My sister has wanted to visit Rome for about three years now, but every time she plans it, it somehow ends up going tits up and she doesn’t get to go. However, this year, our wonderful mammy decided to include it as part of our summer holiday: we lazed about for a week in Santorini, then flew to the Italian capital for a crazy few days of sightseeing (and pizza… lots of pizza).
To be honest, and in comparison to the other city breaks I’ve done, we didn’t cram as much into the weekend as I would’ve liked. The combination of tiredness due to travelling, the heat and the sheer volume of people made it impossible to get anywhere in a hurry, so we only saw two of the major sites properly. However, we bought tickets for a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, which I thought were well worth the money, and would recommend to anyone visiting any kind of city. When you’re only there for a short amount of time, bus tours are a great way to get a feel for a place whilst learning about its history. We went into Rome pretty blind: we (foolishly) hadn’t done much research, but by staying on the tour for an hour or so, we were able to decide which places we really wanted to visit during out short stay, and which we’d save for next time.
Rome is completely different to any other city I’ve been to. I look forward to learning about the history of a place when I visit it (I may’ve got a D in A Level History, but that hasn’t quashed my spirits), but I’ve never been anywhere as old as Rome before, and it blew my tiny mind. For example, you go to our capital and you see Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, learn about the Great Fire, etcetera etcetera. Rome is different because it houses actual Roman ruins and excavations in the centre of a chic and modern city. You’ll be walking down a few side streets, and then BAM, you’re at the stunning Trevi Fountain. I’ve always marvelled at the Romans: whist we were still living in cesspits, they were creating things like Aqueducts (their plumbing system). We visited the Colosseum and I could hardly take it in: how on earth did they come up with the idea to build things like trap doors and tiered bleachers, all in the name of entertainment?
On the Saturday, we got up early and headed to the Vatican city. My sister’s got this thing about the Pope (don’t ask), and we were all curious about the smallest state in the world. Unfortunately, I was actually bitterly disappointed by it. The Vatican museums themselves were wonderful: home to pieces by the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo, if you were to spend just one minute in front of each painting, you would be in there for five years. However, I know it sounds daft, but the unholiness of the place really got to me. I’m not particularly religious, but I do believe in God, and I don’t think He’d be very impressed by the circus they’ve put on in there.
In the same way that Britain uses the Queen as a source of monetisation, the Pope is exploited in the same way. Selling ‘make your own’ Pope bracelets and Rosary beads for €60 a pop in the gift shop made me uncomfortable to say the least. Similarly, we had been advised about many things before going into the beautiful Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide told us that shoulders, chests and knees must be covered; no photographs were to be taken; and she had to give us a history of the room outside of it because there was to be no talking once we had entered. After all this, and much to my disappointment, we walked in and it was like being in the pub on a Friday night. People yelling, wearing shorts… my sister actually thought that we were in the wrong place before I pointed out Michelangelo’s amazing ceiling. I expected the Chapel to be, well, a chapel: the Christian equivalent of Mecca, where people from all over the world could come and pray. I’m glad that we visited for the art perspective, but I don’t think I’d buy into it again, and it’s certainly made me wary of other religious places, such as Lourdes.
My advice to anyone that is looking to visit this gorgeous city is to not book a trip for the summer time. My apologies if you’re staring at your booking confirmation right now, thinking “what the hell have I done”, but I don’t think it’s worth it: trolling around a capital city in 35 degree heat and battling with unbearable crowds didn’t exactly ruin the weekend for me, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience either. I’m not saying that I didn’t have a good time, because it was incredible; but as with anywhere at high season, it was difficult to soak up the atmosphere because everyone else was trying to do that, too.
The good news is that I got to look around a beautiful city with two of my favourite people, eat all the carby food and drink copious amounts of wine, before retiring to our rooftop apartment that had its own hottub. I would definitely like to visit Rome again, but perhaps around Easter time, or even as late as October.
I’m aware that this post has made it sound like I had a really crappy time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth: as with everything I put on my blog, I aim to give an honest opinion of my experiences, and I don’t want others to make the same mistakes that we did. All in all, we had a cracking time- it’s just a shame that some parts dampened our spirits slightly (and no, I’m not talking about Italy being chucked out of the Euros).
Have you been to Rome or on another city break? What have been your best/worst bits?
Thanks for reading (and I hope this was helpful!),
P.S. I’ll be writing another travel post next week (check me, jetsetter), all about my time in Santorini. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to my blog by email or on Bloglovin’ (links are in the sidebar).