Our Anniversary to Italy: Part 26 – Activities in Rome

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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!

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Emily and Daraius Seeing the Sites in Rome

Our Anniversary To Italy – Trip Report Index:

This post will highlight several activities and sites in Rome, including:

We used the Rick Steves’ Italy guide to plan most of our activities.

Activities In Rome

Ancient Rome

The sites I was most excited to see the ruins of ancient Rome.  Daraius and I went to Ancient Rome and toured Palantine Hill, the Forum, and the Colosseum.  I liked the Forum followed by the Colosseum and then Plantine Hill.

We walked down one of the side streets and had a cheap lunch at Pizzeria Di Sforza Piero.

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Don’t Let the Outside of Pizzeria Di Sforza Piero Fool You – The Pizza Was Tasty!

Daraius ordered 2 slices of Margherita pizza, a stuffed tomato, and a pear juice.  I got a potato pizza and an Italian cola.  Everything was very tasty.

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Cheese Pizza and Potato Pizza Gave Us the Gusto We Needed to Continue Sightseeing

1.  Palantine Hill

Palantine Hill had some sparse ruins of old palaces.  Palantine Hill, one of the highest areas in the city, housed most notable and leaders of Roman society.
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We Saw Lots of Ruins at Palatine Hill

Now there are just a few bare arches and rubble, so I would save the time and energy and instead focus on the Forum.

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Except for Ruins There Wasn’t a lot to See at Palantine Hill

2.  The Forum

The Forum, the former center of Rome, was amazing.  It really is a city that sprawls on and on.

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Emily on Via Sacra in the Larger Than Expected Forum

I would allow at least half a day (3 to 4 hours) to see the many sights.  I was surprised by how big it was, even though most structures are in ruins.

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Because the Forum is So Large and Spread Out We Were Able to Get a Photo Without a Lot of People in the Background

Inside, we saw the Arch of Titus, the Basilica of Constantine, and the Forum’s Main Square.

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Daraius Said I Looked Like a Roman Goddess.  And He’s My Jupiter!

There were so many things to see.

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Emily Really Enjoyed Exploring the Roman Forum

We also saw the Temple of Julius Caesar where his body was burned after his assassination.  The Forum also contains several other important monuments like the House of the Vestal Virgins.

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There are lots of Statues and Monuments to See!

We followed Rick Steves’ walking tour, which we found useful, but we had some difficulty finding some of the sites on the map.  But others like the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina were easy to find.

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The Temple of Antonius and Faustina Has Held Up Well Over the Years

Sometimes there were just pieces of ruins without any explanation of what they used to be.

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So Many Ruins, So Few Signs

We also saw the Temple of Divus Romulus that is now being used as a church.

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Rome Had a Lot of Temples, Many of Which Are Still Standing

There are few markings and they barely explain what you see.  Hiring a guide might be helpful for both the Forum and Colosseum.

We then walked up the hill for a great view of the Colosseum.

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The Best Views of Colosseum Are From Palantine Hill

3.  The Colosseum

After the Forum, we went to the Colosseum.  The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world.  During Roman times it was used for drama productions and other events.

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The Colosseum is Walking Distance From the Forum

This was a huge structure and we were impressed by how large it was.  It was also in relatively good condition (compared to the Forum).  That it’s standing after 2,000 years is amazing.

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Daraius and I Inside the Colosseum, Happy That We Don’t Have to Fight Lions

Once inside the Colosseum, we walked upstairs which had the best view.

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Daraius Doing His Best Russell Crowe Smirk

We then went to the gift shop to pick up some blog giveaways.

The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica

The next day Daraius and I stopped for lunch at Hostaria dei Bastioni which is near the Vatican.

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We Had the Best Pizza in Italy at Hostaria dei Bastioni
After lunch, Daraius and I went to the Vatican.  Tickets were 16 euro each (~$22). The Rick Steves’ Italy guide mentioned that there was a separate line to enter if you bought your tickets online.  Daraius bought our tickets on the web so we were able to use the shorter line to enter.  We’re so glad we booked our tickets online and avoided the wait!
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Online Tickets Save You Time!

Before we entered, we had to walk through security.

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Even the Vatican Had a Security Check Point, But No Priority Access or TSA PreCheck

You have to check large bags like backpacks and purses.

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Large Bags Had to Be Checked at The Vatican

We signed-up for the English group tour and our 1st stop was the gardens.


We got a quick overview of the gardens but didn’t get to spend a lot of time there.

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No Time for Philosophical Pondering at The Vatican Gardens, the Tour Was Quick!

Inside the Vatican museum, we saw the River Tiber sculpture.  But we had to move quickly with the guide.

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We Barely Had Time to Stop for Photos

It was still nice to view the many treasures inside the Vatican Museum.

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Every Room in the Vatican Was Filled

There were busts of important men

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The Room of Busts Reminded Us of Disneyland’s Haunted House

and beautiful sculptures.

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It Was Very Crowded With People Taking Photos

Even the ceilings were beautiful (duh!).

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I Was Impressed by All the Details, Even the Ceilings Were Decorated

We saw the Pallas Athena statue.

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There Weren’t Many Statues of Women Except for the Pallas Athena Statue

The guide talked about the period of the art (Renaissance), as well as details about the style.  She took us to a computer used for viewing the Sistine Chapel and described it in detail.  I appreciated how she reviewed many of the portraits with us.

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Daraius Wishing We Could Hurry and Go Into the Sistine Chapel

Next, we went to the Sistine Chapel, which was very beautiful.  It’s amazing how one man created such beautiful artwork.  The figures seemed to be 3D images, and the colors were so rich.  Unfortunately, no photos could be taken in the chapel, and many police officers strictly enforced the rule by walking around.

It was also VERY crowded!

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You Can’t Take Photos in the Sistine Chapel So We Took a Photo of the Sign Prohibiting Photos

Unfortunately my audio guide gave out early on in the tour, so I couldn’t hear her very well.

There was also a lot of background noise from other tour groups that drowned her out.  After about an hour of following the guide, Daraius and I turned our equipment in to her and proceeded at a slower pace.  The museum was so crowded that it was difficult keeping up with her and hearing what she had to say.

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The Museum was Very Crowded

We took the exit straight to St. Peter’s Basilica so we didn’t have to fight crowds to enter St. Peter’s Basilica.  This was another tip from the Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook.  However, you can’t re-enter the Vatican Museum once you’re in St. Peter’s Basiclica.

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We Found a Shortcut Exit to St. Peter’s Basilica

Bottom Line

We were very impressed by the details and architecture of the Forum, and the Colosseum.  However, we didn’t see much at Palantine Hill, but perhaps its history would have come alive with a guide.

And don’t go to Rome and not see the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel.  You’ll save a LOT of time if you buy your tickets online.

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