Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Rome one of the most romantic cities on the planet? Why in the world would anyone want to go there alone?” But here is the thing: We have yet to find a place in the world where everything you see – and we mean it, everything you see – is amazing. This means that it’s quite impossible to see it all. As such, traveling there with a partner, a group of friends, siblings, and so forth, will limit the things you can and will do.
Let’s face it, when you travel with others, you are bound to make compromises. For one, you take more time leaving the house/hotel. Second, you take time to decide where to go (discussions, negotiations, and sometimes debates). And, you definitely spend more time waiting for someone who needs a snack or who needs to go to the bathroom. So, imagine how much time you’d save if you travelled alone? A lot, right?
Yep! That’s why I [Mariam] opted for a solo trip. I wanted to see it all (little did I know, I would only be able to see 1/10thof the city). I only had a week of vacation and wanted to make sure that my first trip to Italy was worthwhile. This is not to say that it would not be interesting or fun to go with a friend. In fact, it’s amazing to share experiences and knowledge as you discover new things. But on this trip, my goal was to see as much as possible in the limited time I had. And guess what? This was one of the best trips I ever took (possibly the best).
I arrived on a Tuesday afternoon during a warm August month. This is the least busy time of the summer in Rome (June and July tend to be busier), which was an advantage as many attractions were easily accessible and the metro system was never packed. However, it is also one of the hottest months, so if you do not like heat, then August might not be the best time for you. Me, I love summer and everything it brings, so the high temperatures were not a problem.
In order to make sure that I saw as much as I could, I left the hotel at 7am every day and got back at 11pm. I walked about 20km a day, ate 5 times a day (mostly gelatos), and rested 0 times a day. I was always on the go. This is obviously a crazy itinerary, one you would not be able to do if you were a group of friends (or if you did not have the right shoes). But if you are as crazy as I am, then I highly recommend you venture this (if not in Rome, any other city you think deserves a ‘non-stop-walking-tour’.
Rome is by far one of the most beautiful cities in the world: From its architecture, to its history, from its artistically designed water fountains, to its endless and beautiful piazzas, from its gorgeous parks, to its gigantic museums. Forget one week, you will need one year to see it all. But I had to do with what I had; and in that week, this is what I did:
Day 1: Arrival
My plane landed quite late in the afternoon, so all I did after checking-in at my hotel was a stroll around the neighbourhood to situate myself (and find all the food spots), grab a metro pass and a map, and plan my week. Since I love art, culture, and history, I would make sure to hit all the spots that respond to this. This is important. There is so much to see in Rome that I found it crucial to prioritize where I could go. Ideally, you’d do this before you arrive to Rome so as to not waste time once there. If you already have a plan, then you can start right after you arrive. Having said this, there is lots of value in not planning at all sometimes; just seeing where the road takes you.
Day 2: The architecture
I spent the day walking around different neighbourhoods to take in the beautiful architecture. I went to Trastevere, Testaccio, Regola, Trevi, Monti, and Esquillono. Needless to say, the day was spent walking, using the metro, walking, getting on a bus, walking, and… Well again walking. And I gotta say: nowhere have I seen so much thought put into design before. Everything in Rome seemed to have an artistic purpose. The bridge, the door, the pavement, the gate, the streets, the electric poles. I mean, EVERYTHING. I found that walking (instead of being in a car/bus/subways) allowed me to see and embrace the beauty fully. So I definitely recommend to have one or two walking tours if you can.
Day 3: Colosseum and its surroundings
If there is one historic place that must not be missed in Rome, it would definitely be the Colosseum found in a Campitelli neighbourhood. I mean… WHAT? This marvellous and ancient structure is the largest ever built of its kind. Built in 70-80 AD this forum used to be a battlefield for gladiators, then a place to hold spectacles of different types, and now a major tourist attraction. The fact that the building is still standing is a miracle of its own, but even more so, that it could hold about 80,000 people in it. And today, there are about 4 million people who visit it every year. In fact, it is the second most visited tourist attraction in Rome (after the Vatican museums). Surely, you have to be one of these 4 million. If not today, at some point in the future. If you decide to go, you can purchase tickets for the Colosseum right here (you want to avoid the long line at the ticket office there). You can also find important safety information on this site.
Day 4: The Vatican
Like most people who visit this place, being at the Vatican left me with mixed-feelings. On the one hand, this place comes with some controversial history (and present really). On the other hand it is a place where you’d find the single most amazing artwork in the world. From St Peter’s Square to its Basilica; from the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican museums; and from the Scavi to the Vatican Library; you just move from one marvel to another. I started at 7am and finished at 10pm (with very short lunch and washroom breaks), and still was not able to fully admire the splendour of it all. The basilica is the most stunning church I’ve ever been to (both the inside and outside) and the artwork in the museums is overwhelmingly beautiful.
Ideally, the Vatican should be seen in 2-3 days, especially if you love art, history and/or architecture. But if like me you don’t have that kind of time, the most important advice I can give you is: BOOK IN ADVANCE. There are thousands of people at the Vatican on any given day, all who want to visit the same things as you. So if you plan to get your tickets there, you will spend about 2 hours in line for each place to see. Where to get the ticket? I’m glad you asked. You can find information on all tours and entrance fees here.
Day 5: Piazza and Fountains
This is where I wish I had come with someone. The many many maaannnyyy fountains of Rome are made for (and probably from) love. The design, the space, the atmosphere are all memorable. Definitely worth coming with a partner and have romantic strolls near these gorgeous structures. A few hits for me were the following:
- Fontana di Trevi;
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi;
- Fontana delle Rane;
- Fontana del Moro; and
- Fontana della Naiadi.
Bear in mind that these are just my choices based on the 30 fountains I was fortunate to see. But apparently there are over 2000 fountains in the city so you might like others better. I would actually love to know about the ones you visited and loved. Please comment below.
Day 6: Parks and Gardens
Something you don’t hear about much when you decide to visit Rome are gardens and parks. The emphasis is mostly on art and architecture. Yet the city has plenty of them, scattered around, all with beautiful designs and blooming flowers. And here again, I feel compelled to give you my top 3. These places were gorgeous, peaceful, and just simply heavenly.
- Villa Borghese;
- Villa Doria Pamphili; and
- Orto Botanico do Roma.
Day 7: Return
It goes without saying that on top of everything I mentioned before, Rome is definitely a great city for foodies. Right before my flight back, I made sure to go eat at all the restaurants I hadn’t had the chance to check out while I was touring the city. And I don’t think I ever understood what the word ‘delicious’ meant until I ate in Rome. A simple tomato pasta tastes a million times better than any pasta I’ve had in Montreal (or anywhere else for that matter). The same can be said about pizza and gelato. So while you’re there, please indulge in the deliciousness of the great Roman cuisine.
All in all, this was a great trip. One that I will definitely do again, but this time probably with someone. As much as it was amazing to travel alone (I did a LOT and learned a great deal), there were times I wanted to have a friend or partner to share the experience with. So, a second trip will definitely be with… Henry? What do you think? Ohhh, I thought you’d never ask. YES.
Thank you Rome, Lazio, Italy, Europe, Earth!
How about you? Have you been to Rome? If yes, What did you like most? If no, what do you look forward to?