Last week, I returned to Italy for a holiday to Rome with my boyfriend, Lloyd. But if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably already know this and will have noticed me spamming a little – I would say sorry for that but I’m not really. I initially visited Rome when I was about six years old on a family holiday and although I remember having an incredible affection for the city, I don’t remember individual parts of the trip as much as I would have liked to. So we decided to take a trip to the city this year to return to all of the places I visited as a child and to rekindle my love for the city.
We flew from Cardiff Aiport with FlyBe and everytime I’ve flown with this airline it’s always been a positive experience, so if I’m looking for flights for my city break, I will always try to source my travel with them first.
We landed around 6pm at Rome time, and I was determined that we were not going to waste any time on our first evening. So as soon as we checked into our hotel, the Hotel Mondial, we got changed and headed straight for the Trevi Fountain, which was only a fifteen-minute walk from our hotel. One of my favourite memories as a child was visiting the fountain and I remember being so proud when I threw in my coin, insisting that I would return to Rome one day.
The Trevi Fountain is basically located in the centre of several different side streets, looking opulent and so photogenic. I took an incredible amount of photographs of the fountain on our trip and in fact, we visited every day and every evening on our visit. We both threw in coins this time, making a promise to ourselves that we would return to this beautiful city at the next opportunity.
On the first night, we also managed to squeeze in a visit to the Spanish Steps, and although it was early evening when we visited, the attraction was still full of tourists like ourselves, cramming to take pictures and take in the full scene.
The next morning, we had pre-booked an entry slot to the Colosseum. As we arrived before 10am, the queues were almost non-existent so we walked straight in, having a safety check first and then picking up our print tickets. When you enter the Colosseum, the size of it is almost surprising and it’s quite impressive how this structure has managed to withstand hundreds of years, despite there being countless wars in between. No amount of pictures can prepare you for how breathtaking it is in real life so it’s really no surprise that it attracts over 4million tourists a year.
After spending an hour or so walking around the Colosseum, we then crossed the road to explore the Roman Forum. Entry to the forum was included in our Colosseum ticket, so we found that this was excellent value for money. But by the time we’d reached the Forum, the queues were massive and as it was the middle of the day, the heat was almost unbearable, especially for me as I’m a super pale person! But don’t be put off by this as it moved pretty quickly.
When we walked into the Forum, it was almost like entering another world and turning back the clock to see what Rome looked like hundreds of years ago but obviously, you also had to use your imagination a little to envision more than just ruins in the heart of the city.
That evening, we had booked a food tour with the Roman Guy and I’ve written about this in a little more detail in a previous blog. I believe this is one of the best tours we’ve ever experienced on any of our holidays so definitely check out that blog to see what it was all about.
After our jam-packed first full day, we decided not to book anything for our second full day as we thought we would go with the flow to see where our feet would take us. We started our day by walking to the Villa Borghese Gardens which was recommended to us by our Lonely Planet guidebook. This is a landscape garden with a number of buildings, attractions and natural sights to see, as well as having a stunning view over the city. Without our guidebook, I wouldn’t have known to look for this attraction. In a city that’s so warm and so big, it was great to find a green area where you could sit, relax and even find shade.
We then decided to walk to a number of attractions in the city, including the stunning Piazza Navona, an open piazza in the centre of Rome with an incredible fountain feature. I think this was one of my favourite piazzas in the whole city and it is incredibly photogenic. We did manage to see a number of piazzas on our holiday, certainly too many to mention in one blog but they are beautiful and definitely something to appreciate when you’re exploring this magnificent city.
We also took a trip across the river to visit the Castel Sant’Angelo. Lloyd was so keen to visit this attraction as it was something he’d looked into before our trip. This castle was originally commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 123- 139 AD to become a mausoleum for himself and his family but it is now a well-known fortress in the capital of Italy. Despite its age, much of the castle has been preserved extremely well and with entry only being €5 for 18-25-year-old EU citizens, this is a very cheap attraction to visit if you’re looking to add a little something extra to your trip.
Before heading back to the hotel, we paid a visit to the Pantheon. Although I visited the Paris alternative earlier this year, nothing could have prepared me for the size or the historical appearance of the Pantheon in Rome. In a square surrounded by restaurants and gelato bars, the Pantheon is a must-see attraction in Rome, in my opinion anyway. It’s free to enter but you can also do a tour of the temple if you’d like to learn more. Sadly, we didn’t get around to doing this on our visit but perhaps next time!
On our third full day, we had booked a tour of the Vatican gardens. Before this trip, I wasn’t aware that you could book such a tour, but my boyfriend found it on the Vatican city website. We started the tour at 11am and were able to look around the gardens in the Vatican country, exploring its buildings, features and garden attractions. We spent two hours exploring the gardens and it was an incredibly beautiful tour, where we were able to see the presents and offerings from other religious countries donated as a symbol of their relationship with the Vatican. After this garden tour, we were able to enter the Vatican museum to view a plethora of artwork ranging from tapestries, sculptures and paintings spanning across centuries, many of which had also been donated to the Popes of the Vatican over the years.
After finishing exploring the Vatican museum, we then were able to walk straight through to St Peter’s Basilica. It is a church which was built in the Renaissance and has stood the test of time to be deemed ‘the greatest church of Christendom’. Despite not being very religious myself, it was still a mind-blowing experience to stand in a church which carries so many traditions and symbols of religion throughout history.
On our visit, we decided to tackle St Peter’s dome to get the best views of the Vatican city and of Rome as a whole. For €8 each, we decided to take the elevator to skip the first two hundred or so steps as after walking 30,000 each day during our visit, my back was starting to give up on me. We still had several hundred steps left to walk after the elevator and this was still a challenge, with steps being steep and walkways being very compressed so it’s not a good experience for people who are not fond of small spaces. But if you do manage to reach the top, the views are absolutely worth it as you have a panoramic view of Rome from the dome and this is where I took one of my favourite photos from the whole holiday.
Overall, we had an incredible holiday and it’s probably one of the best trips I’ve experienced in the past few years. We made so many wonderful memories in this city, saw so many beautiful sites and tasted some really incredible food from local traders which in turn, reaffirmed my love for the capital of Italy. Rome is a stunning city with so much to offer from food, entertainment, attractions and history, which really makes it a city that everyone can appreciate on some level. I would recommend that everyone visit Rome at least once in their lives – you will not regret it.