I had been to Rome a few times before, but my husband had never been. We spent most of our time visiting the most popular, must see tourist sites. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, because I realized how much of my previous visits I didn’t remember (since it had been 12 years!).
We did not arrive our hotel in Rome until about 5 pm and were exhausted from our trip. We were hungry so went to the first restaurant we saw (big mistake!). After dinner, we walked around a little, then went back to the hotel to go to sleep early.
On our first full day we walked through the Circus Maximus surrounded by hundreds (maybe a couple thousand) of people who were doing the Susan G Komen walk. That was an interesting site and I didn’t know they had those internationally.
Next we visited the Colosseum. Unfortunately it was Sunday and very crowded. I knew that we should have purchased the Roma Pass before going to the Colosseum, because we’d be able to skip the line. But since it was Sunday the travel agencies were closed so we couldn’t purchase it ahead of time. So we waited in the line for about an hour to get in. So I suggest buying the Roma Pass first thing to avoid this. Next up was the Palatine Hill and the Forum. There was not much of a line here and we walked right in.
After lunch we stopped by the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain—but it had begun pouring down rain and of course I didn’t have my rain jacket with me. We bought cheap umbrellas from the street vendors, but decided to take the bus back to the hotel after a gelato stop.
Our next day was devoted to the Vatican. First stop was the Vatican Museum. I have never been anywhere so crowded in my life. It was so jampacked that it was just not enjoyable at all. We really could not appreciate it with all the hoards of people around. Plus, it took us longer to get in that I thought it would (3 hour line), so we were trying to rush through it so we could make our scheduled Scavi tour. The Sistine Chapel was beautiful, but again, it was just too crowded to enjoy it. Lesson- buy your ticket ahead of time!
Luckily, we made the Scavi tour with about 15 minutes to spare. One tip is to leave through the guide exit of the Sistine Chapel—this put you out just by the entrance where the Swiss guards are to get to the Scavi office. The Scavi tour was quite the opposite of the Vatican Museum experience—it was a highlight of our stay in Rome. We were in a small group (about 10 people), and our guide was very enthusiastic. It was well worth it. If you want to do it, you must contact the Vatican months in advance because it’s very popular, and they only allow a limited number of tours each day. We booked our tickets in February for our May visit.
On our last day in Rome, we took the bus to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. It was nice because our tour group was small and the catacombs were not crowded with tour groups like I thought it might be. It probably helped that we arrived pretty early in the morning. It was an interesting tour and worth the trip out there, but I enjoyed the Scavi tour more.
Next we went back to Rome to just walk around. We went to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, then back to the Trevi Fountain to get some pictures since when we went the other day it was raining. We also visited the Capitoline Museum and a few churches.
The Roma pass gave us free bus rides for 3 days. We did notice that hardly anyone ever seemed to swipe their tickets on the bus—apparently they just do spot checks occasionally and if you don’t have a pass or a ticket on you, you could be fined. If you plan to use the bus a lot, I’d suggest getting a bus map. There were a couple of times that we had trouble figuring out which bus stop was close to certain sites.