Last updated 9 November 2020
A sudden decision to head to follow the sun after a wet Spring and head to Liguria drastically cut our time in Rome. We agonised for a while, then decided that Rome in three days was doable, if not ideal.
Instead of staying in Trastevere like we had planned, we booked a room at a B&B in Ponte – very central and walking distance to everything – and resigned ourselves to being proper tourists for a few days. We almost succeeded.
Within five minutes of arriving in Rome, I knew I wanted to come back again. We headed straight to the Colosseum from the station and arrived in time for our pre-booked tour. Walking past all those lines was a great feeling. It never fails to amaze me that people still wait in line, even though you can pre-book tickets to just about every attraction for only a couple of euro. Within five minutes we were in – definitely worth it!
We booked our tour through the Colosseum itself, which cost about ten euros more than normal admission and meant we could see the underground and third floor levels as well. It also meant that we could avoid the worst of the crowds and learn something about the structure, since I don’t know much about the Colosseum. Seeing the old walls and tunnels was amazing, and the view from the top was unbelievable.
From there, we wandered through Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, both included in the entry ticket to the Colosseum. It’s essentially a park on the hills, with ruins peeking through. I loved it. I was enchanted by the Forum, with the remains of temples and pillars strewn through the grass and flowers. It’s like a graveyard or memorial to ancient Rome. I felt at peace.
In the evening, we went out for dinner and found an Argentinian restaurant a block or two away from Piazza Navona. Then we went for an evening stroll and managed to find the river, the Trevi Fountain and a couple of other attractions. It was a lovely night with just enough people around for a festive atmosphere, but no real crowds.
We saw the same attractions by day and decided we preferred them by night. We walked across the river to the Vatican and stared at the crowds. For lunch we had a wonderful antipasto platter and discovered that food in Rome is very different from food in Tuscany (a welcome change after three weeks of cheese and prosciutto!). Then we went to the Capuchin Crypts.
This was one of the strangest experiences of my life. The Crypts are in six chapels, five of which are decorated with the bones of dead monks. It’s strangely beautiful and incredibly disturbing at the same time. There’s a sign in one of the chapels saying What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you shall be. It was a sobering experience, but also oddly peaceful and I’m glad I’ve seen it. Photos weren’t allowed and taking them would have seemed disrespectful, but it’s easy to find some online if you’re interested.
After a little break, we went to see the Pantheon. Dinner was at a small restaurant not far from our B&B, followed by some drinks at a nearby bar.
See the Vatican in the morning, followed by lunch in Trastevere. Book a tour with the Vatican itself to skip the queues and get an insider view. It’s also significantly cheaper than most independent tours. Then have lunch in Trastevere.
Disclaimer… for us, the Vatican didn’t happen. We decided that we were sick of attractions, churches and crowds, and just wanted to wander around. Besides, we wanted to leave a reason to come back to Rome. Instead, we walked through Trastevere, taking photos as we went. Kind of a failure on the tourist front, but definitely what we needed. It doesn’t matter though; we’ll be back.