Rome is a very interesting city filled with lots of history - you almost feel like you're back in ancient Roman times. All the buildings and streets have a medieval vibe, and all the architectural styles are different. The city in general is breathtaking! Don't let the tourists deter you from exploring Rome. I loved that every single place had a unique element to it. You don't see any gentrification here, in my opinion.
However, you do have to be very careful in Rome as it's notoriously known for pickpockets. My valuables never got stolen and I was never in danger, but I never dressed too nicely and tried to avoid people that were trying to get my attention - ignoring street hawkers is half the battle. Educate yourself on the possible scams and safety tips in Rome, and you shouldn't have any problems!
I started my day in Rome by landing at Ciampino Airport, which the vast majority is operations from Ryanair. The airport is pretty small, so I was able to get through immigration pretty fast although the workers looked a little grumpy. Ciampino Airport is pretty far from the city center, so I bought a bus ticket from Terravision before I came to Rome (use their website). It only cost me 9 euros round-trip, and you do have to be diligent when you're looking for your bus. Once you get outside of the airport, a lot of the buses look the same!
The bus I was on was pretty worn down, but I only paid 5 euros for this segment of the trip. So, I wasn't complaining. The bus trudged into the city center and dropped me off at Termini Station, Then, I walked about 5 minutes to my hostel, which was the Alessandro Palace Hostel and Bar, to drop off my things. I paid a little more than I usually word for this hostel because of its location and good reviews, and I made the right call. Even though I was sharing my room with about 10 other people, my bed was clean (but creaky, but what can you do), and everything was up to par - I wasn't disappointed. The hostel also had lots of organized activities and a rooftop bar, but I never went because I was simply too exhausted after each day. After I dropped off my things, I didn't want to waste any time and decided to head right to the Colosseum.
A little side note: I chose to visit Rome in September, but there was a ridiculous amount of tourists EVERYWHERE - I felt like everywhere I went was an EDM concert. As you read this guide, just remember that the crowds are all over the place. Anyways, to get to the Colosseum, I took the Metro and got 5 tickets. Rome has a very sparse transportation system, where the subway doesn't cover much ground. At any machine in subway stations, you can buy a specific number of tickets so when you go on public transportation, you use a ticket.
I got my ticket for the Colosseum online, so I could just go directly in line and exchange my voucher for a physical ticket. Then, they let me into the Colosseum and oh boy, was it majestic. I don't know how well preserved it is, but it was definitely an experience just seeing the structure itself. I definitely took an excessive amount of pictures, but I didn't care. Afterwards, I went to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Now, your ticket for the Colosseum gets you into both of these landmarks, so don't lose your ticket! Anyways, both the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were absolutely marvelous to see - you could easily spend the entire day in this area and still not see everything. All of the buildings are amazing - you could tell that it has stood the test of time.
Now, to save myself some time during the rest of the guide, everything I saw could be described in the following manner:
absolutely breathtaking, very beautiful, impressive and unique architecture, cool to see, and a great experience. Yes, everything in Rome was that great (maybe I'm hyping it a little too much). But let the pictures speak for themselves.
I walked towards Circus Maximus, which is a long, rectangular pitch of grass but not like a park. Then, I walked towards Campidoglio, Capitoline Hill, and Piazza Venezia. After that, I was pretty beat from an entire day of walking so I started to head back towards my hostel to rest, while getting dinner on the way!
To begin my day, I started to head towards Piazza del Popolo, which had lots of people around the plaza even though it was early in the morning. On the way to the Spanish Steps, I passed through Piazza di Spagna. I was very happy that Rome is a walkable city, because it allowed me to walk to everything that I wanted to see. The Spanish Steps were beautiful but very crowded - it was very hard to get a seat on the steps and take it all in. I would highly recommend walking all the way up the steps to get an amazing view of the city! After that, I walked towards the Trevi Fountain, which was very cool to see. It's very crowded and hard to get a good picture, so you might have to squeeze through people if you want a good shot.
At this part, it was midday and I was quite hungry so I decided to walk towards Giolitti's to try their gelato. They have all sorts of flavors, which all look amazing - I had a really hard time choosing what I wanted! There's two lines: a line to pay and a line to actually pick your gelato. You could get 2, 3, or 4 flavors and I got 3 - it seemed like the right balance. Once I got my cone, I went outside and sat for a bit to eat it. It was so delicious! Hands down, one of the best gelato places I've ever been to. I highly recommend this place!
Then, I walked towards the Pantheon, which was an incredible experience. You're not supposed to make any noise while you're inside, but some of the people forgot that - but I didn't mind.
After that, I walked to Piazza Navona to just relax and people-watch for a bit. The square is pretty wide open and shaped like an oval, which a lot of people trying to get you to eat at their restaurants. Overall, it was just nice to take a break for a moment.
I started walking towards Castel Sant'Angelo, which was very majestic. To get to the castle, you have to cross the Ponte Sant'Angelo, which is a bridge. I found a bench nearby to take a little nap - maybe I've been doing too much walking. After feeling a little more refreshed, I walked towards St. Peter's Basilica.
The basilica itself is in a huge, circular square - if you come on certain days and times, you can actually see the pope give a service! However, I didn't come at those times but it was still pretty amazing to see. Then, I stood in line to see the inside - what a marvel. There are lots of artwork, paintings, and architectural hoo-dickery that just took your breath away. I almost couldn't believe that this was done centuries ago! It was definitely a surreal experience.
One of my friends recommended Cacio e Pepe, so I went there to eat dinner. There was seating inside and outside, but it was mostly outside. It seemed like such a cheap setup for such a nice restaurant, but I was there mostly for the famous pasta. It was hard not to try everything, but I ended up getting two half dishes of both the cacio e pepe and the carbonara - both were absolutely AMAZING. I can't exactly recall what I got in the 3rd picture below (tempted to say it was the parmigiana). I could not recommend this place enough!
After dinner, I went back to the hostel after an exhausting yet fantastic day! So far, Rome is looking up.
For my last day in Rome, I decided to go to Vatican City and spend time in the museums and to see the Sistine Chapel. This was one of the things I was really looking forward to! To being my day, I decided to try McDonald's for breakfast (I try to do this at every new country I'm in) and it was delicious! America really needs to catch up. In Italy, McDonald's sells croissants and gelato, along with the traditional foods you would expect. It was surprisingly good.
To get into the Vatican, you have to wait in a long line (the earlier you get there, the shorter the wait is). As you wait, some people might approach you and ask if you want to skip the line and buy a tour from them - do NOT go with them at any cost! According to what I read online, the tours are grossly expensive and you're stuck on a schedule. The line doesn't move terribly slow as I only had to wait around an hour. Once you get in, you'll pay for your ticket (show them your student ID, it will be cheaper!) and then you are in!
A tip for you: make sure you eat plenty of food before coming, since I got very hungry halfway through because of all the walking. Anyways, I would HIGHLY recommend coming to the Vatican Museums - all the artwork and architecture is full of history and it's all amazing to take in. It is definitely a top experience in Rome. The museum has lots of exhibits and maps, but the path is pretty linear. The museum is set up in a way that you can't really deviate from everyone else. Basically, the end of the journey is when you see the Sistine Chapel.
Walking through the museum was an amazing experience! However, the only thing I didn't like about my visit was that sometimes I felt like all of us visitors were being herded like sheep. There are certain places in the museum where I wanted to get a better look at the paintings, but you can't because there's so many people and everyone is walking in one direction.
In the Sistine Chapel, they have pretty strict rules but the one they try to enforce is the fact that you have to be quiet and you can't take pictures. First off, the chapel is amazing and very intricate - you can stare at the ceiling for hours. However, I definitely saw some people try to sneak a photo and get reprimanded by the guards. Also, there was a person constantly yelling "silence!" because people kept talking - it seemed a little excessive. But overall, this should definitely be on top of your to-do list.
After taking in all of the Vatican Museums, I decided it was time to head back to the hostel to get some sleep, as I had an early flight the next day. On the way back, I stopped at Gelateria Frullateria because I was in the mood for some gelato and it was amazing! I can't remember what flavors I got but it tasted very rich - the whipped cream on top was a nice touch. Then, I stopped at Da Trani for dinner.
My dinner at Da Trani was one of the best meals I had in Rome. First off, the restaurant is very elegantly set up, with nice tablecloths and live Italian music. The service was great, and you could choose to sit inside or outside. I was very hungry so I ordered a pasta dish and a pizza but when my order came I was dumbfounded - the portions were HUGE. Both dishes tasted REALLY good but towards the end, I was struggling to finish my meal because I was so full! I'm sure my waiter was judging me but it's my last night in Rome! Go big or go home. I left the restaurant absolutely stuffed and I would highly recommend this place! It was somewhat pricey but I thought it was worth it.
Looking back, I definitely want to come back to Rome and maybe other parts of Italy - the food was fantastic, the architecture was very pretty, and life just seemed so relaxed. I'll definitely be back.