Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rome Italy: Photos, Travel and Tourist Information

Italy is a country I have dreamed of visiting since I was a little girl. Every time I gazed at beautiful photos of Rome and Venice with their narrow cobble stone streets, intricate fountains and beautiful piazzas I longed to immerse myself in the rich culture and history. 

When my plane finally touched down under the overcast sky of Rome my feet still ached from exploring Barcelona. As my hired driver ushered me into the van piled high with my luggage and sped off in the direction of the hotel I couldn't help being disappointed by first impressions. The busy streets around central Rome were littered with garbage and sloppy graffiti. I began to wonder if the Rome I had sought out was merely a constructed mirage of glossy magazines and films. Although I was a bit concerned with what I saw I didn't let it deter me.

As soon as I got settled I grabbed a map and headed for the closest bus stop while bobbing and weaving my way through roundabouts with no crosswalks and dodging a sea of cars going in every direction. To say the least traffic in Rome is chaotic, scary and quite dangerous for pedestrians!

When the bus flew past the Colosseum and into throngs of tourists, the streets seemed to transform from a drab ghetto into beautiful buildings and shops.

Vatican City: St Peter’s Basilica
My first stop was the Vatican. I knew I was close when a monk and some nuns made their way onto the bus! Vatican Square is large and the star of the landmark is St. Peter’s Basilica. Although the long lines, line skippers and security checkpoint was tiresome it is one of the most grandiose buildings I have ever seen!

St. Peter’s Basilica is breathtaking and speaks wonders about Roman history and the wealth of the Catholic Church. The sheer height of the massive domes with their glittering arches is impressive. Marble carvings, famous paintings, gold trim and vibrant colors adorn every inch of the interior. The church's ceiling and domes are said to be one and a half times the height of the Statue of Liberty!

St. Peters is the largest church in the world and one of the holiest sites for Catholics. It contains work from Michelangelo and Bernini. Entry is free but make sure to check the hours of operation. 

To appreciate the majesty of this church you must experience it in person!

Next I took the bus to Trastevere just past the Tiber which is an area known for its shopping, restaurants and scenic streets. There are many street vendors who constantly try to lure you with everything from handbags, scarves, jewelry and souvenirs. Shop smart and negotiate, most often they will work within your budget.

Trastevere is a great place to have an affordable meal and enjoy an evening stroll. You can also find some beautiful hidden churches that may seem quaint on the outside but are large, intricate and beautiful on the inside! 
Roof of the church

As I walked into a gorgeous, old piazza with rustic charm I bought a delicious cup of gelato (Italian ice cream) and sat on the steps of a fountain taking in the sights as a local artist passionately sketched beside me. Not a bad way to spend my first day in Rome!

On my second day I started out at the famous Spanish Steps. This area is a great place to start your explorations. 

At the top of the steps to the right I had lunch on an outdoor patio overlooking a cluster of beautiful streets. 

Right across from the Novecento Restaurant where I enjoyed spicy penne and gooey pizza is Hotel Hassler where Audrey Hepburn frequently stayed while in Rome.

After lunch I walked from the Spanish Steps right to the famous Trevi Fountain, a popular sight for movies, tourists, photographers and history buffs. The fountain is one of the most beautiful in Rome. I made a wish and added my coin to the thousands that litter the fountain floor.

There seems to be beautiful squares, fountains and buildings on every corner in Rome.

I passed the Piazza de Venezia, Camp de Fiori and sat under the Four Rivers fountain or (Fontana dei Quattro) at my favorite spot called Piazza Navona while listening to a band play beautiful melodies. I could have sat  in that Piazza for an eternity as it seemed concentrated with the splendors of Roma.

On my third day I visited the Coliseum which is famous for entertaining ancient Romans. Although the Coliseum has a violent history and was the site of thousands of deaths it is an interesting part of Rome's past.

I spent the rest of the my time in Rome wandering happily, visiting the Pantheon and veering off into quaint cobblestone streets brimming with small shops and beautiful old world architecture. It is easy to fall in love with Rome because it is a feast for the senses. The scent of fresh pizza wafts through street patios and harpists softly strum under balconies brimming with flowers.

Although I was most excited about visiting Venice I did not want to end my stay in Rome! I highly recommend dining outside on a warm night under a beautiful canopy of ancient buildings. The food, culture, history and atmosphere will astound you and your troubles will seem to melt away as you twirl pasta and sip Italian wine.

On my final day I finished off at the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. Entry is 16 per person and the line often stretches around the outer wall which can take up to an hour and a half. The Chapel is one of the most famous in the world and is the electoral site for popes.

It also contains famous art by Michelangelo and although I preferred St. Peters Basilica, the Sistine Chapel is covered from floor to ceiling in intricate artwork which is quite impressive. There is so much detail it can be difficult to take it all in and after the long walk, waiting in line and the entry fee, photos are not permitted inside the chapel...but I took one anyway.

The walls and ceiling in the Sistine Chapel

Security personnel annoyingly hurried people along not allowing guests to take time to appreciate the entire building which was disappointing. It is important to remember that when entering any of the churches respectful dress codes are enforced and shoulders and legs must be covered.

I spent a lot of time looking up. Above head the details of paintings and carvings are mesmerizing.

There is so much to do and see in Rome that it would take years to discover all the city has to offer. I absolutely enjoyed my visit and I found the Italian people helpful and passionate. As I prepared for the last leg of my trip and boarded a train to Venice I knew it would not be the last time I saw this wonderful city.

Tourist information and tips:
*While in Rome I stayed in Labacino in a modern, spacious apartment a short metro or bus ride from central Rome. The area is residential and Lux apartments included all the amenities of home. Apartments are a good option for families, groups or longer stays, and cost €592 for 4 nights.

*If you do decide to stay in an apartment make sure to ask about the amenities you want. Some hotels in Europe only turn on air conditioning after a certain date and internet and elevators are not always available or reliable. 

*Before booking read travelers reviews on sites like Trip Advisor and Expedia and consider how clean, safe and easy it to access public transportation. Although Lux Apartments was clean and more affordable than staying in central Rome the area wasn't the most appealing. You should also keep in mind that most cities in Italy charge an additional tourist fee per day which is added onto your bill. For information on the Lux Appartments where I stayed click HERE.

*It is easy to find good, affordable food in Rome but not all restaurants offer authentic Italian Cuisine. Most streets have many restaurants and the majority of food is Italian although a few fast food places such as MacDonalds are located in tourist areas.

*North American style breakfast is not very popular in Italy. Traditional breakfast consists of a pastry and coffee or espresso. Many restaurants are closed until lunch but there are snack bars available.

*Coffee is traditionally taken before meals without milk or cream but many places offer cafe late (coffee with milk). I highly recommend trying some Italian pastry, one of my favorites was the chocolate hazelnut cannoli!

*It seems that everywhere you look in Rome there are pizzerias that offer pizza, pasta and meat dishes, often times menus are posted outside. Food is quite cheap, you can get tasty pizza for as little as 4-9 Euros and there are many outdoor street patios to enjoy the evening.

*If you are close to the Colosseum/Trevi Fountain area I recommend Habana Restaurant. It is located at: (00186 Roma via Dei Pastini, 120 Pantheon) they offer an appetizer (I recommend the brushetta), pasta or pizza, and a bottle of wine for just ten Euros per person! They are open all night, situated in a great location and offer street side tables.

*At the top of the Spanish Steps just off to the right is a restaurant called Novecento, they also have great pasta and pizza but drinks are a bit costly. I also recommend trying Italian ice cream (gelato), it is delicious and addicting!

*Wine is cheap in Italy, the best place to get a good deal is at grocery stores that sell bottles for a fraction of what restaurants will offer. I bought great bottles of wine for as little as 4-6 Euros. If you have a kitchen at your apartment or hotel, groceries are quite affordable and most stores have bakeries.

*Soft drinks at restaurants cost more in Italy averaging 4-6 Euros per can but they can also be found at grocery stores for much less.
More Helpful Tourist info:

*The airport is quite a distance from central Rome so arrange transportation.

*Central Rome is gorgeous but some of the outskirts are very dirty and the streets are littered with trash which is unflattering and unpleasant.

*Rome has a great transportation system with many buses, trams and metro.

*Many Italians speak English and are quite helpful.

*Pick pockets are at large in Rome and usually circulate in major tourist attractions, on metros, buses and in crowded areas. Make sure to lock all important documents such as passports in a safe if one is provided by your hotel. Never carry important documents and money in backpacks where they are out of sight, and do not leave bags unattended. Walk with purses clutched firmly in front of you and away from the road. I also suggest making copies of your passports and documents and keeping them in a safe location or in e-folders like Drop Box.

*Walking is the best ways to see the city but comfortable walking shoes are a must! The old stone streets of Rome are very hard on the feet and can be quite painful.

*Some of the public restrooms in Rome require a 1 fee but they are usually well maintained, clean and contain toilet paper. The free restrooms located in some fast food places such as MacDonalds are often filthy and you must bring your own toilet paper.

*Although the streets are teeming with tourists they are not pedestrian friendly. There are few crosswalks and crossing streets can be confusing, difficult and dangerous. Always cross at designated areas should you find them and be sure to make eye contact with motorists before stepping out onto a busy street. Signal to let them know you want to cross.

*There are safe drinking fountains on the streets of Rome and in tourist attractions like the Vatican and the Coliseum, keep a lookout for the signs.

*Booking tours or attractions online may reduce long waiting times.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below and stay tuned for my post on Venice!

*All photos in this post are copyright of Diray of a Trendaholic and cannot be used, copied or altered in any way.


  1. Wow Beautiful!!
    I can't wait to experience the beauty and wonder of Rome.
    My Parents went a couple of years back and seeing the photos they took made me want to live it for myself!
    xo Holly xo


    1. Hopefully you will get to see it yourself, it is definitely worth it.

  2. Gosh your pictures are always so breathtaking! And that gelato is pic is making my mouth water! lol

    1. Thank you, I have been working on my photography skills a bit :)

  3. Sounds like you had a jam-packed trip! The gelato pic made me drool! Did you get a chance to visit other cities in Italy?

    1. Yes I also went to Venice and that post will be up on Friday :) I saved the best for last!


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