If you follow me on Instagram then you will know that we have just come back from a grown up’s get away in Rome. It ways part of my 30th birthday present from Adam, I’ve been asking and ASKING for years to get away somewhere, especially Italy, so we decided that we would make the year that is January less painful and jet oﬀ.
I asked for tips on my Instagram feed and then made a note of things that I wanted to do before we set oﬀ and I think it’s fair to say that we did the majority of them! The obvious were on there – The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum and Spanish Steps, but there were smaller things and restaurant recommendations that we had and even more so, things that we learnt as we went around.
8 Must see Places in Rome
1. Vatican Museums and St Paul’s Basilica
This was one of my favourite parts of the holiday, genuinely amazing. I have one MAJOR tip here and it is that you do NOT buy “skip the line” tickets from *any* website other than the oﬃcial Vatican one. Honestly, try typing in “Vatican oﬃcial website” and you will never ﬁnd it unless you look on the right hand side with the official google listing (which no one does right?). I’ve linked up the oﬃcial one but it’s so frustrating that companies aren’t stopped from claiming to be oﬃcial. I booked “skip the queue” tickets from what I thought was the oﬃcial site, but it was a tour company called Head Out, and they never sent the tickets or meeting place along. 70€ (it was 17€ each on the Vatican website) and we never got anything. Fortunately they refunded the tickets when we didn’t show up, I’m not sure why though I made a complaint to the tourist centre and perhaps they called the guide – who knows. All I know is that you should absolutely avoid the skip the line tour companies and book the official skip the line.
I actually found it impossible to work out who was oﬃcial and who wasn’t. We walked all over and kept being stopped by people who would tell us “oh yes, you must go this way” and it was utter bollocks. We were about to walk into the entrance (the ACTUAL ENTRANCE) and a man came over looking all oﬃcial with tabard and “staﬀ” written on his jacket, only for us to realise after we had walked half way up the road he was another tour twat who was stopping visitors at the gates and shouldn’t have been. The security on the front doors of the Vatican museum watch this happen – I honestly don’t know why they don’t send them away but there you go, perhaps its a form of entertainment to watch frustrated tourists.
Basically, until you’re inside the Vatican museum entrance, tell everyone to do one.
When you’re in the Vatican museum make your way around and dedicate most of the day, you can stop in the courtyard for a light bite (not the best but still nice enough) and cocktail or coﬀee. When you are just about to go into the Sistine Chapel there is another café and then ﬁnally, just before you leave, a restaurant. My favourite parts were all just looking up in awe of the amazing artwork, the ceiling are just phenomenal. Best rooms had to be the Room of Maps and then the usual Raphael and Sistine. I think I would have loved a tour but we both agreed we wanted to just explore so didn’t bother. The beneﬁt of a tour is that you learn exactly what is what, the downside is that you go at someone else’s pace and you can’t stop whenever you fancy.
When you go in the Sistine Chapel, be aware that you are not allowed to take photos. They will holler at you that this is a holy place but mostly it’s because they want to charge you a fortune for a picture when you leave. Let’s be frank, it’s the ﬂippin Vatican. The whole thing is holy so I’m not buying that one.
I am not religious at all, not remotely, but I felt extremely emotional in the chapel. Such a beautiful place, such passion and dedication to art and one’s belief in God. It was beautiful. Another part of the Vatican museums that had a similar eﬀect was Raphael’s rooms and the Papal Apartments. Do not miss them because you easily can turn left straight to the Sistine Chapel and miss it all but please don’t. I felt the Raphael rooms were equal in beauty.
When you leave the Vatican Museums, I can’t recommend St Peter’s Basilica enough. It was breath taking. If you intend to go up into the dome, take the elevator. Take it. It’s an extra 2€ so 10€ per person but sweet baby Jesus TAKE THE ELEVATOR. We did, and then we realised that the dome is not *actually* the top, not even vaguely, so we thought YOLO let’s trot up.
We died. Jesus wasn’t there.
The stairs are so steep and winding that if you suﬀer from vertigo or you are likely to become disoriented then don’t do it. It’s pretty but it ain’t THAT pretty. There are legit SOS buttons on the stairs as you go up for people who have collapsed. It just never seems to end and coming down was worse because there feels like very little to stop you falling. I am overweight, around a size 16 in clothing but I would be very cautious if you are large in build as a lot of the pathways are narrow.
2. Colosseum & Roman Forum
Another one that you just shouldn’t do the crappy skip the queue things for – pre book on the oﬃcial site or alternatively grab a Roma Pass. Yes, it’s overpriced but in the height of summer, queues are apparently insane. One tout shouted at us “You will be shocked at the queue” – there wasn’t one, so I wouldn’t bother at all if you are going in winter.
What I *really* regret is not booking a tour with the Colosseum but when we arrived there wasn’t one for another 1.5hrs and we could have gone and asked the million ticket touts outside for one but they put me oﬀ with how they pester and shout at you. It is 29€ for a 75min tour via that official site, I would 100% recommend a tour – I thought the colosseum was amazing, but what I *really* wanted to see was the underground areas and the box up at the top. You can’t visit either of these places without a tour guide (which is shitty if you ask me as they are still roped oﬀ so you can’t go anywhere that isn’t allowed.)
Once you’ve purchased your colosseum ticket directly (or with the oﬃcial Roma Pass) then you are allowed to go over the road for access to the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and allllllll the ruins. All of them. There are so so many and they are truly wonderful to behold. Adam is not a fan of cultural exploits and it was pouring with rain but even he found the site pretty spectacular. There are so pretty impressive monuments; its well worth taking a walk around here and stopping to read the plaques.
3. Castel San’Angelo
We did this on the last day and to be honest I was all for missing it but we had a few hours to go. DONT MISS IT. It was such a brilliant place, walking out of the building down their spiral passage was like being taken back to 1500s. You could envisage a siege on this formidable structure, see it failing spectacularly. It was just so grand and the papal apartment is amazing, overly grand and breath taking.
Around 2/3 way to the top there is a café and you can grab a coﬀee and sit overlooking fab views of Rome and especially the Vatican. The castle was build for a time when the Pope needed refuge so you can imagine the desire to be back at his holy place, and the many views reﬂect that.
4. Trevi Fountain
This one really won’t take you long but it’s so worth seeing. It is beautiful and defo one to see at night as well as during the day. The only thing I would caution you about is the pick pockets (Rome has a real issue with these wee shites, thanks to much larger political issues) and the awful sellers that simply will not back oﬀ. Adam is, by his own admission, crap at telling these people to bugger oﬀ and the second you give them an inch, they will never leave you alone. They are everywhere at Trevi and you REALLY do have to say “NO. Go away.”
Some can become quite aggressive but generally back oﬀ when they realise they aren’t getting anywhere. If they get it in your hand though, it’s game over. Adam allowed them to put a bracelet “gift” on his wrist as they *kept* shouting “it’s ﬁnneeee, it’s a gift” and then they followed us eventually saying to him “you give me more money; my brother here is crazy you don’t want him to be angry.” 30€ later and we have a load of shit in our bag. They also spend a lot of time touching you, which makes me want to scream, I HATE people touching me and I just want to say “touch me again and I will drop kick you”, even more frustratingly, I found they ignore you if you’re a woman about not playing ball, which *really* annoys me. One asked me if Adam was gentle with me because I’m pretty. Bork.
I have little to no patience with these sellers so I am very much “No thank you. No. It’s not a gift. I said no. Get away from me or I will call the police.” It sounds savage but they remind me of rats, there are people in dire need everywhere in Rome (they have major issues with homelessness and it’s heartbreaking – if you can spare it then buying someone a drink could mean the world) and these sellers aren’t them. They are eﬀectively there to frighten tourists into parting with cash whilst wearing their design brand trainers and stepping over shoeless people on the street just begging for a hot drink. If you’re not great at being blunt then prepare to be ﬂeeeeeeced and sadly when you’re seen to buy from one they all seem to swam onto you. It’s intimidation and it shouldn’t be allowed. This is actually the same for all of the main attractions when they are busy and they will also say “I take photo for you” and then demand money or refuse to give you back your phone. Be warned, be alert.
Also at Trevi Fountain there is the Magnum ice cream shop where you can design your own magnum. We didn’t buy one but went in to watch and have a look – totally worth it if you aren’t stuﬀed with pizza like we were.
My word this was STUNNING. Funnily we walked past the back of the Pantheon on the way to the Colosseum from our hotel near Piazza Navona and I said to Adam “look at that big round building, I wonder what that is?” I was on the look out for the column front and didn’t think that it was a HUGE round building. What a plonker.
This was easily one of my favourite areas (and surprisingly free of the sellers – perhaps the police presence) the Pantheon itself is stunning, the ﬁnal resting place to the ﬁrst King of Italy and to the painter Raphael. It’s magniﬁcent but outside of it is too. To the left and up from the Pantheon is the most amazing coﬀee shop called Casa del Cafe. It was extremely good coﬀee – it’s basically ruined coﬀee from England for me – and it wasn’t expensive at all. Directly opposite that is a place called “Venchi” which is a chocolatier’s and OH MY the hot chocolate is essential.
6. The Capuchin Chapel.
If you are like me and fascinated by culture and history, especially the macabre, then you need to take a visit to the Capuchin Chapel. It is one of the strangest, most unsettling and most humbling places I think I’ve ever been. The remains of Capuchin friars have been used to decorate the chapel, from ﬂowers made out of hip bones to lights made from femurs. Adam didn’t like the chapel at all, he found it really upsetting and unsettling, and whilst I didn’t like it, I felt like it was something I was pleased we went to see. It was humbling because I found myself asking “is that really all we are when the curtain closes?” and yes. Yes it is. Be warned that death hangs in the air through the chapel and if you are sensitive to it, you will ﬁnd it oppressive. Also, 100% not for children, whilst they tend to take out mortality less to heart than we do, I think its best to give it a miss until they are old enough not to wake you up in the night because they saw 3,700 bodies arranged in floral patterns…
7. Il Vittoriano
100% go up to the tip top of this beautiful building, it was absolutely amazing to see the panoramic views of Rome and beyond, there are also signs everywhere to tell you exactly
what you are looking at which was really helpful. The building is sometimes called the “wedding cake building” but it’s actually a museum. We did bypass the majority of the museum just to go up to the top, but you can walk around and see the scenes of Ancient Rome, and walk through. The best part is that it’s free entry, though to get to the very top is 10€.
8. The Spanish Steps (Piazza Di Spagna)
I have to be totally honest and say I didn’t get what the fuss was all about. I mean, it’s a shit load of steps. With a fountain. In the shopping district. They are lovely and the history of them is what makes them such a landmark but I really could have given them a miss. You will want to see them because they are a part of Rome, but when you get to the top, turn to your left and go into the little rooftop bar. They make lovely cocktails and you can sit, overlooking it all, wondering why they devil you climbed all those steps.
And that’s it! I’m planning on doing a foodie round up where I will include the Best places to eat in Rome that we discovered and that we were told to go to.