Rome again, Rome again. Jiggity jig.
Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
One of my favorite things about Rome was something I wasn’t anticipating enjoying at all – the Palatine Hill. Palatine Hill is where all the emperors built their palaces – unfortunately it’s mostly in ruins now. But the grounds were extensive, views lovely and the rose gardens were in full bloom.
The Roman Forum is a treasure-trove of historic ruins. We went through the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum with a tour guide, which definitely made it infinitely more interesting. Even the best of guidebooks would have a hard time helping you figure out exactly what is what and the significance of it.
Stepping inside the Colosseum made me feel like a little kid again. It’s one of those iconic places it’s hard to believe is real until you’re standing right before it. We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the tour of the Colosseum and it took about 2 hours from start to end.
We did not sign up for a tour. But… we were standing in line at Palatine Hill and a guy was walking up and down the line offering free tours in English, particularly for American tourists. We heard the word “free” and asked a few questions – because the line was LOOOONG. He was very upfront, it was a promotional tour. He would take us through the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill for free, but if we wanted to continue through to the Colosseum he was charging a fee. We joined the group of fellow English-speakers, and after we all discussed how this could possibly be a scam, took him up on it… And you know what, it was awesome! We were able to jump the line, and having a tour guide was definitely helpful.
We did not follow him through to the Colosseum, because he had a 3x ticket markup. We went back the next day to do the Colosseum on our own. (That money was better spent on gelato, obviously.)
Getting Tickets to Palatine Hill, Forum, Colosseum
For the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, there is one ticket for you to enter these locations. We didn’t reserve tickets beforehand. Definitely go to the Palatine Hill ticket office as early as possible in the morning for the shortest line.
We waited too late in the day on the first day, but lucked out with that random tour situation. The following day we started at the Colosseum and there were already at least 300 people in line. We walked over to Palatine Hill and we were the fourth people in line. Read the Rick Steve’s book and follow it like the Bible – it will all work out.
Walking into the Pantheon is like stepping back in time. It’s literally the only building that looks today as it did 2000 years ago. It’s mind-boggling. The dome inside the Pantheon is a marvel, laugh now but it’s true! We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the tour of the Pantheon and spent about 30 minutes inside. Entry to the Pantheon is free.
If you’re going to the Pantheon, don’t miss Tazza D’Oro cafe. If you’re coming out of the Pantheon, look to your right for yellow lettering. Order a “caffe granita con panna” for two euro and enjoy. It’s essentially an espresso sno-cone with cream. YUM.
The home of Bernini’s Four Fountains, street performers and artistes. Piazza Navona is a great place to rest your laurels and enjoy some people-watching.
I won’t lie, Trastevere wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be. After hearing it described it as “colorful” and a true representation of Italy, I was excited to see it! And the area was definitely beautiful.
But, a desperately-needed-but-impossible-to-find public restroom, the onslaught of Italian pollen allergies, and a disappointing lunch with a rude waiter tainted the Trastevere pool for us. The neighborhood truly was beautiful, and I think we picked the wrong place to lunch. Every trip has a perfect storm of issues, this one was ours!
The Rome subway was an easy and accessible way to get across the city. It costs three euro to get on, and you can take it for any amount of distance. Watch out for pickpockets. They really are everywhere. Especially on the trains and buses. We saw people looking at everyone’s bags. Be vigilant.
And we got on one train that was covered in barf. Ew.
We stayed at the Roma Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center just outside the city. The hotel has a shuttle to downtown Rome (five euro per person for AM transit, free for PM transit).
We ended up not having much luck with it – we missed it the first morning and were too late to fit the second morning. That wasn’t a problem because the hotel was a very easy 10 minute walk to the Magliana subway stop, and cheaper than the hotel AM shuttle! We took the PM shuttle back each night, but beware – they parked in different places each night and it is PACKED. We barely got on each night.
We were happy with it and I’d certainly recommend it. While this is not a very “Italian” experience, it was a great hotel, especially if you have Starwood Points to use! Plus – if they upgrade you to club room status there is a rooftop terrace and free food all day! Still not sure how that happened, but we were grateful!
Overall, Rome was crazy! It’s amazing how much history fits into one small space. Next time I’d definitely try to see Rome mid-week. If you’re a first time visitor like we were, three days was just enough time to fit in all the main sites without going crazy.
Oh, Roma. If the superstition about throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain is right… we will find ourselves there again someday. : )
Next up, Cinque Terre!
And hopefully some house projects soon! You know, the stuff I usually blog about!