4(ish) Days in Rome: Intro & Arrival Day Bonus

February, 2023. We spent a lovely winter in the warmest European destination we could find — the Canary Islands. While technically a part of Spain, the islands are located off the coast of Africa, so they’re much further south than continental Europe and thus much warmer. Our goal was to get out of the cold; the tradeoff was that it’d take us a week minimum to get from the Islands to our next destination — out of the Schengen Zone and into the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. 

It sounds like a ball-buster, but because we’re starting to get a better feel for how to make our between-long-term-stay travel more enjoyable, less stressful, and less exhausting, we planned a two-week driving journey across the continent that included a four-day stay in Rome! Woo-hoo! 

From a certain perspective, our first year in Europe can be viewed as one giant history lesson about the Roman Empire as we sought out ruins in just about every place we stayed. In Portugal we saw Roman temple ruins in Evora. In Croatia we lived just outside Diocletian’s Palace in Split and explored the ruins of the ancient town of Solana (current city of Solin). While in Tuscany, we visited the ruins of Ansedonia, the remains of a former villa in Sirmione, and even watched an opera in a Roman amphitheater in Verona. We especially enjoyed the fantastically underrated Roman ruins in Nimes, France including one of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world and a Roman-era aqueduct at Vers-Pont-du-Gard. And in the UK we visited the site of the ancient town of Vindolanda along Hadrian’s Wall, a ruined villa in Lullingstone, and the remains of several ancient Roman buildings in London and Canterbury.  

We’ve all heard the saying “All roads lead to Rome” and now, after seeing so much of the Roman Empire throughout the European continent, we were finally going to see Rome herself! 

As everyone who’s ever read a guidebook or travel blog knows, the city of Rome is enormous and totally chaotic. Roman drivers are insane. Parking doesn’t exist. The city is too expensive and the apartments are too small. These things could all be true to one extent or another, but we avoided the brunt of it by finding an apartment outside the city center along a metro line. It was easy to get to from the highway; there was indeed a reserved parking spot waiting for us upon arrival; the apartment was lovely and pet-friendly (it even had a small garden); and the metro was a short 15-minute walk away. Perfect! With only five nights and four days to explore the city we’d been working toward all year, we couldn’t afford to have anything push us off the program. 

During our lazy winter days on Gran Canaria, we’d put together a Roman itinerary and pre-booked at least one significant outing for each day. We also noted the top things we’d like to fit in where we could — several of Rick Steves’ audio walking tours, additional sights and museums, restaurants for lunch and dinners. Our rough itinerary was as follows: 

Arrival day:  

  • Check into the Airbnb by late afternoon/early evening
  • Do Rick Steves’ Heart of Rome walking tour

1st full day:

  • Morning: Guided tour Colosseum and Forum
  • Afternoon: do one of the RS walking tours?

2nd full day: 

  • Morning: Guided tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel
  • Afternoon: do one of the RS walking tours?

3rd full day: 

  • Morning: Borghese gallery
  • Afternoon: do one of the RS walking tours?

4th full day: 

  • Walk along the Appian Way, otherwise a free day for anything we hadn’t been able to fit in yet.

Departure day: 

  • Stop at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli on the way from Rome to Bari

We more or less ended up following the program. At first glance it may look like we only planned the bare minimum, but I’m totally patting ourselves on the back for both pre-booking the most important items and for leaving the afternoons open. We did a lot of research before the trip and pinned about a hundred sites on Google Maps (creating an A list as well as a B list), so we went in with a decent idea of which extra items we wanted to see. Leaving the afternoons open allowed us the opportunity to customize based on how we were feeling, where we were, how much time we felt like devoting, how hungry we were (which often determined how long we spent in any one place), and what we needed to do to take care of the dogs. In the end, we packed each of our days with history, art, culture, food, and plenty of walking! And we didn’t feel rushed (except on the pre-booked Vatican tour, but that wasn’t within our control), or bored, or like we missed something important. 

In summary: it was one of the best vacations of my life. 

As we lay in bed at the end of each day, freshly showered and completely exhausted, I jotted a few notes into my phone to help me remember how the day had gone. I’ve included my notes from Arrival Day — and many pictures — below. We were still buzzing from the journey to get to Rome and a bit overwhelmed by our first taste of the city, so the notes on this page are down-and-dirty. I provided a lot more context in the days that follow. Andiamo a Roma!  

4(ish) Days in Rome: Arrival Day Bonus

Arrival day 1:

  • Drive in (yikes, hairy traffic as we got close to the city).
  • Check in to Aruna Suites Airbnb and meet our host, Susana (super nice and she loved our dogs).
  • Quick dog walk to let Turbo and Trixie do their business and to check out our new neighborhood (regular working class area — lots of apartment buildings, tons of cafes, bars, shops, and services).
  • Uber (feeling like we don’t have enough time or bandwidth to figure out the metro just yet) to Campo de’ Fiori, grab a square of pizza from a little bar just outside the piazza,  then walk Rick’s Heart of Rome audio tour. Tour includes: Campo de’ Fiori, Palazzo Farnese, Victor Emanuel II Boulevard, Pasquino Statue, Piazza Navona, Pantheon [interruption for another RS tour just for the Pantheon], Piazza Capranica, Parliament & Obelisk, Piazza Colonna, Via del Corso & Galleria, Trevi Fountain, Aqueduct Ruins, Immaculate Conception Column, and the Spanish Steps.
  • Stop in a lovely hotel bar for a glass of wine on the way to the metro. 
  • Purchase a 72-hour metro pass and ride back to our apartment.
  • Walk the dogs, drop our dirty laundry at a dry cleaner for the wash/dry/fold treatment.
  • Have dinner locally at a place called Pasta. It wasn’t that great. 
  • 18,539 steps today (not sure how many miles, I didn’t record at the time but found step data saved to my Fitbit app when writing this article). 

4(ish) Days in Rome: Additional Days Linked Below

Arrival Day | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Departure Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s