This year I decided I wanted to try and see more of Europe, opting for long weekends away in lieu of long-haul holidays. I kicked off this new adventure with a weekend in Rome. As an ex classical civilizations student, it’s been a dream place to visit since I was a teen. It was my first weekend trip and we aimed to visit the city in three days.
So keep reading to discover how to make the most of your visit, or use the menu below.
- Where to stay
- Day one – Historic Rome
- Day two – Discovering Rome
- Day three – Religious Rome
- Dining in Rome
- What to wear
Rome in three days
Now, technically we were in Rome for four days; we flew in Friday night, and left Monday night, But the Friday night only left us enough time for dinner before bed. I’d definitely recommend coming in the night before so you can hit the ground running the next morning. The metro is super easy to use and is pretty cheap – though we opted for a taxi into the city on arrival for ease on our first evening, costing 60 euros.
Where to stay in Rome
There are plenty of hotels on offer in Rome, but we wanted to have something a little more homely so we booked a flat through Airbnb. Our location couldn’t have been better. Our spacious two bed flat was near the River Tibre, right in the centre of everything and only cost £55 a night between two (and it could have slept four-five).
Day one – Historic Rome
We kicked off our trip by visiting the historic sites of Rome: Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon.
The first thing you have to do in the morning before you go off exploring is indulge in some amazing Italian coffee. We were lucky to have a place right below our flat. One tip when visiting Rome, if you’re having coffee you’ll notice a lot of people stood at the bar; this is because it’s cheaper to stand than sit down and if you’re only having a quick double espresso, sitting isn’t needed. Coffee is really cheap in Rome – we had a cappuccino, double espresso and a pastry for under four euros!
As three of the most prominent tourist attractions, as you can imagine, it was pretty packed and you need to be up with the sun – also because there’s a lot to see! All three sites operate under one ticket that costs 14 euros, which can be purchased at any site. I’d been given a tip by a friend who used to live in Rome who told us to head to the Roman Forum first. Because the Colosseum is arguable the most famous landmark in Rome, everyone heads there first. We hit the Roman Forum at 8.30am (opening time) and there was no queue! We could see the hoards of people outside heading to the Colosseum. We purchased our tickets for the sites, and audio tours for each (you carry your receipt to claim the audio tour at each place).
The Roman Forum and Colosseum
The Roman Forum was empty, which was awesome. The sun was beating down as we wandered around, using our map and guides to teach us about what we were looking at. The Roman Forum hold the ruins of old government buildings and temples from the ancient city centre. There are some amazing things to see, and with the audio guide and the size of the Forum, it’s easy to stay there for hours! We where there for about three.
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Afterwards we headed over the Colosseum, after running for some water (always carry a bottle with you) and some gelato! The Colosseum was still busy, but we only had to queue for about 15/20 minutes instead of the hour some people had said. The Colosseum is simply breathtaking. After seeing movies like Gladiator, to actually be inside the stadium is incredible. My inner classics nerd was in overdrive. The audio tour is recommended, although there isn’t much to listen to here, but it only cost five euros (it’s 7 euros for the Forum). You can complete your tour in a respectable 90 minutes to two hours, if you don’t choose to just keep wandering around, which would be very easy to do. You’ll also spot the Arch of Constantine outside the Colosseum.
After all of the walking in the morning, we needed to refuel. There’s a fun gay bar/restaurant right next to the Colosseum called Coming Out. It’s an awesome view if you dine in the outside area. The staff are friendly and better yet, the food is great and really affordable. Our giant pizzas only cost around seven euros and our cocktails were five euros! Winning.
The Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Pantheon
We had done so well with our day we had only hit early afternoon so we brought Sunday’s plans forward. It was now time to visit the famous Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
The Trevi Fountain is as awesome as you think it will be. It appears at the end of some tiny roads, in the middle of loads of buildings, a truly grand spectacle in glorious white. Now, beware that it will be rammed. It’s like a tin of sardine’s for tourists, but with a little patience, you can make your way forward for a better view, a picture and to make your wish.
Unfortunately for us, the Spanish Steps were closed for maintenance, so we couldn’t sit on them, but I managed to get a crafty picture over the railing. But out of all the sites to be closed, I’m glad it was this one, as you can see, it is very much a simple set of stairs, it’s the more about the story – a friend went and the Fountain was closed, that would have sucked. So check before you travel as they all close for routine maintenance at various points.
After the steps we headed home, working through the north/north west of the city where most of the shopping is. Our last stop en route was the Pantheon – a glorious temple-now-church that was built in 126 AD (it was built on top of another building from a couple of decades earlier). It’s a spectacular site and in amazing condition due to its constant use throughout history. To sit inside such a relic of ancient times (it’s over 1800 years old) is a rather poignant experience and not one to miss out on.
Day two – Discovering Rome
As God demands, Sunday is the day of rest, and because we had such a successful first day, we had the whole day free. We chose to have a little extra time in bed (only till 9.30/10) to let our heads rest from the night before, because when a bottle of Prosecco is 15 euros, having one is just rude.
As the sun was shining we aimed to stay outside most of the day to top on our tans (using plenty of sunscreen, of course) so we lost ourselves, in a good way, wandering around the amazing streets and sites of the city. We made a pit stop at Fatamorgana, an amazing and highly recommended gelato shop.
Another awesome place we found was a cafe called the Anticafe, a very cool and modern concept, you don’t pay for what you eat or drink, you simply pay for the time you are there. For four euros for the first hour and three there after, you can have hand-crafted coffees, cold drinks, cafe, snacks and sweets till you’re full. It’s just awesome and a must for lovers of quirky alternatives – though I will say it’s a bit of a walk to the west to get there and there isn’t much else around.
Day three – Religious Rome
For our final day we visited one of the most iconic places in the city (even though it’s technically another country), the Vatican and Vatican City. It’s a great option for your final day, if you fly in the evening as you can check suitcases into the cloak room for free.
It was on the last day we realised the only downside to booking an Airbnb – no luggage hold like a hotel. You can arrange to check out later but it will cost you. Luckily though, the Vatican has a cloakroom, so as a result we were able to take our belongings with us and walk around hands free!
The biggest piece of advice I can give you for the Vatican is to book a tour. Not only will it mean you get the best experience of the Vatican, you’ll also skip the queues, which wrap around the city and last hours. It only cost around 35 euros including entry.
There is so much to see, from ancient sculpture to art, tapestry and beautiful gardens. Just don’t forget to be covered up – it’s mandatory out of respect for the religious space. The pièce de résistance is of course the Sistine Chapel, which comes at the end of the tour and is utterly awe-inspiring.
Dining in Rome
There are obviously loads of places to eat in Rome, and one of the main place to go is the Trastevere area. Another short hop from our flat, the whole area is buzzing in the evening with Romans and tourists alike, eating and drinking. We also learnt a very valuable lesson there – carry cash with you! A lot of the older parts of Rome has few ATMS and some of the restaurants, especially the more traditional, off the path ones like we went to that night don’t take card. I had to leave my friend to go wandering around to find one.
The main thing we learnt was that there isn’t the need to create a list of where to eat in Rome (unless you’re a die hard foodie or have specific budgets), because it’s easy, and enjoyable to just wander and look at different places until you settle on a menu. A starter, main and desert with a bottle of wine can set you back around 40-75 euros for two.
If you’re looking for something straight forward and reasonable to Popi Popi in Trastevere has all of your Italian favourites for an affordable price – including the most amazing tiramisu. For breakfast after the night before, we went to Baccano for a more traditional hangover breakfast.
What to wear in Rome
Now this is a very personal option, but for me – due to the heat and the walking – meant I spent most of my time in sportswear. It’s more comfortable and lightweight. Plus, it’s hard to put on a fashion show when you’re sweating. I took a couple pairs of shorts, a fresh T-shirt for each day and one pair of trainers and then two shirts, jeans and smarter boots for going out in the evening.
So there you have it! Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, but you can get the best of the city in just three!
Have you been to Rome? What are your recommendations?