What was your last big impulse purchase? This past September, my boyfriend, Alex, and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Rome to celebrate my 27th birthday. I’m not typically a spur of the moment buyer, but there was no way I was passing up a trip to Italy, especially when traveling within Europe is so unbelievably cheap. Up until that point I had only been out of the United States to visit Canada, so I was 10-year old Christmas morning excited.
We booked our flights with Ryanair (seriously, they have €10 flights), and instead of staying at a hotel, we decided to go with a cute little Airbnb about 30 minutes from the center of Rome. I’m not sure exactly how much money we saved, but staying outside of the touristy areas was definitely a bit cheaper.
I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Italy before I went aside from the normal stereotypical stuff – good pizza, good wine, good pasta – so I was in for plenty of pleasant surprises. From the Colosseum, to the Vatican, to the quirky little towns and generous people, I was absolutely blown away by everything that Rome had to offer.
Unfortunately our first day in Italy, and my birthday, didn’t go as planned. Mix 3 hours of sleep with a 6am flight and what do you get? A big fat migraine. After we grabbed lunch, I spent most of the day in bed trying to recover. I managed to haul myself out of bed around 9pm so we could salvage what was left of the evening. We ended up having dinner at a delicious restaurant near the city center and as luck would have it, were seated next to an American couple. Tip: If you overhear someone speaking your language in a foreign place, talk to them. They’ll most likely have a few good travel tips for you.
Staying outside the center of Rome had its drawbacks (1 hour and 2 buses each way), but it also had its perks. Since we were in a more residential area, we had the chance to explore a trendy little area called Ponte Milvio that had some great authentic Italian restaurants (brush up on your Italian folks) and really came alive at night. We were also just a 10 minute bus ride from The Stadio Olimpico, where we got the chance to attend an AS Roma game. I’m not much of a soccer fan but believe me when I say, it was absolutely INSANE. It was hands down one of the best, most electric atmospheres I’ve ever seen, the Italians take soccer very seriously. Tip: They also take security very seriously, I showed my passport at least 3 times prior to getting in, so if you plan on attending a game – come prepared!
“No pictures please! NO PICTURES!” Oops! Luckily the shouting wasn’t directed at me but when the guards at the Sistine Chapel say no photos, they mean it. This was hands down one of the most breathtaking sights from our entire trip. Even though you have to make your way through the entire Vatican Museum to get to it, it’s so worth it once you step inside. I’m not a religious person by any means but believe me when I say that I was moved. Tip: Try to snag a seat on the bench that lines the room, you’ll get to sit and stare at the paintings without being jostled around by other patrons.
What can I say about The Colosseum? Photos and television certainly don’t do it justice. We waited in line for about an hour but to be honest, I barely noticed because I was so overwhelmed by everything around me. We took our sweet time once we got inside, exploring every level and checking out every artifact on display. I swear, you can feel the history in your bones. Tip: There are tons of guided tour groups going around. Find one in your language, get as close as you can, then pretend like you’re not listening. We learned some pretty cool stuff this way.
On top of all the amazing, historical places we visited, the weather was beautiful, the food was great, and even with the language barrier, we managed to navigate our way around with a minimum level of difficulty. If you’re thinking about visiting Rome, be prepared for a ton of walking, a ton of people, and a ton of breathtaking moments. Grab your cameras, book your ticket, and get ready to explore! As the saying goes, the world is your oyster.
Sign up for Airbnb using this link and you’ll get $35 towards your first stay!
Check out a few more photos from our trip below: