I didn't feel I could begin a review of the different components of my trip to Rome and how they rates without first giving an overview of my general experience of Rome itself. In my experience it's a highly underrated city (for all it's history and grandeur) and I wanted to share a little of my own feelings about the place that has become one of the golden, shining moments in my treasure trove of travelling memories.
I ended up on my honeymoon in Rome completely by accident. My wedding was originally set to be in Malta and the honeymoon was going to compile of a ferry ride to Sicily and a week spent there in the hills of Taormina.
However - with some of the mishaps common to wedding planning and guest arrangements - I soon found myself having a Scottish highland wedding instead - with a ticket to Malta that seemed somehow irrelevant. On a whim, my husband and I decided to save the journey to Malta for another time and change the flight destination to somewhere else we'd never been. Though Venice and Florence had always been highest on my Italian wish list - for whatever reason - we found ourselves rebooking flights to Rome.
Perhaps this was down to the cheapness of the flights (from London they were, indeed very very cheap). I then went on to plan the rest of my wedding and time in Sicily - thinking of the 4 days in Rome as a mere detour before the trip to see some of the most important sights and meet up with a handful of European friends we hadn't seen in some time.
Looking back - I can now remember quite clearly that I was all but dreading the Roman bit. I was desperate to see the coliseum, and some of mainland Italy which I had never yet walked, as well as the Sistine Chapel. But Rome itself I had heard was dirty, busy extremely Italian (suggesting this was not necessarily a good thing), hostile and vastly overcrowded with tourists. A part of me was looking forward to getting past it to the rural quiet of Sicily.
I may never have been so wrong in my appraisal of a trip. I will be writing the Sicily review later - so there's no reason to go into it in depth here - but I will just say that whilst the people and atmosphere of Sicily left me completely cold - I was warmed to a radiant hue in the delights of Rome. From the moment we landed I felt all but at home, and my experience there was such that at the end of the four days I didn't want to leave. I spent much of my time wandering the beautiful golden streets wondering how difficult it would be to move there - and gave my camera a workout the likes of which it had never seen.
It is true - it's crowded with tourist - but only at the most touristy places. The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain are a nightmare if you want the real experience of Rome...we visited them extremely briefly and then disappeared once again along a side street and breathed the deep sight of enjoyment and contentment that we found in the Eternal City. By all means - see the sights (I will review them individually) but the very best thing to see in Rome is Rome itself. What an amazing, grand city it remains - and perhaps what I was most surprised by what the welcome we received from it's citizens. Everyone was pleasant and civil - (with the exception of the underground which I will also review) and with very very few exceptions both tickled and impressed when we attempted to speak their language. Our attempts (despite months of preparation) were often a mess - but they almost always brightened and appreciated it nonetheless. Those who spoke English (which were most of them) immediately helped us along or let us know that English was OK. And those who didn't jumped in with happy gesticulations so that we could try to understand one another.
I feel like I must be overstating it - and I'm sure others must have had a very different experience - but looking back I remember time after time of stopping in little cafes, restaurants, shops on side streets and again and again this was the case. The little area north of Vatican city which was mostly residential was where we spent much of our time - and it welcomed us with open arms. Each night we walked back along darkened streets with our fellow Romans to the apartment we all shared, we felt like we were walking home. It was a glorious feeling to feel at home in a city such as Rome.
The expensiveness of Rome is a tricky one as well. Whilst the flights there can be extremely cheap - hotels are outrageously expensive. We almost had to cut the trip short due to the cost of hotels. However once you are there its not an expensive place at all. the big sights and museums are pricey - but restaurants and cafes off the main tourist trail are very reasonable indeed. And you can take your pick of places to have a beautiful cappuccino and pastry breakfast for about 2 euros.
Cabs are pricey - but you walk over most of Rome with no problems at all. We took a bus in from the airport (reasonably priced) and one time took the underground with our bags to the other side of town - but apart from that our feet carried us everywhere we wanted to go comfortably.
Pickpockets are renowned for being bad in Rome (though can you think of a big city where they don't say that??) Though with the exception of the underground we had no problems. (The man standing next to us was almost robbed as he got on the train - he managed to push the pickpocket off the train before it set off...he was a big guy...) However I would highly recommend being very vigilant at all of the main tourist places. There were a few groups at the Vatican museum who seemed like they were much more interested in what the tourists were doing than in seeing the museum. And another friend of ours who was in the city the week after we were were robbed whilst at the Coliseum. So you should be aware - but also don't let it ruin your enjoyment of an otherwise beautiful and welcoming city.