I’ve always envied people who have been to Italy. The country is meant to be beautiful and breath-taking, why wouldn’t I be envious. A country of culture, a country of art, a country of history. We have already been to Venice previously, which had been a trip of a lifetime but we craved more.
We settled on Rome, Florence and Pisa. Three cities filled to the brim with everything you can imagine.
We decided against staying in hotels for a change, we wanted the whole Tuscan experience, so we booked into central Air bnb apartments throughout our stay. This was my first time using Air bnb and although it was slightly stressful with the first apartment it was pretty easy overall.
Rome was the first city we arrived in. 5 nights in Rome was pure bliss. There is so much to see and do our days were jam packed. I think we could have maybe done it in 4 days but I don’t feel we could have covered everything.
So I have compiled a list of what to see and do in Rome with tips and recommendations from our trip. First of all a few tips we picked up were these.
It is actually a fineable offence in Italy to purchase and be in possession of goods from street traders so ignore all those people offering out selfie sticks. The police and army are everywhere and will catch you. In Rome fines vary from €50-€500 and in Florence there are notices on the street declaring fines of €3000!
A selfie stick will actually be beneficial in Italy (we forgot ours) so make sure you pack one before you go.
Be prepared to queue and it to be busy… everywhere. Everyone wants the best view and all sites can become packed very very quickly. So if you go with an open mind and expecting this it will be a lot less stressful.
Walk everywhere… don’t be lazy. You see so much more if you walk. All the quaint back streets are so worth seeing. We stayed around 10 mins south east of the Termini and walked around 10 miles a day but I promise you it is worth it.
Food is so rich in Italy. Fresh pastas are heavy and filling. Make sure when ordering that you are selecting fresh pasta, quite a few menus will offer normal or fresh, normal is what you can buy in the supermarket in the UK- bland and disappointing.
Traditional Italian courses are; Starter, First course, Second course, Side, Pudding. It is too much. The first and second courses are full dinners- do not be fooled into thinking you can eat it all.
Be prepared to over spend. For our 10 day trip we budgeted around £600 spending for the two of us for lunches and dinners out and general spending etc. Be more prepared to get cash out the cash machine out there. We were not excessive at all and ended up spending closer to £1000.
You will need to cover up shoulders and knees for all church likes places such as Basilica’s and churches like the Pantheon and St Peters at the Vatican, make sure you pack something that can cater for this or you simply will not be allowed in.
Gelato is not as expensive as everyone says but make sure you go to the right places. Close to the pantheon there is a place called Della Palma, which offer over 150 different flavours. From your standard strawberry to KitKat and Lion Bar flavours they have you covered. I (obviously) asked for the largest available and got a coated cone with 5 scoops for €4.50. For a cone or tub with 1 or 2 scoops you can look to pay on average about €2.00-€2.50 this is across all the parlours not just this one. When buying Gelato make sure the tubs are stainless steel and not white plastic as white plastic will be supermarket bought.
On to places you must go…
The Colosseum was the first place we went to see. We decided (as advised) to buy tickets online prior to our trip so we could skip the queues. Tickets are €14 each and you can buy them from www.coopculture.it .
The queues can get really long when trying to buy tickets and then on top of that you have to queue for the entry also. This ticket allows you to see the Roman Forum and the Palatine too and these can be used for up to 2 days from first activation, meaning you can go back the next day if you feel you can’t fit it into one day. Everyone is difference but we found that getting round all 3 took around 3 hours. Being pregnant I didn’t want to be out in the scorching heat for too long so we hurried round the Forum and Palatine but you really can make a day of it. Be prepared to be bombarded with people wanting to offer you tours, they are around €30- €50 per person and personally for this particular place I don’t think it is worth it.
The Trevi Fountain was the most packed site I think I have ever been to WORLDWIDE. You struggle to breath let alone move. We went around 11am and wish we had arrived earlier. Once you’ve taken a few shots of this that’s it really, you can be done in a few minutes. It is free to see the Trevi fountain and it is said throwing change into the fountain will bring you back to Italy. In busy times you cannot stand on the marble seat like area, Police will blow there whistle at you until you get down. Also eating around the Trevi is not recommend, it is not peaceful, it is slightly pricier and the food not that great.
There is lots of history at the Spanish steps it is worth taking the time out to read the boards surrounding. Again a free place to visit and an ideal place for a selfie stick. This is a more prestigious area with shops such as Gucci, Valentino and Sephora right in front of the steps. Perfect for a new handbag!
Market at campo Dei Fiori
A local market that is slowly being noticed by tourists. Be sure to arrive before 2pm as traders begin packing up. These types of traders are not illegal to buy from. Expect fresh produce and real Italian produce and products. Although not massive, with the vibrant colours it is worth a walk around.
This was the highlight of our trip. The Pantheon is a former Roman Temple, now a church, which is simply overwhelmingly beautiful. Free of charge to get in but make sure you arrive before lunch and there wont be any queues to enter. As you go through the massive doors be sure to look up and see the domed roof. This place is truly breathtakingly beautiful. You can eat around the Pantheon, which is surprisingly reasonable for Rome (a pizza will cost you around €8-10).
The Vatican city is the smallest state in the entire world, it is in fact its own entity. The last Sunday of every month is free to enter the Vatican Museum, however, queues will last for up to 6 hours and apparently some people even camp out to save themselves €30 each. The Vatican and Sistine Chapel are combined on one ticket and then you have to buy an additional ticket for St Peters Basilica.
You really do need all day here. Beware food is very pricey. For 2 mains with a soft drink each it cost us €65 and the food was very basic.
As soon as you step foot on the bridge prepare to be swarmed with tour guides wanting you to book with them. We actually did sign up with one and so so glad we did. City Light Tours is an great tour operator who are full of knowledge and never leave a stone unturned. For €54 per adult it really is worth it I promise you. You skip ALL queues and have a lovely tour guide take you round the Vatican, Sistine and show you the entrance for St Peters Basilica. Queues can last for several hours just to get your ticket and enter on any normal day, even if you book online prior, so I really cannot rate this tour operator highly enough. The knowledge of each area and the history knowledge of the guide was brilliant. She even answered all of my annoying questions too. It is an expensive day but one you will never forgot.
I shall be uploading similar info about florence shortly and ill update this part to link the review.