Italia. There is no place quite like it! During a business trip to Barcelona, Spain, my sister and I decided to extend our European experience and spend some time in Italy—five nights to be exact. For five whole days, we stuffed our faces with gelato, filled our suitcases with new clothes we probably didn’t need, and had our egos stroked by Italian men who really liked curly hair for some reason. My sister, who rarely rocks her awesome natural curls, finally gained the confidence to do so as she received compliment after compliment for her cute, curly locks.
We chose Rome as our home base in Italy, which allowed us to experience a mixture of ancient and modern Italian treasures, while also venturing to easily accessible regions outside of the city. For those of you who only have a few days to spend exploring parts of Italy like we did, here is an itinerary already laid out for you based on our adventure.
WHERE TO STAY
For budget-conscious travelers, I recommend staying at Hotel Adriatic. If you are looking for a 5-star hotel, this is not the place for you. If you want something that is clean, affordable, and in a great location, this is it. It’s a pretty basic hotel, but perfectly located for sightseeing. Hotel Adriatic is a 5-minute walk from Vatican City, 30 minutes away from the Colosseum, and steps away from the Metro. There are also tons of Italian cafes within walking distance. I won’t bother recommending restaurants, because they are all good!
Overall, this hotel is a great value for those of you looking for a decent place to rest your head while exploring Rome on foot. Since you’ll be spending very little time in your hotel anyway, take my advice and don’t spend an arm and a leg on fancy lodging that you’ll only see at night.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Before we get into things to do, I want to emphasize one very important thing. Italy is safe, but there are very high levels of petty crime. In particular, watch out for bag snatching and pick-pocketing. Take measures to make it as inconvenient as possible to keep thieves from stealing from you. The harder it is to get to your money, the less likely they will bother. There are many tips and tricks to avoid thievery, such as wearing clothing designed to prevent pick-pocketing, concealing your valuables in hidden pockets, and wearing your purse around your neck versus over your shoulder.
PLACES TO EXPLORE
Here is a list of the main places we visited in Rome, as well as the excursions we took outside of the city, all in a matter of five days.
The Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain in English, is a popular fountain for tourists to visit. According to legend, if you throw a coin into the fountain, a return trip to Rome is in your future. Needless to say, I threw one in.
We visited the Spanish Steps a couple times actually. It’s such a great place to chill and people-watch! There are 128 steps total and they are often filled with artists, painters and poets who are attracted to its unique design and surrounding vistas.
You can’t visit Rome without visiting one of the world’s most famous structures. The Colosseum is known for its intricate and sophisticated architecture and building technique, rightfully earning its place on the New 7 Wonders of the World list. Its construction began around 70 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was the scene of many gruesome gladiatorial and animal fights. Now, this partially destroyed building is a major tourist attraction you can enjoy for € 7.50.
You can easily spend hours exploring Vatican City. Plan to spend at least half a day exploring Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums.
When my sister and I arrived to this picturesque island, we felt like we were in heaven. A day trip from Rome to Capri requires a full day, but it’s worth it. We traveled here by taking a train from Rome to Naples and then hopping on a boat that carried us across the Gulf of Naples to the main port of Capri. While there are plenty of attractions on this island, my favorite was the short boat ride to the Grotta Azzura, or Blue Grotto in English, a dark sea cave with bright, dream-like blue water that shines in the darkness.
Another site you can visit after taking a train ride from Rome to Naples is the ancient town of Pompeii. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed all that was in its path. The people of Pompeii died instantly and as the deadly volcanic ash engulfed them, their bodies were preserved in the exact positions they were in when they died. Although the city has a somber history, this site is one of Italy’s most popular attractions and I recommend experiencing it if you have the chance.
Finally, I recommend taking a day trip to Florence, a Renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany. It’s one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy with its many impressive sights and attractions. We did a bus tour of the small city, where we were able to see its massive cathedrals, charming streets and squares, and unique buildings and shops. There are tons of museums to explore, and of course, plenty of yummy food to stuff your bellies with. Depending on which train you take, you can reach Florence from Rome in as little as an hour and a half. Less expensive trains will get you there in two to four hours, so plan your day trip wisely.