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Two days to see Rome, Italy

Hi all! This post is an edit of a previous series where I broke down my days in Rome in 2015 but I find it more useful for you to know the full itinerary. I actually had two full days (plus one night in the beginning and one morning in the end) in Rome and had to make the most of it, in May but already with 30ºC. You don’t mind walking a lot? Then this guide is for you!

Accomodation and first night

We arrived on a Sunday, May 9th, around 8 p.m. We checked in at our bed & breakfast, Placidi Giorni, where the rate was 60€ per double room with a shared bathroom and a breakfast that includes a croissant and a cappuccino. It was super comfortable. Since we arrived at around 9 p.m., we had dinner at the hostel’s restaurant, Andrea. I decided I only wanted Roman dishes so I went for Bucatinni alla Ammatriciana, Bruschetta and wine. The whole meal cost 15.75€. It was nice, it’s not the nicest restaurant out there but it had a nice outdoor where we ate. The temperature those days was around 30ºC, so it was excellent for dinnertime! In order to digest, we walked towards Palazio Quirinale, Fontana di Trevi (such a shame it was with reparing works! I threw my coin anyway), Capitolino, Roman Forum and Colloseum. I was so amazed that in every corner you find a little statue, fountain or a nice view and got really excited for the day after.

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Bucatinni alla Ammatriciana
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Fontana di Trevi, still beautiful anyway

Day 1

Starting the day early to visit the quintessential attraction, the Colosseum! We took the metro, it’s 1.50€ per ticket like in Lisbon. We wanted to avoid the queues so we went straight to the Roman Forum to buy the ticket that allows to visit the Colosseum and Palatino too. It’s 12€ the regular rate, but there’s a trick if you’re a student of the degrees quoted in the ticket site. So, my travel companion was, at the time, a PhD student in History. Even though it’s not Art History, you can argue it’s close right? So his ticket was for free. We decided to split so we paid 6€ each. We started to visit the Roman Forum at around 9 a.m. and it was already super warm! I felt so at peace at the Forum, it’s full of seagulls and trees and it gives a good idea of how majestic were the Roman buildings. We then went to the Colosseum and I feel proud to have been now to 2 of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World (the other was Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro). I am such in awe of how the Romans managed to put such a majestic building that stood for so long. Of course how it was made and how it was used for was not exactly very human, but it’s a nice exercise to be there and wonder how crazy the atmosphere was there during the fights. This part of the trip lasted for about 3h.

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View over the Roman Forum. Photo by A Pulgarita

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Awesome to be inside the Colosseum!

Right after it was time to go to Via Appia Antica. We took bus no. 118, it’s also 1.50€ one way. Bear in mind that the drivers do not sell tickets (you buy them in most newspaper stands) and most of the time they don’t mind if you go in without ticket but do it at your own risk. We had a quick pizza in the cafeteria of the Catacombs of San Sebastiano and then took a guided tour there. The tour last 30 minutes and costs 8€. You cannot take pictures inside but it is stunning to walk through the narrow tunnels. It is a Christian burial place, it’s said that St. Peter and St. Paul were originally buried here, but also one where Christians were hiding from Romans when it was not the religion of the Empire. The visit ends at the Basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le mura, where the statue of the martyr S. Sebastian is. The legend of this saint states that he was shot with arrows but still survived and later died when he tried to warn emperor Diocletian of his sins.

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Basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le mura

We came back to the city center and dropped off at Circo Massimo to start a long walk. We passed through it and then stood in line to take a picture at Bocca della Veritá. I had just watched Roman Holiday a few weeks before and remembered the scene. I must be really a truthful person, I wasn’t bitten =p (don’t tell me!). We also visited the Melkite church right there. Afterwards, we kept on walking alongside Tibre river until Corso Vittorio Emanuele, made a short visit to Sant’Andrea della Valle church (later I thought it resemble the St. Peter’s Basilica, went towards Campo di Fiori (it was closing, no more flowers) and then Piazza Navona. I loved how much life this square has, with so many people chilling by the fountains and listening to street musicians. Also loved the fountains. Afterwards,  we went to the Pantheon square to eat a well deserved gelato. I had one with pannacotta and fior di latte, it cost 2.50€ at Di Rienzo right in the square. I also entered the Pantheon, it’s free so it’s full of people. It’s impressive with the hole right in the middle of the dome!

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Isola Tiberina
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Messy Campo di Fiori
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Piazza Navona
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Piazza della Rotunda (Pantheon)
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I deserved this so much!

With so little time we had to keep walking. Thankfully there are so many fountains in the streets where you can fill your water bottle! Next we headed to the gothic Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which I loved inside because the ceiling has of a super deep lazuli blue and Largo di Torre Argentina with the ruins of Roman temples and of a theater. This is the square where Julus Caesar was murdered. Afterwards, we entered the Church of the Gesú, from the religious order of Pope Francis, the Jesuits. The remains of the founder of the order, St. Ignatius of Loyola,  are inside this baroque church. The ceiling is awesome! We made a small detour to see Fontana di Trevi again and we kept going through Via del Corso, a super long shopping avenue until arriving at the awesome Piazza del Popolo, which became one of my favorite places in the city immediately! It’s super wide and it was already 8 p.m. so the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo was closed already. Going up to Villa Borghese we had a super stunning sunset view over the city, with everybody relaxing and listening to reggae, or running towards this fresh spot in the city. It was almost time for dinner, so we finished our walk going down the stairs of Piazza di Spagna. Unfortunately it was undergoing construction works but still with an incredible energy and lots of people hanging out there!

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Largo di Torre Argentina
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Church of St. Maria in Trivio. I loved how it is carved within a palace
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Fontana di Trevi by day
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Piazza del Popolo sunset
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Villa Borghese sunset
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On the top of Piazza di Spagna stairs.

A friend that had been to Rome told me to eat Saltimbocca because it’s typical from Rome. It’s a veal steak topped with prosciutto and sage or basil. Its name means that the dish is so good it jumps in your mouth. I wasn’t a super fan of this but it was good indeed. I ate it at Ristorante La Scalinata, close to Piazza di Spagna. The whole meal was 15€.

 

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My first Saltimbocca!

Day 2

After thinking a lot if I should go to the Vatican Museum or not, I ended up going. It’s a once in a lifetime thing, right? We arrived at the queue at 10 a.m. and it was already quite huge but we ended up waiting about 1h30min to go in which is not that bad. In the queue we met a Brazilian student and an Argentinian couple that told us where to go in Argentina off the beaten path. The queue is full of vendors of selfie sticks (which are illegal to be sold lile this btw) and travel “tour guides” that try to convince you all the time to pay about 35€ to skip the queue and see the Sistine Chapel, because in the regular tour you can’t. Of course this is a lie, it’s much better to wait! We paid the student ticket for 8€ each. Inside it’s very beautiful, I loved the room with the maps (I’m attracted to deep blue details, what can I do?), the Roman sculptures and tombs, the spiral staircase and of course the Sistine Chapel is magnificent but the fact that it is super full of people that do not respect the silence and that you have to stay there very little time to let other people in was not very magical. I never thought the ceiling would be that tall, I think I even hurt my neck looking up so much. The Museum looks like a shopping mall, with excursions and tour guides trying to rush through narrow staircases and corridors to get to the Sistine Chapel as soon as possible. I spent about 3h inside and don’t regret it! I ate a pizza at the Museum cafeteria for lunch, it was 3.20€ so not that bad.

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Vatican Museum gardens
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The map of Italy. I love maps, don’t forget my favorite book as a child was the Geography Enciclopedia =D
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The famous “School of Athens” by Raphael
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Keep spiraling! Photo by Pedro Martins

Next we wanted to see Basilica of St. Peter but the queue was huge, so we got out of The Vatican and went to Castel Sant’Angelo instead. This place is also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian (the Roman Emperor) and it cost 7€ to go in. However, after the conversion to a fortress to guard the treasure of the Vatican, the tombs contents were gone. It’s a nice and less known monument to go to, just felt that it was quite huge and fresh, and that it was a pleasant viewpoint to Rome.

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Castel Sant’Angelo
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View over Gianicolo from Castel Sant’Angelo

We went at 6p.m. to Basilica of St. Peter finally and the queue was much smaller, we only had to wait 15 minutes. Of course it is quite conflicting to think of all the wealth of this place, but this is a real art masterpiece comissioned to the Renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Bernini. Huge is the right word to describe it. I have been talking about tall buildings but this is the tallest dome I ever saw. As a bonus, we saw that, at the ticket office, they were giving free tickets for the Papal Audience the next day. Since it started at 9.30a.m. and our flight only left at 2p.m., we still had time. So we would see Pope Francis, quite huge for such a short stay in Rome!

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Central corridor of Basilica of St.Peter
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St. Peter’s Square

But there was still energy left to climb up the Janiculum (Gianicolo) hill close to sunset. The view is stunning! I knew that this place had a nice view but I didn’t know how relevant it was to Italian history. In this hill, the Roman Republic troops led by Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Brazilian wife Anita fought a battle in the 1849 against the French and, despite having lost the battle, Garibaldi is considered one of the fathers of Italy for his role in latter battles that resulted in Italy as an independent country. This hill has monuments to all of those who lost their lives in the battle.

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Rome from Gianicolo Hill
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Giuseppe Garibaldi

Finally it was time to go down and have dinner at Trastevere. My Italian classmate told my this was a super nice neighborhood and I loved it with its colorful houses, flowers and locals hanging out. This place did not look as touristic and maybe that’s why we had a nice Spaghetti alla Carbonara and the meal was 11€ at La Scaletta, cheaper than the other restaurants. Then we went to the Ombre Rosso to drink a Fernet (I didn’t like it, too much menthol). The menus are made of cork and the bartender was married to a Brazilian so we spoke in Portuguese, it was quite nice to think of Portugal for a bit.

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Entering the Trastevere
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Super yummy Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Last morning

No time for rest in the Wednesday morning of May 13th, 2015, day of Nossa Senhora de Fátima in Portugal. Turns out that the Pope Audience was in part dedicated to Portugal due to this day. Quite a nice surprise! The metro was a total mess that day, everyone wants to go to Ottaviano station. In order to enter the Pope Audience, it looked like I was in the airport already. Tight security measures, long queues to get inside St. Peter’s square and so on. This was not very practical carrying my cabin bag already but it’s understandable. After the audience started, I saw that Pope Francis is really a good communicator as the impression I had of him. I couldn’t stay until the end (gotta fly back home!) , but you can see the huge crowd there! Getting to the airport was also a mess, lots of people in the queues to the shuttle at Rome Termini, but we got to the airport on time.

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Pope Francis, very far. Photo by Pedro Martins

How much did this all cost?

  • Transportation = 136€
    • This includes the round trip Lisbon/Rome with Ryanair (130€), the two tickets of the airport bus (8€), and 1.50€ tickets of metro or bus. We rode for free twice because we still didn’t know where to buy tickets. If I had booked at the original price I saw (90€), it could have been much better! An of course, the trick to save so much in transportation is to walk a lot.
  • Accomodation = 84€
    • I slept a total of 3 nights there and the room itself was 147€ total (split per two of course) but in the end they charged a city tax of 10.50€ per person (3.50€ per night). I was already aware that this might happen since I was already in other cities where they do it, but always inform yourself beforehand if the city tax is included in the price or not in order not to have unpleasant suprises! I think that maybe we could have done better if we booked something on AirBnB but it was with less than one month notice and this was the cheapest we found.
  • Food = 71.15€
    • I thought I was going to spend much more in this department but of course dining out every night took its toll. I don’t think the prices were that bad because with every meal we had wine and we also went twice to bars. You can see in the previous posts which restaurants I went to and how much I spent in each. I was also surprised that the pizza slices at the cafeterias of touristic attractions were about 3.50€ which is more or less like in Portugal. However, I found supermarkets very expensive. 1.40€ for two apples? That is the price of 1Kg of apples here! However, they have ready-to-go salads that can make a quite fulfilling meal with spending less.
  • Tourist attractions = 29€
    • Not bad! Still having a student discount pays off. And the free student entrance for History degrees too :p so, it was 6€ for the Colosseum and Forum, 8€ for the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, 8€ for the Vatican Museum and 7€ for Castel Sant’Angelo.
  • Miscellaneous = 2.50€
    • I’m very economical with souvenirs. I bought a postcard for my collection, (0.50€) and a magnet for my parents’ fridge (2€).

TOTAL = 322.65€

It’s hard not to love Rome, but what’s your favorite thing about it? What would you do from this itinerary, and what would you replace?

Cátia

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