Years back when I saw Roman Holiday not only did I fall for Audrey Hepburn´s ethereal charm, I also formed a dreamy picture of Rome in my head- a place I badly wanted to visit and feel. Recently, my sweetheart gifted me so much happiness by materializing this dream into a real vacation. I was full of excitement and packed as many clothes I could imagine wearing in the land of history.
We chose November as the month of visit and naturally I was a little scared of facing a bad pouring weather. But sometimes the weather gods are way too kind and do go out of the way to bless. Luckily, it only rained on one day during our trip and was pretty manageable. Now the good thing about going in an off season is that the places of attraction do not look like a scene of mad rush. In fact, I personally like visiting places when everyone else is detesting going there.
Starting with the touristic places, Colosseum falls first on anyone´s list. What today is nearly ruined, once was a huge amphitheater built in 70-80 AD by Vespasian and Titus. The place held the famous gladiator fights, mock sea battles, animal hunts etc. I was really fascinated to know about the sea battles for which the place used to be filled with water and swimming sea horses and bulls did their show.
TIP: Make sure you have a pre booked online ticket otherwise be prepared to stand in a queue longer than you can imagine. (EVEN IN OFF SEASON)
After seeing the Colosseum, we headed to The Roman Forum (Foro Romano). Very simply stating it is a forum surrounded by ruins of many important government buildings of The Roman Empire. Located between the Palantine Hill and the Capitonline Hill, it is a huge ruin full of many architectural buildings such as The Temple of Vesta, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Forum Main Square and more.
TIP: Don´t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes because you will need to walk through the rocky ways and also climb up and down the two hills. See the pics below and you will exactly what I mean 😉
Next day was all dedicated to the home of the Pope, The Vatican and what is also known as the smallest country of the world. Indeed it is the smallest one for you will cover it on foot in few hours and the population is merely 800 people.
Even if I try hard I cannot get over the intoxicating magic that this place spelled. You will feel the same if you love art and creative magnificence. Others will find it boring. St. Peter´s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums are the three things you will see. St. Peter´s Basilica is not just the most important church in the world but also the biggest. For those who are enthusiastic about heights can reach up to the highest point of the dome via an elevator and 300 something steps. The place has great and wow works of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and also Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Vatican museum is not like any regular museum for it was never meant to be one. It is the amount of art works and sculptures that turned it into one. You will often thank Bernini as you keep moving ahead, soaking in the great works. Honestly, I cant much describe in words.
Even before you are completely over the charm, you will enter the Sistine Chapel that has Michelangelo´s wall and ceiling artwork. The most famous attraction being- The Last Judgement, painted again my Michelangelo on the wall. What´s interesting to know is that this great artist was forced to paint here as he preferred sculpting way more. I wonder how did he still manage to create such beautiful paintings that became a cornerstone work of Renaissance of art.
See the picture below. It is one of the ceilings in the museum. From first to last thought, I would pass it as sculpting and carving but guess what- its a painted ceiling. You will see such and many mesmerizing and surprising arty works at this place.
Below is the very famous Michelangelo’s Pietà. My husband like many others find it more realistic and beautiful than David. Well, being a girl I would choose David´s strong and handsome frame over this one. 😉
See the yellow beaming window in the picture below. Looks like regular stained glass but like many other things even this is not what it looks like. Instead it´s a work of mosaic art. St. Peter´s Basilica has so many such paintings that don´t even remotely look like mosaic but are just that. You will hardly see the cracks that mosaic is suppose to have. Maybe that is the reason behind the beautiful colours that have not faded away.
And below is the exterior of the Sistine Chapel and the place we see the Pope waving out from after being elected by the cardinals.
I generally don´t indulge in very touristic things but even I could not resist sending a postcard back home from The Vatican. Actually, I realised that it´s so exciting. 🙂
TIP: There is no way you can really enjoy The Vatican without a guided tour. Invest in a good one. Also, be prepared to walk a lot and don´t go empty stomach because you will only get food after coming out of the place and that takes a couple of hours.
Needless, to say have as much gelato as you can everyday while in you are in Italy. After all, you only have so many days to taste every possible flavour.
Another thing that I was crazy about since Roman Holiday was The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). It was infact the first thing I saw the night I landed in Rome and the only thing I saw thrice on any holiday ever. It´s the most beautiful fountain I have seen so far and there is something truly enigmatic about it and of course I threw the coin to make a wish.
TIP: Visit later in the night as it not only looks extremely beautiful but is also relatively less crowded.
Now that you are at Trevi, there is no way you should be missing on the yummiest gelato available in Rome at San Crispino located at Via della Panetteria. I tried their famous Honey flavour along with Cinnamon and trust me I can still feel my taste buds tingling.
From here you can walk towards The Pantheon for a night view. I could not see it in daylight for some reasons but I am sure it will be as enchanting with its enormity.
By now we were starving and thanks to our research we had a list of some great pizza places around this area. If you too are a fan of thin crust pizzas then there is no way you should miss Ristornate La Sagrestia at Via Del Seminario. We had a veg pizza with egg-plant, mushrooms, spinach, avocado and more along with mushroom sauce penne pasta. The huge pizza and the pasta were finished by the two of us in minutes. Do I need to say more?
The evening will be incomplete without a cup of great tasting cappuccino. For the same we headed to the cafe that claims to be serving the best cappuccino in Rome- Sant Eustachio located at Piazza di Sant’Eustachio. The place is easy to get to and falls between The Pantheon and Piazza Navona and is a must visit because who wants to miss such a good cup of aromatic and frothy cappuccino. What turned me off a little bit was that you have to pay extra to sit down and enjoy the coffee. And not everyone would want to pay double the price for sitting on not so well maintained old-school chairs lying outside.
You must also go to Piazza Navona as its beautiful and less crowded. Plus you don’t want to miss on the yummy and famous Tartufo. You can try it sitting at Ristorante Tre Scalini while also enjoying the view.
Rome is a place of ruins and history and after a while you do miss serene greens. That day head to The Appian Way, the oldest road built connecting Rome to the port city of Brindisi. It was a brainchild of Appius Cladius who was known for making public life easy. At the start of the road you can rent a bike/bicycle and enjoy the many tombs and monuments on the way. It´s one of the most soothing experiences you can get. Throughout I felt like I am cycling my way into paradise!
By now you will be tired and starving and probably cycling your way back and this is when you will start seeing some restaurants and cafes. Serving great food and wine at rates cheaper than the city, these restaurants are perfect to rest at.
TIP: Plan going only on a sunny day and go in the morning as you want some hours under the sun to enjoy this place. Later in the evenings it turns dingy and unsafe.
After spending a day at The Appian Village, we got back to the city and went around exploring the shopping streets and vintage markets in Rome. I was not too impressed with the vintage finds but what really turned me on was Via Condotti. This is the same street that Audrey Hepburn passes while checking out shops. Today, it has every possible luxury label you can think of. And as the street ends, it hits right at the famous Spanish Steps. Look at the picture below and you will know what I am talking about. How badly I wanted to enjoy a gelato sitting here just like Audrey did but sadly it was all drizzling.
TIP: Also, my biggest tip to you would be that go with enough savings because there is so much leather to splurge on. There are so many small boutiques everywhere selling exquisite leather bags, jackets and shoes that you will be only regretting if shopping is not a big part of your budget plan.
Lastly, no vacation is complete without a crazy partying night. For the same look nowhere else and head to Trastavere situated on the west bank of river Tiber. It´s a buzzing place full of cafes, restaurants, bars, vendors and happy people. You can easily get bus 170 from Termini that goes straight to this place.