Rome is such a magical city. Unlike many other European cities, there are no skyscrapers dotting the skyline, casting shadows over their ancient and medieval monuments. This is a city whose inhabitants consider themselves Romans before being Italian, and take great pride in their heritage and their food. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Rome…I had heard it was a bit dirty, and the chance of being pickpocketed was higher than other places. I found it to be rather charming, though. Sure, there’s trash on the streets here and there, and the sidewalks are crowded with tourists and city dwellers. I’ve been to many European cities and villages, and Rome had its own unique atmosphere.
It was early November when I arrived. The sky was dotted with clouds, and most of the weather forecasts called for rain almost each evening. I live in Seattle, so a little rain isn’t going to scare me away. Rome can be notoriously hot in the summer, so I was glad to be there in the fall, when there are also fewer tourists. I booked this trip kind of on a spur of the moment. I had been there once before, but only for about a day and a half…certainly not enough time to experience all that the city has to offer.
I had purchased a pass that included entry to several different attractions, but I didn’t use it. I found that, with so much history surrounding me, I needed guided tours. There’s a wonderful company I had heard about while surfing YouTube for travel ideas. The company is called Walks of Italy, and they specialize in walking tours around the city, and grant visitors with unprecedented access to some of the city’s most famous sites. I went on more than one tour with them: Pristine Sistine, Gladiators’ Gate at the Colosseum, the Catacombs, and an extensive tour of the ruins at Palatine Hill.
Of all the tours, I think Pristine Sistine was my absolute favorite (they were all fantastic, though). Our guide, Davide, was animated, funny, and very informative. He’s the one that told us that Romans consider themselves Roman over Italian. This tour gave us early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. We didn’t have to push through large crowds, and it felt like a very intimate, private event. There were only a handful of us in the group, too. The tour ends inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, so tour groups are awed from beginning to end.
Seeing the Colosseum was a dream come true as well. I found myself going there several times during my week in Rome, sometimes just to stand outside and marvel at it. It’s so amazing to see this behemoth that was constructed 2,000 years ago, and picture the masses of people sitting around the arena.
The catacombs are a definite must-see, as well. I had a mishap with my camera, and pictures are not allowed inside the catacombs, so there aren’t any pictures of my tour. We saw three different sites: The Capuchin Crypt, one of the least visited Roman catacombs, and the Basilica San Nicola in Carcere. You can find out more about that tour, and see pics here. In the catacombs we visited on this tour, we saw the oldest known painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, painted in the 200’s AD. Even as an atheist, I found this tour very interesting.
The food was beyond amazing! To replenish my body at the end of the day, I would gorge myself on carbonara and tiramisu. Historia La Vacca won my vote as best restaurant in Rome. The food was so good, I ended up eating there twice.
If you haven’t been to Rome yet, put it on your bucket list. Everything about it makes it a must-see. Take a little peek at my Instagram: @thesolovoyager, for more pics of my trip. Due to an accident with my camera, most of my pics were taken with my iPhone.