I planned a surprise trip to Rome for Barrie's 30th birthday! He'd never been to Italy before so I wanted him to get the full experience in just 3 days. There's so much to do in Rome and it's such a beautiful city I was worried we couldn't fit it all in...but we did! If you're up for walking loads and have a bit of energy you can do it too and trust me it makes for an amazing mini break away.
So here it is....
We flew from London to Rome FCO. For our arrival I had previously arranged with the hotel to book us a taxi to pick us up from the airport. How extravagant I hear you shout but Rome has put restrictions on the airport taxi fee's so all taxi's should cost 45E for 2 people including baggage. So by the time you add up the train and metro fare it is only 5E more expensive and for the sake of ease we went with the taxi. He was waiting for us on arrival and took us directly to our hotel. We arrived around 3pm.
Once we got settled in our lovely little hotel called Condutti Inn we headed straight out into Rome to explore. I had picked Condutti Inn because it had great reviews ,was cheap enough and was very central. Luckily this all paid off and we had a wonderful stay at the Inn.
From there we walked 10 minutes to see our first sight of Rome, the famous Spanish steps. This stop only takes 5 minutes once you've got a few pictures, sat on the steps and taken it all in you're off again.
We followed google maps and walked 10 minutes to the Cupuchin Bone Church. This was such a bizarre and surreal experience. There was no queue for it and for 7E (which includes the museum) you get to see some of the creepiest sights I've ever seen, an underground church built from the bones of the monks. It was so bizarre but weirdly beautiful and quite a sight. I understand this might not be everyone's cup of tea but where else do you get the chance to see such a thing. I'm glad we did it, we only spent about 10 minutes looking around the associated museum before heading down to the crypt and spending another 15 surreal minutes in the church (it's only small).
Once we were officially creeped out we walked 8 minutes to take in the sight of the beautiful Trevi Fountain. You'll have to battle the other tourists to take a picture near the front and throw a coin in for good luck but you can't miss this fountain out when you visit Rome it's truly beautiful.
Now Barrie's actual birthday day was the Wednesday (we arrived on the Tuesday). Once I'd done my research I realised that the Pope does a Papal audience each Wednesday when he's in residence. You can book tickets for free via the Vatican if you have a fax machine...well I don't and I have no idea who does anymore so I found this great way to get them instead. If you email the email@example.com with; the date you want to go, how many tickets, first and last name of everyone who wants a ticket and your address plus telephone number they will issue you free tickets which you can collect the Tuesday before! You have to bring ID and the letter confirmation to their office which happens to be right next to the Trevi Fountain (it's almost like I planned this). So we past by here to pick up our tickets and get an induction of what to expect on the day.
The lovely nun was telling people to get there for 7am when it starts at 9.30ish but unless you what to sit front row there is no real need to do this! We got to the Papal audience at 10am and walked in taking a seat half way back with no problems, we didn't even queue for security. We then stayed to hear the English version of his sermon, hear the Latin song then he stood up and gave everyone a blessing. A bit soppy but together we held my engagement ring whilst he did the blessing so we kinda feel like we got our marriage blessed by the pope lol.
So I'll jump back to once we've picked up our tickets from the nuns, we then walked 8 minutes again to see the beautiful Pantheon. This is free to see and stunning inside, the dome roof is incredible and a lovely space to visit. You won't need long in here though but it's definitely a must stop.
You're probably hungry by now so head 7 minutes to take your pick out of the abundance of restaurants in Piazza Navona. We actually picked a restaurant down one of the alleyways rather then the Piazza to get a more authentic feel.
After we were full of pasta we then walked 5 minutes to the Campo de' Fiori for drinks. It's another lovely square but not as busy. We then took the romantic 10 minute stroll back to our hotel to finish our busy but lovely first day in Rome.
Cupuchin Bone Church
Campo di' Fiori
Today was the day of the Papal audience. As you read we stayed out late so weren't about to get up at 7am so we made our way to Vatican for 10am (20-30min pleasant walk from our hotel). Once we arrived security was easy and we picked were we wanted to sit. It finished at 11am and was a lovely experience to do because why not... when in Rome get blessed by the Pope.
We headed from the Vatican on a 9 min walk to Castle St Angelo. This wasn't a big stop on my list but I'm so glad we paid the 10.50E each entry. We paid on the door but I did notice that by 12.30 (the time we came out) there was a big queue for this, so if you can pre-book or go early. The Castle was great and wonderful to walk around but the highlight was the spectacular view you get from the top of the Castle St Angelo. It was breathtaking, one of the best views in Rome. This gained it a must see on my Rome's list!
We then walked about 30 minutes across Rome to the Colosseum. We stopped just before it to have a delicious lunch and gain energy for the big sights to come.
If you are planning on seeing the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine you must book in advance if you want to avoid massive queue's! Its 20E each but well worth it. Use their official website to book and print out the tickets- it's as simple as that. Once you book your tickets they are valid for example: valid for 2 days of your choice and the ticket can be used within 31/12/17.
We started in the Colosseum, made our way near the Arch of Constantine, followed by the Roman Forum then up to the Palatine Hill. This took a huge chunk of our day and quite frankly after doing it all we were truly exhausted! Bring lots of water with you it's a huge amount of walking.
We refueled with a sit down and drink then headed on to the 25 min walk to Knights of Malta keyhole with the view of Aventine Hill (told you this was a busy mini break). Yes this was a bit out of the way, and you only look through the keyhole for 1 minute but this is one of those attractions that will always pop up in films and books for the rest of your life, so get gather the energy and just do it! You'll know when you're at the right gate because there will be a bizarre queue from nowhere.
That's it we are about shattered for this day so we headed to Trastevere for dinner crossing into the Piazza de Santa Maria and picking a restaurant that took our fancy. This was a lovely square were we people watched and got a bit tipsy, ate loads and headed to our well needed bed on the 20 minute walk back to our hotel.
Castle St Angelo
Arch of Constantine
Knights of Malta Keyhole
Piazza de Santa Maria
A Thursday. I will tell you now, do not go to see the Vatican on a Wednesday. This is for two reasons; 1: the Pope is in audience which means the St Peter's Basilica is closed and 2: A lot of the people who go to the Papal audience then try to visit the Vatican museum's which means it's then even busier then usual.
Due to this and wanting some professional help visiting the Vatican I booked Barrie and I into a tour starting at 8.45am on Thursday. We picked a tour of the Vatican museums, Sistine chapel and the St Peter's Basilica. Even when we got there at 9am it was absolutely packed! You did feel like cattle being herded through the building but if you can get over that it's really a place you've got to see. The tour was good and informative and I'm glad I opted for a tour for two reasons again; 1: getting into the Vatican without a tour guide takes hours, 2: You can easily walk past the most important pieces without a second glance, there is so much to see!
However, it's got to the be said that my favourite part of the Vatican was St peter's Basilica which is actually free to go into. So if you are pushed on time or budget just do this part.
Once we had a cultural fill we needed a rest so grabbed some lunch down one of the side streets from the Vatican. With all this walking we had done in the last few days we were pretty exhausted and all we wanted to do was rest. However, there was one last little part of Rome we hadn't seen which was the Isola di Tiber. We took a short walk over to it to take in the views but both of us were so tired from all our adventures we opted to relax and drink cold cocktails for a couple of hours before the taxi picked us back up from our hotel.
Now I don't know how you ask for this or if every taxi driver does it but our driver stopped on the way to the airport briefly and asked us to look through the back widow (I was a little worried yes) but what we saw was great! As he drove away the Vatican (which you could see clearly in the window) appeared to be getting bigger the further away from it you drove...amazing.
So this ends our Rome adventure. I hope you have as good a time as we did!
St Peter's Basilica
Isola di Tiber