Anah and I had less than 48 hours in Rome, but somehow saw most highlights without feeling overly scheduled.
The one thing I would have done differently would be to not go during August – mainly because most local restaurants are closed because residents are on holiday!! (The stifling heat was also not fun.)
Totally groan-worthy sounding, we did a Segway tour of Rome our first night. But it was a great way to see more of the city than we ever could on foot for our short stay, get a lay of the land and finalize where we wanted/didn’t want to go the rest of our trip. Also, it was ridiculously fun and easy riding those things. (It was hilarious watching 5-foot Anah [hehem. 5′2. Thank you very much!] speed around everyone until our guide realized her Segway was on the “fast” setting and stopped her [high speed really sends you flying over those speed bumps! Way more fun than regular speed 😦 ]. Anah may or may not have considered buying a Segway to use in Atlanta after our trip). Worst part was having to wear embarrassing safety gear. But our guides were awesome and we hung out after the tour.
[Zooming through the crowded squares, we totally became the tourist attractions. Somewhere in the world, there are travel albums with pictures of me and Emmelle scootering around Piazza Navona in our rockin’ helmets and reflective vests]
One of the coolest things we saw (goes on personal travel favorites list!) was San Clemente Church near the Colosseum. It’s three churches/temples built on top of one another! The church on street level is from the 12th century, below is a 4th century basilica, then below is what was once a pagan temple and 1st century buildings!
You can even see part of an old Roman street and water well, and there were also some pagan carvings re-purposed into Christian iconography!
San Clemente Church is very much off the beaten path and not a place that has been that fancied up for tourists. But because of that, it was cheap – free for the main church, 5 Euros for the lower levels. It was also a welcome break from the August sun and crowds.
But bottom line? It. Is. So. Cool. (figuratively and literally, but mainly figuratively). You truly travel through centuries of history. Please, please go.
Some other tips/suggestions (and random musings)
- Booking an official Vatican City Museum tour was worth every penny – trying to navigate that huge museum on our own would have been impossible and frustrating with the crowds; ticket holders also can skip the insane line and official tour groups use a few side stairs/halls that cut down on some wait times
- Book early (our tour time sold out at least a week in advance) and you can book online
- Make sure you go to the main Vatican City entrance and not St Peter’s Basilica entrance because it’s nearly 1 mile apart! (We had to sprint [in long dresses and flip flops in 95 degree heat!] to the correct entrance and the employees graciously let us join our tour late; another reason to book an official tour)
- Michaelangelo is legit
- Rick Steves’ book and audio tours app were great for the main tourist attractions and efficiently seeing the city. Avoid his food recommendations though. Much better ones elsewhere.
- Public Rome water fountains are safe and great for refilling bottles. Sometimes there are buckets underneath, but usually it just flows straight into the drain below. To drink directly from it, look for the small hole in the faucet and cover the main opening. (Those clever Romans!)
- Ladies, bring a pashmina to cover shoulders and wear capris or a longish dress for church visits
- Despite the number of photos and TV specials you see about the Colosseum, it is truly, truly an impressive sight in person.
Enjoy your Roman Holiday!
Emmelle [and Anah!]