24 Nov Rome on My Mind
2015 is shaping up to be a great year. The first half of it will be spent in Asia working out the last five months of our teaching contracts in Vietnam and then relaxing in Thailand for a month. After that another summer in the UK awaits followed by an autumn of road-tripping through America and a proper British Christmas, our first in two years. After that, my thoughts keep returning to Europe, a continent I’ve lived in almost my whole life but have barely explored.
When we lived in London we had the perfect chance to take advantage of cheap flights to dozens of European destinations but instead, we saved hard for our big travel adventure to the other side of the world. However, one country we did make time to visit was Italy, a place I quickly fell in love with for its food, beauty and history. We spent two weeks in Rome back in 2012 and it still sits firmly in my mind as one of my favourite cities in the world.
Our Rome Highlights
We packed as much into our Rome trip as possible but still, I feel we barely scratched the surface of this incredible city and the country it lies within – Italy is on my list of European countries to travel through properly in the future. Here’s what I remember most about our time in Rome.
Rome is stuffed full of historical sites and we rushed around in the searing August heat trying to visit as many of them as we could. The two highlights for me were the Colosseum and the Pantheon; both were epic in terms of their size, grandeur and lovingly-preserved condition. I challenge anyone not to be awed by the sheer scale of these buildings and the fact that they were constructed so long ago. The elaborate carvings and paintings in the Pantheon had me transfixed and as I circled the Colosseum I could vividly imagine the brutal, carnival-esque scenes that occurred there centuries ago.
As a fussy eater and a vegetarian, I often struggle to find food I love whilst travelling. This was totally not the case in Italy though, in fact, I was pretty much in food heaven the whole time we were there. We stuffed our faces with delicious cheesy pizza, creamy pasta dishes and the most incredible gelato in dozens of flavours during our two week stay in the country. I dream of going back to Italy for the food alone but when we do return I’ll have to do lots of exercise to keep from piling on the pounds.
As I wrote when we visited back in 2012, there’s plenty more to love about Rome: strolling around the huge, bustling piazzas, visiting the creepy catacombs, whizzing around on a segway and taking in the view from the top of the Spanish Steps.
Rome on My Mind – Travel Tips
Rome is a beautiful but busy city and it’s worth planning your trip in advance to make the most of your stay. Here are some top tips for travelling in Rome:
Tickets for Attractions
It’s well worth pre-booking tickets for the most famous attractions such as the Colosseum and Vatican. We bought combined tickets for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum from the Palatine ticket office which saved us money and time queuing. If you’re an EU citizen aged 18-24 or a teacher bring ID to get a reduced ticket rate; those under 18 or over 65 from an EU country get in for free.
Although Italy is a pricey destination, like London, there’s plenty there to do for free. Explore the city by foot and take in free sights such as the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and stroll around the many piazzas.
Visit out of Season
We were in Rome in August and it was boiling hot and packed with tourists. Our visit to the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel was particularly hellish as we were caught in a shoulder-to-shoulder shuffle with hundreds of other people being herded through the building. Accommodation and flight prices were also more expensive because we were travelling in peak season during the school summer holidays; if you can visit out of season you’ll save money and you won’t have to battle such huge crowds.
Eat as much as you can
The food in Italy is incredible but watch out for overpriced, lower-quality restaurants in touristy areas. When we travel we try to research restaurants on Trip Advisor to find somewhere with great reviews that’s in our price range. Don’t be too stingy though, take advantage of the tasty food on offer – when in Rome, right?
Have you been to Rome? What are your top tips for visiting this magnificent city?