Rome. Should you visit or should you skip it?
I see this question posted a lot in travel groups.
You most definitely should visit. I loved our time in Rome, but if I am completely honest, out of all the places I have visited in Italy, it doesn’t rank high. But that certainly doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t go. It’s easy for me to say after three trips. It’s just I prefer other places.
Would I go back? Absolutely!
I find people are divided on their opinions of Rome. Either they love it or they hate it. Very few seem to sit in the middle.
But one thing I have found is that you should never go to a place, or avoid it, because of someone else’s opinion.
What makes a place unique for us individually is not beautiful scenery, or famous sights or historical interests, but our connection to a place and the experiences we have. Your travel stories come from people you meet, things that you do, interactions you have, or something as simple as the food you eat.
For me, Rome will always be a special place where I went on adventures with my children, when they still wanted to spend time with me. It was also a time of big change in my life. Put those things together and my feelings about Rome are strong from a personal point of view.
It’s different if I look at it from a traveller’s point of view. I prefer smaller cities, quaint towns and villages and the countryside. Rome is not any of those. But what Rome does offer is a contrast. A bustling city filled with ancient ruins. I would highly recommend you visit if you haven’t already because to know Italy is to know it’s diversity. And Rome is a part of that.
When I think of Rome, I think of a series of beautiful stories woven around my kids, the locals and food. And maybe, if I visit again, it will seem different, a place from a different time, just because all the elements have changed.
So if someone says you shouldn’t visit a place based on their experience, follow your own heart. Because you just never know the story that may be waiting for you.
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Where to Stay in Rome
I love staying in apartments and Rome was no exception.
We stayed in an apartment in Campo de’ Fiori. I loved it there. It felt safe, and friendly and easy. I am a lover of slow travel and this suited me perfectly with five days (it could have been more) to explore Rome.
Our apartment was located on the second floor (no lift and narrow stairs) in one of the side streets off the main square. Our street was filled with restaurants and interesting stores.
With an apartment comes the convenience of a washing machine to do our laundry and a kitchen to prepare our own meals. We did enjoy dinners out, but when your travelling with kids you need to be flexible, and some nights we were completely exhausted and prepared something simple to eat.
We could fling the shutters and windows open and listen to the sound of the people enjoying themselves in the square and restaurants. It made us feel a part of life in Rome.
These days I use Airbnb when looking for apartments to rent.
I would also like to stay at…
Hotel Campo de’ Fiori, it looked beautiful. It has a gorgeous rooftop area that looks perfect to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. Located just off the main square in Campo de’ Fiori it is close to restaurants, bars, shops and the markets.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is located south of Piazza Navona. It is a rectangular square that was the scene of lively events and executions in medieval times. A market is still held here and has been since that time. It is a bustling affair filled with an array of fresh produce, clothes, homewares and more. The market is held every day except Sunday.
I bought prosciutto, fresh fruit and vegetables and cheese to enjoy back in our apartment. And of course, there was a huge amount of tacky tourist t-shirts for my son to buy (and he did, spending all his pocket money) and tea towels. It is rather embarrassing what made it into our luggage on that trip.
Markets in Campo de Fiori
From Campo de Fiori it is a 5-minute walk to Piazza Navona. The lovely square is famous for the beautiful sculptures found here including the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) topped by the Obelisk of Domitian as well as churches, palazzos, cafes and restaurants to experience.
We walked around the city, except for one occasion when we took a taxi. And wasn’t that a hair raising experience!! If you have time, I suggest you walk. There is much to see everywhere you look and it’s a great way to get to know the city.
Buses are an easier way to get around the city than the train. You can find more information here that will explain how to get around, where to buy and validate your ticket.
Things to See and Do
I’m not one for churches. I can take them or leave them. I know, I can hear many of you gasping!
But on occasion, I venture in and take a look.
The Pantheon is different and the kids loved it too. They were young at the time, and I had made them do a bit of research on some of the places I thought we would visit.
So they were off the minute we walked in, scouting around for the drain holes in the floor. Good luck to anyone that got in their way!
When I do get back to Rome, this is one place I look forward to visiting again and taking my time, without a family in tow.
I loved the circular building with its domed roof and Oculus allowing the light to stream in. The Pantheon was originally built as a Temple to all gods and the current building was built in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian. In 609 it was transformed from a Pagan Temple into a church thereby saving it from being destroyed.
The Pantheon is free to visit.
The Roman Forum and Colosseum
The Roman Forum was fascinating. I printed a Rick Steves’ self-guided tour and it was great providing us with insights to the various places in the Forum and Palatine Hill. I enjoyed the Roman Forum more than the Colosseum.
Although next time if the budget allows I might book a guided tour to see and understand more of it.
Many people forgo the Roman Forum but I highly recommend it. You purchase a combo ticket anyway, may as well use it.
TIP: If you are visiting in high tourist season (June, July, August) and don’t purchase your ticket online, I recommend purchasing your tickets at the Roman Forum entrance (there was no line when we were there), that way you already have your Colosseum ticket and don’t have to line up.
Palantine Hill – Roman Forum
The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica
We also visited St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. We had a great guide, but I think by that time after 2 1/2 months of travelling we were over tours.
I found the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica interesting, but wouldn’t recommend it if you are short on time. There are more places I wished we would have visited instead.
St Peter’s Basilica
When we visited the Trevi Fountain it was packed. I have learnt a lot since that first visit to Rome, and now know that you should visit either early morning or late at night when the crowds have disappeared. It was a hot, windy day and it was not pleasant at all in the crowd of people.
You might ask what we actually did in Rome for five days considering it doesn’t look like we saw too much. Well, truth be told we rested. We were exhausted after travelling for 2 months.
To be honest, my marriage was falling apart and it was taking a toll.
I spent a lot of time with my kids just wandering and exploring. We would shop at the markets and local bakery early morning and come back to the apartment and enjoy a delicious breakfast before heading out and walking around the city. When the shops closed at lunchtime we headed back to the apartment where we rested and the kids caught up on homework. In the evenings we would casually walk around, enjoy a couple of drinks at one of the many cafe bars before dinner.
It was hot and we were tired. The apartment was perfect for us so that we could take things easy.
Free Walking Tour
Next time I visit Rome I will join a free walking tour, one that will reacquaint me with the city.
Food Walking Tour
I love food and love to try everything I can when I travel. This tour has been highly recommended to me. Not only will I get to taste local cuisine, meet other travellers if I happen to be on a solo trip, but also see another neighbourhood. Find more information here – Twilight Trastevere Tour
A half hour walk from Campo de Fiori is Villa Borghese, a beautiful 17th-century villa that was made into a public park in 1903 after it was obtained by the city of Rome. The Villa itself houses a gallery which you need to purchase tickets for but access to the gardens are free.
The gardens are large – 80 hectares – and the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet out of the city.
You can find more information on the gardens and villa here – Villa Borghese.
Shops opened and closed on different days. I found no rhyme or reason and just went with it. One particular morning my son and I decided to go for a walk and came across a glassmaker who made beautiful figurines and jewellery. I spoke no Italian; he spoke limited English. But it was a friendly exchange and a delightful experience.
So much so that my son and I returned another day. He was happy to see us again that he gave my son a small glass figurine and I bought gifts to bring home and a beautiful glass butterfly for myself.
Sitting in the café bar that afternoon a friendly voice greeted me as they walked in. It was my new friend the glassmaker!
My daughter and I spent time wandering past shops and window shopping, our eyes occasionally caught by something on display.
I bought my favourite dress of all time in a store not far from our apartment, teamed it with a beautiful pair of shoes and went back the next day to buy another one in a different colour.
So you can say what you want about Rome. For me, it was a magical experience and one I would like to experience again.
My life has changed a lot since then. Has Rome?
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