NORTHERN ITALY – ROUND TRIP (I): ROME
Hello! The first itinerary i’m going to share with you was my summer 2016 trip. When choosing the country, we opted for something that could offer us a mix of culture and nature – because i’m easily impressed by landscapes, maybe even more than with city skylines.
- Country: Italy
- Cities: Rome > Siena > Cinqueterre > Florence > Venice
- Duration: 12 days
- Transportation: by Bus and Train
- Budget: € 700
The plane tickets were bought with destination to Rome (Fiumicino), with four months in advance and were (the round-trip ticket) around €200 in TAP. We chose TAP because we were carrying luggage for two weeks and thought that a low cost plane ticket + the extra luggage price we would have to pay would not compensate (and this is something you should always have in mind when buying a plane ticket by impulse with a lot of time in advance). When I chose an itinerary, i try to chose a city that has airport as last, and preferably with direct flights to Lisbon in order to avoid stopovers (Gabriela and planes are two concepts that do not go well together).
For this trip especially we did not have a lot of planning. Our daily itineraries were made in the day before and we always bought the bus/train tickets on the day. For those who are thinking about making this trip through northern Italy, you should know that there is no need to rent a car (because this will increase your spending in at least – and i’m clearly being very optimistic – €250), since they have a very good inter cities transportation system. The trains are all very comfortable and with accessible prices. if you wish to take a look, you can check the prices and buy the tickets online here (Trenitalia) or in the train stations.
· ROME ·
We spent 4 nights and 4 days in Rome. When we arrived at the Fiumicino airport, we caught a bus until the Vatican, which was €6 and is cheaper than the train (plus, it is also more pleasant since you will get to see the center o the city while arriving at your destination). We stayed at a B&B with a very good localization, very close to the Vatican, which turned out great since we were at walking distance of a lot of things and ended up walking everywhere and spending almost no money on transportation. For those looking for a central and cheap place in a good looking neighborhood, the Vatican is a great option – since the other option is staying around the Termini, which is an extremely shady-looking area (not recommended). Plus, the buildings around the Vatican area are relatively new, which was lucky since we were there at the time of the earthquake and ended up feeling very little of it (we only found out the magnitude of the event on the next morning).
1st day – a stroll around the surroundings
On the first day we did not get too adventurous. Since we were so close and I’m a fan of Dan Brown, we decided to start by the Castel Sant’Angelo – but did not get inside as it was already late. Then, and after crossing the bridge over the Tevere River, we went to a viewpoint called Terraza del Giannicolo, were a lot of young people go to hang out and drink some beers with their friends. We stayed around for most of the afternoon, and then went to eat some gellati (ice cream) afterwards before ordering a margherita pizza for dinner (we found a place that you could order a whole pizza for €6!!).
2nd day – Roma antica
On this day we let the athletes that live inside us live and went for a very tiring day. We went to almost all the main touristic points in the city: starting by the Corte de Cassazione, which is a court with a very impressive building. We then continued to Piazza Navona. For those who are interested in arts (and I’m lucky to have my own personal artist to make me an educated person) the main sculpture of the square, named “Fontana dei Quattro Fiume” (which means fountain of the four rivers) – and holds the obelisk is Bernini’s. Besides this curiosity, it is one of Rome’s main squares, being full of restaurants and has a very interesting dynamic. The Pantheon is only a few streets down Piazza Navona. It is a mandatory stop point: it was one of the most impressive buildings I have seen in Rome by its greatness and magnificence. It’s a building that, even though it has maintained its original structure (which is pretty impressive if we take into account that it was built in the first century!!) it has never been out of functioning. The streets arount the Pantheon are very interesting for those who like to get lost between the narrow streets, and you can find a variety of cool stores: coffee stores, pasta stores and even Geppetto’s store with wooden toys! Our route to the square of Vittorio Emmanuelle Monument, that was built in marble in the memory of the first king of Italy as a unified realm (it actually has a second name “Altare della Patria” which means altar of the homeland). In this square you will begin to see a lot of roman ruins (we were very impressed by an excavation in which you could perfectly see a roman amphitheater right beside a bus stop, like it was very very normal), and throughout the whole avenue from Vittorio Emmanuelle Monument until the Coliseum you will find the Forums: Foro Traiano (where we had the opportunity to see the italian police chase some illegal water vendors LOL), Foro di Cesare and Foro di Augusto. At the end of the avenue you will finally find the Colisseum. I was hoping to have the same feeling I had when I saw the Eiffel Tower, but instead I found a chaotic place, with thousands of people trying to get inside, independent tourist guides that chased us to buy guided tours – a mess. We finally bought the tickets in a tiny store on the right side of the Colisseum (the ticket was €7,50). Only after I entered the Colisseum did I get the WOW factor. It was really amazing to be inside a secular building, human heritage. It’s a very cool exercise to try to imagine how all of that was while siting on it and trying to ignore the tourists with their selfie sticks. A very cool feature of Rome, that we can actually find inside the Colisseum, is the many public fountains (from which I was very skeptical of drinking at first), so despite of the heat you can have a pleasant visit. From the Colisseu we went to Monte Palatino, from where we were able to see all the Foro Romano, the biggest and most famous Forum of the area. Despite being super excited to walk the Roman Forum, it was super hot (40 degrees Celsius) and there was not the slightest chance of doing it without passing out, so we chose to stay in Palatine Hill and enjoy the view – that is amazing. After we rest a little bit and had lunch (we bought some bread, cheese, ham and fruit at the supermarket and made super tasty *gourmet* sandwiches) we caught a tram to Trastevere, ate an ice cream and finished our day.
3rd day – Museum struggle
We had reserved this day especially for visiting the Vatican. After walking around the famous Saint Peter Square, we had the brilliant (NOT SO BRILLIANT) idea of visiting Musei Vaticani first and visiting the basilica afterwards: it was a mistake. We didn’t even get to the basilica since we had the also fantastic idea of not buying the tickets for the museum online (by the way, you can and should buy them online, for example: here), which resulted in 3h30 of waiting in the line: because travelling with an artist boyfriend makes you do crazy things for the sake of the art. The entrance for the museum was €8. It is really interesting, even though it had so many people in it that you had to struggle to actually see the pieces. The Sistine Chapel is the last room of the museum and take this tip: bring something that covers your shoulders, or else you will have the swiss guard chasing you like crazy to put something over them (been there, done that). The Sistine Chapel is amazing, as you would expect, and it is forbidden to take pictures – so the goal is to enjoy the moment and try to absorb and take a mental picture of what you are witnessing. At the end of the day, the basilica was already closed, it was 4 in the afternoon and we were knocked out by the long waiting lines. There was only one thing that could heal us… ICE CREAM!!
4th day – Day vs. Night
On the fourth and last day we decided to take the rest of the touristic route we did not make in the second day. We started from the famous Piazza del Popolo, which is a huge walking area that we crossed to climb some stairs and get to a viewpoint called Terraza del Pincio. This viewpoint is part of a garden next to Villa Borghese, one of the most famous Roman gardens, which is very large and a very pleasant way to cross a part of the city in a day of unbearable heat (which was the case, by the way). We followed Via del Tritone until the Fontana di Trevi. This fountain is absolutely stunning and majestic, maybe one of my favorite spots in all Rome. But, always the same problem: it was full with people and there was little space to actually see the fountain. After running away from the crowd we went to Piazza di Spagna, where there are the famous stair cases (which actually reminded me a lot of Spain) but were unfortunatelly closed for restauration and you cound not walk there – at least we could take a pretty cool picture that you can find hereunder. From Piazza di Spagna we strolled through Via dei Condotti, which is a very long and fancy street with all the fancy stores. We then decided to initiate the ritual of buying souvenirs for everyone and lost the whole afternoon in that. At night we finally stopped eating pizza and went to dine in a near-by restaurant and walk around to see the city at night. Rome is way more charming at night, away from the crowds and chaos of the day that in my opinion takes away most of its charm. We made the same route as in the morning and ended up in the Trevi Fountain that is absolutely magical at night. It almost seems that Neptune comes alive! The lighting and the surroundings makes you really feel that you are in the Eternal City. You should definitely make this night stroll if you are someone who gets a bit irritated with the touristic mess like me. I should also refer that I felt safe at all times and also after dark, the city has a lot of police and you can really walk around feeling safe.
Overall, I really enjoyed Rome. The city is beautiful, majestic and full of history, but it was my least favorite city in Italy since it was way to crowded with tourists for me to actually see Italian people. Also – I’m more like a Tuscany kind of girl.