Travelling to Rome

Two of my colleagues asked me for my recommendations about their travel to Rome, so I thought id write down some highlights from earlier in the year!

Days

3-4 days in Rome itself should be enough. In addition, you could do the Amalfi coast down south (comes highly recommended by my sister), or a variety of other places up north. We decided to drive through a variety (over a dozen) of towns in Tuscany after being a little overwhelming by the number of people in Rome.

Tours in Rome

We took two tours in Rome:

  1. Vatican: highly recommend getting the VIP early entry tours. Our guide took us straight to the Sistine Chapel, stating that it would be incredibly crowded once the general public is allowed. We had to pass through the Chapel a second time, and I can attest that he was correct: we had so much time to admire Michelangelo’s work the first time. The art in the Chapel sticks with you, and so does the difference between the Church in Michelangelo’s time (represented by the Sistine Chapel) and the one after (St. Peter’s Basilica).
  2. Colosseum: we took an incredible tour via Airbnb experiences. Instead of the usual large groups, it was relatively small (10 of us in total) and the host, Dario, used a bunch of VR headsets to make the experience more immersive. This may sound gimmicky, but being able to visualize how tall the Colossus of Nero was genuinely added a dimension to the trip. Also, Dario was just a fantastic person who shared some great recommendation on Tuscany and food in Rome. In fact, I’d recommend the tour with Dario as the first thing to do because he can help you plan the rest of your trip.

The rest of the time was spent walking by ourselves and using Google to dig in more about the places we were at.

Food in Rome

Speaking of food recommendations, Rome was disappointing. The city is essentially filled with tourist traps, with dozens of places with 4+ stars through thousands of reviews on Google Maps. I’ll refrain from offering any specific place, though I’ll mention that we had better luck in Trastevere.

Where to stay

We stayed in an Airbnb in the heart of Ancient Rome, walking distance from the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, Pantheon, etc. If you like to walk and browse through the towns you visit, I highly recommend the location.

Tuscany

The best way to describe our 4-5 days is that the region bored us with its’ beauty. After the disappointment of Rome, we finally enjoyed a number of great meals. Driving in the region was an experience worth remembering as well: it took us 1 hour since picking up our car to find ourselves jammed in a tight spot in a town. Quick tip: every town has visitor parking on the outskirts, so just head there instead of the center!

Highlights:

  • Orvieto: beautiful town that’s fairly close to Rome. There was a wonderful wine bar close to their Church that was a great place to relax.
  • Montepulciano: a little more busy than your average Tuscan town with a few good shops.
  • Pienza: this place is gorgeous. Val d’orcia with it’s picturesque Cypress trees are right nearby, too.
  • Saturnia: Instagram-famous for their magical thermal springs. Our itinerary was largely tailored for us to spend some time here.
  • Manciano: right near Saturnia, we had the best meal of our trip here at Trattoria Il Rifugio.