Our Anniversary to Italy: Part 27 – Activities in Rome – Where to Go, What to See, How to Save Time

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Emily Jablon:  Daraius and I went to Europe in September to celebrate our 2nd anniversary for ~2 weeks.  It was my first time in Italy so I was very excited!  In Italy, we visited Varenna on Lake Como, Milan, Venice, and Rome.

Since we were in Europe, we visited a friend in Strasbourg, France and also spent a night in Zurich.  We started our trip with a one day layover in Chicago to see friends!

St Peter's Basilica

During Our Trip to Rome We Found Many Fun Things to Do!

Our Anniversary To Italy – Trip Report Index:

This post will cover several activities and sights in Rome, including:

Daraius loved the Heart of Rome walk and biking around the Borghese museum gardens.  I liked visiting the museums!

Activities In Rome

1.   St. Peter’s Basilica

After visiting the Sistine Chapel, we decided to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica is located within the Vatican city and is the world’s largest church.  The dome was designed by Michelangelo in 1546.

St Peter's Basilica

You Can Go to the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

The dome closes at 4:00 pm, while the church stays open to ~8:00 pm, so it was better to see the dome first and then go to the church.  We paid to take the elevator up part of the way (~127 steps) and then walked the rest of the way (~300 steps).

It sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s actually a lot of fun because you walk through slanted hallways…

St Peter's Basilica

The Slanted Hallways Made Emily Feel Like She Was Walking Through A Carnival Fun House

spiral staircases with a swing rope, and tiny passageways.

St Peter's Basilica

You Climb Slanted Spiral Staircases to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Inside the dome there’s a Biblical quote. “Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum” (“You are ‘Rock’ and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 16:18).

St Peter's Basilica

You Can Read Matthew 16:18 in Latin Inside the Dome

There were statues of Christ, John the Baptist, and 11 of the disciples on the roof of the building.

St Peter's Basilica

Statues of Christ, John the Baptist, and Disciples on the Dome Roof

The climb was definitely worth it because not only was climbing the dome fun, but the views were spectacular.

St Peter's Basilica

Daraius and Emily at the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

We could see the entrance to St Peter’s Basilica and the courtyard…

St Peter's Basilica

There Is a Great View of the St. Peter’s Basilica and Courtyard From the Dome

the Vatican Gardens…

St Peter's Basilica

The Beautiful Vatican Gardens Seen From the Dome

and even our hotel up on a hill!

St Peter's Basilica

We Could See the Rome Cavalieri Hotel From the Dome

After climbing the dome, we followed the exit signs which took us directly into St Peter’s Basilica!

St Peter's Basilica

The Entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica

Here we followed Rick Steve’s walking tour, which gave us a great overview of the church.

St Peter's Basilica

The Nave Leading to the Altar

There were statues on the sides of the church.

St Peter's Basilica

A Lot of Care Was Taken to Complete the Interior of the Church

The dome seemed much higher from inside the church.

St Peter's Basilica

Looking Up Into Michelangelo’s Dome

We saw the Papal Altar and Baldacchino.  The detailing was amazing.

St Peter's Basilica

The Intricate Details of the Papal Altar and Baldacchino Make It Easy to See Why It Took 9 Years to Complete

When we were leaving, the guards stopped all the tourists from walking and waited for the priests to come out.  We thought with the dramatic entrance that it was going to be the pope!

St Peter's Basilica

The Church Comes to a Stop as the Priests Make Their Entrance

2.   Heart of Rome Walk

In the evening, after dinner, Daraius and I set out on the “Heart of Rome” walk from the Rick Steves’ Italy book.

This was very enjoyable and is best started just a little before sunset.  The monuments are lit up and there are (somewhat) less tourists.

Our first stop was the Spanish Steps which has great people watching.

St Peter's Basilica

The Next Day We Took a Trip to the Popular Tourist Attraction, Campo de Fiori

We stopped at McDonald’s for a quick meal.

St Peter's Basilica

Afterwards We Stopped at the Golden Arches for a Bite to Eat

Our next stop was Piazza Navona, which was a beautiful plaza that had the gorgeous Fountain of the Four Rivers

St Peter's Basilica

The Fountain Represents the Nile River, the Ganges River, the Danube River, and the Rio de la Plata River

and great people watching.

St Peter's Basilica

This Is a Perfect Spot for People Watching, One of Daraius’ Favorite Activities When We Travel

There were many artists selling paintings…

St Peter's Basilica

Local Artists Selling Their Work in the Piazza

as well as musicians.  Some were more talented than others.  One band was very good, and Daraius and I stopped to dance to their music.  We ended up buying a CD of theirs and look forward to listening to it.

St Peter's Basilica

A Romantic Setting for an Evening Dance in the Streets of Rome

Then, we went to the Pantheon and marveled at its well preserved architecture.

St Peter's Basilica

The Pantheon Lit Up at Night…It’s Amazing That It Still Looks Almost Exactly as It Did 2,000 Years Ago!

3.   Trevi Fountain

The next day, we went to the Trevi Fountain

St Peter's Basilica

Our Next Destination Was the Famous Trevi Fountain

where we watched many tourists pose for pictures with their coins.

St Peter's Basilica

Tourists Gather Around Trevi Fountain and Toss in a Coin to Promise Their Return

I got inspired to take our photos too.

St Peter's Basilica

Emily Tosses a Coin Promising Our Return (Time to Collect More Miles & Points!)

Our last stop of the day was back to the Spanish steps.

4.   Borghese Museum and Gardens

The Borghese Museum is an art gallery that was founded by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V.  The gallery is filled with artwork from the Renaissance period including Bernini’s famous marble sculptures.

Daraius and I reserved tickets 2 days in advance to go to the Borghese Museum (Galleria Borghese).  The museum allows only 360 people to enter every 2 hours and you have to leave the museum once the 2 hours is up.  This means that there are less crowds, but don’t count on being able to walk-up and buy a ticket at the counter!

Tickets are 16 euro or ~$22.  Daraius had more fun in the vast gardens outside the museum, but I loved visiting the museum!

St Peter's Basilica

Our Next Stop – Galleria Borghese

When we went to the museum, they were all booked up for the next few days.  But we had bought tickets in advance.  You cannot buy tickets at the museum, but have to reserve in advance.

St Peter's Basilica

Unfortunately, Tickets Were Sold Out!  Luckily We Reserved in Advance!

The museum itself was smaller than I expected.   All of the paintings and sculptures are very good though.  I especially liked two Bernini sculptures, Pluto and Proserpina and Daphne and Apollo.  There was also a small gallery of more paintings upstairs, but I preferred the statues.  I suggest getting an audio guide because nothing is marked.

You can’t take pictures in the gallery and you cannot bring in any type of bag.  The guards even fussed about my purse.  However, you can leave bags for free in the basement.

5.   Villa Borghese Gardens

Daraius walked through the museum quickly and then went to the gardens outside.

So I met Daraius in the Villa Borghese gardens afterwards and we rented bikes.

St Peter's Basilica

We Enjoyed a Bike Ride Through the Villa Borghese Gardens

We decided to try out a two person electric powered rickshaw, but neither of us liked it after test driving it.  It was too large to go into some of the smaller dirt paths.

St Peter's Basilica

Two Person Powered Rickshaw Was Too Large to Navigate Through the Gardens

We returned the four wheeler for regular bikes instead.  Bikes cost 4 euros or ~$6 per hour, or ~10 euros or ~$14 for the entire day.

St Peter's Basilica

So We Opted for the Regular Bikes

On our bike ride, we discovered many parts of the large park.

St Peter's Basilica

We Were Able to See More of the Park on Our Bikes

The park is very big with lots to explore!

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Daraius Wondering If Our Bike Rentals Earn Points as a Travel Expense

There are mini museums, as well as ponds, a kidsarea, and even an outdoor theater.  There were old monuments to explore…

St Peter's Basilica

Never Have Trouble Finding Parking With Either the Bike or Car!

including an antique grandfather clock.

St Peter's Basilica

Rome’s Answer to Big Ben? (Actually It’s a Water Clock Like Those Used in Ancient Rome.)

Daraius and I stopped by a pond that rented boats.

St Peter's Basilica

Emily Loved Watching All of the Activity Around This Little Pond

We enjoyed watching the kids feed the ducks and teenage boys rowing their dates around.

St Peter's Basilica

Boats on the Lake Make for a Romantic Date Night

Next, we found a kids park with a carousel.

St Peter's Basilica

We Also Found a Carousel Which Had Cars for Kids to Sit In Along With the More Traditional Horses

There were also stalls with kids’ toys and go-carts.  Go-carts were very popular among the teen boys.  We saw at least 3 to 4 different small groups driving them.

After the kids park, we discovered a beautiful lookout.

St Peter's Basilica

Daraius Stopping for a Water Break and the Beautiful View

We could see a plaza and the rest of the city.

St Peter's Basilica

The Plaza Below Villa Borghese Gardens

It was very beautiful and we’d love to go back at night!

St Peter's Basilica

The Lookout Area at the Gardens

There are also lots of snack and food stalls, but you can find free water almost everywhere throughout the park in the many fountains.

St Peter's Basilica

Water Fountains Throughout the Park Are a Great Place to Cool Off

Bottom Line

We found many fun and inexpensive activities in Rome!

Climbing to the top of the St. Peter’s Basilica dome seemed like it would be a lot of work, but it was actually a fun and unique experience.  The view when you get to the top makes it all worth it too!

If you go to the Borghese Museum, make sure you book your ticket in advance because it sells out quickly.

Daraius loved people watching and walking around the city.  My favorite part was getting Daraius to dance with me in the streets of Rome!

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28 responses to “Our Anniversary to Italy: Part 27 – Activities in Rome – Where to Go, What to See, How to Save Time

  1. Appreciate your website and all the reports y’all put together. But it boggles my mind that someone would go to Italy, Rome no less, and eat at a McDonalds.

    • @Ian – We ate some great food in Italy, but like trying McDonalds around the world because they have interesting adaptations of local foods. Also, most McDonalds outside the US cater to a different market than those in the US.

  2. Hahaha. That is awesome. I did a similar trip in 2000 and also had McDonald’s when I went to the Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain. Oh the memories this brings back. Thanks for the excellent detailed report.

  3. Love Rome!!! When I first went back in 1970, you could walk right up to the statues of Christ and the disciples on the roof of St Peter’s. A girl from our group decided to climb right up on the stone “railing” for a better photo, and the Italian guard came running and screaming. Probably one of the reasons they closed off that access!
    Emily – on our last visit to Rome 4 years ago, we took some wonderful sunset photos from the Borghese Gardens lookout overlooking the Piazza del Popolo – setting sun silhouetting the dome of St. Peter’s – yes, you just have to go back for that view. And to visit the church just off the piazza with its magnificent Caravaggio paintings. Reading your trip report just makes me want to go back to Italy AGAIN!!!

  4. Never commented on a blog before , even though I read them constantly. But I just have to say… you are in ITALY and you are eating MCDONALDS! Oh my. This is a sin!

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