Rome – The Eternal City: How to See the Best of Rome & the Vatican in 2 Days
Why is Rome called the Eternal City? It’s because ancient Romans believed that no matter what happened to the world or how many empires came and collapsed, Rome would go on forever.
This is our 2nd time visiting Rome, and both times we seem to discover something new or a new vantage point. There’s just way too much history, art, culture, etc. to take it all in on one visit, even though we had 3 days.
Our last visit was in early April 2013, and the difference that 6 weeks makes in visiting Rome is noticeable. From the warmer temperatures to the larger crowds, it starts to get real busy with more tourists arriving as the summer holiday season approaches. And, Rome does feel like one of those places that will draw you back for return visits in the future.
We spent 2 days in Rome prior to leaving for our western Mediterranean cruise. And, then our 3rd day in Rome was our last cruise day as we did one last tour before transferring to the airport.
After our two visits, here are some of our tips about visiting Rome:
Walking: Bring comfortable walking shoes. And ladies, forget the heels if you plan to walk any of the Roman streets with their cobblestones or bricks. The center of Rome can easily be walked in a full day. Our hotels have been close to the Borghese Gardens, so starting there it is easy to walk to the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, to the Altar of the Fatherland, Roman Forum, Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, and then we take the Metro back to the closest stop to where we started. This route makes for a full day, but it is well worth it!!
Buy Tour Tickets in Advance: To visit the Vatican City (either the Vatican Museum or St. Peter’s Basilica) or the Coliseum, buy your tour tickets online and arrive early. Buying the tickets online allows you to skip the line in waiting to buy tickets. And the earlier you go, the better to beat the crowds.
Tour Companies: If you tour the Vatican, consider booking a tour via a tour company. After researching TripAdvisor.com, we selected a tour with a company called Viator and selected the tour of the Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s. We had a great experience and an awesome tour guide that was excited to show us all the wonderful things in the Vatican. The rest of Rome can be toured on your own, just find a good map and guide book.
Driving…Just Don’t: Unless you plan to drive outside of Rome…DO NOT RENT A CAR!!! The drivers in Rome are nuts. I really think that street lanes, traffic lights, and pedestrian walkways are just merely there for a suggestion. You will have a street with 4 painted lanes of traffic and 7 lanes of cars with motorbikes darting in and out of traffic. The Rome Airport is about a 40 minute drive to the center of Rome, and the cost of a taxi is on par with the cost of a car transfer service. Since we had 4 people in our travel party, we arranged a car service with a van pickup, and our cost was only 55 Euros in total!! This is the third time we have used Fattori Car Service, and they have been great. Always on time and very professional. We also arranged for their service to drive us to the cruise port about 90 minutes away. The cost for the 4 of us in a van was 150 Euros.
Eating: The best thing about food in Italy, is it is Italian Food! Ha! Imagine that!! If you love pasta, pizza, antipasti, then you are in heaven. There are so many street side cafes to choose. You will find a big difference in pricing though, especially if you are beside one of the main tourist spots. We had lunch in the Piazza Navona, and the cost of our meal was twice what we paid at the cafe a block from our hotel. And, the serving size was a little smaller. If you want to enjoy the view while dining then eating near the attraction is a great idea. However, for a little less money, just walk about 2-3 blocks away, as you are more than likely to eat where the locals do and pay a lot less for more.
Pickpockets: Being mindful of your surroundings is important, not only in Rome, but any large tourist city in Europe. Crime rates are very low in Europe, but what can be high are petty crimes like pickpocketing. Here’s the situation. You are at the Trevi Fountain, and you are taking a picture or throwing a coin in. It is a very busy place, and before you know it, someone has stolen something off of you by bumping into you. Our hints are for guys to wear money belts either under their waistband or around their neck under their shirt. And for ladies to have their purse strapped across their body instead of down one side and to keep it more toward the front. Also, it is a good idea to wear a lightweight shirt or scarf over it to further hide it from view. And, if you are in groups, to use the buddy system to look after each other in crowds, especially if anyone wears a backpack.
Rome is a beautiful city. It is right there with Paris as cities most likely that we will return multiple times again to visit. Each time we find a new place, and are amazed with this ancient and still vibrant city.
If you enjoyed this post, here is the link to our other blog post about our first visit to Rome in April 2013, and our first impressions of visiting this iconic city.