rome has been in the top 5 of my list of cities to visit since i started making lists…like 15 years ago. in planning our trip, we contemplated many places but finally settled on 10 days in italy. we split those days between rome and florence (more on that later).
living in germany is different than the US in many ways. but one of the most noticeable and admirable is the fact that vacation is taken – and offered – in such a relaxed manner. the day before we left, all of my fellow colleagues were not only saying “have fun” and “enjoy yourself,” but also “make sure to relax” and “recover a bit while you’re gone.” and i can tell you…we did!
what was our itinerary?
we flew out of cologne/bonn on a sunday morning and arrived midday in rome. we booked our flight back for thursday, so we had 4 days in total to explore…and relax.
day 1 – sunday
unlike in germany, shops are open on sundays in italy. we were able to use this day to find our bearings. since we weren’t staying in the city center, we needed to figure out the best way to get there. luckily, rome has a user-friendly public transport network. we bought a 3 day pass which enabled us to travel as frequently as we wanted.
on our first venture into the city, we alighted at repubblica and wandered our way through town. we came up tothe altar of the fatherland first. having naively expected only ancient artifacts in rome, i was awestruck by the overpowering size of the altar. some people find it an eye-sore, but i personally found it to be a beautiful tribute among the ruins. originally, i planned to save ancient rome for day two but that wasn’t possible. after seeing little teases, i gave in. we made our way over to the colosseum, and i could have spent the rest of the evening there. it really is just that breathtaking. the hype did not ruin it at all. in fact, i think seeing it later in the day might have helped. the crowds weren’t overwhelming. we then headed back to the hotel to rest up for a busy day 2
day 2 – monday
this day was dedicated to ancient rome. we pre-booked our tickets to the colosseum and foro romano, which saved us some time in line. although you can’t completely avoid lines in rome, i do recommend booking in advance where possible.
we started at the colosseum and then made our way across to the house of augustus and ended at the roman forum. for us, we spent the first half of the day doing this whole portion. we could have easily spent more time if we had a guided tour, but we decided against that. we wanted to be able to do things at our own pace, and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything by not having a guide.
we went back to the hotel for lunch and a mid-day break. the temperatures were 35° each day, and a few hours with air conditioning definitely helped. that evening we had dinner at a small trattoria and wandered the city center. stopping at fontana di trevi, piazza navona, and our favorite: the pantheon. it is such a simple building, but completely perfect in so many ways. the oculus inside the rotunda, plus the pure size and age is something else. we got a gelato and waited for the sun to set before heading back to the hotel.
for me, this day is going to be hard to top. since history has always been one of my favorite topics, seeing all of these places up close and personal really struck me. i was just so happy the whole day.
day 3 – tuesday
a whole day dedicated to the vatican. seeing how there are dress code requirements for the sistine chapel and st. peter’s basilica, we planned this day when the temperatures were more agreeable. still 34° but better than the rest of the week! we trekked across rome in our knee and shoulder covering clothes to the vatican and waited hours in line. even though we bought tickets to the colosseum we decided to forgo online tickets for the vatican. can’t quite say that was the best decision, we waited probably 2 hours in line. and had to deal with all the tour guides trying to sell us astronomically priced tickets.
the unfortunate part is that the vatican museum feels herds you like cattle through the museum to the sistine chapel. this is the part everyone is set on seeing and, unless you have a spot to stand in the middle, you get rushed through it. don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous to see, but too rushed and way too many people. by the time we finished the museum at 1pm they were no longer letting people in line because the museum closed at 4pm. so if you plan on going, get there early!
afterwards we walked over to st. peter’s square and went into the basilica. from the outside this church is incredibly breathtaking, but from within it is awe inspiring. if you are wearing clothes where your knees or shoulders are visible, you are not granted entry. and unfortunately there are security checks to get into the basilica, but that comes with the territory these days i guess.
we headed back to the hotel for our midday break again, and then spent the afternoon wandering the other side of the tiber river.
day 4 – wednesday
this was our freebie day. we wandered the city and ate some gelato and took in all the sites again. it was nice being able to go through the city on a day with nothing planned, just walking at a leisurely pace and really taking it all in.
in the afternoon however, i begged the husband to venture out to the Ancient Appian Way. our hotel looked over the park that borders this ancient roadway, and i thought it would be a fun adventure. well, let’s just say it was an adventure! we easily found the route in question, but our pre-planned return route was a bit more difficult to find. we ended up wandering 15km in total, walking along a small highway at dusk and small blisters on our feet. the husband told me i am no longer allowed to plan adventures on holiday…but it was memorable!
day 5 – thursday
our last day in rome was spent packing our bags and making sure we stayed close enough to the main station that we didn’t miss our bus back to the airport. our flight was booked for 4pm, but our backpacks made us too hot, so we headed to the airport early. we flew in and out of rome’s ciampino airport…only servicing ryan air – read extremely small! oh well, the first part of our italian vacation was coming to a close and we managed boredom for a few hours.
book tickets online – it really saves the time!
use the multi-day subway pass – super helpful!
try to find things off the “tourist” track, or just wander the city. rome has so much to offer