Backpacking to Rome, Italy

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Ahh Rome, ti amo ❤️

Josh and I have just come back from our amazing, romantic and probably most tiring but wonderful trip to Rome.

Every time I visit a new country or city, I always come back feeling that no other place will compare. But quite honestly, I don't know how any other new country or city I will visit in the future will beat Rome.

It was both mine and Josh's first time visiting Rome, although Josh has visited other places in Italy previously, I think we both can agree that this was one of the best trips we've ever taken. And it was made even more special as we consider this as our first 'proper holiday' together.

Rome has everything you could want from an ultimate city break: history, culture, epic views and scenery, the hot weather, plenty of attractions, pretty neighbourhoods and probably the best food and drink I've ever tasted.

We stayed in Rome for 4 nights, so I wanted to make sure we had plenty to do, but enough time to just wander and explore freely. It's safe to say, 4 days was just enough time to do everything we wanted, yet we've come away knowing what things we want to do next time (because we are certain we will return!)

But this is my ultimate guide on everything we did, everything we saw, everything we ate and I've also included prices and tips which is something I've not really covered in this travel guides before. So enjoy and come and navigate Rome with me!

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How we got there

We got ourselves up ridiculously early to catch a 6.20am flight from London Stansted Airport with Ryanair. We decided to drive and park our car at the I Love Park and Ride Stansted car park, which cost 60 for 5 days and meant we could simply drop it off with the keys and go. I'd highly recommend them as a trustworthy airport car parking service.

We had a real trouble trying to find cheap flights, despite browsing for them months in advance. In the end, our flights cost ... per person, which still kills me that it was that expensive. However, we were flying just before the peak summer season, so I guess it would be pretty steep!

Although I have said this before, I will NOT be flying with Ryanair again. Awful service, delayed 2 hours setting off and we had to wait an hour to collect my suitcase which had been put in the hold.

So quick tip: don't go with Ryanair! 

Unfortunately, getting there was not the smoothest journey I've had visiting somewhere, but onwards and upwards!

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Accommodation

Josh and I had no plans to go to Rome. We knew we wanted to go somewhere on a city break, but had no idea where, so we looked out for deals.

Until one day, I received an email from booking.com for a deal for the Warmthotel in Rome which went down to 194 for 4 nights instead of 335. We thought this was too good of a deal to turn down and we knew we wanted to stay in a nice hotel, so we went for it!

So basically, if we hadn't of seen the deal, we probably wouldn't have come to Rome!

But Warmthotel was 20 minutes away from the main centre, which wasn't bad at all as it was made easier thanks to the free shuttle bus service that the hotel provided, which would leave every hour, meaning we always had access to getting in.

It was a nice enough hotel with everything we needed, including a HUGE bed, stylish interior, a big power shower and we had a beautiful rooftop bar and restaurant which we took advantage of. Overall, despite being outside of the centre, I am glad we booked with them as it was ideal, comfortable and with an added class.

Quick tip: when booking hotels in Rome, be wary of the tourist tax, which, unfortunately, is unavoidable. In Rome, this costs 6 euros per night, which obviously adds up and it depends on what star hotel you're staying in. i.e. 3-star hotel is 5 euros, 4 star is 6 euros and 5 star is 7 euros per night. It sucks, but it's unfortunately law!

Another quick tip: If you do decide to stay outside the main city centre, make sure your accommodation provides a free shuttle bus service that goes frequently, or you're located near a metro station. I'm not sure what we would have done without the shuttle bus service!

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Navigating Rome

Like most European cities, it's fairly easy getting yourself around the city by foot, public transport and with the help of Google maps!

Most of the time, Josh and I walked for miles and miles just to get to places and we used Google maps to locate it.

However, using the metro, trams and buses were useful too if we needed to quickly get somewhere. We took advantage of the 72 hour Roma Pass which we purchased on the first night to ensure it lasted until Saturday evening. It cost us 18 euros each and I highly recommend getting that if you're there for the same amount of time as we stayed, as it saves you the hassle of buying single tickets each time and it can be used on bus, tram, and metro.

You could buy the Roma Pass at the metro stations, or in any convenience stores that had the letter 'T' on the signs above.

We also used a brilliant app called My Taxi for when we wanted a taxi to and from the airport and for one night when we decided to stay out later. It's kind of like Uber, but you're quoted a price on the app and pay once your journey has been completed.

Quick tip: Don't go for a taxi that's waiting just outside the airport once you arrive. We almost fell for it, as the first taxi we approached wanted to charge us 55 euros plus tip for a 15-minute journey to our hotel, whereas on My Taxi, we were quoted 22 - 25 euros. Save your money!

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Checking out the neighbourhoods of Rome

We were adviced by our tour guide who took us for our Airbnb tour (more on that in another post) to check out the neighbourhoods nearer the bigger attractions, to avoid tourist traps when going to places to eat, plus to see some hidden gems of Rome. And she was right, because we got to discover some unique places.

Monti

Monti was my favourite place to visit as we kept coming back after going with our tour guide.

It's full of pretty cobbled streets, hanging vines across the buildings and it had such an artsy charm about it. There was always somewhere to go and eat and drink and there were lots of cute vintage clothing shops to go in and check out.

This neighbourhood was near the Colosseum, which was ideal for when we needed to find a bite to eat ahead of going inside the Colosseum, The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

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Trastevere

Everybody who has been to Rome will say to check out Trastevere, because it's truly a foodie hub day and night!

We stumbled across Trastevere when we were looking for somewhere to eat on my birthday and I am so glad we did because the atmosphere at night was vibrant and exciting - perfect for a birthday night out!

We ate at a restaurant called La Fraschetta, which was honestly like stepping into a traditional rustic Italian restaurant. I loved it so much! And then, right next door was a Sisha bar, which was an interesting experience to have on my 24th birthday!

Testaccio

This was another foodie place worth visiting, which upon the first impression, we weren't 100% sure about, but is a place you should check out.

Walking through, it looked like a pretty rough area and we wondered whether we had accidentally stopped off elsewhere as there was hardly anything around. But as we walked down, we found a whole hub of restaurants and bars.

This was where we found a restaurant called Trentarte where we had Aperitivo which is pre-dinner drinks and snacks in Rome, which is a local custom to have before your dinner.

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Going up the lift at Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II

We found this building accidentally (it was hard to miss) but I am so glad we did!

It's free to get inside and it is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of Italy and is full of historical facts, beautiful paintings and much more.

If the outside view wasn't enough, it's 100% worth climbing up all the stairs to get to the top where you can pay 10 euros to go up the lift to get 360 views of the whole of Rome. It's impressive and nothing like I've ever seen before. Well worth getting your legs tired for!

The pictures don't do it justice.

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The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

We left all of these attractions until the last day, as we weren't very organised and didn't buy our tickets prior to landing in Rome, but we managed to book tickets the day before. Plus, we knew we wanted plenty of time to see it all.

Walking into the Colosseum was breathtaking. You see all the photos on websites and on Google, but nothing can prepare you for when you see it in person.

The tickets cost 27.50 euros (16 euro for a full ticket and 11.50 for an under 24 ticket) which included the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, so you're getting a really good price to see all of Rome's biggest historical attractions.

Quick tip: I've got to give Sophie etc credit here for giving this tip in her Rome City Guide because it was SO useful! Make sure you buy your tickets from official websites like this one beforehand, rather from tour guides surrounding the Colosseum.

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The Vatican City

I wish we spent more time here, because it was something else!

The Vatican City is actually the smallest country in the world and around the same area includes St Peter's Basilica and The Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately, we didn't get tickets to go inside either of these attractions, which was a shame, but it means we have a reason to go back, but the outside was just as impressive and fascinating to walk around.

Quick tip: Don't dine near the Vatican City. We walked past a few restaurants and found them to be more expensive than other places. Grab yourself a bus back to the Pantheon which is around 15 minutes away.

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The Pantheon

The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, which has now turned into a church which is 1,892 years old and is the most preserved building in Rome.

Inside, you will find the tombs of Vittorio Emmanuelle, the first king of Italy, his wife and son and the famous artist, Raphael. It was pretty spine-tingling looking inside and it is incredibly religious, but it was well worth a visit. Josh adored all the history and facts you could read whilst walking around.

The square where the Pantheon is based was bustling with atmosphere, with a violinist playing Ed Sheeran's 'Perfect', a pretty gelato place called Cremeria and plenty of bars to drink an Aperol Spritz.

Quick tip: Head inside the Pantheon late afternoon. We went around 4pm and the crowds had died down.

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The Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps

These were a walk away from each other so we managed to do all of this on the same day.

The Trevi Fountain was the #1 attraction I needed to see during our trip to Rome and it actually made me really emotional seeing it for the first time with my own eyes. And my dream was to throw a lucky coin in.

And I can confirm that I was able to get to the front and do so!

I was told that the Trevi Fountain would be full of tourists during the day and the best times to go would be either in the morning or the evening, but we ended up going at 2pm and there were obviously crowds of tourists, but I was still able to get to the front.

I think it's down to luck on the day and the time you visit.

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Then, from the Trevi Fountain, we headed to the Spanish Steps which is located on a steep slope between Piazza di Spanga and Trinita dei Monti Church.

Whether you stand at the top looking down, or from the bottom looking up, you will be greeted by a great view. And if you're walking down from the church, you can refresh yourself with the fresh water from the water fountain below!

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Other places to check out

Take a stroll around Piazza Navona which is a gorgeous square that's filled with plenty of places to eat and drink, cute shops and plenty of gelato stands. You can seriously get yourself lost around all the pretty cobbled streets and come back to see the beautiful fountains overlooked by another church.

If you're a cat lover, you will be pleased to know that there is Cat Sanctuary. Yes. An actual cat sanctuary!

It's located in the archaeological site of Largo di Torre Argentina, a 5 minute walk away from the Pantheon and it's home to cats who have been taken in after being injured or ill. All the cats are properly looked after, sterilised and fed and they are free to roam amongst the oldest temples in Rome and are looked after seven days a week by volunteers.

You can walk in and pet all the cats!

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What else do you need to know?

Weather

We went at the beginning of July, so you can imagine it was VERY HOT. Highest temperatures went up to 36C, making walking around incredibly difficult and sweaty at times! So make sure you bring plenty of sun cream and bring a bottle of water.

Water

You don't need to purchase bottles of water whilst in Rome, as there are 100's of water fountains located in the city that are perfectly fine to drink from or fill your bottle with.

Quick tip: If you want to find where the nearest water fountain is located, download an app called WeTap and it shows you where the nearest water fountain is to your location. It's like Google maps but for water!

Money

I was told that Rome would be very expensive, but I don't think it was too bad. It all depends on where you go. Overall, I took 400 euros with me and I managed to come back with over 150 euros and still managed to budget. We spent more money on my birthday than on other days for obvious reasons!

I took all my euros on my Cash Passport card from Eurochange*, a multi-currency cash passport which was incredibly handy, as it meant I wasn't always carrying around euro notes. I can top up my card anytime using the app on my phone and I could track what I was spending my euros on, plus I was able to convert my euros back to British pounds so I could transfer it back onto my debit card afterward.

Planning

It is important to plan your trip to Rome. I feel looking back, we didn't plan enough, as we didn't get a chance to go inside St Peter's Basilica and The Sistine Chapel.

However, I feel you need to leave plenty of time to just wander and not be controlled by Google maps. We saw so many lovely places thanks to just walking around. Feel free to get lost!

Language

Most Italians will speak English, however, it is common courtesy to know the language.

Another thing we were advised by our tour guide was to download Google Translate on your phone, then download the Italian dictionary so you don't have to use 3G. This way, you have the language already downloaded on your phone and you can type in any phrase.

Really useful for when you want to order a coffee or an Aperol Spritz!

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Phewwwww. We covered a lot there!

Apologies for such a long and detailed post, but I feel it is so important that I share as much as possible with you, including prices to ensure you have as much information as possible before your trip to Rome.

I still have a few more Rome related posts to write, including a food guide, a coffee guide and a review of our amazing Airbnb experience we took part in. All coming soon!

But I hope you found this guide useful and I am happy to answer any questions you have about what we got up to!

Will you be taking a trip to Rome anytime soon? 

More Rome posts:

Rome Coffee Guide

Airbnb Experience: Baptism of Rome for first timers 


*I was gifted the eurochange cash passport card*

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11 Comments

  1. Chris
    18th July 2018 / 9:07 pm

    Thank you Nicole for a interesting and in-depth first write up on the trip to Rome.

    I have considered a trip to Italy and possibly Rome.
    My method of travel would be more unique.
    I would drive and take a Alfa Romeo car for the whole trip.

    Chris.

  2. 28th August 2018 / 7:42 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful post

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