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I’d been to Rome once but wasn’t wild about it. I preferred Florence and small town Assisi, but my second time to Rome redeemed it once and for all. The first time I went, apparently I was too tired and overheated, but this January, I returned and absolutely loved it!
If you’re headed to Rome, here’s 15 things you must tick off your to-do list:
It’s a classic, but it’s still so stunning. Our group stopped by the Trevi Fountain at least four times, and the architecture truly is breathtaking. It’s smushed in the middle of a bunch of winding cobblestone streets, but then again, so is most of Rome. (Look both ways a few times so you don’t get run over by a moped.) You turn the corner, and you’re like, ope there it is. We paid a guy with a Polaroid camera to take a picture of our group, and then I took a photo of the Polaroid in front of the fountain; this is one of my favorites from the trip.
Another must-see sight is the Spanish Steps. Unfortunately, it was rainy and cold when we stopped there, but this is a piece of architecture you should add to your list. And you’ll get your steps in, too.
This massive structure is free, and our tour guide told us they’re not even sure how the Romans had the technology to build it in the second century. There’s a huge opening in the top of the building so the people could be close to God. So when it rains, it rains inside too.
Colosseum and Roman Forum
For my second trip to Rome, I didn’t pay to return to these spots, but they’re definitely worth a trip. The immense history of both these sites makes them worthy of adding to your itinerary. I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like to watch a gladiator fight in a stadium that size ions ago. And you can sneak a peek at Julius Caesar’s grave in the Roman Forum.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Catholic or not, you should add this basilica to your list. It’s massive, its architecture is stunning, it’s packed with history. Our tour guide even took us downstairs into the the room with papal tombs. It’s not technically located in Rome; it’s in the Vatican, which is a completely different country. But there’s no border control or passport check.
This is a spot that was definitely worth going back again. To begin, the museum is so big that I don’t know how you could adequately see it all in one visit. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum, and it truly is a gem. But don’t take pictures! Don’t worry; the guards will loudly remind you of that. Other rooms I enjoyed seeing were the walls of maps and the room of tapestries with immaculate detail.
See the pope speak
Hongyu and I went for Pope Francis’s papal blessing on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, and although I didn’t understand really any of it because it was in Italian and I’m not Catholic, it was such a cool experience. It’s free and something different. Just make sure you get there early enough to get a good spot.
I’m pretty sure that even sewers are beautiful in Rome because it’s Italy. This piazza has a gorgeous fountain and shops you can peruse. We meandered through this piazza with gelato in hand. The dream, right?
St. Ignazio di Loyola Church
This church has a ceiling near as impressive as the Sistine Chapel, and because funds ran short, the artist had to paint a dome instead of build one. The optical illusion will trick you into thinking it’s a real dome.
St. Louis Church of the French
Even when I’m in Rome, I still find a way to get my French in. The church is situated right by the Senate building, and although it doesn’t take too long to explore, it’s breathtaking all the same. The ceiling is crusted with gold, and wall-sized paintings surround you.
Cicilardone A Monte Caruso
This place had handmade gluten-free pasta, and I was shook. I’d recommend reservations, but we were able to walk in without one. It was a quaint little nook and a pleasant atmosphere. We ordered dessert, and they did a whole show just to drizzle the chocolate on my muffins. (FYI: it costs extra.)
Eat gelato at least every day
I had one rule for my time in Italy, and it was this: gelato every day. I’m a rule follower through and through, so you know I obeyed this one. There’s gelato shops just about everywhere, but three stand out in my mind. I ate gelato from the Lindor chocolate store twice because it was that good. Most gelato shops have some sort of chocolate, but Lindor has so many varieties of chocolate. And my sweet tooth went to heaven in the few minutes that it took me to consume this goodness. Another spot I enjoyed was Blue Ice Gelato where I had Snickers gelato — yum! I appreciated their large selection, because I have standards when it comes to dessert. And on our last night, we walked in the rain late at night for one last gelato hoorah, and The Gelatist is up there with some of the best gelato. They too had a vast array of choices, and my three scoops of sorbet (wild berry, strawberry and lemon) might have actually been a dream.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Our walking tour guide said this coffeeshop is a favorite, and it did not disappoint. I ordered a granita, which is the boujee version of a frappuccino. It was so rich that I couldn’t even finish it. It was better than I’d imagined. This also was a great place to buy souvenirs for my friends.
This restaurant sits on the piazza with the Pantheon. It might not be the most gourmet of food, but for me, it was about location. I ordered some phenomenal gluten-free fettuccine alfredo with chicken along with a glass of Prosecco, and almost all of our tour group squeezed onto the patio for a late night group dinner. I still hold this fond memory close as we were sitting feet away from a building almost as old as Jesus.
Looking to add another destination to your Italy trip? Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Italy.