Instead of starting off telling you about Rome, I’m going to start off with some photos.
What I’m trying get across (and what I hope you picked up on is) ROME WAS VERY CROWDED. Now I come from the NYC area, so I know what it’s like to have streets filled with tourists, but Rome was an entirely different animal. Not only were there lots of people, all of those people seemed to be on a different tour group. The amount of scarves mounted high on sticks and matching name tags I saw was incredible. At times, like at the Vatican museums, there were so many large groups of people it was nearly impossible to move.
This wasn’t a huge issue, and I’m sorry to start off on such a negative note, but when I started this blog I started it with the intention of showing the realities of travel. I could post beautiful pictures of Rome (which I will in a bit, don’t worry!) but I also want to show you the parts that won’t come up on your Instagram feed. I want you to know that I waited 2.5hrs in line to get into the Vatican Museums and that every 10 steps I took I was harassed by another sales person trying to get me to sign up for a tour or buy a selfie stick. I just didn’t feel the same magic, the same authenticity in Rome that I found in Florence. The streets were a bit filthy and the locals were few and far between. Rome is a very touristic location. It was historical, and I learned a lot, but it’s more of a field trip than a vacation destination. So I will stop complaining now and get on to the highlights!
- The churches. ALL of the churches.What impressed me most about Rome were the churches. Yes, the Vatican and the famous ones, but also the small ones on the street corners. I made an unofficial promise to myself to check out every church we passed (they all had their doors open!) and came across the most beautiful architecture, altars and even saint relics. These churches were a perfect place to escape the crowds for a while, feel inspired and enjoy the AC.
- The ruinsRome is unlike many other cities I visited in that it is really, really old and the architecture from the past is still around. Seeing the ruins was almost eerie. It was like looking at a city within a city. I didn’t take the time to understand what I was really looking at, but it was cool to see the old mixed with the new in a really unique way.
- The foodThis is a cannoli. It was probably the best cannoli I have ever had. In Rome it was hard to stick to my travel dining rules (every menu was in multiple languages) but on the last night of my stay I found THE BEST restaurant of probably all my travels. My hostel was right near the train station. Not a great area, but it was here that we discovered Mamma Angela’s. I ordered just spaghetti in a butter sauce with cheese, but oh.my.goodness. It was THE BEST pasta I have EVER had. While eating our meal my friend and I could not stop saying “wow”. It was a culinary experience (and unfortunately I failed to take any photos! The food was gone before I thought of it!)
- The Lizzie McGuire momentsIt’s almost impossible for anyone from my generation to visit this city without making at least one Lizzie McGuire reference. The movie was probably my first exposure to Rome so it was totally logical that I was expecting to find my Paolo after tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain…right? It was reassuring that I wasn’t the only one who had the movie on the brain the whole time I was there…walking down the Spanish stairs I overheard two girls saying, “Remember in the Lizzie McGuire movie when they were sitting in this very spot!?” Walking through Lizzie’s adventures was really what dreams are made of!
Pro Tips: I just thought I’d share some advice for those of you looking to travel to Rome to try and avoid some of the craziness.
- Don’t prebook the Colosseum. I don’t know if it’s like this normally, but when we went there was a huge line…but only for those who prebooked! There was no line to buy tickets on site!
- Do prebook the Vatican museums. This line was brutal and I wish I took the time to prebook. However, I made friends in line and it was in the shade so it wasn’t all that bad.
- The Line at St. Peter’s Basilica is worse than it looks. When we got there early in the morning the line was nearly wrapped around the entire semicircle. However, it moved really fast as it was just a line for security. I would say we were in within 30/45mins.
- Take the time to sit. Really, this is important! We did a ton of walking in Rome and were really exhausted at some points. Instead of pushing ourselves, wherever we were when we felt exhausted we took the time to sit. I found this to be a really unique way to enjoy some of the larger landmarks. In the Colosseum, instead of taking a tour, we found a small space to sit and just take in the space we were in and all that was around us. When you take travel as an experience and not as another place to check off your list, you find much more enjoyment in it.
- Don’t do a tour. Instead, research the places you’re visiting before at lunch or while you’re there! We learned a lot from our good friend Google and saved some money too. I also heard lots of stories of fake tour guides from my friends at my hostel. You’re better off educating yourself beforehand and really enjoying the things you’re seeing in the moment.