Last summer I was super excited to make a trip to Italy, because of one main reason: FOOD. I like pasta. I like pastries. I
like love wine. And Italy had it all. I had my bags packed and I was ready to gain five pounds. Trust me when I say, Italy did not disappoint. The food was absolutely wonderful, but it wasn’t the only great thing I found. From the architecture to the history to the people, Italy was an all around great place that definitely deserves multiple repeat trips. My trip was based in Rome, and while Italy has many great places, Rome should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
Why Rome, Italy?
If you’ve been listening, you know that my knee-jerk answer to this is food! There’s that, but there is so much more:
- The Vatican– The Vatican is for Catholics what Mecca is for Muslims, but you definitely don’t have to be religious to enjoy this famous site. This home of the Pope is also home to famous, iconic architecture and paintings. At the vatican, you can visit St. Peter’s Basilica, and be sure not to forget to go to the Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo’s famous painting on the ceiling.
- The Colosseum– The Colosseum is a must see when you go to
Rome. The magnificence of this ancient wonder is definitely something you should see at least once in your life. It was built in 80 AD and most of it is still in relatively good shape.
- Trevi Fountain– This iconic fountain is located in the Trevi district in Rome and is one of the most famous things about Rome. Legend says that if you throw a coin into the fountain from over your shoulder, it ensures your return to Rome.
- The Roman Forum– The Roman Forum is an area of Rome where the most important buildings of the ancient Roman government were. You can walk around inside the Forum, and being among these ancient ruins is a surreal experience.
Planning your Italian Vacation
Where do you fly into?
- Aeroporti di Roma-Ciampino (CAO)– This airport is closer to Rome than the other, but does not have a train service from the airport to Rome, so you will have to get a bus or car.
- Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO)– This airport (also called Fiumicino) has a train that will take you directly from the airport to Roma Termini, a major train station in the heart of Rome. The train will only cost around $15.
Where should you stay?
Like every major city in the world, there are many hotels and accommodations to choose from. I chose to stay in a hostel in a small town about 30 minutes by train outside of Rome, and it may have been the best hostel I have ever stayed in. Wiki Hostel is located in the nearby town of Zagarolo. One of the many good things about this hostel is that it is close enough to Rome that it is not an inconvenience to get there, but it is far enough away to get a completely different experience. During the train ride to Zagarolo you will get to see the countryside with quaint homes, fields, and an occasional ancient ruin. When you get to the station at Zagarolo, someone from the staff will come pick you up and take you to the hostel. Wiki Hostel is the former home of a musician that a group of friends bought and turned into a hostel, so it has a nice ‘at home’ feel. The warmth of the staff make you feel at home as well. The group of friends that own the hostel run it themselves and they put their hearts and souls into making your stay a great one. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and most of the rooms are only two or four to a room. Downstairs is a bar/patio area stocked with all the wine you could ask for! Whole bottles of wine are for sale for only 9 euros. If you’re there on a Friday night, be sure to attend their pizza night where you can make your own pizza Italian style in a stone oven. The town, itself, is beautiful with one of the best restaurants that I have ever dined. The whole length of the town is an easy walk and is beautiful to explore. I loved staying at this hostel and would recommend it to families, friend groups, and solo travelers.
Things to Know
- Language- Italian is the national language. I found that many people spoke English, so language wasn’t really an issue, but there were a couple of times where a few common phrases did come in handy. I recommend Lonely Planet’s Italian travel guide.
- Currency– Like most European countries, Italy uses the Euro. Currently the exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.18 USD, so things are more expensive. If you are in tourist areas, food and other things are going to be ridiculously expensive. The further away you get from tourist areas, the better the prices will be.
- Weather- Weather in Rome is similar to weather in the U.S., with our typical summertime being their warmest times of the year, and our winter being their coldest part of the year.
- Transportation- Taxis are abundant in Rome. If you would like to save money, there is a very organized bus system, but it would help to know a bit of Italian to ask questions if you need to to navigate the buses. If you’d like to leave the city, there is a major train system that will take you to other areas away from Rome. Roma Termini is the major train station in Rome, but there are also others.
- Food- Food in Rome/Zagarolo was some of the best that I’ve had. The meats, pastas, and pastries were all delicious. Once I got away from the tourist laden areas like the Vatican, food was not too expensive. If you’re a picky eater, you should not have a problem with finding food that will suit your tastes.