For major attractions like the Colosseum, buy your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line for 3+ hours
Our first stop for the day was the infamous Colosseum (70-80CE). The largest and most iconic amphitheater ever built, it was used for gladiator fights and public spectacles. It was really awe-inspiring to finally see the Colosseum in real life. One of the more interesting aspects I found myself thinking about is how crazy it is to see this incredible structure that is thousands of years old situated next to a cafe that is hundreds of years old which was right by buildings that were far more modern and contemporary. The juxtaposition of the layers of history and architecture is something to admire.
Colosseo Entrance fee: 14€
Tickets can be purchased online in advance here
I had always wanted to ride a Vespa around the Colosseum but sadly, I didn’t have the time to squeeze that in. One crazy incident that happened to us in front of the Colosseum was that there are a few men dressed up in gladiator outfits who try to coax the tourists to take photos with them. Sam and I thought it would be fun to try so we took photos with them – but then they asked for 20€! It was a great memento but definitely not something we would ever do again.
Your Colosseum ticket also grants you access to Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
ROMAN FORUM/PALATINE HILL
With our Colosseum ticket, we were also able to check out the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Palatine hill sits about 40M above the Roman Forum (a rectangular plaza) and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. You can get a great view of the Colosseum from the top of Palatine Hill. Both Palatine Hill and Roman Forum are great areas to just wander around and see the ancient ruins of the city (like the Arch of Titus).
Built in the 1st century, Piazza NAvona is home to the famous “Fountain of Four Rivers” (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) designed by Bernini in the 1600s. Sam and I decided to get some gelato at GROM and just hang out at the piazza and people-watch. We actually did find a gelato place that had a Viagra flavor! It was bright blue – like Windex blue – and I was super-tempted to try it but decided against it (the quality looked lower than average) and we went to Grom instead. But if you are ever in Rome, they do have Viagra-flavored Gelato everywhere so if you’re adventurous enough to give it a try, check it out!
THE MORE YOU KNOW:
Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome
Formerly a Roman Temple, now a church, the Pantheon is definitely a sight to behold. “Pantheon” means “every god”, which is quite befitting for a place of worship. Entrance to the Pantheon is free so don’t fall prey to the 10€ con! The interior of the Pantheon is so beautiful – the dome has an oculus (similar to a skylight) and there are plenty of frescos and statues to look at. you can also see the famous Raphael’s tomb. Photography is allowed but flash photography is prohibited. It is still an active place of worship so one should be respectful in terms of noise but it is so filled with tourists that it can get quite loud. The visit itself didn’t take too long – I would say it takes about 30 minutes to an hour.
Be aware of pick-pocketers! Italy is known for pick-pocketing and there are signs everywhere so be cautious!
Also, there is a fountain in front of the Pantheon where you can just sit and relax after getting a snack or a coffee. I think the fact that it’s been almost 2000 years and it is still a functional place of worship is incredible.
I have to admit – I only learned about the Trevi Fountain as a kid when I read somewhere about the notorious coin tradition. As the legend goes, one coin thrown (over the left shoulder with the right hand) in the Trevi Fountain is said to ensure that you will come back to Rome, two coins thrown ensure romance with a Roman (either male or female), and three coins thrown ensure the marriage with said Roman. As an adult, I’m not such a romantic anymore but definitely as a kid, I was extremely taken by the tradition (I’m pretty sure every little girl was). When Sam and I went to the Trevi Fountain though, it was still unfortunately under restoration.
DID YOU KNOW?:
Roughly 3,000€ are thrown into the fountain daily – an estimated $1.5 MILLION was thrown into the fountain in 2016!
The restoration was supposed to be complete a month prior to our trip but in true Italian style, it wasn’t complete until the day I left Rome. I was pretty devastated since in photos and films the fountain looks absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous (it is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome) but I did manage to toss a coin over the plastic wall so I hope to return some day soon! NOTE: To avoid crowds, it’s best to go either early in the morning or late at night. The Trevi Fountain lights up at night so it’s beautiful day or night!
The Spanish Steps were refurbished in 2016 (a drunk idiot decided to try to drive his dinky car down the steps and chipped some of the steps) so there are strict rules in place. No food/drinks allowed.
THE SPANISH STEPS
I have always wanted to see the Spanish Steps in Rome ever since I watched “Roman Holiday”! But like the Trevi Fountain, Sam and I just had really crappy timing with the Spanish Steps as well – it was closed for renovations so we couldn’t run up the steps (135 steps in total). We just ended up window shopping and relaxing in the Piazza di Spagna (which is at the base of the steps). “Fountain of the Old Boat” is also at the lower end of the stairs so the visit wasn’t a complete loss. Since I threw in a coin at the Trevi Fountain, I am sure I will be back and I can finally go up the steps like Audrey Hepburn!
OTHER TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- Janiculum Hill: This place affords a panoramic view of Rome. We didn’t have a chance to squeeze this in our trip but it is highly recommended!
- Salumeria Roscioli: Known for cacio e pepe, gnocchi alla matriciana, spaghetti alla carbonara and supreme cured meats
- Caffe Sant’Eustachio: Order espresso coretto
- Forno Campo de’ Fiori: Eat a slice of potato pizza
- La Pergola: For those fancy foodies, La Pergola has 3 Michelin stars