This post is going to be talking about three separate cities so it’s going to be a long one, you’ve been warned. The reason I am combining all these together is because on our way to Rome from Florence we stopped by the city of Pisa and then we also went to the Vatican while in Rome (considering that’s where it’s located). So let’s get started with our first stop aka Pisa.
If I had to guess, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture in the entire world. That being said, my fiancé and I decided that we absolutely had to see it while in Italy and the way that made the most sense was to stop by the city of Pisa on our way to Rome from Florence. There are two train stations in Florence and as far as I know, we had to go to the further one in order to leave early in the morning. We had to take a cab from our hotel to that station and take the train into Pisa. The only mistake we made with this is the fact that we allotted ourselves half the day for Pisa and you really only need a few hours. My recommendation would be to spend 3-4 hours there tops and hop on the next train into Rome. Another recommendation is to buy tickets ahead of time to see the Tower so that you can skip the ridiculous line to get inside. Also, you are not really allowed to bring anything into the tower so you have to turn all your stuff into a little locker station that’s located right by it. We left all our luggage at the train station (I want to say it was about 10 euros total to store our stuff) and just had our camera and money with us when we went to see the tower.
When you come off the train station, it is not difficult to find the tower. You literally walk for a few minutes along the biggest street by the train station and the view opens up in front of you. While I do think we spent too much time in Pisa, I still think that the Leaning Tower is an absolutely must see and everyone who is in Italy should take the time to stop by Pisa and see the tower. Also, the Duomo that’s located right next to the Pisa was a pleasant surprise for my fiancé and me because it is very beautiful on the inside and we did not hear many people talk about it prior to going. We honestly expected it to be just another cathedral but when we went inside we were pretty blown away. It is very intricate and very beautiful. Also, not sure if it was by pure chance but I was allowed in wearing shorts and a short sleeved tee so the “knees and shoulders being covered” rule didn’t seem to apply. Like I said, this could have been pure luck so I would still carry something that can cover you up just in case.
Since we had so much extra time, we ended up getting lunch at a cute little café that was off a street that was perpendicular to the street on which the Leaning Tower was. There were many little cafes on the street and lots to choose from. If you are there during a nice time of year weather wise, I would definitely recommend grabbing lunch on this street before heading out to the train station.
There is so much to say about Rome that I don’t even know where to start. If you have the time, I would leave at least 4 days for Rome. At least! We unfortunately only had 3.5 days for Rome and that was including a day for the Vatican, so we definitely did not get to see everything we wanted to see in this beautiful, ancient city.
By the time we got to Rome, it was already 7 or 8 o’clock and after the train ride and walking around Pisa, the only thing we were worried about was getting dinner. Our Bed and breakfast was very close to the train station so we found the building, dropped off our bags and went to find a café to get some food. The street we were perpendicular to had one café after another so we had plenty to choose from. By the time we finished dinner it was already dark but we wanted to see at least one thing that night so we decided to walk to the Colosseum and see it lit up.
Now that is something I definitely recommend doing as while the Colosseum looks incredible no matter what time of day you see it, seeing it lit up is just a one of a kind experience. Not to mention, this was our first time seeing the Colosseum in person so maybe that is why we were extra impressed. There are also considerably less people around it at night (and by considerably less I mean there were literally maybe 5-6 other people there which was surprising) so if you want some pictures in front of the Colosseum without a million people in the background, I would recommend going at night. That area also had restaurants located with a view of the colosseum that would be great for dinner because you can’t beat a view like that.
The next day was our first full day in Rome and we did not have anything planned (like a tour) so we explored the city ourselves. We headed over to the Villa Borghese Gardens and spent the morning walking around and enjoying the beautiful views. There are beautiful ponds and fountains all over the park and with the temps being over 100 that day, walking around in the shade felt wonderful. The park has a look out of the city (nothing grand like the one in Florence but still a nice view) that you can go end up in and from there we ended up heading down to the Piazza del Popolo and watched some street performers and walked around some more. We ended up grabbing lunch at a little café on our walk back to our Bed and Breakfast and some gelato (not a day went by that we did not have gelato) before taking a little siesta at our B&B. We hated the fact that we had to waste time inside for siestas but it was just too hot and Rome has no shade I swear so siestas were necessary while we were there. The one great thing about the city is the abundance of water fountains (beautiful ones at that) all over the city with ice cold drinking water which was the only thing that saved us from the heat.
Our second full day in Rome we had an all-day walking tour that was supposed to take us to all the major sites. We had a lunch break for a few hours in the middle of the day after which we changed tour guides and broke up into different groups.
The nice thing about this tour and the sites in Rome is that there are no restrictions for what you can and cannot wear unless you are going to the Vatican. I was able to wear shorts and a tank top on this tour and get into every place without any problems. This definitely helped considering the weather.
The tour was broken up into “Old Rome” and “New Rome” with the old section taking place in the morning and the new one after lunch. I definitely think that is the right way to break it up as most of the parts of “Old Rome” are located very close to one another. Now, that being said, during the “New Rome” part of the tour we went to the Pantheon because it was closed to the newer parts of the city and the Pantheon is easily one of the oldest buildings in the city (if not in the world).
The initial tour started in front of the Colosseum (there was a distinct spot that was very easy to find that multiple tours designated as their meeting spot) and once all the people were there, we were broken up into several groups (by language). The tour gave us skip the line access to the Colosseum and we got to go inside and learned the history of that amazing building. I would definitely recommend doing a walking tour in Rome as there is so much to see and so much to learn and it’s nice having an expert with you that can answer any question you may have about these buildings and sites. The tour guides in Italy never failed to impress me with their amazing knowledge of English and just how much they knew about every single place they took us to. We spent a little over an hour walking around the Colosseum and after headed over to the Palantine.
They take you to the place where Julius Cesar was murdered which is pretty cool and take you around the ruins, explaining what used to be in place of what is there today. The tour continued and we saw the house of Augustus which itself comes with an impressive view. It is quite the experience because of the history around you.
After that part of the tour was done, we got several hours to grab lunch before the second part of the tour starts. The tour ends by the Spanish steps and there are so many different cafes and restaurants to choose from in that area. They always say to not get food right by the touristy spots but we found a café that looked good and just decided to stay there because the heat was pretty exhausting at that point. That area of the city is swarming with tourists and it’s difficult to even get a spot on the Spanish steps. There is a beautiful fountain right in front of the steps where pretty much everyone was refilling their water. There are many designs shops in the area and also many street artists and musicians.
The second part of the tour started right by the Spanish steps and from there proceeded to the famous Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, when we were in Rome, the fountain was under construction so we did not get to see it in its full beauty but I do think we are going to come back one day and see it again. The tour guide gave us some time to walk around the fountain and get some souvenirs before meeting back up to head to the Pantheon. I would definitely recommend wearing very comfortable shoes for this tour because you are walking around literally all day long and the last thing you want to worry about is your feet hurting. The tour guide took us inside the Pantheon (with no line again) and told us all the interesting facts about that fascinating building. After visiting the Pantheon, we all got gelato at a café right in front of it that the tour guide recommended and headed over to the cutest little square where I wish we got to spend more time. The square is called Piazza Navona and has artists and musicians everywhere as well as cafes and restaurants. I wish we got dinner at that place because it was so cute and so unique. It has a beautiful fountain in the middle and is enclosed by several buildings. We ended the tour a few streets away from that plaza and headed back to the B&B to change and grab some dinner. The next day we had an early morning with our Vatican tour as well as the fact that we were going to try and tackle the Rome subway system in the morning.
To get to Vatican City, which is actually the smallest country in the world, was actually very easy. We were close to the main subway station so we took the subway out a few miles towards the Vatican. We decided that wanted to take a tour and it was worth it for the fact that we got to skip the line. That line is huge and it would take hours to get through unless you skip the line. By huge I literally mean the longest line I have ever seen in my life. It wrapped around the entire Vatican is what it seemed like. It was also wonderful to have a professional guide explain all the beautiful works that were all around you. We started with the Vatican museums which are filled with thousands of beautiful works of art. The walk through the museums is breathtaking but like all of the Vatican is very crowded during peak times of the year. After finishing up the tour of the museums we went to the world famous Sistine Chapel. Inside the chapel, the most recognizable part is the ceiling which was done by Michelangelo back in the early 16th century. You can spend as much time as you want in there but I would argue that the even more impressive part of our tour was coming up and that was St. Peter’s Basilica.
There is nothing quite like St. Peter’s. It is humongous with the length being well over 100m long and the whole place is covered in gold, sculptures and jewels. This building must have cost an absolute fortune to make and it all turned out so beautiful. You could spend hours walking around it and you would still be enthralled by its majesty. The detail in every piece of work is incredible and it is an absolute must see if you go to the Vatican. After we finished inside of St. Peter’s we stepped out to the main plaza and got to see where the pope would speak from when addressing the crowds. The Vatican did not disappoint, there are also plenty of little shops and restaurants by the main square. If you want to spend some more time exploring the Vatican there is a beautiful garden set up with fountains and flowers that is quite expansive. There is truly a lot to do in the Vatican and when in Rome, make sure to stop by the smallest country in the world.
Well there you have it, the longest travel post yet, which is not surprising considering the content of this post. Rome is an absolutely magical city and we did not even get to see half of it while we were there which means we will definitely have to come back. Hope this was helpful as always. Let me know if you saw some things in Rome that we missed that we should see next time and if you have any comments or questions.