When in Rome, All Roads Lead to Rome, and Other Such Clichés

Everybody I talked to said Rome was terrible: overcrowded, expensive, busy, full of tourist traps… Despite these subpar reviews, I was still determined to see the famed capital at least once during my time in Europe. And boy am I glad I did, because Rome turned out to be pretty fantastic.

Overcrowded, expensive, busy, and full of tourist traps? Yes. But also replete with ancient history, mouthwatering food, and beautiful monuments.

In my last post, I detailed the eventful start to our trip. Day two started with the Vatican. How often can you say you walked from your hotel to another country? The lines to enter the Vatican can, unsurprisingly, be outrageous, particularly just before Easter and following the excitement of the new pope, but, fortunately, my mom had booked tickets ahead of time (pro tip!). With this holy version of Disneyland’s Fastpasses, we skipped the crowds and went straight in.

Entering the Vatican

I’ll admit I’ve tired of ostentatious palaces and antique artwork, so we passed through some of the halls fairly quickly, although it was still all quite stunning. Amid the overwhelming number of frescoes and the anxious crowds in the Sistine Chapel, I managed to miss the most famous, Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. The Vatican highlight for me was probably the massive St. Peter’s Basilica and the plaza outside it.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

Gazillions of seats set up in front of the basilica for Easter mass

After our Vatican tour, we walked through some of Rome’s quieter streets and then visited Palatine Hill, where Rome is said to have its origins and where ruins stand today. From there, we got our first glimpse of the Colosseum, and next we visited the Forum, ruins of ancient Rome’s commercial center. We wandered around the city beyond that, seeing Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, the massive monument to the first king of unified Italy, and the Spanish Steps, where a WWF Earth Hour concert was being hosted.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

Wandering Roman streets

Wandering Roman streets

Hey there, Colosseum.

Hey there, Colosseum.

As the sun set, we visited the Trevi Fountain, absolutely packed with pushy people but nonetheless completely beautiful, especially at dusk. For dinner, we found a restaurant near our hotel and had to-die-for orange risotto and pear salad. Oh lawd, someone bring me some food from Italy, stat.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

No shortage of tourists at the Trevi

No shortage of tourists at the Trevi

We began the next day with a tour of the Colosseum. I’ll admit I prefer the Roman ruins I’ve explored in Spain, such as Italica or Mérida, where tourists are scarce and you’re free to roam pretty much where you want. However, there’s definitely something striking about seeing such an iconic landmark, and it’s fascinating to compare how similar sporting events and their audiences were all those years ago.

In the Colosseum

In the Colosseum

We explored the Trastevere neighborhood across the river, full of quiet, cobblestone alleys, had pasta in one of these scenic alleys, and then treated ourselves to gelato, because what’s a day in Italy without gelato?

A picturesque lunch in Trastevere

A picturesque lunch in Trastevere

Satisfied with all that we fit into a short weekend in Rome, we boarded a southbound train to our next destination, Naples! I continue the trip in this post.

17 Responses

  1. …Ah–Rome is my DREAM destination!!…Hopefully I’ll be able to visit next Spring, during my roughly 10-day break!!…

  2. Pedro says:

    i am surprised that you prefer the Roman sites in Spain to those in Italy, is it only because ours are less crowded or also because you find them more beautiful and attractive to the eye?

    the inside picture of the Coliseo Romano is great, i just think of gladiators fighting or poor Christians being thrown with lions, tigers or whatever….God such a time was terrible, bloody and cruel!

    • Kirstie says:

      I think they’re equally beautiful, but I mostly like that the Spanish ones are less crowded! And they were much easier to access when I was living in Spain.

      I know, I can’t even imagine!

  3. Rome may be crowded and touristy, but it sure is for a reason! I had the most fabulous tour guide there. He was the most fabulous storyteller and I felt like I was there for every moment. The Vatican is just something else – I’m not one for artwork and such but it’s displays are something else! Plus, there’s something there for everyone, like the Popemobil room!

    • Kirstie says:

      Great tour guides are the best! It a big reason I loved Berlin so much. We missed the Popemobil room! But even without truly appreciating art, you have to be in awe of it all.

  4. Angus Pryor says:

    Beautiful photos. We were in Rome a few years back and had a great time. The Vatican area looked to me like it had been built for giants – everything was so big. My family and I had the best pizza in Rome we’ve ever eaten.

  5. I’m going there in a month, even though is gonna be a short stay I’m looking forward to it 😀

  6. My kinda post. Photos fabulous. You do what I love to do. Walk. Best way to explore a place no matter how much it’s been ‘discovered’.

  1. August 5, 2014

    […] trip has just begun, so head on over to part two, in which we tour Rome and then travel to Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast. A […]

  2. December 1, 2014

    […] kicking off our Easter week trip to Italy with a few days in Rome, my mom and I headed south toward our next destination, Naples. We navigated an intercity train to […]

  3. February 28, 2015

    […] out if you didn’t experience at least some of it. As I wrote about a few months ago, Rome surpassed my expectations. I didn’t get a chance to see a ton of art in Rome, but what I did see was impressive. […]

  4. March 10, 2015

    […] break in Italy was already shaping up to be unforgettable, with visits to Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast. Our next destination was the island of Capri, home of foil […]

  5. April 16, 2015

    […] one of our other big trips, 2013′s Easter week in Italy. I previously wrote about arriving in Rome, Naples and Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, but, bittersweetly, the trip was coming to a […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *