If you’re going to Rome just because it’s one of those “must-see” places as opposed to because you really think you’ll like it, then this is for you because that was me.
I had low expectations for Rome. I much rather visit smaller cities or somewhere to swim or hike. But since we decided on Italy and the flight was into Rome, I was still looking forward to seeing some of the major attractions. Plus, every one of my coworkers who have been loved it and wish they stayed longer than a week.
Our first impression of Rome was that it reminded us of Canal Street in New York. By midday of day 2, we were glad we got to see the Colosseum but we were ready to go.
We would also recommend a bus tour for future visitors that mention visiting Rome. It was a lot of walking.
Day 1: Half Day Rome-ing Around 😝
We do NOT recommend booking your train ticket from the airport to the inner city early. Amelia and I had a delayed connection so we missed our train and had to purchase a new ticket. Even though the original ticket was valid for 90 minutes after the time we booked, we still didn’t make it in time. There are kiosks at the train station that was easy to use and was pretty much the same price as what we paid in advance online. There were also people in Trenitalia vest to help you. When you get your ticket from a kiosk, you’ll have to validate it at one of the machines next to the front of the train. Most of them seemed broken. It was funny watching people trying to figure out how to use the machines. Everyone was just as confused as we were. We finally stuck our ticket in one of the machines and heard a click. 😯 There was a little indent and faded printing on the back of the ticket. Someone came and checked our tickets after the train has started moving. ‼️ Do NOT get on the train without a valid ticket! Buying a ticket on the train was 4x the price. We learned all this the hard way. I booked the wrong date train for Steven so he had to pay for a ticket on the train. 🤦♀️
Trenitalia is the primary train operator of Italy
Roma Termini and Roma Tiburtina are the two major train stations in the inner city of Rome
Don’t buy your train ticket in advance. Buy your train ticket at the kiosks at the airport’s train stations - it’s pretty much the same price and there were lots of seats available
VALIDATE your ticket before getting on the train
Do NOT get on the train without a valid ticket - you’ll pay for it. 4x the original price
We arrived mid-afternoon, checked into our Airbnb, relaxed a bit then Yelped a place for dinner. We were on a mission to eat Italian pizza with a fork and knife. 🍴
We ended up choosing a place near our accommodation. The restaurant was small. About 7 or 8 small tables. The staff was friendly and they were playing throwback 90’s music that one of the staff was singing to. We were off to a great start. This was one of our favorite meals in Italy. I am more of a crispy bottom pizza type of person so the pizza was not my favorite.
After dinner, we started wandering around. We just started walking in a random direction. Whenever we saw a street or alley that caught our attention, we’d walk down it. We eventually ended up at the Coliseum right as the sun was setting.
Everything we read online and heard in Youtube videos about people selling bracelets came into view. They were also selling selfie sticks. It was a relief for us that they were not as pushy as what we have heard about. They would approach us and asked if we wanted anything but if we said no, they’d continue walking.
Right by the Coliseum was the Arch of Constantine. Wow checking things off the Rome list pretty quickly without even trying! 🙌
Day 2: Full Day of Rome-ing 😅
For breakfast, we learned that the tiramisu here is very different than what we were used to in the US. The tiramisu in the US had more cake. The tiramisu in Italy had more cream.
We checked out of our accommodation but our train to Florence wasn't until later in the day so we went to Stow Your Bags to store our luggage. It was about two blocks from Termini train station. These were self-service lockers but easy to figure out. The store is easy to find too. It's a small shop that is bright yellow with a duck.
There is a sample box that fits Steven that you could see if all your luggage would fit into one box or if you'd need two. With Steven's Tetris skills, we were able to fit three carry-on sized luggage into one box.
How to Use ‘Stow Your Bags’ Locker:
Go to the kiosk
Pick the number of lockers you would need
Enter how long you need it for
Enter your contact information
On your recipe will be a locker number and code to open the door. They also email you the information.
After luggages were taken care of, we started to check the rest of the items on the Rome list off: mail postcards, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain. We even saw other attractions that were not on the list that were pretty nice: Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (Altar of the Fatherland), Santa Maria di Loreto. Santa Maria di Loreto is a church right by Monumento. There were lots of nice details on the ceiling and around the room. It was quiet. There weren’t many people and most of the people who were in there look like they just happened to wander in there, like us. We liked that.
Interesting enough, the two places we liked the most were the two places we wandered into. The church and Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (Altar of the Fatherland) had some interesting things inside like the flag museum but the best part was the big open outdoor space upstairs. It was away from the crowd. We could breathe and felt a bit of peace for the first time all day.
We found what we thought was the post office, went inside to mail our postcards, it was ridiculously expensive but I had to send some home anyway. The guy helping us asked us if we were sure about shipping them because he also knew they were expensive. Later, we found it that was not the post office but a shipping shop. 😑 Do your research.
I was surprised by how small the Spanish Steps were. I had imagined it being huge like the art museum back in Philly. Since the look of it was not so impressive, I looked up the significance of it. It symbolically joined Spain and Italy. I’ll take that. What I found more interesting while researching the steps is the Slow Food Movement. The first McDonald’s in Rome was built nearby so Carlo Petrini started the movement:
1) Food should pleasure the senses and be more than simply "fuel."
2) It should arrive on our plates in the cleanest and most environmentally responsible way possible.
3) Our food producers should be compensated fairly for their work
I like that. Explains why we didn’t see as many fast food places. I was impressed by how fast the food service here is. I think part of it has to do with the restaurants being smaller.
We stopped by a random sandwich shop on the way of the Trevi Fountain. Ate it at the top section of the fountain. There was security at the steps and fountain to tell people not to eat there. We were okay eating where we were because we were in the outer edge but there were officers blowing whistles tell people to get off things or no eating. Tip: Go to the right side of the fountain. The view isn’t as great but there are fewer people. Great for people-watching.
After a few hours, we were done. We saw everything in every “must-see” in Rome list and our feet were sore. What else is there? Get me out of here.
Things We Learned
Purchase and validate the train tickets AT the station
Pizza is soggy
Tiramisu is creamy
Sandwiches are hard - which I like
A bus tour is worth it in Rome 🚌 things are spread out and a lot is just looking from the outside
Mailing postcards are freaking expensive
Eat during Roman hours or suffer the consequences of eating bad tourist food. Our stomachs were used to U.S. eating time which were different than Rome’s eating times. A lot of places were closed so we settled. Not worth
One day was enough for us. We didn’t hate Rome. Some of the architectures were pretty nice. There was just not that much to keep us amazed long
Gel pens on airplanes are a no no
🖱 Details about the Slow Food Movement from HowStuffWorks.