So my gorgeous boy took me to Italy last week, my absolute favourite place to go. I am firmly convinced that Italy is the best. It totally has my heart anyway. Everything is beautiful from the weather, to the architecture, to the people, even the graffiti has a certain charm in Italy.
For a foodie like me it is also full of delights, gelato, pasta, seafood, pizza…YUM. There is so much food and all of it is good. I don’t drink coffee, but I understand that the Italians do it best. Of course they do.
We started our week in Rome. I have been to Rome before, I went for New Year in December 2011/January 2012 and I fell in love with Roma and specifically, the Trevi fountain. Here I am throwing my penny over my shoulder and making a wish. The legend goes that your penny will secure your return to Rome (true ;-)) and it will also grant you a wish. It certainly did mine. I wished, after a few broken hearts and a couple of years of being single and still being a little brokenhearted…to fall in love again and to be happy and contented. Not the most inspiring of wishes, or the most original, but I reasoned – probably more likely to be granted than world peace, although I did also wish for that too, worth a try. five months later Carl and I reconnected at mutual friends’ wedding. The rest as they say, is history.
There is so much history to see in Rome. We walked and walked looking at impossibly old buildings from the Roman Empire. The coliseum is of course one of the most well preserved and impressive but I also love the Pantheon which I always find awe inspiring given it’s size. You could spend hours walking around the remains of the Roman Forum. My top tip for these sights – get a guide, or at least, an audio guide, so you know what you’re looking at!
No trip to Rome would be complete without a trip to the Vatican and it’s museums. There is a treasure trove of things to see. If I’m honest, the Sistine Chapel is a little underwhelming…It’s so busy that it doesn’t feel like a sacred place and the ceiling is smaller than you would imagine it to be, although obviously, impressive. There are no photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but you can take photos in St. Peter’s Basilica which is also beautiful; although again, a little busy to be able to connect with the big guy.
One of my proudest achievements from our three days in Rome was getting this photo of the famous Vatican staircase. I made Carl wait a good fifteen minutes before we could descend so I could snap this. He’s long suffering.
So my top tips for visiting Rome:
- Go to the Trevi fountain late at night or very early morning to avoid the crowds.
- Climb St. Peter’s Basilica. We didn’t do it this this time but last time I went I climbed at dusk and got some lovely shots from the top (see below from 2011/12).
- Wear comfortable walking shoes – most of Rome, especially the ancient sights are close together and it s easiest to walk to them – buses and trams don’t run in the centre of Rome. There are also a lot of cobbles, so again, comfortable shoes!
- Don’t forget to budget for your city tax when you stay – this is a legitimate tax and will need to be added on to your accommodation budget.
- As with all cities, be aware of pickpockets and dodgy touts and tour guides who do run a bit of a scam.
- Walk to the Isola Tiberina; a tiny island in the middle of the river. I missed it last time and Carl and I discovered it together this time, along with a gorgeous little gelato place.
- Walk across Ponte Angelo. It has great views of the Basilica.
- If the main city gets too busy head to Trastevere. Those of you who are “Eat, Pray, Love.” fans will recognise that neighbourhood name. It’s gorgeous, bohemian and has plenty of little bars and lovely shops. It also has a beautiful church in the main square where you can definitely be quiet and connect.
- Eat a lot of gelato.
- Book your tickets in advance for the main attractions – you won’t avoid the security queues but you do get a time slot and don’t have to queue for tickets.
One of the most magical moments of our trip this time happened by chance. We walked in to a random church off the Piazza Novana and there was a children’s choir singing the most beautiful hymns. I teared up listening to them, I love music – it makes me feel; I couldn’t find the words to describe what I felt in that moment, apparently the word is “duende” meaning “the profound awe experienced when viewing a piece of art, watching a performance or listening to music that has deeply moved a person”. You can’t plan magic.
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