Rome is often heralded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and rightly so. If you are a fan of art & architecture, this has likely been on your bucket list. But, when it comes to art & architecture, Florence offers just as much and is a visual treat that is not to be missed.
“It’s coming Rome” I said for the umpteenth time. Sandhya was annoyed with me for my continuous football references (Italy had just won the Euros against the favourites England sending the nation in a state of ecstasy). We travelled to Rome & Florence in the summer (end of July) as a part of our Italy trip and were able to see many a sights that left us amazed at the beauty of two of the most marvellous cities in the world).
Rome : All the things you need to know to plan your trip!
How to reach Rome :
Being the capital, Rome is well connected with just about any city in the world. We took a Ryan Air from Dublin (one way trips can be as low as 25 euros – backpack fare – and can be as high as 150 euros, so book in advance). Once you reach Rome, take the airport shuttle which takes you to the city centre for around 5 euros per person. You can also take the train which is around 15 euros. When in doubt, just speak to the officials at the airport, as the signs are not that helpful.
When to go :
This really depends on what you want to do.
Spring (March-May) is a good time to visit as weather is great and you won’t find many tourists.
Summer (June-Aug) sees lots of tourists and the days tend to be quite warm as we witnessed. When we went in 2020, we could still see all the attractions without having to wait much as Europe still had travel restrictions.
Autumn and Winter : This is a good time for visiting the theatres and shopping.
Where to stay :
Pantheon is a great area for first timers, as most of the attractions are close by.
Termini is a good area for budget travellers and backpackers who are looking to sue the train quite a bit.
Piazza di Spagna is a lovely area full of hotels and is popular with families
Top places to go to in Rome
1. Coloseum : This is the MVP of all attractions in Rome. It is an amphitheater that hosted gladiator events during ancient times and is seen as one of the top places to visit in the world. It is highly recommended to buy the tickets online as the queues could be endless, even during the lean months. Tickets cost 14 euros per person but there are multiple bundle options starting at 24 euros that you can buy from here.
2. FONTANA DI TREVI : It is one of the most famous fountains in the world and it probably one of the most beautiful ones as well. Go no later than 9 AM if you want to get a good pic as it tends to get quite busy. Throwing a coin into the fountain is said to bring good luck (in case you are into such things)
3. Spanish Steps : The Spanish Steps is another one of Rome’s most iconic attractions. It is a popular stop to just relax and get a chance to view the piazza from above.
P.S. As much as you want to get that perfect sitting pose shot on the steps, it is no longer permitted to do that. It gets really busy, so go late at night or early morning after you have visited the Trevi.
4. Pantheon : When we went to the Pantheon, it was going through some renovation works, but this it is one of the best known sites of Ancient Roman history. You will find statues of ancient kings and poets including the famed Julius Caesar.
5. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill : This was the central marketplace during the reign of the Roman empire. The Colosseum ticket gives you entry to the Roman Forum as well, so it is recommended to get one to skip the queues.
6. Piazza Navona : One of the prettiest squares you would find in Rome is the Piazza Navona. It boasts of 3 fountains (you can fill your water bottle from here if you wish) and is the perfect place to stroll around in the evenings, while having a gelato. Frigidarium makes some amazing gelatos and is open until 2AM!
7. The Vatican : Before you plan a visit to the Vatican bear in mind – it gets from millions of visitors from across the world, all of who want to visit the museums and the cathedrals. It is highly recommended to pre-book your tour in advance. We did nothing of the sort, so decided to just sit in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and watch the lights turn on, which after a day full of walking seemed really refreshing.
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8. Food Tour : No Rome trip is complete without some gluttony! The neighbourhood of Trastevere is known for it’s restaurants, pubs is known for it’s grub-hub scenes
There are many other attractions in Rome, which we couldn’t cover in this trip but deserve a mention – Centrale Montemartini & Galleria d’Arte Moderna (two of the most famous museums in Rome), Teatro dell’Opera (A lavish operra house), Trajan’s column (a column that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars)
& Aventine Keyhole (a alternate view of the St Peter’s Basilica)
Rome is a city where you can easily spend a week if you wish to see all the attractions. Most people (like us) try to cover as much as possible in 3 days and end up regretting that they couldn’t spend more. But, there is always next time. Florence was calling and we had heard so much about it that we couldn’t miss it.
How to reach “Firenze”
Firenze (Florence in Italian) can be reached by train from many cities in Italy and Europe. The Firenze Santa Maria Novella is the main train station. The airport is quite small, with lesser connections compared to Rome, so train is much a preferred way. Book tickets directly from Tren Italia to get a reserved seat.
Top things to do in Florence
1. Stroll through Piazza della Signoria : Like Rome, Florence is blessed with manny Piazzas, but the one that is the most beautiful is Piazza della Signoria.It is one of the main squares and is arguably the prettiest.
An evening stroll in the Piazza della Signoria is quite rewarding
2. Explore Piazza Santa Maria Novella : Another piazza to explore is the Piazza Santa Maria Novella which is home to some really nice restaurants. The square also has a beautiful white church which really adds to the backdrop.
3. Head to Piazza della Repubblica : One of the main attractions of the Piazza della Repubblica is the Fontana del Porcellino. Visitors rub the snout of this iconic bronze fountain of a boar to ensure their return to Florence.
4. Duomo di Firenze : The most important attraction of Florence is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore also known as the Duomo. You would be impressed at the sheer size of the dome and if you are able to get a picture of the dome without a wide angled camera, fair play to you!
5. Piazza Vechio :
The Piazza is full of beautiful statues, so keep your eyes open for these. Some to look out for are the’ 500-year-old Fountain of Neptune, Perseus with the head of Medusa and Michelangelo’s David.
6. Gallerie Degli Uffizi : The Uffizi is a famous art museum housing some outstanding art collections. Tickets start at 12 euros.
7. Stroll through the beautiful streets of Florence : Florence being a very walkable city has well preserved medieval streets to walk in. So get exploring!
8. Dine like a Tuscan : Tuscany (the name of the region) is famous for it’s steak. That is not to say it doesn’t have any good options for vegans. We dined at Ciro & Sons who had a great vegetarian & vegan selection
9. Panoramic view of the city at Piazzale Michelangelo : The Piazzale Michelangelo provides a panoramic view of the city for one to admire the beauty of Florence
10. Day Trips : Florence is the base for any trips in the Tuscany region. Two places we would recommend doing day trips are :
1. Chianti vineyard (the most famous wine in Italy)
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2. Siena (a lovely town just a few hours away from Florence)
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Rome & Florence are both marvellous cities to go to and offer a lot to everyone but especially to those who love art & history. It would be shame to leave over the another as they both offer so much. We would definitely like to go back especially to Florence, but would love to keep more time to explore as it got really hectic (there was just so much to do). So, until next time Arrivederci Firenze (and maybe Rome as well)!