Well, technically third. But I hardly count visiting at 3 years old. My first visit to Rome that I remember was on a Contiki tour in winter 2013. I think this is where the main problem lied, as Contiki’s are rushed and we only had one full day to explore the city. Read more about what I think about Contiki tours here. After visiting Florence and falling in love with its Italian style, I expected Rome to be similar, but even more amazing. I was let down then, until my second visit when I did a complete backflip and would now call it one of my favorite cities.
Time. Like I said before, the fact that my first visit was so rushed probably had something to do with it. Rome has a lot to offer, and in one day I seemed to fit in all of the touristy spots, but didn’t have time to just explore and get lost! This is also the reason why I loved Florence because, unlike with Rome, I had no expectations and really enjoyed just walking around, finding hidden streets and cute Italian restaurants. With almost three full days in Rome this time around, I was able to go at a slower pace, enjoy each attraction and also wonder some beautiful streets and just get lost.
Weather. Winter is really not that bad in Rome when compared to the rest of Europe, but in early May (not quite summer) this time around, the weather was absolutely beautiful. Sunshine always makes any holiday that little bit better.
Atmosphere. We were lucky enough to be in Rome during an Italian holiday; May Day. It’s on the 1st of May when most countries have Labor Day and with long weekends comes a lot of locals wanting to visit the capital. There was also a free concert in the Piazza San Giovanni, which just so happened to be across the road from our hotel. Perfect. This added an electric and fun atmosphere to our stay.
Cost. After being around the rest of Europe, I realized that Italy is one of the cheaper countries in the EU. You would still expect Rome to be pretty expensive, being such a big tourist destination but this just isn’t the case and it is actually quite reasonable.
The one let down
Crowds. Although it made for a great atmosphere, huge crowds are not the best when you are traveling. Crowds get bigger as the weather gets warmer, so in winter there was hardly anybody there. May Day was Mayhem – see what I did there. The line for the Vatican stretched the whole way around St. Peter’s square (which is huge) and was about a two hour wait. We also saw the Spanish steps on May Day and there were just way too many people. On a brighter note, they did put a lot of beautiful flowers on the steps for the occasion, so it looked a lot nicer than it did on my last visit.
What I loved in Rome
Obvious choice, but it really is an amazing site to see. The Roman Forum next door is included in your Colosseum ticket and worth a visit as well if you have the time. I’d see something else if you’re pressed for time though.
A night out at the Yellow Bar
A few friends were staying at the Yellow Hostel so we met up for a few drinks at the bar there and it was a great night! They had a great band in this small basement that just played on the dance floor and we were dancing right up next to them. Crowded but great fun.
Walking the Palazzo Torlonia and along the river
From the Vatican we walked down the Palazzo Torlonia and to the Castel Sant’Angelo. There are some amazing views from on top of this and cross the bridge over the river for some more stunning views. The historic Rione V Ponte neighborhood on that side of the river has some cool history.
Walking the streets up to the Piazza del Popolo
This is a major shopping area with three parallel streets running to the Piazza del Popolo. Snake your way through them all and the adjacent side streets joining them. You will find a heap of great restaurants here too.
Great stop for lunch or dinner. The beautiful square is enclosed on each side with el fresco restaurants and you get a great view of the church of Sant’Agnese and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers) in front of it. There is also the Moor Fountain and Fountain of Neptune to marvel out.
The view from the top of the Spanish steps
Worth the walk up, and with all of the flowers on the stairs, it was beautiful. The streets leading to the Spanish steps are also always alive with people. Great for a bit of shopping or people watching while you sit on the steps.
Italian food is amazing, but it can be very basic compared to what what we ‘westerners’ call ‘Italian food’. Aussie’s especially love their meat, but authentic Italian pasta is actually quite basic, with the pasta and sauce highlighted in the dish. Their pizza is also very basic. Thin crust, a thin spread of tomato paste, cheese and maybe just herbs or a bit of salami or speck. This is the way I like pizza, so I love it but a lot of other people don’t. Gelato on the other hand, is what the Italians do best and never a let down. I made a point of trying a Gelato on most days and my thighs might not be thanking me, but my mouth definitely was.