This post was most recently updated on October 30th, 2018
Our three days in Rome came at the end of a two-week self-guided tour through northern Italy. We had seen a lot already, and we didn’t want more of the same. We were not disappointed. Three days was long enough for us to make some wonderful memories. Keep reading and you’ll learn what made our visit memorable…and why it was so good to travel with family!
Rome was our last stop on a trip with my husband, my daughter, and her husband. My son-in-law served a church mission in Italy a few years ago and had always wanted to return. When he and my daughter invited us to join them, I was thrilled. Traveling with your family is so much fun! You will have shared memories that last a lifetime AND traveling together cuts costs for all of you–apartment, car rental, even meals. Oh! And my SIL speaks fluent Italian–another bonus!
With three days in Rome, we could take advantage of an apartment rental. I found a great deal with Homeaway. I was a little nervous because this particular apartment had no reviews yet, but I took a chance because I liked the location and amenities. It was a fantastic price–only 300 euros for three nights for four adults (you’d never get a hotel room for two for only 50 euros a night!). It also helped us feel a little more like a local. You know, “When in Rome…”
We shopped at a neighborhood market (Carrefour) and cooked our own dinners each night. We enjoyed meals of pasta, focaccia bread, and caprese salad. And just down the street was the most heavenly gelateria, called Gelateria la Romana. We left our rental car in a parking garage for our entire stay and used the metro. And here’s what we did during our stay:
Day 1 We walked to the Piramide metro station where we purchased one-day passes for 6 euros each. It took two metro lines to reach the Colosseum and Roman Forum & Palatine Hill. Here we used one of the most valuable Rick Steves’ tips I’ve ever found. Don’t wait in line at the Colosseum–it is crazy long and there’s no need. Tickets to the Colosseum include admission to the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, and tickets are sold at both locations.
So we passed the Colosseum, went to the ticket booth for the Roman Forum, and got in line behind 5 people! Our tickets were only 12 euros each. We probably spent about an hour at the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill. Lots of ancient structures and architectural details–plenty of plaques to describe what it all used to look like. Pretty amazing that so much is standing after so many years.
(Please click on any photo to enlarge)
Next we headed to San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), a Catholic minor basilica famous for housing the Moses statue by Michelangelo, completed in 1515. The basilica also houses the reliquary containing the chains that supposedly held Peter while he was imprisoned in Rome. The ceiling fresco of “The Miracle of the Chains” by Giovanni Battista Parodi (1706) is also very beautiful.
Our next stop was the Colosseum. It was everything I had imagined–of course, it’s the most iconic symbol of Rome. It’s ancient, and it’s huge, and it was very cool to finally be standing within its walls. But it was also very sad. It’s an awful symbol of the corruption and wickedness of the Roman leaders. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to leave.
After leaving the Colosseum, we chose an American-style restaurant called Dakota for lunch. Not very Italian, I know. But the price was right, and we were hungry! From there, we went to see the Pantheon, an ancient temple to all the pagan gods, built about 120 AD. It is one of the most well-preserved buildings of ancient Rome.
Check out this link for a panaramic video of the inside of the Pantheon.
After the Pantheon, we happened upon an interesting church. Built in 1650, the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola is not considered one of the major tourist sites in Rome. But we’d learned that some of the best art can be found, free of charge, in churches. And that was certainly true of Sant’Ignazio. The brightly colored Baroque ceiling fresco by Andrea Pozzo is spectacular!
And when the church ran out of funds to complete a dome, they hired Andrea to paint an amazing tromp l’oeil version of a dome. It looks so realistic–I’m sure it fools some. I liked this quote I found: “ego vobis romae propitius ero” in latin, which translated, means “You will be favored in Rome.”
Our next stop was the Trevi Fountain (not sure how you ever get a photo of this attraction without tons of tourists in it). There are water pipes where you can fill your water bottles, and it’s very good drinking water–that actually surprised me! On to the Spanish Steps…at the top of the Spanish Steps is a French church–Chiesa della Trinita dei Monti.
The Spanish Steps were built as a symbolic joining of the French and the Spanish because they linked the French church and a Spanish embassy at the bottom of the hill. There is some beautiful art in the Trinita dei Monti, but we didn’t have the best experience there. Let’s just say the “ushers” were a little rude, so we didn’t stay long.
At this point, we didn’t have anything on our agenda. We decided to get back on the metro and go to the next stop and just explore. This turned out to be a great decision. We came out of the metro station near the Teatro dell’Opera, in the Piazza della Repubblica. Some ancient ruins caught my eye, and we walked over to explore. With a very modest entrance, by most Catholic church standards, we discovered the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs), which had been designed amidst the crumbling walls of the Baths of Diocletian (306 AD).
This was Michelangelo’s last architectural work as he died soon after completing the Basilica at the age of 88 years. It was the most unique of all the churches we visited throughout Italy. The ceiling is very high and light pours in through upper windows. The basilica was awe-inspiring in its size and beauty. It seemed to celebrate science as well as religion, with its sundial, pendulum, and holes in the roof meant to highlight several stars. Definitely my favorite!
By now, our first day in Rome was coming to an end. We made our way back to the apartment, where we fixed Carbonara for dinner. We spent some time planning, journaling, and playing card games–one of our favorite family pastimes. Then we went to our newly-discovered gelateria just down the street and bought gelato for only 2 euros each! At this gelateria, they put melted chocolate in every cone first, to keep melting gelato from leaking out the bottom–great idea! Who can’t use a little more chocolate?!
Exciting news! You can download this article free to your device, so you can read it offline. For a small fee, you can upgrade it to a GPS-guided article. You won’t need the internet or data to be guided through Rome! If you do, I will receive a few cents, which helps to keep this blog going.
Next: Rome Day 2 and Rome Day 3
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