The Real Rome: Beginner’s Travel Guide

“Italy has changed, but Rome is Rome.” 

Rome

Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world and much of that is credited to Roma. I mean who hasn’t heard of Rome? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how to best format my Rome post. It’s just not fair to do my usual Top Five Guide since this city is full of the world’s famous attractions. How do I even choose between the Colosseum, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Pantheon, or St. Peter’s Basilica? Of course I recommend to see them all!

With its rich history of the Renaissance and Christianity, none can hold a candle to Rome’s most famous men. From ancient emperors to painters to popes, you can all meet them here. And thanks to countless films like Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita, To Rome With Love, Eat Pray Love, When In Rome, single hopeless romantics can look forward to finding love in the Eternal City. There’s just something fascinating about a Renaissance Man. Sigh. This single lady however, did not meet any. Hopeless.

But enough of my rantings.  There’s more to Rome than the images of your travel books, scenes of movies and allure of pasta.  And so I’ve decided to share my experiences as a first time Rome visitor and along with it were some of the preconceived notions I had. I will also share some travel tips so you won’t make some of the mistakes I did and won’t get disappointed if your expectations were not met.

IMG_3323

san angelo

What Not To Do

Don’t go to Rome for just a day. Like I did. Not even for a layover. There’s so much to see and do, a day is just not enough and even if you try to cram it all in, you will not be able to appreciate each structure, each piazza, each statue. Rome should be treated like an art museum. You go in there and take your time. Look at each piece, read up the history and savor the moment.

Be Alert and Cautious

Like any other big city, it is always advisable to be on guard. Italy in general is notorious for pickpockets. Men, don’t leave your wallet in your pocket and ladies, use a purse that you can zip close. I’m having a flashback to that moment I witness the police running after someone while everybody just went on minding their own business.

As expected, Rome is very crowded so be quick on your feet and don’t be too adventurous roaming the outskirts of the city at night. As much as you are in the mood for a romantic stroll at night, don’t feel too romantic. I did walk around the Colosseum at night, it was in no means romantic but my goodness the lit up Colosseum was gorgeous!

colosseum

What Not To Bring

Your selfie stick! At least in certain places. Rome just recently banned the selfie stick in the Colosseum, thanks to the vandalizing American couple. I’m not sure where else you can or cannot bring your selfie stick, it’s constantly changing so make sure to do some research or ask questions at each museum.

Expect the Unexpected

Rome is one of those places that you absolutely have to go to. You spent years learning about it in school, reading about it in books and watching it on tv. It’s a bucket list city. But today’s Rome has changed. It’s not like those fake replica paintings hanging at your favorite Italian restaurant back home. My advise is to leave all your expectations and preconceived notions behind. Focus on the good things like you’re finally in Rome and you’re finally standing in the Colosseum!

Don’t get turned off when you sit on the Spanish Steps trying to get a good Instagram photo but those damn cigarette butts and candy wrappers kept photobombing you. You’re in Rome!

spanish steps

Instead, create your own version of Rome. Look for its inner beauty.

roma

Don’t get mad when you missed out on things like the Trevi Fountain because it was under renovation. Why? Why does it have to be on MY trip?!

trevi

It’s OK. They created a mini-fountain where tourists like me can still flip a coin and make a wish.  I can’t even. But look on the bright side. It’s just another reason why I should go back to Rome.

Be prepared for anything

Remember, you are not the only one trying to get in the museums and churches. Make sure you do your research and read about each place. If you’re planning to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica, buy your ticket in advance. The lines are also ridiculous so be there as early as you can. Wear appropriate clothes when planning to go inside the cathedrals. There are guidelines and restrictions to adhere to.

I didn’t go in St. Peter’s Basilica during my stay and so it remains in my bucket list for sure. The Vatican City is truly breathtaking and even for a fleeting moment I felt somewhat cleansed.

IMG_3445

IMG_3447

vatican

st peters

Thank God for Italian Food!

You can’t go wrong with real Italian food. Eat all the pasta you can! TONS of restaurants everywhere. Take your pick. There are also a lot of street food and so you don’t have to necessarily dine in. Take a slice of pizza to go and sit on a bench outside the Pantheon. That’s what I did.

IMG_3343

Not a fan of :The train system, beggars and the graffiti problem.

Fan of: GELATO!!!!

IMG_3358

The real question lies at the aftermath of each trip. How was Rome? Everybody would be asking you this question and trust me they would expect a romantic answer.

I didn’t fall in love with Rome as I hoped but I remain thoughtful of the rich history and incredible legacy that it has. Rome has its many flaws, but Rome is Rome.

Maybe one day I will return and spend more time, and maybe I’ll meet someone who can show me around. Maybe it’s better to see Rome through a local’s eyes. Besides, I was only there for a day and that was not enough time to soak in the Roman life. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all!

Jen is a Chicago-based traveler and a full-time Director of Development for an arts & culture organization. Originally from Connecticut, she created Angel of Wanderlust as a place to share her travel stories and photos with friends and family. Now, it is a place for adventurers, explorers and dreamers. Its purpose is to inspire and encourage people to see the world and achieve a better work-life balance.