Last updated on 3.1.2020
We visited Rome with family over the New Years. Over three days we walked an average of 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) a day and saw everything from Trastevere’s restaurants to the Colosseum. We rented a stunning flat through HomeAway as we were 9 adults, so renting a flat seemed a better option than staying in a hotel. Our home was by the river Tiber, 10 minute walk away from the Vatican. Here are some of the sights we visited over three days and some places we ate at. Here is a table of contents to help you navigate through the post!
Table of contents
- First day
- Second day
- Third day
- Top tips from the trip
First day; Sightseeing and fireworks at Gianicolo Hill
Our first day in Rome was actually the New Years Eve of 2017. We began the day by walking around the city and finding our way to Fontana di Trevi.The fountain is known for people throwing their coins and hoping for good luck. As it was the last day of the year we were met with million people wishing to do the same. If you are a photographer I suggest you seek a quieter time or rise on the railings of the fountain.
The fountain is a stunning place to visit with absolutely beautiful place to visit. Remember to take a coin and throw it over your shoulder to the fountain and wish. I myself remembered to wish at the moment when the coin was almost in the water as I was so concentrated on shoulder. The fountain gets lit nicely during evenings, but I have to tell you, that a photograph makes it look much more stunning than what it truly is. If the fountain is on your route anyway it is worth the visit, but if it is far from your route, it is not a must see in the evening.
The Spanish Steps
From the fountain we walked to the Spanish steps. If you do not like crowds, beware. These steps are packed! If you are expecting a nice shot of just you on the steps, that will be unlikely, at least during the touristy times. Walking up the steps does though provide a beautiful view of the city, which is worth the crowds. After the steps we decided to find somewhere to eat which is not a challenge in Rome, but finding a place with nice affordable food can be. After walking around near the Spanish steps we ended up eating in a La Botte Antica, that had very good pizza and nice staff. The prices were higher which was though expected as we chose to eat near the tourist sights.
What I loved the most about Rome was the possibility to walk everywhere. Even though we walked a lot and at times my feet were dying was it still worth it. Walking allowed chances to see beatiful little side alleys all over Rome. With invention of such apps like Google Maps was getting lost also safer, as you could always easily find your way to your house. If you do not have any map either on your phone or on paper can Rome be tricky though as it does not have the most sensible street planning. Millions of little streets that cross each other and meet again at surprising points are like a little treasure map filled with surprises.
Before returning to our flat to prepare for the evening we walked to the Pantheon.. This is something worth checking out if you are near by. The entry is free and even though at first the queue will look long it moves fast. When we joined it the queue twirled around the square in front of Pantheon all along till the restaurants, but the time in the queue did not take more than 20 minutes. The building from the outside looks nothing like the dome structure on the inside. In silence you can walk around the circle room, look at the art and statues, sit in silence, pray or just marvel at the booming silence. During rain it rains inside the Pantheon which apparently is a beautiful sight. Unfortunately our day was cloudy so we did not get to see this.
The day ended in the New Years Eve fireworks.
There are many events happening in Rome over new years. We chose to have a new year just with us nine. We had heard that viewing the fireworks from Gianicolo hill which truly was an amazing place to see them. From the hill you could see the whole Rome open in front of your eyes. There were proper fireworks that lit up the sky. In the end all was left was the smell of gun powder and grey clouds. After that we still walked to see the lit up St Peter’s Basilica. After that we walked back to the flat, but if you wish to party Rome style you stay up until the sun rises for the new year!
Day 2: Hospital island, Churches, Colosseum, Forum of Caesar and Trastevere
Churches of Rome
Day two in our schedule was definitely the hardest. All together near 17 kilometres of walking around the city seeing everything imaginable. We began our day walking to the Hospital island. Eventually our aim was to walk for lunch in Trastevere which is known for its touristy restaurants. On the route we visited some beautiful churches, one behind the photo below. Rome is filled with churches that do not look like much from the surface, but behind the doors you can see their beauty. Even though I am not a religious person could I enjoy the details and beauty of these churches. Especially beautiful was the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. The church was just stunning, and so big. From the outside it did not look like much, but inside it was just one of a kind.
From there we walked to have lunch in one of the restaurants in Trastevere. The area has restaurants side by side which is why there is surely something to eat even on the first day of the year. In the restaurants they have set menus for tourists which was pleasing as we were all hungry. If you look for a more special menu you can probably seek slightly outside the main roads in Trastevere.
Jewish Ghetto and Altare della Patria
Once we had filled our stomachs we headed onwards. We walked through the Jewish Ghetto which was filled with restaurants but also small signs explaining the history of the region from the WWII times. There is also a ruin just outside the Ghetto which I suggest you check out if you are wondering by there.
From there our walk continued to Altare della Patria. A building so huge that one just cannot comprehend its size. It is a monument built for Victor Emmanuel, the king who is credited for uniting Italy. The monument itself has a museum part in it that you can visit with payment, but just looking at the sheer size of it was enough for us.
Romulus, Remus and Forum of Ceasar
Most of us know the statue of Romulus and Remus, officially known as the Capitoline Wolf. We did not see the actual statue but we did walk from Altare della Patria to the replica that stands on a pedestal over Forum of Ceasar. Like many old artifacts is this statue much, much smaller than what you would imagine. The beauty of the place is the scenery that opens to the Forum and the city itself.
The Forum and the vastness of it and the multiple ruins in it were lost to us in the speed of our walk. We swiftly walked past the Forum and headed towards the colosseum without much reading on the history of the place, the significance of it or anything else. These were left for the next visit.
The Colosseum. A sight that just cannot be overlooked when visiting Rome. I had seen it last in 2009 when I came to Rome for the first time. All I remembered from that visit was that Rome was steaming hot in August. In January the temperatures were lovely. We were able to admire the building from the outside as it was not open but that was not a problem. If you have time I suggest walking around the Colosseum. You really grasp its size then. We were also lucky that the rain drops changed to cloudy skies as it provided some great photo opportunities. When walking around the Colosseum remember to look behind you as you might see a photo opportunity. The day ended in sunset and lit up Colosseum disappearing behind us as we walked towards our flat.
Day three: Vatican and souvenirs
Day three was the easiest of the three days. In the morning we headed towards Vatican as we wanted to start the new year by visiting another country. We had researched that by queueing the tickets would not be as expensive as they were with a tour. There was an opportunity to book online in advance, but it was not open at the time of our visit. Once we reached St Peter’s Square we were met by one of the tens of people selling tours. One man came to us saying “Do not worry, I work here” so we of course responded assuming he worked for Vatican. Unfortunately for us we did not realise he was going to sell us a tour before we were already in the palm of his hand. This ended up in us eventually after a long discussion and him walking us to the right side of the Museum into us buying a tour from him. We were lucky though as our tour guide Deborah was AMAZING, but I would have been less thrilled if the guide would have been less amazing. We went with Maya tours, but there are about 20 men and women walking around the Vatican locking eyes with tourists and selling them tours in various prices. If you manage to get a tour with Deborah though I thoroughly suggest you pay the extra money, she is amazing! If you are not a museum person maybe just visit St Peters Basilica but if you wish to see the Sistine Chapel you have to go through the museum. When I last visited Rome you still could take photos of the Chapel but this time it was no longer allowed which is why you have to visit it to see it.
When walking around the museum remember to look up! The ceilings are the parts of the museum that are filled with colours paintings and interesting imagery. If you are in Rome during New Years avoid Vatican on the 2.1. as it was packed due to the two day closure. The amount of people made it almost impossible to enjoy the sights.
The tour ends in St Peters Basilica where you can go look at Pieta and the grave of St Peter. If you are in good health please take the option to walk up the Basilica. The walk up is like a real life fun house. The walls tilt to 45 degree, there are different steps and staircases. Just make sure you are fit enough to walk up over 500 steps. But once you make it up, it is worth it as you can see the whole Rome from up high.
Also, if you suffer from fear of heights I will warn you that there is a part in the top that you walk in outside air around the dome. You can though stay next to the building so there is not a single point when you would have to/have a chance to look down which is probably a relief.
After the day in Vatican we returned to the flat to eat after all the walking we had done. After that we headed to the touristy areas to buy some souvenirs. At no point of our trip did I get the feeling that Rome was particularly a shopping city. There were shops that we came by but they were here and there. There are a lot of touristy shops where you can buy the magnets, limoncello, pasta, olive oil and other Rome souvenirs you wish to get.
Our last stop was Tonnarello restaurant in Trastevere. And I am so glad we left it as the last as the food was amazing. The bruschettas were big, the pastas and pizzas were filling and tasty and the dessert chocolate salami I had was a sugar overload, but in a good way. It was the perfect end to the holiday and after that we returned to the flat to pack our things and prepare for our flight home.
To learn from our trip here are the top tips for Rome in three days
Do NOT try to see it all in three days, unless you only want to look at things
Rome is filled with historical sights, small holes on the ground leading to views of the ancient Rome, wall signs telling stories of the history of the city and much more. In three days you can of course see everything, but you will not have time to enjoy it all.
Take good shoes
Rome is a really nice city to walk around in. There are tens of little side alleys you might miss if you bus around. The walking though requires some good footwear.
Cook at home if you can over New Years Eve
This was a really good tip we received. New Years Eve is very expensive in the restaurants in Rome, as majority of them offer only Menus. A night can cost anything from 90-400 euros per person, so for a group as big as ours this was just not an option. Cooking at home worked well for us, as we ate a nice lunch before the evening.
Order a small gelato!
I am an ice cream addict. I love ice cream in ridiculous quantities. BUT. In Rome, order a small gelato from the gelato place, especially near the touristy areas, as the portions are HUGE. It is better to go taste another flavour in another gelato place than waste half of your medium gelato due to brainfreeze.