Making the Most of Rome

Fall Foliage: A Pumpkin Spiced Post
A Second Look: 5 Places Worth Revisiting

Close your eyes, I ordered myself.

It seemed counterintuitive. My meanderings through Parco del Colle Opio had finally reached the grand finale. We had been walking through Carinae, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of ancient Rome. And, like all residences of great importance, it was a well placed plot of real estate.

So even though I had little idea where we were going, I wasn’t particularly surprised when we turned around a bend in the paved pathway and, rising before us out of the hodge-podge of antiquity and modern life, was the Flavian Amphitheater. Al Colosseo.

The Colosseum.

Making the most of Rome at the Coliseum

 

As soon as I saw it, I stopped. Close your eyes, I told myself, moving out of the pathway of tourists and locals alike. It was too easy to keep moving. Too easy to continue the march forward, until we reached victory. It was our first evening in the Eternal City, and we had a list a mile long. We didn’t have time to stop and absorb. So I stopped. And I absorbed.

Behind the darkness of my eyelids I imagined that the sounds around me did not belong to the twenty-first century. I imagined that the cars I heard belonged to carts and wagons, that the rolling Italian I heard around me was Latin. Inhaling deeply, I felt myself momentarily transformed, traveling through time to the days of the gladiators.

Exhaling slowly, I opened my eyes. With a sense of renewed calm and focus, I held out my hand.

“Let’s go.”

Jessi Honard making the most of Rome at the Coliseum

Visiting Rome is an overwhelming experience. It’s a huge city, with modern buildings piled on top of ancient structures, a web of maze-like streets, and more to see than you could easily accomplish in a lifetime. It is also a beautiful city, full of culture and history and the rolling beauty of the Italian language.

Tara and I had three days to make the city ours. It was a whirlwind, and we left wishing that we had managed just one more day, as we so often do. During the time we did get, though, we managed to figure out a few tricks to making the most of your time in Rome, especially if that time is limited.

Making the Most of Rome: 5 Steps

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1) Prepare Yourself

I’m a planner by nature, but I know some people cringe at the idea of planning a trip ahead of time. They like to show up and see where the wind takes them. If that’s the way you travel, that’s fantastic! I’m honestly a little envious of you. But when it comes to big cities that just have so much to do, I find that at least a bare bones outline of what you want to see is really helpful. This doesn’t have to be a long, detailed itinerary. It’s nice to know, though, that you absolutely must go to the Vatican City — which, in and of itself, will take an entire day. Figure out what you absolutely have to see so that you can structure your time around those places.

Of course, if you have limited time, that means that you need to…

2) Remind yourself that it’s okay if you don’t see everything

It’s easy to try and fit everything into one trip — more difficult to actually accomplish. If you only have a few days in Rome, figure out what you can save for your next trip. We had to skip out on exploring the Roman forum due to a lack of time, which was sort of a bummer, but now I have something that I can get excited about visiting next time. If I see all of the highlights in one trip, I’m less likely to return.

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3) Buy an OMNIA Pass

We actually lost money in purchasing this pass; it’s more cost effective for people who are in Rome for a week or so. That being said, I would absolutely buy one again for the peace of mind it gave us. We may have spent a tiny bit more, but for us, the OMNIA pass was worth the money for its value.

The OMNIA pass gives you access to top tourist spots in Rome, as well as entrance into the Vatican City with fast pass entrance. Since we knew we had limited time, and we didn’t know how long the lines would be (long, we presumed, given that it was July), it made perfect sense to buy this card. At €95 it wasn’t cheap, but during our three days in Rome we used it to access public transportation, enter ruins such as the Colosseum, climb the steps of St. Peter’s, and more. Without the pass, the time we would have spent figuring out what to do and where to go, and then waiting in line to make it happen, would have made the entire experience less enjoyable.

TIP: If you’re not planning on visiting the Vatican City, go for the ROMA pass instead.

4) Take the time to absorb the places you do go

It would have been so easy for me to run up to the base of the Colosseum and check it off my bucket list and then keep on going. Instead, I stopped. I reflected. And by forcing myself to do this I was able to appreciate where I was more fully.

It’s true of any place you visit, but possible even more so for cities, which fast become overwhelming. The places we visit aren’t just arbitrary items on a list. They have meaning. They have depth. They have history. It’s worth taking a moment to explore that.

There’s a great Tedx Talk by Thomas Campbell about the narratives behind museum artifacts. Campbell’s particular area of expertise is in tapestries, and he reminds the audience that the artifacts museum goers hurry past are vastly more intricate than a passing glance will satisfy. Some of the tapestries are so intricate that they would take hours to pick apart. Most people barely scratch the surface. The same goes for many paintings or places of historical importance. Just take a look at the detail in the Room of Maps at the Vatican City Museums.

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We owe it to ourselves to take the time to absorb the stories of these ancient places, as much as time allows.

5) Hit the highlights, but explore the nooks and crannies too

Getting lost is often the best thing that can happen to a traveler. When Tara and I visited Rome we accidentally left the map in the hotel room several times. On each occasion we stumbled across unique alleyways and shops that we otherwise never would have seen. On one occasion, we hunted out the less popular Campo de’ Fiori, south of Piazza Navona. It’s unique in that it is the only square in Rome that doesn’t have a church in it. Instead, it has a statue of the philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was executed by the church for heresy. The statue depicts him glaring in the direction of the Vatican City.

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In getting lost several times, we also managed to find some spectacular hidden spots that were devoid of tourists. Given the opportunity to slow down a little, we were able to appreciate a more authentic Rome, and to soak in the beauty of the Eternal City.

Exploring the streets of Rome

What’s your favorite city to explore? Do you try to see as much as possible, or take it slow?


Weekend Wanderlust, hosted by Outbound Adventurer


Fall Foliage: A Pumpkin Spiced Post
A Second Look: 5 Places Worth Revisiting
  • Love Rome so much and I’m not sure how many times I have been to date. You’re perfectly right, there is simply too much to see and do in Rome so just take it easy and enjoy as much as possible the sites you get to see 🙂 Every time I go I always see something new 🙂

  • Great tips! I have still yet to get to Rome– I seem to have a bad history at trying to get to Italy in general. I’m dying to visit tho’ I think I might need a week or so there!

  • Rome is such a fascinating city with so much history and places to see. We spend five days in Rome and I feel like it was rushed. I would of really enjoyed having more time to take in all that we saw.

  • I love your style, take your time and lose yourself in the moment, take in your surroundings, if you don’t see everything it doesn’t matter and see beyond the highlights a place has to offer. That is my style of travel.

  • These are great tips! Rome is SO overwhelming. In fact, I just wrote about wanting to go back there because I my first visit was way too much of a whirlwind (we only had a day). It sounds like you were able to really take it in and enjoy your amazing surroundings!

  • Those are some fantastic tips. I can’t wait to go to Italy. Great tip about the OMNIA pass!!! I’m definitely a planner… that’s putting it mildly. LOL

  • Great advice! Since I travel with kids, I have to make sure I schedule in some down time or else they all rebel. I usually leave them at the hotel with their dad, and then that is my time to get lost (kind of) and explore aimlessly solo. We visited the Colosseum with the Roma Pass, we were able to skip the lines and dive directly into the huge crowd inside. I try to imagine that all the excitement and the people were due to gladiator games instead of just looking at ruins.

  • I wish I had read this post BEFORE I went to Rome a few years back. I am the type of traveler who does no research, and often just expects to talk to people and asks for tips on arrival. But, you are right, Rome is huge, and there is so much to see and do! I was there for about 4 days, and I was able to see the major sites, and have some good times, so I was content with that! I don’t think I would spend much more time in Rome, it was overwhelming with tourists.

  • Great list and tips! I love Rome and hope to get back there someday soon!

    Shaun
    http://www.thislifeintrips.com

  • Sound advice for visiting such a beautiful city with so much to see and do! Loved my 2 days there, this post and images just reminded me why 🙂