Places to visit while in Rome Pt. 1

There are many iconic locations in Rome which are worth visiting. Most likely locations like The Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and The Pantheon are already on your list of places to visit but those are just a few of the locations that deserve your attention. Rome has so much more to offer. During this post, I will mention many locations that are worth your time if they are done properly because there is a difference between visiting a place and experiencing a place. I will tell you how to truly experience some of these iconic locations and some locations that may not even be on your radar but are worth the visit.

The Colosseum

You cannot leave Rome without visiting the Colosseum. To me, this is the most iconic location in all of Rome. The history, the architecture and the beauty will leave you saying “WOW”. Now the best way to experience the Colosseum, because remember you want to experience these places not just visit them, is with a tour but not just any tour, oh no, it has to be with a tour that allows you to take the Gladiator entrance and visit the dungeons. Tens of thousands of people visit the Colosseum every day but only 400 people are allowed to visit the dungeons per day. It is not something you want to miss out on. The tour that I took (link will be posted at the end) allowed me to enter the Colosseum right onto the ground floor. There is only a handful of other tour groups on the ground floor and it is an area not available to the general public who purchase a regular ticket to enter. You get to look around and see everybody else who is higher up with puzzled faces wondering how it is you got to be down there.  

After being out on the ground floor and taking your pictures for your Instagram/Facebook/blog and listening to the tour guide give you some history about the Colosseum you then make your way down into the dungeons. You get to walk through those dungeons and stand where so many gladiators stood moments before possibly walking out to their death. In about two years there will be another tunnel available down in the dungeons that will allow you to walk all the way from the gladiator school into the dungeons and out onto the Colosseum floor. A true experience of being a gladiator back in the day.

After the dungeons, the tour group splits up for about 25 minutes and joins the general public in exploring the rest of the Colosseum. 

FUN FACT: It only took 8 years to build the Colosseum!

The tour that I took that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Rome. I recommend it because I personally experienced it and I can vouch for the price-to-value ratio. This tour is 4-hours long and it does not end with the Colosseum. You get to experience Palatine Hill (Caesars Palace) and the Roman Forum (Ancient City). The guide is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions you may have. I will not post about the other locations as it would make this post much longer but I have added some pictures of the locations. If you do have any questions feel free to leave a comment.

Tour booking click here

Vatican Museum/St.Peter’s Basilica

The most important piece of advice I can give you for visiting the Vatican Museum is DO NOT PURCHASE REGULAR TICKETS! This is truly one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The line up for the entrance is ridiculously long and starts very early in the morning. It was around 8:30 AM when I was making my way to the meetup point of my tour group when I saw the long line-up of people that curved around the wall. You can see a glimpse of it in the Rome highlights on our Instagram page @ourtravellingfootprints.

The tour for that day allowed us to skip that whole line-up of people. We honestly just walked right by everyone and went right into the museum, we even walked by other tour groups! Once inside you get this small little radio with a headphone that allows you to hear what your tour guide is talking about because there are so many people inside that you wouldn’t be able to properly hear her otherwise. The museum itself is truly a sight to behold. In my mind and the minds of many museums allow us to marvel at the wonders of ancient times. They allow us to gain a glimpse of life in the past and in some cases, they offer truly breathtaking art. The Vatican Museum is filled with everything from stunning ceiling paintings to Greek sculptures to billion dollar bathtubs and everything in between.

Of course, being in the museum you also get to visit the Sistine Chapel which, to be honest, was a big let down. The most famous painting isn’t as big as you would think and it is surrounded by so many other paintings that it just takes away the wow factor. After that, you make your way out of the Sistine Chapel and you have a small break to use the washroom or visit the gift shop.

St. Peter’s Basilica is enormous, stunning and has wow factors all over the place. It is home to the Papal Tombs and the Necropolis. Unfortunately for me, I did not find out about the access to the Necropolis until the tour guide mentioned it when we were in the tombs, which by the way isn’t open to the general public. In order to visit the Necropolis, you need to book the tour around 2 months in advance as it usually sells out and the visitations are very limited.  

The tour guide was so incredibly insightful that she elevated the whole experience. Just as a re-cap this tour allows you to skip entrance lines and gives you access to the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tombs of the Popes. The fact that it allows you to skip the 2-3h line-up is worth the price alone. If you are interested in taking this tour click here.

The Spanish Steps/Trevi Fountain/ Piazza Del Popolo

The best way to visit these locations, and actually many other locations but in this case, we will stick with these locations, is by getting in one of those little carts attached to the bike. Not only is this a cheap way of getting around to these iconic locations but it is also much more enjoyable than being in a taxi or public transit. The gentleman who was taking us around was also well informed on all these locations and if you request it he will give you some fun facts about the areas you are visiting. For example, did you know that the Spanish Steps were made by the French? There is nothing really Spanish about them, pretty crazy eh. Another crazy thing is the number of people who visit these steps. This was the most congested area I visited during my whole time in Rome. It doesn’t help that all the streets leading to these steps have stores to shop at. Stores as far as the eye can see and people even further than that.

Piazza Del Popolo is a nice plaza with nice fountains. Big open and spacious, twin churches, statues of Greek Gods and another Egyptian obelisk right in the middle.

Trevi Fountain is B-E-A-UTIFUL and it is also mega crowded. The second most congested area I visited, and I went there twice because I didn’t throw a coin in the first time and the second time I didn’t even throw it in properly so I guess I won’t be returning to Rome. There are a lot of restaurants and gelato shops nearby in case you get hungry.

I recommend visiting these locations using the cart and bike service because they are locations that are pretty far from each other and honestly you don’t need to spend to much time at each location. There is no actual time limit for the ride so you can spend as much time as you’d like at each location but unless you are planning on shopping or eating there is no reason to stay too long. One thing I will mention about the bike and cart service is that it does not drop you off where you got on. It will drop you off where the tour ends and since you can select which order you want to view everything in you pretty much can decide where you want to end up. Again it is a very enjoyable and wonderful way to cheaply see the sites. A good place to find these carts is Castle Sant’Angelo.  

Be sure to follow us or check back for Part 2 where I will mention some locations that are definitely worth a visit but might not be on your radar. This includes the catacombs, the holiest place in all of Rome and others. Stay Tuned.

What to know about visiting Rome.

So now that you’ve made the decision to go to Rome, bought the plane ticket and booked the hotel or Airbnb, here are some things you should know. If you have booked an Airbnb do not be alarmed if your host asks you for your passport number. I was caught off guard by this as I have never been asked this before. Obviously, I didn’t just offer up my passport, I asked the host what the reason was for needing this information. The response that she gave me is something that I confirmed with some research and also reviewing the forum on the Airbnb website about this very topic. The reason that the host asks for that information is that they then have to present it to the police. This is a rule that all hosts have to follow by law and if they don’t they are liable to incur some hefty penalties. Now not every host is the same but the majority of them would probably be asking for this information. This does not only apply to Italy but other European countries as well.

While you are in Rome you should know that everything you probably have planned to see is within walking distance. Now when I say walking distance I mean that most iconic locations are within a 25-45 minute walk of each other, some even less. The location of your hotel or Airbnb will determine a lot if you take public transit to get around or if you just walk everywhere. I stayed at an Airbnb about a 10-minute walk from Vatican City (I will post the link to the Airbnb at the end). There were a couple of non-tourist restaurants and coffee bars within a 5-10 minute walk and I was only about a 50-minute walk from the Colosseum. During that 10-minute walk towards Vatican City and during the 50-minute walk to the Colosseum you pass a ridiculous amount of restaurants and Gelato shops. Food is everywhere!

If you do choose to walk everywhere then you should know that pedestrian crossing is pretty different. There aren’t many stop signs or pedestrian lights unless you are at major intersections. What you will mainly encounter are white lines on the ground that is where pedestrians should be crossing and then you just start crossing and stick out your hand to have these cars who are coming at full speeds stop to let you pass. It is everyday life over there and I looked like a complete tourist as I was puzzled as to how I would cross while all these cars were zooming by and then I saw a local couple just start crossing and stick their hand out so cars could stop. Really interesting stuff.

Non hai bisogno di parlare Italiano. According to Google translate, that means you don’t need to speak Italian. In Rome 98% of the places, you will visit, eat at or randomly walk in to will have someone who speaks English. I didn’t have to speak Italian at all while I was there and the two places that I needed to speak Italian were on food tours that took us to the very classic Italian locations that had not been taken over by the tourist. Now if you want to learn some words then go right ahead but trust me you don’t need it. At least not in Rome.

The last topic I want to cover has to do with the bathrooms. I read many travel blogs before heading to Rome and a very high majority of them all injected me with a sort of uneasiness. Many talked about how the bathroom situation is very poor over there and how it is difficult to find a public bathroom and that when you do find one they are usually very dirty and have broken toilet seats etc. Some even had pictures and stories of where you would have to do your business as a male in a literal hole in the ground. That last one seemed pretty extreme for such a popular location for tourists. Others would advise that you not pass by a McDonalds without using the bathroom. All of these stories added a sense of dread to my trip as I am lactose intolerant and I knew I would be consuming a lot of dairy products. Let me tell you what I discovered. Public bathrooms basically are non-existent but there is a restaurant at every corner and if you need to use the bathroom just pony up anywhere between 1-3 euros and they will allow you to use their facilities. Most big tourist attractions like the Colosseum (you have to pay to use) and Vatican museum have bathrooms available. The condition of the bathrooms is not at all what I was expecting after having read the other blogs. Granted they were still different in structure and size and I would still recommend using your own travel wipes as opposed to the toilet paper provided. In the end, we all experience it in our own way.

Small cars, small elevators, small streets but big hearts. Rome is a wonderful place filled with many fascinating locations and stories. Be sure to follow our blog or check back for the next post where I will talk about the must-see locations.

Visiting Rome?

So it seems you have decided to take a trip to the beautiful city of Rome. If this is your first time visiting then you must have a lot of questions about how it is over there, what to do, where to eat, where to stay etc. During the next couple of weeks, I will be posting about all of this. You will get information and pictures from first-hand experiences that will allow you to make informed decisions and get you even more excited for your trip. Stay tuned.

Preparing to travel

When it comes to travelling there is nothing more important than being properly prepared. The preparation doesn’t just involve what goes into your luggage but also the transportation to and from the airport and during your stay, payment methods, and communication. All of these are very important factors that you should already have set or at the very least an idea of how you will arrange them before you ever step foot on the plane. I will start off discussing the preparation of the luggage and a few notable items to take.

PACKING YOUR BAGS

In my opinion, if your luggage isn’t properly packed it can really ruin the mood of your vacation. Now some people may say “well if I forget something I can always buy it there” and while that may be true you need to think about it in the sense that you are spending the money that you could have been spending on food, gifts or activities on something that you probably already owned and could have brought in your luggage. I suggest you make a check-list of everything you will need and start packing at least one week in advance. What this will allow you to do is create an organized packing strategy that you can easily track and add to whenever you remember something else that you want to take or something that you probably should take. Never forget that organization is key to a great vacation.

An important item to pack is a first-aid kit. You never want to think that something will happen to you while you’re enjoying your vacation but the truth is that something could potentially happen and you should be prepared. You should always carry your first-aid kit with you when you are out and about. It doesn’t have to be a large kit (the picture below is the one we use) as long as it has the basics. Your kit should at the very least be filled with a couple of band-aids, antiseptic/alcohol wipes, Gravol, and Pepto-Bismol capsules and Tylenol, all of the items you can find on Amazon or your local pharmacy.

When it comes to clothing you always want to check the local weather of your destination a week before and two days before you travel. As we all know the weather can change drastically from one day to the next and you want to make sure you have the appropriate clothing. Again this is a situation of yes you can buy a sweater, jacket, umbrella etc. wherever you go but why would you needlessly spend the money.

Lastly I will mention an item that you may or may not find useful. Travel wipes. If you are a constant traveler then you know that not every country has the type of plumbing or toilet paper that you are used to. Some may be better and some may be worse but in any case having travel wipes I find is very important. During my research for good quality wipes I discovered and purchased Dude Wipes for myself and for my girlfriend Cottonelle. Both wipes are approved for travel so you won’t get any issues during the security check and both items are available on Amazon.

Click here for the Cottonelle Wipes

Click here for the Dude Wipes

COMMUNICATION

We use our cellphones all day, everyday, and during vacation it is no different. It could be that you are using it to keep in communication with the people you are travelling with, people back home, using it as a GPS, ordering Uber etc. The point is you need your phone working. Two of the best purchases I ever made were the travel charger, which connects to sockets in North America, Europe, U.K, and Australia. It comes in different colors (if that matters to you) and you can charge four phones at the same time. The second purchase was a pre-paid SIM card from GiffGaff. This SIM card gave me 20GB of data, free incoming calls, free outgoing calls up to 60min, right before the 60min you can hang up and call again to start a new set of 60min so that you don’t get charged. This is the best SIM card if you are travelling to Europe as it covers a very large amount of European countries and it was only $40 CAD. Both of these products can be found on Amazon. Of course if you don’t like shopping online you can always purchase a pre-paid SIM card in most airports.

Click here for the Travel Adapter

Click here for the GiffGaff SIM Card

TRANSPORTATION

Let’s first talk about the transportation from the airport to where you are staying. You have the option of taking public transit, taxi, if you are staying at a resort or hotel they usually have their own pickup, private car, car rental (which I won’t touch upon as I prefer to take a break from driving when I am on vacation) or Uber. These are the main methods of transportation that you will use upon arrival. Now public transit is probably the cheapest but I feel it is also the most uncomfortable. You are going to be lugging around your luggage plus your carry-on and since most people don’t travel alone you can multiply the space you will take up by two. Then there is the whole aspect of figuring out the system and while there is nothing wrong with a little adventure I know that most people after a long plane ride would prefer to do things the easy way which takes us to our next two options, taxi and private car service.

Taxis in some countries will have a set fare to take you from the airport to somewhere in the city, those are usually the best because you know what you’re going to pay right away, but others give you more or less a range of how much it could be and if it isn’t a set fare you run the risk of getting ripped off. A private car service is exactly like what you see in the movies. You have a driver dressed in a suit waiting for you with a sign with your name, when you greet him he will take your bags if you’re alone but if you are with a lady he will take her bags instead. It is usually a luxury high-end car like a Mercedes and comes equipped with WiFi and water. On a recent trip to Rome I opted for this type of service from a company called Welcome Pickups. I set everything up on their website days before we left and on the website it will ask you a couple of questions to get a better feel for why you are visiting and it will then provide you with the option of booking tours right on their site and the driver will present you with the tickets once you are in the car. The cost of this service was the exact same cost if I would have taken a taxi. I feel most people think that because of the attention and higher-end service that it would cost an arm and a leg but you would be surprised.

Now if your preferred mode of transportation is Uber then you and I think alike but you need to remember there are certain countries where Uber is banned and not all cities have the same options you may be used to. For example in Rome UberPool and UberX don’t exist therefore the remaining options of UberBlack and UberSUV are more expensive options for travel. These options are different from Paris which offers UberPool, UberX, UberGreen, UberBlack etc. If you are unsure of the available options in the city you are visiting you can always visit https://www.uber.com/en-IT/cities/ and at the same time you can use the fare estimator to see how much it would cost you to move around town or more importantly how much it will cost you to go from the airport to your hotel/AirBnb etc. Another option is the app MyTaxi. You can use this app to easily call for a taxi in places where Uber may either be too expensive or not available. If you are in a good location central to most of the activities you are partaking in then the option I recommend is walking. You get to enjoy the views and explore more of the city.

PAYMENT METHODS

If you’re a Canadian, as I am, then you know our currency really doesn’t have much value when travelling abroad. This leaves us with the question of how should we pay for things during our travels. Here are the best options I have come across.

Prepaid Cards – CIBC has a selection of prepaid VISA cards that are perfect for when you travel. The cards come with a a fixed exchange rate so you’ll always know how much you are going to pay to load the card and they are currently available in U.S Dollar, Euro, British Pound and Mexican Peso. The benefit to travelling with one of these cards is that you already have the local currency loaded on the card. If you were to use your own credit card you would be risking a higher exchange rate on purchases and not to mention accumulating debt. There are no fees for using the card on the CIBC side but you can still incur a fee from the ATM and you can easily load the card from the app or website so even if you were to run out of money during your travels you can always top it up from your phone. Another notable prepaid card comes again from CIBC and the partnership with Air Canada. Together they have come up with the CIBC AC Conversion Card . This card is my favorite option for Canadian travelers. Once again there are no transaction fees, fixed exchange rate, being a VISA card it is accepted worldwide and the best feature is that you can load up to 10 currencies on one card! The currencies currently supported are Canadian Dollar, U.S Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollar, Turkish Lira, Swiss Francs and Mexican Peso. The card is secure and easy to load. To me this is a true travelers card.

STACK – STACK is a prepaid MasterCard that allows you to withdraw cash and pay for items in 150+ currencies. There are no foreign exchange fees, no ATM fees on the STACK side but the ATM provider will most likely still charge you a fee and since it is a MasterCard it is pretty much accepted everywhere. You load the card in Canadian funds and the exchange rate is based on the MasterCard international rate which could vary day to day. The card has a variety of other features including rewards so it might be worth checking out.

I hope this has helped you in someway to prepare for the amazing vacation you are about to take.

About this blog

Travelling anywhere can sometimes be a daunting task, especially if it is your first time going to that country/city. In this blog you will find helpful tips and tricks that helped us during our travels. You will read about everything from packing to the best ways to get around town, great sites and tours to take, food reviews and more. You will be able to see pictures and videos of our travels and you can even follow us on social media if you enjoy viewing pictures of the beautiful places the world has to offer.

Our Instagram is @ourtravellingfootprints