If you have been following my Instagram account account, you know I recently got back from Italy. I have been dreaming of going to Italy since I was 13 years old. I remember the first time my mother gave me this hard cover book on Roman history and the foundation of their empire and all I could think about was walking in the same city that Caesar, Plato and Socrates had.
I spent the first four days in Italy exploring the following venues:
-Colosseum – Private Night Tour
-Saint Peter’s Basilica
-Saint Paul’s Basilica
-Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
-Saint Mary of the Snow or Saint Mary Major
For our visit to Rome, we stayed at the Boscolo Exedra. The hubs picked this hotel because of its location and the great reviews previous vacationers gave. The hotel gave us wonderful service and a free room upgrade to a junior suite with the most amazing view of the Fontana delle Naidi (fountain). Let’s just say having a two story room for four days to ourselves made our stay in Rome luxurious!
Our hotel (Boscolo Exedra) in the day…
Boscolo Exedra at night…
the view from our room…
Right after we landed in Rome and checked in to our hotel, we headed off to the Colosseum for a private night tour. For the next few weeks, the Colosseum is open at night for private tours. This tour is the PERFECT way to get to know the history of the Colosseum, explore the space without the crowd and most importantly uncover rooms and floors which are usually closed off to the general public in the daytime.
Taking some pictures of the Colosseum at night while we wait for our night tour…
playing around with my camera to making sure I have the right settings for night photography (switching between Manual, Aperture Priority and No Flash settings).
and the tour begins…
Getting a history lesson on how the Colosseum is nowhere near it’s former glory. It has lost two rings due to earthquakes and invaders (reusing the materials to construct their own buildings).
View of the arena where the gladiators used to fight for the spectators pleasure. Have you ever seen the arena empty?
Taking a walk down in the basement where the gladiators would come in to make their entrance to the arena…
Back at the arena, but this time the view is from the top floor. I guess this is what they would call the nosebleed seats?
tour is over, off to make our way back to the hotel and call it a night 🙂
The next day we went off exploring the Roman Forum. Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. One thing we found completely by fluke was the first Sunday of every month, there is free admission to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Since we saw the Colosseum the night before and we had a lot of ground to cover, we went off to the Forum which worked out perfectly because the Colosseum was CROWDED!!!
At the Roman Forum, I couldn’t contain my excitement to be walking in what was the marketplace, government offices, Senate House, and temples back in around 170 B.C. I spent a good 4 hours exploring this area and would have spent more if I didn’t schedule in my calendar to visit other places…
I found out during my travel that Italy is famous for these wall climbing lizards. I found this one sun tanning.
We took a small break and grabbed lunch at this cute little shop before we headed off to the Pantheon. What you may not know about the Pantheon is that this building was commissioned by Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire and it’s first Emperor. It is the largest non-reinforced concrete dome (which is a big deal when you consider that this structure is almost 2000 years old!!!)
360 View of the Pantheon (interior)
Right after visiting the Pantheon, we grabbed some Gelato at Giolitti. I am all about finding hidden gems and hole in the wall places when it comes to food and it is no different when it comes to my dessert. Giolitti came highly recommended from the locals due to price, variety of flavour and most importantly taste and texture. When it comes to Gelato, I tend to go fruity or chocolaty. For my first Gelato, I dared myself and went for Pistachio. Result – IN LOVE!!!! I am not usually a fan of Pistachio but after trying it out at Giolitti, I am now! If you are going to Rome, make sure to visit this place as their Gelato is amazing! It’s rich, creamy and the flavour….made the walk to the Trevi Fountain go by super fast!
At the Trevi fountain, we couldn’t see much because….it was being restored. They had a little makeshift place set up for people to toss in their penny to ensure one day they will return to Rome. I took a few pictures of Poseidon, Agrippa and ‘Trivia’, the Roman virgin. Can you see them?
Day two is not over yet, off to the Spanish steps since, according to Google Maps, it’s less than 10 min walk to it. All I can say is by the time I got there, with all the walking I have done today my feet were in ready to go on their own vacation. Thankfully I made the wise decision to wear my flats which helped protect me from getting any blisters.
That night, we went off to this local restaurant that got amazing reviews from visitors and locals. The restaurant is Grotte del Teatro di Pompeo, it’s a husband and wife run business that serves Italian cuisine that is lightly flavoured and incredibly delicious. This is a perfect example of those hole in the wall gems the local city has to offer and I highly recommend a visit. Best part, you can make reservations the night before but come early if you want to try their Bufala cheese. It goes fast!
After dinner we ended up going for a walk and found this lovely square that had not one, not two, but three fountains! One thing that completely took me of guard was how safe the city is and that even at 11PM, the city looked alive (at least in this square) and families were out with their children taking pictures. Vendors were out trying to sell their paintings (I almost picked up one but decided last minute that we should aim for a glass sculpture as our keep sake from our trip to Italy).
This is the end of our second day in Rome. The only thing I remember from these two days was saying the words ‘Oh WOW!’ over and over again. So much so, that my husband was making fun of me about it. For my next post, I will share with you my visit to the Vatican Properties.
Tips/Lessons Learned from the first two days:
- If you are interested in visiting the Colosseum and you are going to Rome in September/October, go for the night tour and book it a few hours before. DO NOT GO ONLINE. If you book your VIP tour online, I kid you not, you will get robbed! Book onsite and the cost is as low as 20 Euros.
- The first Sunday of every month, the Colosseum and Roman Forum are free to visit. If you plan on going to visit either sites on the first Sunday, head to the Roman Forum to get your tickets (yup, even on a free day you need a ticket). The lineup at the Forum is significantly smaller and the ticket is good for both venues.
- Don’t bother with a tour guide for the Forum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. All the boards they have up at the sites are perfect to get a history lesson. If you have a travel guide, you will end up feeling very rushed and if you are anything like me…your picture count will be significantly lower 🙁
- Be careful where you eat! We all know Rome is a HUGE tourist trap when it comes to cuisine. Visitors will come and go and experiment with restaurants that they didn’t do any research on before they stepped in. I heard from numerous friends that most of the food they ate was mediocre. Thanks to them I did a little bit of research and found a few good places that pride themselves on delivering the best to their customers.
Stay tuned for my next post on my visit to the Vatican Properties. I really hope you liked this post. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of my first two days in Rome and any sites you think I should have checked out.