Phew! Finally, some time to finally catch up on this precious little piece of the internet that I call my own. If you follow me on instagram, you'll know I fell for Rome big time. Rome changed me. It left me wondering how on earth I made it my 30s without having visited before. It reminded me how much I loved the myths of ancient gods and tales of the underworld when I was younger. It made me love pizza even more than I already did, something that I never thought possible. It took my breath away.
Although, it's now early summer and I'm sure it's getting hotter than Pluto's underworld back in Rome, I find myself thinking about it all the time. Should we chuck in the flat-buying dreams and go live Italy for 6 months instead? Think of all the red wine and Aperol sprtiz I could drink. Oh, wait. I'm trying to live a dryish life. Dam. We visited in late April and found Rome in the spring to be truly beautiful. Ancient ruins covered with rambling wild roses and wisteria. Cherry trees in full bloom. Ancient orange trees covered in sweetly scented blossom filled the streets.
Here are my top tips for exploring amazing Rome (and keeping your sanity and avoiding the queues while you're there).
1. Go to the Pantheon. Yes, it's busy but not horrifically so, and it's free. How can something so old still be standing?! I still can't even get my head around that one. Just ignore all the people and let your mind drift back to ancient times. Yip, pretty hard when there are selfie sticks in every direction threatening to thwack you in the face.
And don't forget to look up...
...all the way up.
2. Don't queue for the Colosseum. Go to just down the road to Palatino Hill and buy a combined ticket which gets you into the Colosseum, Palatino Hill and the Roman Forum. They're all pretty spectacular in their own right. We did all three in one day but the ticket is valid for two days so you could spread it out if your feet are knackered. We went to the Colosseum about 5pm, not too long before closing. The light was magic and the queues had much diminished. We also went for walk around the outside the Roman Forum one evening after it had closed - no people and the view was amazing!
3. Sometimes it pays to look down, even when everyone else is looking up.
4. Plan a little.
If you really want to go to the Vatican Museum, book online first. You'll get a dedicated time slot and won't need to queue for what could be an awfully long time. Just go at your time and you'll get straight in. But be prepared for the hoards inside. You may want to punch the guy who constantly bangs you with his backpack or the fools with the selfie sticks, but believe me, it's totally worth it for the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel.
5. Take five.
When you're knackered from all the amazingness around you, just sit down with a drink and watch the world go by. Preferably sitting outside a city bar underneath an old fig tree, sipping an Aperol Spritz, watching the old men play chess. As they say, when in Rome...
6. Eat all the different types of pizza.
We ate a traditional trattorias and ristorantes but if you only eat one type of pizza in Rome, eat Bonci. Described by some as the Michelangelo of pizzas, this guy is certainly a great master in my books. I still dream of this pizza. Yes, you do stand up as you eat it, so don't expect a sit down. But it was so good we went twice. You pay for each slice by weight, which means you get to try as many you can eat. (Basil! Smoked mozzarella! Flowers! Fennel!) *drools on keyboard*
7. Just don't bother with a hotel.
AirBnB it. I don't use anything else these days. We loved the apartment we stayed in.
8. Yes, do go into every church you walk past.
But don't be unaware of rules and customs. Do as the guidebooks say and make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. We saw more than one person escorted out the door when they came in wearing something too revealing. You'll soon forget the names of all the churches that you've visited and they'll blur into one. Some of them really are an embarrassment of riches, but every single one is beautiful. This one was my favourite (and yes, I can't remember what it was called now).
9. Take some time to just wander.
We walked almost everywhere, except for on the days when we needed to reserve our energy. There's something spectacular to be found around every corner. Like this...
10. Save some things for next time.
There were a few galleries that weren't open while we were there and we had to give St Paul's Basilica a miss as we just ran out time ( and the queues were massive!). It would take months to visit every church, every gallery, every historic site. In fact, it'd probably take a life time.
Right, that's it. I have to go back immediately. It's worth it for the pizza alone.
Have you been to Rome? What else did I miss?