If you’ve been following along with my recent posts, you know that I’ve been recapping our recent trip to Italy! It was our first visit to the beautiful country, so I wanted to share our experience including where we ate, stayed, and played so that you might gain something helpful for your first (or next) trip abroad! Keep reading to see how we spent 72 hours in Rome!
We had been on a dead run the entire trip so we were relieved to land somewhere for 3 days in a row to recoup. We woke and had a solid breakfast in the hotel in Florence before heading to Rome by train around lunch time. The scenery was beautiful along the way, and we loved staring out the window and the Tuscan hillsides covered in vineyards. The ride was only about 90 minutes before arriving at the Roma Tiburtina station right in the heart of the city. After that we decided to grab one-way metro tickets to take us to our hotel.
Where We Stayed
Rob booked us at the Hotel NH Collection – Roma Giustiniano in the Prati district. The rates were reasonable and the location was fairly close to everything we planned to do, so it made sense for us! We booked through our American Express portal as well so we got $200 credits to spend during our stay on drinks, breakfast, and any other incidentals.
The room was a spacious suite with a seating area and a decently sized balcony with a small table and two chairs. We had a kind sized bed and full sized desk in the bedroom with plenty of extra room to walk around. This is a rare luxury in European hotels where you normally feel cramped and on top of each other. The bathroom included a tub/shower combo and a large vanity.
Pro tip: there are actually multiple NH Collection hotels in Rome, so be sure to navigate to the correct one! We accidentally walked a good distance toward the incorrect location which resulted in some major backtracking.
Where We Ate
Secret Food Tour
The best thing we did in terms of food during our stay in Rome, was purchasing tickets to a food tour with a guide. We did ours through Secret Food Tours which offers tours services all over the world! They had the best reviews online, and were running a promo when we decided to book, so we just went for it!
After purchasing tickets, they sent us the details on where to meet our guide and how to spot them. Our guide was to be found at the Brazilian Embassy with a bright orange umbrella. We had no problem finding him with the directions given! He was born and raised in Rome, and his passion for the history, culture, and food were very evident. Our small group of 4 ended up being the only participants in the tour which made the experience even sweeter. Secret Food Tours’ goal is to take you to local favorite spots that aren’t frequented by tourists. There is no way we would have found any of the places we visited during our tour, let alone known what to order.
We walked to 6 different spots during our 3 hour tour and left feeling SO full and appreciative of all we learned. Of course we tried all the classic Italian dishes like pizza, pasta, and gelato, but we also tried several things we hadn’t even heard of. I won’t spoil the surprises (it is a SECRET after all), but trust me when I say it is worth every penny!
Other Food Recommendations
One fun thing we like to do when traveling abroad is to try an American chain just to compare the differences! This time, in an act of desperation after a long walk from the Vatican, we gave McDonalds a try! They had all the things their famous for like burgers and fries, but some of their sides were really cool! They had a dish called “Temptations” which were mini panzerotti filled with cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni. We grabbed an order to share and they were really delicious! Everything else tasted pretty similar to home, but maybe a little less salty.
For dinner on our last night in the city, we had a late meal at Ristorante Margo. We were able to make reservations on OpenTable, which made it easy since most places in Italy require a reservation for dinner! The place was packed when we arrived, and we were able to get a table outside. The menu was full of Italian classics, and I ended up with a mushroom risotto that was absolutely perfect! The prices were reasonable, the drinks were plentiful, and it was a really fun atmosphere to celebrate such a wonderful trip. If you are in the area, it’s a great choice in the sea of options available.
Where We Played
Day 1: The Vatican
On our first day in Rome, we headed straight for The Vatican. We purchased our tickets on the official website for entry into the Vatican Museum as well as the Sistine Chapel. They were very affordable at only 17 euros each. I will say, we easily could have spent an entire day there, because it is massive. Plan plenty of time for it, because there is a lot of ground to cover. We were almost hustling to get through everything, and I almost felt bad rushing through some of the exhibits. The Sistine Chapel was well worth spending some time on. We could have sat there and stared at it for ages. It’s much more impressive that I every dreamt it would be, and it was a total highlight of our time at the Vatican. Just a little note: they do not allow any photos to be taken inside the Chapel out of respect and preservation of the art. So just sit back and enjoy!
Day 2: Trevi Fountain & Pantheon
On our 2nd day in Rome, we woke up very early and made our way to visit the Trevi fountain. I would highly recommend this if you want to get great photos without tons of people. It’s free to visit, and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the fountain. Because I couldn’t resist, we also made a wish and tossed a euro into it. This is traditionally done by facing away from the fountain, taking a coin in your right hand, and tossing it over your left shoulder! Turns out, this is actually encouraged! We did some research and found that the money tossed into the fountain is used as a donation to the less fortunate in the city including refugees and local emergency relief efforts! This can be as much as $3300 USD per day. Not only does it appeal to the romantics, but you’re also doing good by donating a few cents.
After a lovely hour or so at the fountain, we walked a few minutes over to the Pantheon. This landmark is also free to visit. It was still quite early, so the crowds weren’t too thick yet. We did a self-guided tour through the building, but there was plenty of signage to help. It’s definitely worth stopping in to read about the history of the building and how it changed over the years.
Day 3: Colosseum & Roman Forum
On our last day in Rome, we booked a guided tour through the Colosseum. We booked tickets online for about 50 euros per person. Our particular tour took us underground as well as up onto the stage with incredible views and lots of history. It took about 2 hours, but it flew by. I would recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before your scheduled tour because you do have to go through a security check prior to going inside.
Our tour was a small group with one guide. She spoke into a microphone, and we each had a personal audio device with earphones so we could hear her easily. We learned an incredible amount about the Colosseum and its rich history. I think adding the underground component of the tour was worth it, even though it did cost a bit extra.
After we wrapped up at the Colosseum, we walked right over to the Roman Forum. Our tickets to the Colosseum got us into the Forum. Be sure to double check your ticket to make sure you can do the same! We opted to do a self-guided tour because we were running a little low on time. However, there are options to hire a guide as well. The ruins are beautiful, and we spent about 90 minutes exploring. You could easily spend longer if you wanted. For both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, bathrooms were a rarity, so keep that in mind. Queues can be long, so don’t wait until the last minute!
This wraps up our time in Italy! Hopefully all these posts were helpful and provided some inside and recommendations on what to do for your first trip. We definitely learned some things along the way and we’ll know better for next time. Happy travels this summer, and thanks for reading!