Conquer Rome in One Day and a Half

12:08 PM

Italy had been in my “countries I want to visit” list for as long as I can remember, especially after studying Italian for a year. I initially wanted to visit it during my first trip across Europe back in 2015 but I couldn’t. Flash-forward to April 2017 and after finding some ridiculously low airfare tickets (€72 round-trip!), it was going to be a reality.

I organized my own tour, scheduling what to see each day and which cities to visit (considering my budget). My schedule turned out like this: Rome – 2 days, Florence/Pisa – 2 days and Milan – 1 day. 

In this post, I share with you my experience and tips when visiting Rome:

Arriving in Rome

I landed in Rome at approximately 3 PM/15 hrs. I made the mistake of buying a bus transfer ticket at the airport of Barcelona that turned out almost like a scam. The timetable wasn’t accurate and I ended up waiting 45 minutes for the bus, only to discover that I had to wait another 45 because I didn’t have the “real” ticket. Long story short, I ditched the bus transfer and bought a train ticket directly to Tiburtina station.

💡 Tip: Airport to city transportation – go by train! – Priced at €8 it really is the fastest and most comfortable option. Buses charge nearly €6 and the schedules aren’t convenient. Spending two extra euros is completely worth it, especially if you’re on a fast schedule like I was.

From Tiburtina, I bought a Roma 24 Ore ticket that covered metro, tram and buses for the next 24 hours. Then, I took the bus that would take me to my Airbnb room.

Accommodation in Rome – where to stay?

Whenever I travel, Airbnb has become my first option for accommodation. I usually find better prices at central places. Rome was no exception. I wanted a place not far from the center that was safe and near public transport. Most people want to stay in the middle of Rome but for me, it was actually better to stay near Tiburtina instead of Termini (the main station). It felt like a safer place, with nearby supermarkets and shops with normal prices. Tourist prices in Rome -and Italy in general- are a complete nightmare.

Walking around the city

At around 6:30 PM/18:30 hrs, My friend and I headed to the city. We took the metro line to the first stop, the Colosseo. From there, we would walk to the rest of the places.

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Arch of Constantine (Arco di Constantino)

Roman Forum (Foro Romano)

Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria)
Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

Eating in Roma without going broke

I am the type of person who no matter where she goes, wants to eat with 20 or less euros per day. It’s been challenging (but possible!) in some expensive countries like Iceland, but I was determined to also do it in Rome. After all, pasta shouldn’t be expensive, right? Since tourist traps are basically everywhere and the extra charge for sitting down to eat is common around Italy, these where the rules that I followed:

  1. Don’t eat at restaurants in front of monuments/landmarks - walk a little and find nearby places that you can order food per portare via (to take away). You will save money.
  2. Don’t sit down – sitting down at cafés and restaurants means paying extra. Take your food out and eat it at a nearby piazza.
  3. Have one heavy meal – choose between lunch or dinner. I usually go with the heavier meal at night, so my lunch would usually be a crêpe, a sandwich or a pizza. 
  4. Bring a bottle of water and fill it at your hotel/hostel – I cannot emphasize enough how much you can save by bringing your own bottle of water instead of ordering drinks every time you eat. You can save as much as €12 per day! 
  5. Buy snacks at the supermarket – Supermarkets are your best friend when traveling because you can get food for the cheapest prices. I like to buy a pack of granola bars and carry one or two with me everyday. You can also buy bread, croissants or whatever you want for breakfast. You will only have to buy a cup of coffee at the nearest bakery and you’re set.
  6. Sharing is caring – when I travel with a friend we usually split the cost of dinner by ordering one plate and dividing it. For example, we would order a pizza at €7 and eat half and half. That was €3.50 for dinner!

Day 2 – Early walks and Vaticano

I had booked online my entrance ticket to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Our entrance time was 12:30 PM so I got up early to see the rest of the city before heading to Vatican City. This time I used the bus instead of the metro.

💡 Tip: Buy the bus ticket! – You’ve probably read how Italians are, let’s say, carefree, and usually hop on the buses without paying. I saw it several times. But you know what I also saw? An old lady getting a €100 fine for not paying. Officers will hop on without announcement at any stop and will verify the tickets of every passenger. Better €7 for a 24-hour travel pass than €100.

Piazza di Spagna

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Inside the Phanteon

Piazza Navona
Fiumi Fountain (Fontana dei Fiumi)

We were pretty far from the Vatican by 11 AM, so we took a bus in order to make it on time to the Vatican Museums. It was drizzling when we got there so it was great to go straight to the museums without making a long line.

💡 Tip: Always book Vatican tickets in advance – the €4 extra for the online booking fee gives you the skip-the-line privilege and it is worth every euro. That is if you don’t want to waste the day away in lines. Also, Vatican City is basically the only place that recognizes student IDs from non-European citizens. If you’re 25 years or younger, it’s your moment! You’ll buy the ticket at half the price.

Inside the Vatican Museums

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The Sistine Chapel – getting in without the so-called 3-hour line

See, when you get to Vatican city, you will get approached by lots of employees that will tell you the same thing, “do you have your ticket?” “if you bought it online you can skip the line”. Then, there will be one who will tell you that if you bought the normal ticket (€16 + €4 fee) you will have to visit the museums and then go out, make a 3-hour line in order to get to the Sistine Chapel. He will then offer you with the chance of upgrading your ticket for €20 more or so to get into a guided tour that will take you straight to the chapel without making the line.

So what do you say? You say, "No, thank you, I’ll make the line". But you really won’t. Fellow travelers have posted online about how you can “sneak” into the chapel by walking along with a guided-tour group. And so I did. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider it sneaking because there’s no check point. You simply follow the signs that say “Capilla Sixtina ->” and then go inside with whichever group is entering at the moment 😉

San Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

One last afternoon in Roma

After our visit, we walked around for a bit, stopped for ice-cream and then visited some other nice places:

Castel Sant'Angelo
Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione)

Piazza del Popolo

Rome's Oldest Obelisco

We headed to our place at around 6 PM/18 hrs because we were exhausted and our train to Florence was departing at 7:30 the following morning.

Some thoughts...

What I liked the most: The architecture, specially the Coliseum and St. Peter's Basilica.

What I liked the least: It's not as clean as other cities I've been to and the street vendors can be very intense.

What I wanted to see that I couldn't: The Roman Coliseum and Roman Forum on the inside.


So have you ever been to Rome? What did you like the most? Tell me on the comments below :)

On my next post I'll share with you my experience visiting Florence and Pisa in 2 days. Until next time!

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