Italy pretty much echoes with the sentiments of ‘La Dolce Vita’ which means the sweet life! Other than being fantastically gorgeous it is also know for its cuisine which varies as you move from city to city. A Roman holiday had always been at the back of my head and this summer I decided to turn that wish into reality! I didn’t want to club Italy with any other country so I handpicked only a few places in Italy itself that we’d be covering as we didn’t want to rush ourselves through the country. One basic rule I follow is that I try to stay a minimum of three nights in a city to be able to even scrape its surface. Keeping this in mind I drew up a neat little itinerary for a 12 day summer trip covering Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice.
This post will detail out three gorgeous days I spent in Rome.
Day 0: Bombay to Rome
I prefer taking late night flights just the night before the day of my arrival in a city and the 13 hour flight (including a 3 hour transit in Dubai) arrived at 7.30 am in Rome. Yes we did have a bit of broken sleep but this way we got an early start in Rome.
Day 1: Trevi Fountain & Castel Sant’Angelo
On our arrival in Rome, we reached our airbnb which was located a stone’s throw away from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. The hostess helped us with some basic information about the city and gave us a few local tips which were handy. A quick shut-eye later we decided to venture out and explore the city around 2 pm.
Our first stop was The Trevi Fountain which was just ten minutes by foot from our apartment. The fountain is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture and is one of the most famous fountains in the world, so obviously the crowd it attracts is huge! If you want to take a clean picture you’d have to wake up around 6 am if not earlier. Still the beauty is unmissable even with so many people surrounding it. It is said that if you throw a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain, it ensures another trip to Rome, so I have my fingers crossed!
We were famished as the last meal we had was on board the flight in the morning, so we halted at this cute Sicilian restaurant just by the Trevi Fountain for our first authentic Italian lunch of salmon, lamb chops, arancini and some ravioli; all accompanied by my European favourite – Aperol Spritz.
Post lunch we walked all the way to Castel Sant’Angelo and came across cute little cafes, bars and trattorias just like the one below all along the quaint lanes of the city. If there is one thing the Italians love after pasta, its their assortment of meats and many of the restaurants and shops displayed them with pride!
Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the top spots to view a Roman sunset. While the rooftop is a great spot for some sunset photography you don’t really need to pay and enter because you can view the sunset from the bridge as well. Street musicians will enthral you with their soulful performances; from the lady who played the harp to the gentleman who poured his heart out through the tunes of his violin, time just passed by and we didn’t even realise that we had been just sitting and listening to them for over 2 hours!
After a lot of walking and discovering the city by foot, we finally decided to head back to our apartment and called it day by 11.00 pm. Takeaway pizza, pasta, soup and wine made for the perfect dinner back in our apartment.
Day 2: Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, The Vatican & Piazza Navona
A home cooked breakfast felt great in a foreign city and thats the beauty of staying in rental apartments over hotels. Not only is it better value for money but you have the complete freedom to cook whenever you like! We had a hearty breakfast of Quinoa cooked with veggies we bought from the supermarket the day before and downed it with some tea. We were all set for day 2 in Rome now.
The Pantheon was a stone’s throw away from our apartment so we decided to start our day by visiting it. The Pantheon is also one of the few monuments in Rome that does not need any entry ticket. It is a former Roman temple that is now a church and is open to all. The renowned renaissance artist Raphael is also buried here and one can see his tomb inside the Pantheon. You will find hordes of people at every hour inside the Pantheon and also at the square where its situated at.
Just outside the Pantheon was this uber talented musician who played hauntingly beautiful covers of popular rock ballads. It was unbelievable and if I didn’t have much more to see I would have happily sat there listening to him for hours!
I still managed to lurk around for half an hour and hear him play before making my way to Piazza di Spagna which is one of the most famous squares in Rome. Travelers often come here to take pictures at the famous Spanish Steps and as with the rest of Italy during season you will see that throngs of people visiting this place.
The Vatican was next on the list and in order to avoid the long queues, I had pre-booked a guided tour through Headout that would help us cut the line and am I glad I did because it took us only 20-25 minutes to get inside through the fast track entry lane whereas people without these tickets had been waiting in line for 2 hours and above! It costs a little more but its well worth the price, especially in the summers, because trust me, Rome can get pretty hot.
Apart from being the most important seat of Christianity, the Vatican is also a treasure trove of beautiful art by some of the most renowned painters. While the most renowned is that of Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel and the sanctuary wall, the Vatican has numerous other art pieces by the likes of Raphael, Botticelli and Perugino amongst others. I usually hate to break rules when traveling but I just couldn’t resist sneaking in a picture of the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican requires atleast 4 hours if you want to see even half of it. While most people club it with a trip to the Colosseum I would strongly advise against it. Its better to take your time and admire The Vatican instead of rushing it.
Tired from all the walking yet so overwhelmed by the beautiful art we feasted our eyes on we made our way back to our apartment, stopping for some good old Italian coffee on the way. Since it was a Saturday night we decided to head to Piazza Navona for dinner. Another great option is Trastevere which is supposedly a fun place for a night out, unfortunately all that walking had us very tired so we went to Piazza Navona close-by and enjoyed some Italian food and live music as we sipped on some more Aperol Spritz.
On our way back we walked past the Pantheon only to discover some more musicians playing some amazing music and decided to just hang around there for a while. A good one hour of stting at the square and some gelatos later we decided to head back to our apartment and called it a day.
Day 3: Campo Dei Fiori Farmers’ Market, The Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
I’m a sucker for farmers’ markets and when my airbnb host mentioned that the Camp Dei Fiori farmers market is a must visit, I just had to go. I wasn’t going to leave Rome without buying some local produce, especially since the market was just a 15 minute walk from my apartment. It’s a very small market and there are stalls selling artisanal pasta, truffles, fresh produce, spices etc. I picked up a lot of pasta, spice mixes, varieties of truffles and some local liqueur. Do not miss this market!
We still had a good amount of time before heading to the Colosseum so we decided to shop for a bit and I must say Rome is wonderful for shopping, I picked up a lot of stuff from the high street brands that don’t sell in India.
After lunch we walked to The Colosseum and again my fast track entry tickets played a huge role in getting us inside in less than half an hour. It’s insane that a monument of such epic proportion is bang in the middle of a city and yet fits in beautifully. Thats the magic of Rome!
We also checked out the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill close by after visiting the Colosseum. Palatine Hill is the best place to take in the aerial view of Rome.
It had been a long day and we had an early train to catch the next day for our next destination; Cinque Terre! So we decided to take a taxi back to a restaurant close to the apartment to have our last dinner in Rome. Some fine wine and pasta later, we retired for the day and looked forward to what the beautiful coast had in store for us.
By the end of three days I had fallen in love with the city, the only thing that irked me a little was how crowded it was, but considering it was peak season, I really should let this one flaw pass, after all everybody wants to experience ‘la dolce vita’!