A week ago, we found that we were both going to have a few days off work at the same time. The obvious thing to do in this situation? Book a last minute trip to Rome, duh. We had wanted to go at the end of October, but it hadn’t worked out.
Thanks to Google Flights and the ITA Flight Matrix, we were able to get a really nice deal on our flight. I highly recommend using both of those websites to help you plan your trips, especially if you have flexible dates. Booking.com helped me find a great deal on our hotel (located in the Vatican City part of town). I’ve used booking.com a few times now, and I guess I’ve earned some kind of status with them. When you book with them five times, any subsequent bookings are 10% off. It doesn’t seem like too much of a discount when your room is so cheap, but this time it helped make up for the nightly Rome city tax (which ended up being 32 euro for our trip).
Getting to Rome was a bit of an experiment in planes, trains, and automobiles. Our flight was scheduled to leave OTP airport in Bucharest at 6:30. It takes about three hours to get there from Brasov. We didn’t have any luggage to check, so technically we didn’t need to be there two hours before the flight (the airport is not very big and there are no lines at security or passport control). However, our airport shuttle recommended we leave Brasov by 1:00 am at the latest in order to make sure we had enough time.
So our first day of our Rome trip, we left our apartment at 1:00 am and arrived in Bucharest at 4:00. We got coffee and settled in at our gate to wait for boarding. Our flight was short and sweet – I’m guessing – because I was able to sleep through the whole thing. We landed in Italy and after shuffling through their understaffed passport control, we decided to take the train into Rome.
Ciampino airport is outside of Rome, so you have a few options of how to get into the city.
- You can take a taxi – I think it’s 30 euro
- You can take a bus to the Termini metro/train station
- Or…you can take the train that will take you to the Termini station
We thought the train would be faster. It probably would be faster. It’s just that you have to transfer to the train station from the airport by a city bus first…so taking the train ended up being about an hour. So you go plane -> bus transfer -> train station -> Termini (bus/metro/train station) -> bus to hotel. Did you get all of that?
Also, it was rush hour and we were on the main train into the city. Let’s just say, if you’re not cool with being smooshed into fifty of your newest best friends, maybe the taxi would be a better option. Many Euro Trip jokes were made. “Mi scusi!”
We purchased the Roma Pass at the airport, so once we got to the Termini metro station, all of our public transportation was free. The pass was a good option for us because we wanted to see the city by walking and public transport and it gave us two site entrances for free. We ended up taking buses and the subway quite a bit – especially over to the Colosseum side of the city. The only taxi we ended up taking was to the airport at the end of the trip. We walked about 11-12 miles a day even with this metro and buses.
- The Roma Pass – 38.50 euro – also gives you skip the line privileges at Colosseum (not to mention you don’t have to wait in lines to buy tickets everywhere else)
Included in Roma Pass:
- Colosseum ticket (includes Roman Forum & Palatine Hill) – (normal adult ticket price: 12 euro) – note: if you want to skip the line at this site without the Roma pass or a tour group, you have to make the reservation on their website and print your tickets at home and this costs 2 euro)
- Borghese Gallery – (normal adult ticket price: 20 euro)
- Free metro/bus rides – (they cost 1.50 euro per person per trip)
The neat thing about Rome is that there is so much to see – I think you could live your whole life there and not see everything. On every corner, on every building, on every ceiling is art, religious and secular. It’s overwhelming.
Note: We did our best to try and see the “big” attractions, namely the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Pantheon, Vatican/St. Peter’s, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. I have tried to include as many photos of possible because everything was so beautiful, but I have over 400 photos 😦 So, I’ve selected some of my favorites to share.
One thing that I recommend for any city is the free walking tour. These tours are a great way to quickly get your bearings and see some things you might have missed touring on your own. Normally, the tour guide is a professor or historian, and they love telling you about the city. If the tour is good, you can show your appreciation with a tip at the end. The tour we wanted to take required you to make a reservation, so I think it’s best to check the website ahead of time to see if you can just show up (like we did in Athens and Sofia).
Our tour guide took us to beautiful churches where we could see real Bernini sculptures and paintings by the masters. These pieces were just tucked away and not advertised. Without her expertise, we would never have seen them. She also recommended some great places to eat.The pizza place she told us to go to was fabulous and well priced.
Without her advice, I would’ve never tried these baked rice cheese ball things. They were pretty good.
Interestingly enough, this tiny little eatery was right across the street from Bernini’s family home. But that’s basically the entire city. Everywhere is next to something historic!
Here are some of the places we visited:
Here is a video I made of the Pantheon using Google Photos:
Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
Wonderful gallery, but you need reservations and you have to be there 45 minutes in advance of your tour time. You also have to check all of your bags (even purses), and you can’t take your phone out or someone on the loud speaker will remind you to put your phone away.
Palatine Hill is so huge, we could have spent the whole day there and not seen everything. I had no idea this place existed, but it’s amazing. The history of the hill is very interesting – it started as a settlement 3,000 years ago. Then, it became a suburb for affluent Romans. Eventually, the whole thing just became a palace. The hill itself is one of the famous hills of Rome, so you get an amazing view of the city from there.
The history of the conquest of the Dacian people carved into a pole in the center of Rome. Yes, there’s a wolf head on a stick at the bottom.
Various other places – too many to name!
We also ate an amazing amount of gelato and pizza. All totally worth it, even the weird flavors of gelato that I had (like Marsala).
Most of the desserts that we had:
I just realized the photo with the Cassata is messed up Anyway, here is the Wikipedia so you can see what it looks like. I can attest it basically tastes like pure sugar.
Rome was an amazing city, but we definitely felt like we had enough time there. In a way, it was overwhelming, really – the amount of things you feel like you “have to do” coupled with how every single building is basically a thing to see in itself…yeah, it’s exhausting. Our last day there, I was glad we didn’t have anything really planned, we just went where we felt we wanted to go.
We ended up splitting an airport taxi with a nice Polish couple from the hotel, so thankfully we didn’t have a repeat of our arrival to Rome. Our flight was later in the morning, so we got some more rest than before. Nevertheless, we still slept the on the flight.
I hope this is a new trend. I look forward to sleeping through all of my future flights 🙂
We ended up getting back to Brasov by way of Gara Nord in Bucurest (airport –> bus transfer to Gara Nord (train station) –> train to Brasov. We slept on the train, too. I think overall, we felt pretty rested when we got home. It was a great trip, and I think next time I go to Italy, I’ll try Florence or Venice.