternoon was the perfect end to experiencing so much historical breadth.  Later that evening we ate at the same restaurant down the street from us that we had had lunch at a few days before {it was that good!}, and then rode the bus to Trevi Fountain.  It’s a “can’t miss” sight at night!

Rome Dinner

{Last night in Rome, October 2013}

Trevi Panorama

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Trevi Night

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

LEAVING ROME

Flying from Rome back to the States was ridiculously expensive.  To save money, I booked our Portland –> London tickets round-trip, then simply bought us plane tickets from Rome to London for the day before.  For us, this option was way cheaper.  Flights within Europe are pretty inexpensive, so getting between Rome and London wasn’t too bad, and it only took a few hours.  We spent the night at a Heathrow airport hotel, and caught a flight early the next morning to the US.  The worst part of the entire trip was the 8 hour layover in Chicago on our way to Portland.  There was no avoiding it {believe me, I tried when booking!}.  But the silver lining was that I had missed a bunch of fall tv premiers while on vacation, so I was able to catch-up during our time in the airport 🙂  Thank goodness for streaming over mobile devices!

2 Responses to “Rome {4 Day Itinerary}”

  1. Janelle November 16, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Hey Brittney!
    I loved ready about your Euro Trip! My hubby and I are doing a similar itinerary next summer (we are even going roundtrip from the PNW to London because of how cheap it was…ha). I have to say your recaps are some of the most helpful I’ve found:)

    I was wondering, about how much did you guys spend on food while in Rome?

    Thanks for the insightful posts!

    • goourownway November 17, 2015 at 7:01 am #

      Hi Janelle! So happy the posts are helpful as you plan your trip 🙂 What we spent on food in Rome wasn’t too bad. Probably $300-400 over the 3.5 days we were there. We didn’t eat at any fancy restaurants, and the amazing food we did eat wasn’t too expensive. We did grocery shop and make dinner ourselves one night (that was an adventure!). Overall, I don’t remember it being super spendy, not like Paris. Enjoy your trip, wish I was going back soon!

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