A holiday in January is the perfect way to beat the blues.
Rome is somewhere that’s been on my list for a really long time.
And Mark’s favourite type of food is Italian (that guy could happily eat for pizza for every meal!), I’m pretty surprised he hasn’t been before! Our friends, one of who is actually Italian, were spending the whole month of January in Rome. The perfect excuse for us to spend some time with them as well as sightseeing.
Flight details: Edinburgh – Ciampino | Accommodation: A Peace of Rome, Via Fabio Massimo
We had four full days to spend exploring the city, and a list of all the tourist things we wanted to check off our list. And a few that maybe wouldn’t be on the normal must see list for Rome.
We did the biggest chunk of the tourist stuff on day 3 – walking a whopping 17 miles!! But I would seriously suggest spreading stuff out a bit more if you have the time. Google maps is great for mapping out a route and making sure you hit all the spots you want to see.
One of the most amazing things about Rome is the ancient Roman buildings (and sometimes ruins) you still see around the city. The buildings that are not ruins are amazingly maintained.
The Pantheon wasn’t the easiest to find. It’s hidden away down small, narrow streets, and then suddenly it’s there. It’s a former Roman temple which is now used as a church.
Fun fact: the dome of the Pantheon is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
It’s really impressive inside, and the dome has a hole in the middle of it. Meaning if it rains the rain would actually come inside the building.
Entry cost: Free
Vatican City / St Peter’s Square
Despite not being at all religious, Vatican City was one of the places I was most looking forward to. I expected it to be really grand and it was exactly that. The Christmas tree and nativity scene (which was made out of sand) were still in the middle of St Peter’s Square. Although within Rome, Vatican City is its own state ruled by the pope.
Not a huge amount to see unless you go into the museum or St Peter’s Basilica but still worth a visit just to see.
St Peter’s Basilica
During peak tourist season you would be queuing to get inside here for a long time, not something I would fancy in the heat! In January we were queuing for about 30 minutes. Inside St Peter’s is spectacular – beautiful and opulent with so much marble.
St Peter’s is still a functioning church, so expect there to be times when you might not be able to get into certain parts as mass will be on. You can also visit the tombs of the popes beneath the basilica. As morbid as this sounds, it was really interesting to see and there were plaques with information about each pope buried there.
Top tip: As St Peter’s Basilica is a functioning church, you have to be dressed modestly to get in. This means not too much leg or bare shoulders on show. Ladies, if you’re wearing shorts/dresses/skirts carry a scarf that you can wrap round your legs if needed.
Entry cost: Free
Another ancient Roman building in the city. Originally buil for the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum and later used as a castle for the pope. Castel Sant’Angelo is filled with works of art, frescos and a collection of pretty horrific looking weapons! Climb to the top of the building for spectacular views of the city.
Entry cost: €15,00
Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is probably on most people’s hit list while visiting Rome, but in order to see it you have to go into the Vatican Museum. The museum was interesting, again fantastic works of art and sculptures throughout. There was also an Ancient Egyptian exhibition and some impressive tapestries.
I enjoyed the museum and I’m glad I went, but the Sistine Chapel left me a bit underwhelmed (much like the Mona Lisa did when I saw it in Paris years ago). It really is just a room with a very impressive painted ceiling and too many people in it at any one time. You’re expected to be quiet while inside (which nobody was) and you’re not allowed to take photos. Hugely disappointing for someone who likes to take photos of everything! I think the reason photos aren’t allowed is because the gift shops (which are dotted throughout the museum) sell so much with the very famous touching fingers from the ‘Creation of Adam’ painting on the ceiling.
Top tip: Book your Vatican Museum ticket online and pick a specific time (as soon as it opens is a good time) to save queuing. If you get in first thing visit the Sistine Chapel before you go through the museum – it will probably be quieter.
Entry cost: €17,00 (plus €4,00 booking fee if buying tickets online)
You can’t really visit Rome and not go to the Colosseum, it’s one of the most iconic tourist spots in the city. I expected it to be completely open to the elements on the inside but there are areas that are undercover. Including the area you queue to get in – ideal if it’s raining on scorching heat! Admittedly there isn’t a whole lot to see inside (although there were two interesting exhibitions on the first level), and you can’t get into all of it as there are still parts being excavated, and the ticket that can be bought on the day only gets you to the first level. Despite this, it’s still 100% worth visiting.
Top tip: Buy your ticket in advance online to get access to the higher levels.
Entry cost: €12,00 (this also gets you entry to the Roman Forum)
Roman Forum & Forum of Nerva
The Roman Forum is on a hill across from the Colosseum. A walk to the top of the hill through the gardens will give you a great view over Rome. Again expect to see more Roman ruins (and possibly quite a few cats) while walking round here.
Top tip: Check the times that this is open depending on when you go. We could have easily spent more time in the Roman Forum but it closed at 4:30pm.
Forum of Nerva is across the road from where you exit the Roman Forum. Similar in that it is Roman ruins but still cool to see.
This was by far the busiest tourist spot we went to! Much like the Pantheon, you’re walking down wee streets and then suddenly it’s there. Take a coin to throw in.
Top tip: Try and fit in a visit to this at night as well as during the day. It looks awesome lit up, and it’s quieter.
I was very underwhelmed with the Spanish Steps. They really are just a set of big steps that lead from one part of the street to another. I’ve heard that they are a better sight during the spring, so maybe still worth visiting.
Altar of the Fatherland
We passed this the night we arrived in Rome and it’s a stunning building! You can also see it from loads of points throughout the city – it stands out pretty well. The museum inside the building is all about the unification of Italy. A monument (which has the tomb of the unknown soldier in it) and an eternal flame can be seen at the top of the steps.
Fun fact: although it looks really old, the construction of this building only finished in 1935. It’s modelled on a neoclassical design interpreting the Roman Forum.
Entry cost: Free to get into the building and museum, €7,00 for the panoramic lift
Not necessarily one of the tourist spots in Rome, but well worth a visit. The buildings are stunning, with plenty of street art, fountains and churches. The streets are super Instagramable! There are some shops here, and it’s great to see during the day, but definitely venture back at night. The streets come alive and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to pick from.
Temple of Hercules Victor
Another piece of Ancient Rome in the middle of the city. We had to make do with just seeing this from the outside, it’s only open on certain days of the month.
Villa Borghese Gardens
A lovely big public park with a boating pond in the middle. It was chucking it down when we went, but during the summer this park would be even nicer. You can get to the gardens by climbing up the Spanish Steps or via Piazza del Popolo.
So there you have it, how to cram a whole lot of sightseeing into four days in Rome. I really loved this city. So much history and so much nice food! I’m so glad I’ve ticked Rome off my list.
Have you visited Rome, is there anything you would add to my list?