Whilst in Rome I was gifted spaces on two tours - I have written both separate posts that were part of the collaborations. They are mentioned here but this post is not an AD!
Rome is truly a magical city. There just seems to be something new to wonder at around every corner and you can't deny it's incredibly full of history.
Having seen Rome from afar for my whole life, I knew one day I would have to visit and having been to Paris the previous year, I was determined to make Rome my next birthday holiday with the family!
Of course I knew I had to visit the main tourist attractions including The Vatican, The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and more! It would be an action packed few days in this bustling city and I couldn't wait to get started exploring!
Our First Day
It was an easy flight to Rome with Jet2 and even better as we could get a taxi from home straight to Leeds Bradford Airport! It's so convenient for us! It makes planning and going on European city breaks so much easier - all we need is a convenient flight time!
We arrived in the afternoon and made our way from the airport in a private car to our hotel which, from the outside, looked like we'd stumbled upon someone's apartment! Thankfully once we'd entered and gone up the stairs we found it was a very pleasant little hotel/apartment.
Quite centrally located, we weren't too far from any of the major attractions, apart from the Vatican which we had to use the metro to get to. Being able to walk to the Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps was just something which I *almost* couldn't believe.
As we had arrived in the afternoon (about 2PM) we waited for my sister arrive and after we'd all freshened up, we headed out for a wander around to what was described as the best pizza in Rome!
Here was where we made the mistake! As you can see here, we had a BIG PIZZA at lunchtime, kind of forgetting that we had dinner reservations in only a few hours! Whoops! But it has to be said, it was absolutely delicious and I wouldn't hesitate to go back!
We were rather full by the evening so here's what I ordered: Salad, potatoes and Spinach! An electic mix and I couldn't even finish it all.
Day two started early as we were due at The Vatican for our tour at 11AM.(*Gifted Tour*) As our hotel didn't have any facilities for food, we were given vouchers for a local café which was just lovely. There was lots of options including tea, coffee, croissants, yogurt and sandwiches!
Being vegan I was worried I would struggle but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they did indeed have vegan croissants! It was lovely, slightly lemon flavoured but not off-putting. The coffee was strong which helped to wake us up and before long we were ready to head out again!
I do have to mention here that the server in this café was absolutely delightful and made us feel so welcome everyday! He was very cheery every morning and even remembered our orders which was very impressive!
After breakfast we made our way to The Vatican for our tour - once we found where our meeting point we tried to see if there was anywhere we could wait other than the stairs but alas it wasn't to be! We were just glad it wasn't actually raining at this point.
It felt quite surreal to actually be IN ROME and waiting to go on a (GIFTED) tour of The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. I mean, I've always wanted to go Rome and explore all of its history, it just one of those moments that will stay with me for a long time because it was something I never thought I'd get to do.
Even though we went in November, Rome was still pretty busy and The Vatican was no exception! It was very claustrophobic being inside with barely any room to move around - not an ideal scenario and despite our tour guide Egor generously giving us an extra hour inside to ensure we got to see inside the Sistine Chapel, when we went in it was PACKED!
No real time to actually try and look at anything as the guards were anxious to keep people moving. Yes I'm extremely happy I've seen it but I would love to go back when it wasn't so busy! Perhaps I'd do an early morning tour just for that.
Anyway, inside was magnificent and 100% worth it. I especially loved the skip the line once we got inside. It was very pleasing to be able to just walk through the security before everyone else and then begin our tour. This was probably the only part of the Vatican which wasn't absolutely packed!
After our tour we dashed through the rain to the non-touristy part of Vatican City for a quick bite of lunch as by now it was after 3PM and we had only eaten breakfast! Thankfully we found a restaurant not far away which filled us up but left enough room for dinner that night, having learnt from the previous day!
I had a rather lovely flatbread with rosemary and garlic oil which was very thin and went very well with a pint of Peroni!
We walked back to our hotel along the river which was absolutely lovey although by this time it was raining and trying to navigate ourselves around Rome in the wind and rain wasn't fun! But we did see some sights which we agreed would look so lovely on a sunny day.
This view especially, of the back of St Peter's Basilica with all the lights was just lovely.
Across the bridge we saw St Angelo's Castle which we had loosely planned to maybe visit if we had time. It did look very impressive from the outside and I would love to actually go inside on a return trip. It certainly looked impressive at night walking across the bridge.
We finally made it back to our hotel, grateful to be back in the warm and dry! Our lovely hotel had a little kitchenette area with a coffee maker and kettle so we all warmed up and refreshed with coffee and tea, a shower and an episode or two of Bates Motel (me!).
We made plans to just eat at the local restaurant which was just down the road from our hotel - I for one could do with a big bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine after the long and wet day we had had! It was delicious and just what I needed after a long day.
This was the day I had been looking forward to ever since the decision was made to visit Rome. It such an iconic structure with so much history attached which we had already learnt a bit of after our Vatican Tour. To actually have a tour around and be given information which you might not learn from an audio guide or plaques which are dotted around.
With the Colosseum being within walking distance we were able to take in Rome coming to life in the morning which is always a luxury whenever you're travelling and are capable of getting up when the locals do!
It didn't take as long as we thought to walk here so we did have a little bit of time to wait for our tour but if you've read the accompanying post you'll know what happened! (*Partly gifted tour*)
Anyway, it made for a funny anecdote to this trip and something which I'll always warn others about if they're thinking of taking this tour too! Which I absolutely think you should as it was extremely informative and definitely brought the rich history to life. (Don't worry, it wasn't anything major, just a matter of waiting in the wrong place!)
Seeing the Colosseum with my own eyes is something that will stay with me for a long time. Standing on the first floor and looking down onto the arena floor gave me a glimpse of what it would have been like to be a Roman and attending the Colosseum for events. One thing we learnt whilst there was the class system and where the citizens were sat in relation to who they were. I was quite shocked to learn that women had to sit right at the top so they wouldn't cause the gladiators to fall in love with them! Shocking and also this would be quite tiring as those steps inside the Colosseum aren't exactly easy to walk up! Within our tour we also got to explore the Roman Forum which was awesome. It was cool to walk around and see even more ruins and learn a bit more about the history of them. To walk around the same area where the Romans once walked was actually pretty immense - like they actually walked here. Mind Blowing! We all had a fantastic time exploring the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Now that we've been round with a tour guide, if we were to ever go back we all agreed we could do it ourselves and go at our own pace around it all. I for one could've spent a long time wandering around the Roman Forum - such a wonderful place with incredible rich history attached to it, and of course, incredible views!
After the Colosseum tour we were hungry so decided to see what was available as we walked back in the direction of our hotel. As we walked from the Forum area, we came across The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument, affectionately referred to as 'The Wedding Cake' because of it's white appearance and the two statues of horses on the top! Because of its size it is quite prominent in Rome and can be spotted from almost anywhere, if you're up high enough! (you don't even need be that high either, we clearly saw it from the ground of the Roman Forum, once we'd walked up to a viewing point!)
Just across the road from 'The Wedding Cake' we spotted a restaurant and took cover as the weather was taking a slight turn for the worse! Thankfully they had everything we needed - beer, pizza, pasta and vegan options! I was very pleasantly surprised to see a Vegan Cabonara on the menu, right beside the non vegan one! I immediately went for this one as I was intrigued by what they called 'tofu cheese!'. I loved it and the vegetables were delicious. It was creamy (probably because of the tofu cheese!) and was the perfect amount to fill me up before dinner later that night.
The waiters in this restaurant we were very jolly and actually gave us all a Limincello shot each which was very welcome especially as it was quite cold and wet! Saluti! (Limoncello is on sale EVERYWHERE in Rome! So popular & cheap!)
So after a lovely lunch, we had time spare so decided to walk to the Pantheon - a former Roman temple which is now a church - which had been recommended to us by Egor, our tour Vatican City guide. It is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome, it is a temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. There are stamps on the side of the building which reveal it was dedicated between AD 118 and 125. Inside lie the tombs of the famous artist Raphael and several Italian kings and poets. It was quite busy here too, as expected and we didn't hang around long as there was someone attempting to play the organ, albeit very badly! Not our cup of tea at all but it was cool to see it and say that yes we have been inside it!
Wandering the back streets around the Pantheon, there were of course, the obligatory tourist shops and it was here that I bought my Roman bottle opener on a keyring! We then walked back to our hotel and relaxed before deciding where to go for dinner on our last night. There was what appeared to just be a very nice wine bar immediately opposite our hotel, from first glance we didn't realise it was also a restaurant but lucky for us it was! The decision was made to eat there later in the evening so in the meantime my sister wanted to go to The Hard Rock Café to pick up a shot glass (she collects them from everywhere she goes - a bit like me with bottle openers on keyrings actually!). It was a relatively short distance away so leaving Dad at the hotel, us girls took a stroll down. I now seem to have decided to collect pins from The Hard Rock Cafes as I got one in Paris last year so it seemed silly not to do so whilst in Rome! On the walk back we saw the cutest little white dog inside one of the shops - he looked like a Schnauzer - the breed of my sister's dog Pickles! We wondered if he was guarding the empty shop or waiting for someone to come back! Either way he was absolutely adorable and we all wanted to take him home!
By now we'd walked off our lunch and were ready for an afternoon pick me up so having been told we could use one of our café vouchers for lunch thinking we'd need it we popped back for a coffee and a slice of cake (not me btw!) which was very welcome indeed! Even better, the waiter who'd served us that morning was still there! We were lucky that the restaurant had space for us as we hadn't reserved a table! They had a table in the back for us which was quite private away from the main entrance of the restaurant - it was quite small itself but felt cosy too. There wasn't that much choice in the way of vegan or vegetarian dishes on the menu so I had to compromise and have arancini followed by artichoke hearts and of course some really rather lovely wine!
This being our last night we wandered back to the Trevi Fountain and in search of gelato! I wanted some too and my sister had actually spotted a sign somewhere that mentioned soy gelato so after Mum and Mel had their tubs, we wandered around and finally found one for me! I chose green apple and banana which was just absolutely delicious and so fresh tasting! I was so happy to have been able to find vegan gelato!
Visiting Rome was a dream come true and I am so pleased I was given the chance to tick this incredible city off my travel bucket list. Getting to work with two tour companies was just the icing on top of a rather wonderful cake! I can close my eyes and just picture everything about this holiday, from the first glimpse of the Colosseum upon arrival to the outstanding wonder and beauty of The Vatican. Despite suffering from quite bad agoraphobia and anxiety during this trip I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would absolutely love the opportunity to visit Rome again. Have you ever been to Rome? Which part did you enjoy most? Tell me more in the comments below! Sarah xoxox