At the risk of sounding like a total millennial, I will confess that I have wanted to go to Rome ever since I watched the Lizzie McGuire movie as a child. I’d always been interested in Roman mythology and travel but that simple Disney channel movie really solidified my interest in someday going to Rome. In December 2019, I finally got the opportunity to do so. After taking the train from Venice, I arrived at the Termini train station in the center of Rome. From there it was a six minute walk to my hostel, the Freedom Traveler. For ten euro a day, I stayed in a four-bed female dorm with private bathroom and shower. I immediately went to sleep in anticipation of my first full day in Rome.
I booked a half-day Vespa tour through Viator.com for $157 and it was definitely worth the price. My tour guide arrived at my hostel at around 10 a.m. He told me to refer to him as “Pops” as the pronunciation of his name was way too difficult. “Pops” started our Vespa tour at the President’s residence before taking me to the Trevi fountain. As with many famous landmarks, it is wise to keep your bag in view at all times as pick-pocketers are very common. If you have the opportunity, I would definitely recommend visiting the fountain at night because it is beautifully lit up and there aren’t nearly as many tourists out and about.
After the Trevi fountain, we continued on to the Coliseum and Pantheon. “Pops” volunteered to take some pictures for the “gram” and I was absolutely dying at his commitment to getting the perfect shot. (He was a very good tour guide obviously). He then took me to the Spanish steps and Palatine Hill and even stopped in the middle of the road in order to get the best shots. He took me up to the top of the mountain in the area that he referred to as the “Beverly hills of Rome” and showed me a Vista that overlooked the entire city of Rome and the Vatican. He even surprised me with a bottle of prosecco and peanuts as a snack. Afterwards, he dropped me back off at a market in the center of the city and said farewell.
It was such an amazing tour and he was such a great tour guide that I highly recommend everyone going to Rome do a Vespa tour and try to do it through Viator.com. As with the other tours I have booked with them in the past, it vastly exceeded my expectations. He was so knowledgeable and friendly and made the experience so much fun. Going by Vespa allowed me to see so much more of the city that I would not have seen otherwise. Additionally, “Pops” gave me some advice on where to find the best Italian food in the city as well as the best shopping areas (he said that some of the best restaurants were in the Jewish quarter and the best shopping it was near the Spanish steps).
After walking around for a few more hours, I finished my day eating some pizza and cannolis as well as drinking a couple more glasses of prosecco.
I woke up bright and early the next morning and took the metro to the meeting point that I was going to meet my next tour guide. After everyone from the group got together, we headed off for Vatican City to tour the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum.
Traveling at the beginning of December was definitely a good idea as far as the Vatican is concerned. There were still lines but it was not nearly as crowded as it would be during peak travel times like summer and spring. Being that there were less people, we were able to enjoy more of the artwork without feeling like we were being rushed through or bombarded with people.
After touring the Vatican, we were initially not going to be able to enter St Peter’s due to the Pope’s Wednesday services. We were given the option to wait until the services were over or to try and request a refund for that portion of the tour. I decided to just wait an hour and spent my time walking around, people watching and taking some photos before I was able to enter the church. It is free to enter but be prepared for long lines during the peak travel season. Additionally, they will search your bags for strollers before entering the church.
After St. Peters, I took the bus to the Jewish quarter for some spa time at Aqua Madre Hammam. (Word of caution when taking the bus: not all ticket stations are visible out on the street and in some places within Rome you have to purchase a ticket at a tobacco shop). When I got to the Hammam, I paid 60 Euro for an hour and a half spa treatment. (Realistically it was more like two and a half hours because they weren’t paying that close attention to how long you stayed). On Wednesday, the Hammam is only open to women, which allows you to either do your treatment nude, topless, or with a bathing suit. Your session entails pouring warm water from brass bowls across your body and using black soap to clean yourself. You then enter the sauna, sit for a few minutes and then get out and repeat the cycle. One of the attendants then comes to get you and they scrub your body down with an exfoliating glove that you are able to take with you when you leave. The next part is a soak in the cold pool before showering and getting dressed. The final step is enjoying some Moroccan tea while relaxing in a lounge chair.
After leaving the Hammam, I walked around the Jewish quarter for a bit before stumbling upon Hercules’s Temple. I then grabbed some pastries and coffee at a local cafeteria before returning to my hostel.
The next morning I left my hostel and caught a bus from the Termini train station to Ciampino airport. It was 6 Euro for a 30-minute ride.
Rome is a gorgeous City littered with tons of history and ancient ruins. Nearly every step throughout the city takes you along ancient roads once traveled by people thousands of years ago. You can just as easily find Roman ruins as quickly as you can find a modern department store or bar. It is definitely a city rich in culture and pride. My only real complaint would be the bus system when it comes to purchasing tickets as it was very confusing. (I ended up getting a 50 euro fine for not figuring out the ticket issued for getting on the bus.) Other than that minor inconvenience, it was a wonderful trip and I definitely recommend visiting Rome at some point. You will surely not be disappointed.
Place to Stay:
Freedom Traveler Hostel
Things to Do:
Aqua Madre Hammam