It has been exactly 10 years since I went to Rome and I was completely thrilled to return for the second time. Capital of delicious Italien eats and home to some of the richest historical sites in the world, I had some very fond memories of Rome and I was sure that this trip wouldn’t disappoint either.
Staying near the Coliseum has its perks as you can sleep for 8 hours and still make it to the impressive Amphitheater by 9am. It is perfectly lit up at night and in my opinion more beautiful than during the day. Unfortunately, night tours are not available. A few weeks earlier, I started to plan my trip to Rome and decided to buy all of my tickets online for all the major historical sites. Here is the full proof way of getting them directly from the Coliseum office. First, go to the official site at http://www.coopculture.it/en/ to purchase the Coliseum tickets online, note that you will be charged an extra €2 to reserve your tickets. With the printed reservation on hand, you will need to exchange your reserved tickets at the box office once you arrive at the Coliseum but you will also be able to skip the line outside with this reservation. Normally the reserved ticket line moves quite fast compared to the normal ticketing line once you are inside. There are two entrance lines to enter the Coliseum but aim for the entrance line to the right of the station when you exit at Metro stop Coliseum as the one directly across is for groups only. If you are not sure, feel free to ask one of the staff people as they are fluent in English and friendly. Try to avoid purchasing any tickets on the street from solicitors.
As this was my second time at the Coliseum, I also purchased the guided tour for the Underground, Belvedere and 3rd ring tour for an extra €9. It might be wise to book this tour a few weeks in advance as there are limited tour times per day and you will receive a specific time and location to start the tour. The tour guide was excellent and we went to the Arena portion of the Coliseum and had the entire area to ourselves for 20 minutes. The undergrounds gave us some insights to the pens that held the voracious animals during the fights and also to the numerous tunnels that served as a passageway for the Gladiators and workers to move around in. All in all, a fantastic tour and I highly recommend it!
After a full morning of seeing every inch of the Coliseum, we decided to head over to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum just opposite the Coliseum. The Palatine Hill has a stunning view of the Roman Forums and the Coliseum. The original ticket you purchased for the Coliseum includes admission to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum and you can use it within 48 hours upon validation.
Standing on Palatine Hill overlooking the Roman Forum
Famished from walking around, we decided to take a lunch break at Pizzeria Boccaccia where we ate like a king complete with drinks for €14.
Delicious Pizza and Calzone
Fully refueled, we decided to walk over to the Trevi Fountain and have Gelato along the way. Vale Gelato was an easy choice as it was one of the few Gelato places with a sitting area complete with wifi. The pistachio and coconut flavors were to die for. The staff was super friendly and nice.
The Trevi Fountain is a must see in Rome but always too crowded no matter what time of the day. The facade is quite beautiful with the soothing sounds of the water makes it a great place to take a break. Stop by this bakery/traiteur Antico Forno located 2 minutes from the fountain for some delicious crostoli cookies as you admire the Trevi Fountain.
Next stop? The Pantheon. Opened until 7pm at night. It is actually more stunning to view at night than during the day. What I love about this area is that you can sit around and listen to non-stop live music. We walked by twice during our trip and the street performers were excellent singers.
Pantheon at night
The Spanish steps – Piazza di Spagna was the last stop for the night before we went to dinner. If I were to describe the area in one word, I would say Posh. Luxury stores roam the streets and the steps are perfectly lit at night. We probably sat there for a good hour just people watching and listening to live music. Food is not allowed on the steps as several people were asked to leave the minute they started eating.
Salumeria Roscioli came highly recommended from a friend and several guide books on eating in Rome. With only two dinner services available, you have to book your table online and leave your credit card on file just in case you cancel at the last minute. The food was one of the best meals I had in Rome and in the €€-€€€ range I would say. We started with the fresh burrata and tomatoes which melted in your melt on each bite. Two pasta dishes – Cacio e Pepe et Francescana, Le Polpette (meatballs) and ended with the Artichoke salad. Everything was superb and the waiters were super friendly and accommodating. I would advise to reserve a table in the main dining room as the deli tables could be a bit annoying with people crowding around waiting to be seated.
The next morning, we woke up early to head over to the Vatican for our 9am visit time. Tickets could be found here which is the official site to purchase the tickets. You have to select a specific time as they only allow a limited number of people in to avoid overcrowding. The Sistine Chapel was practically empty when we went inside. The Vatican Museum is quite large and not the easiest to navigate around. Sometimes you find yourself walking back to the same places that you’ve already been to just to get somewhere new but the exhibits are fascinating enough see to see twice! My favorite exhibit at the Vatican Museum was the Corridor of Maps where the ceilings were elaborately painted in gold.
At the end of your visit, you will walk through one of the most impressive squares that I’ve been to – Saint Peter’s Basilica. No matter where you turn, there is a 360 degree stunning view.
Saint Peter’s Square
For lunch, we walked for about 15 minutes to a more quiet non-touristy area near the Vatican where we stumbled upon a bakery called Bonci. You take a number and wait for your place in line as you beam at all the wonderful pizzas and desserts that are available. I didn’t hear them call my number and some of the locals insisted that I went first ahead of them and recommended me some local things to eat. This is the same kind of kindness that I felt when I was here 10 years ago. And yes, I did have some more crostoli cookies. In fact, I bought half a kilo to take back home to Paris.
In the afternoon, we decided to to grab a drink at the Hotel de Ruisse when we bumped into Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones. No pictures available unfortunately but isn’t it funny how you bump into celebrities at the most unexpected times.
We managed to get a last minute reservation at Trattoria Dal Calvalier Gino recommended by a local Italien I met on Twitter. I would describe the experience as local and rustic with very affordable prices. The pasta was less than €10 per plate but they do charge you a €2 euro surcharge per person for eating there. The service was excellent and the waiter was very nice. We started with two appetizers – mozzarella and tomato and grilled artichoke, and finished with three pasta dishes – Cacio e Pepe , Tagliatelle Bolognese and a Pasta special of the day. We didn’t have room for dessert, sadly.
Three pastas for the two of us!
The next morning we went over to the Domus Aurea across from the Coliseum. This underground palace was constructed in 64 AD by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire. Only a portion of the area has been excavated and it is believed to be at least 100 acres in size. Included with the tour is a 20 minute virtual reality experience where you could experience what the Palace looked like almost 2000 years ago. The rest of the tour consisted of walking through the buried tunnels and learning about the history of the Palace. Tours are only available Saturday and Sundays and the best way to book the tickets are through the official site located here. If you’re a Roman history buff, this is a must stop in Rome.
Promptly at 12:20pm, we walked over to a delicious fast food style Italian restaurant called Pasta Chef. Hailed for its simple roman dishes and daily specials, the food was unbelievable. Opening exactly at 12:30pm on the dot, there was a group of about 20 people waiting behind us as we waited for the door to open. All the dishes are priced between €7-€11. Tables are available for seating with no service. The Quattro Fromagio pasta was seriously out of this world!
Daily special – 4 cheese
We were sad to leave after lunch and board our flight back to Paris. But I am really happy to once again experience great hospitality and kindness towards its visitors. Viva Italia!
- First Sunday of every month, you have access to all the State Museums in Rome for free.
- From the airport, you can take the express train for 25 minutes to Termini Station which connects to all the major lines of Rome. As we were staying at the Coliseum, it was only two stops from Termini Station. Ubers are a bit pricey at about €65 from the airport to the Coliseum area.
- Metro tickets are €1.50 per trip or you can purchase a 24 hour pass for €7.
- When visiting tourist attractions, try to book tickets in advance online through their official site and aim for earlier times as there tends to be less people walking around with you.
- For more food and travel photos on Rome, find me at https://www.instagram.com/itstimefortraveltime/ https://www.instagram.com/itstimeforyummytime/