In a way, we threw a curve ball at the honeymoon ideal with this one. Instead of beaching it up, we went to Rome for four days. I won’t lie, this option was half driven by budget (don’t talk to me about the cost of the average wedding), but it was also half driven by the fact that we knew the memories of a city break tend to have much more impact on the subconscious than chilling on a sunbed (although we do love that, too). We were right – talking about it now still has us questioning how we could have only been there for four days.
Rome is a joy to visit. People aren’t exaggerating when they say it’s an open air museum. There is history in every viewpoint. I foolishly thought the Trevi Fountain was just a fountain. It is awe inspiring. I could never have imagined the scale of it and no photo I have ever seen does it justice.
I know we probably only skimmed the surface of all the sights Rome has to offer, but we had a good go and I am more than happy to say it needs another visit before I’m willing to actually cross it off my list. This time I think I’d book in Spring or Autumn – to be fair, July was just too hot for me, though I did kind of enjoy prancing around with a parasol.
The Eternal City felt like a dream probably because I’ve seen Roman Holiday just too many times, if that’s even possible. Every square has its own fabulous water feature and the drinking fountains you find everywhere you go provide welcome refreshment when you are thirsty for more than just sightseeing and need to keep going. This is not one of those “only drink bottled water” places. Indeed, drinking from Rome’s fountains feels like soaking up the city’s life source itself.
The Spanish Steps are much more than just steps and you can taste Rome here; literally in the form of a gelato, figuratively in the form of people watching. Tourists mill and take photographs, local youths gabble garrulously in groups, gesticulating dramatically to punctuate their lively Italian; students sit quietly reading nearby, oblivious to the din. The mixture of people is magical and the steps are almost alive. Don’t miss spending some time here.
To get a chance to see a bit of everything, I would advise that you buy a ticket for a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. It’s possible to get everywhere by foot, but this way you can efficiently pass all the major sights, jumping off at those you feel drawn to.
We stayed near Villa Borghese, about ten minutes walk up the historically stylish Via Veneto from Piazza Barberini. The tour bus was a handy way for us to make our way to the Vatican City.
The Vatican itself is a jewel you would be insane to miss out on. It is an extraordinary fusion of tourism and spirituality. Travellers queue to gain entry to the sights while nuns and priests swish by in their robes. The magnificence of St Peter’s Basilica is nothing short of spellbinding from the outside, while inside, the church is breathtaking. My favourite feature was undoubtedly Michaelangelo’s Pieta, a sculpture depicting Mary, holding her son, Jesus, after his crucifixion. To those for whom the sculpture has religious significance, it really is something that could move you to tears. As a piece of artwork, the detail and beauty of it is really wonderful to view. You look at it and know instantly that you are before a masterpiece, the likes of which you might never see again. Until you enter the Sistine Chapel of course!
There is a real sense of being somewhere unique in the Vatican City. You know you are not quite still in Rome. It has a vibe all of its own. As for the Vatican Museum; I believe it to be one of the most impressive collections I’ve seen anywhere. Half a day flies by. Do the sensible thing though, pre-book your tour – skip the queues and be guided by someone who can tell you what you’re looking at. Otherwise you’ll probably wander round in a state of somewhat confused awe. Try Maximus Tours; we found a fair price and enthusiastic guides.
When you get a chance to deviate from your “must-see” list, the best thing to do in Rome is just get walking. There is always something to see. This is how we discovered several of the five hundred or so pictures and statues of the Virgin Mary that are scattered about the buildings and streets of Rome. It was like discovering one of Rome’s little secrets; we would spot another, and another by simply looking up and around us. These little shrines were both beautiful art and a poignant reminder of a perhaps somewhat forgotten devotion. Indeed, at one time there were a great deal more of these hidden gems. Thankfully, there are still a healthy number that remain. So get walking. And get looking…
Eating out in the Eternal City was a bit hit and miss. I would always try to avoid the tourist menus, although we fell a little foul of that advice ourselves. In the end, we went for recommendations from our hotel which put us onto a winner – we went back to the same place on consecutive nights. It’s called Piccolo Mondo.
Prices were decent and the complimentary aperitivo of Prosecco, as well as a hit of some limoncello after the feast added to the enjoyment. Our last night was a gem really, we had a few (admittedly quite pricey, but totally worth it) beers sat outside a bar near the Trevi Fountain, followed by a copious amount of vino with dinner. We put the world to rights as you do when you hit “optimum tipsiness” and consequently were a tad worse for wear for a stupidly early start to our journey home the next day. Oh well….
Our accommodation, Roma Boutique Hotel, was lovely. It was a one floor affair in a beautiful, large building with only five or six rooms. Now, I am someone who would happily stay in a hotel every weekend, despite the fact that I find it incredibly difficult to sleep anywhere but my own bed; I slept like a log here. I think it was the combination of peace and the location close to the American Embassy which had a constant police presence meaning we felt safe at all times.
One of the highlights for me was the breakfast served in your room. It was a continental affair, but there were several options to choose from and best of all, you could enjoy it leisurely in your complimentary robe and slippers while gearing up for the day ahead. I loved it. The staff of the hotel were genuinely happy to help and even arranged our collection from the airport free of charge as a honeymoon extra. On the journey home, however, we took our usual approach of sampling public transport. Again, mainland Europe did not let us down either in terms of cost or efficiency.
It’s hard to sum up Rome really – because, like I said, I don’t think I’ve really seen enough of it. So I’ll just go with a line from Audrey Hepburn’s character, Princess Ann:
Rome. By all means, Rome.
Go and see for yourself.
Nothing on this trip was sponsored and all recommendations come from personal opinions
Have you been to Rome? Please comment and let me know!