I did a weekend getaway with my friend in Rome. We book it so spontaneously. Why? Because why not? Spontaneous trip is one of my favorite trip and Rome is the perfect destination to do that. Also because I cannot miss the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Holy Door was closing soon. This trip was last year in October 2016, just several days before they will close the door. My friend and I were also in a very stressful semester and we were so glad we took this trip to Rome. Let’s just say we were also inspired by the movie “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown, that was situated in Rome and focusing on the St. Peter’s Basilica.
I’ve been to Rome when I was a small child. I barely remember anything but the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. Now that I’m a better traveler (and photographer), I appreciate more when I travel. Rome for me is like this ancient neighborhood (since the Romans) with full of surprises on every corner I turn.
St. Peter’s Basilica
My main purpose of visiting Rome was to get through the Holy Door (during Jubilee year 2016) and participate in one of the masses in the St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the biggest Roman Catholic church and I think every Catholic is dreaming to visit this church as it is the center of Roman Catholic and where the pope is. Saint Peter is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and he is actually buried inside the St. Peter’s Basilica. The interior of St. Peter’s Basilica is just out of the world. I don’t know how can people build this amazing church/building when these days people just put walls, doors and windows without any sense of art at all.
St. Peter’s Basilica is actually situated in Vatican City. Vatican City is a country inside Italy. So when you visit Vatican City, you kinda visited two country already. Going inside the St. Peter’s Basilica is quite easy, lots of security and long lines. As I was in Rome for three days and I stayed very, very near to the St. Peter’s Basilica, I visited the church everyday. And I can tell you to don’t go to St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday. As you may or may not know, Sunday is when all the Catholics go to church to do the mass. If you don’t want to be trapped among the super crowded people and cannot move for about 30 minutes till one hour, don’t go on Sunday. Or you can, but go earlier or a bit later than 12pm.
For having the mass lead by the pope, you should do further research as I did have the mass but not with the pope. I did the mass inside the St. Peter’s Basilica where you have to pass through another security and it is just behind the huge canopy with 4 big pillars. It has limited seats and people are crazy over to do the mass, which is one hour long and it runs every hour.
It is just any normal Catholic daily mass, except for the fact that you are having it in the one of the biggest Catholic churches in the world, the super amazing altar by Bernini (amazing, genius Italian sculptor and architecture) and the language is in Latin or Italian. You can also do the confession of sin, and they have it in European language (Italian, French, Spanish, etc.) and English. The waiting line though, damn long, probably cause people have too many sins.
There are a lot of small chapels, statues, the famous Pieta by Michelangelo and not to mention the Sistine Chapel (that I didn’t go, but now I have a reason to go back again) and with the long lines if it a high season, just several hours is not enough. I would suggest for you Catholic people or you who likes theology to spend a day, solely for St. Peter’s Basilica and truly embrace it. Because it sucks to go back in the waiting line just to go inside of the church.
In one of the days when I was in Rome, there was somewhat a festival or celebration. There are a lot of people dressed up like in the old times and lining up to the entrance of the St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a very long line and they even have trumpets (like if they want to announce something). It was very interesting and fun to see because they take the dressing up seriously from head to toe.
Castle of Angels
Castle of Angels or Castel Sant’Angelo is used as one of the settings for Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons”. What I learned from visiting this castle is that what’s in the movie is not necessarily the same in real life. I was looking so thoroughly for the hidden wall where in the “Angels & Demons” the illuminati hide, can’t find any hidden wall and only dead ends. Even the sword of the angel is not pointing the same direction as the one in the movie. Being disappointed but still amazed by the interior of the castle (because it’s nothing like the exterior), luckily I found the cafe in the castle (not literally inside though). More about the cafe down below.
If you go to the very top, the view is spectacular. You can see the whole Rome and Vatican City, if I’m allowed to exaggerate. But you can see the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica. No skyscraper, just short buildings and churches and blue sky (I was lucky).
No doubt, this is the most famous fountain in the world. So you’ve visited the Trevi Fountain and take bunch of pictures for your Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Now what? Throw a coin and make a wish of course! And there’s a rule on how to throw the coin. When I was a kid, I visited this Trevi Fountain and the tour guide told me that you have to throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. If you forgot which hand and which shoulder, just look around and observe haha.
Pantheon used to be a Roman temple and now turned into a church. It is considered as one of the oldest church. The location is very close to Piazza Navona and among the building/neighborhood. Entering Pantheon is free, well at least it was for me in October 2016 (dunno if it gonna change in the future). Inside, there’s the tomb of important Italian, such as the famous king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II (yes, the same name with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II apparently he’s so famous in Italy). The inside of Pantheon is pretty simple, just a round building or rotunda. Pantheon is also part of the “Angels & Demons” movie for a brief. Surrounding the Pantheon, it is such a lovely neighborhood and there’s this coffee house called La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro and acclaimed as the best coffee of the world. I didn’t get to try, but you should!
Piazza means square, if you don’t know. Piazza Navona is also a part of “Angels & Demons” movie (the water element part). It has two fountains and a monument. There’s a lot of vendors and musicians in this piazza. What I did in Piazza Navona is go to the palm reader (I like those kind of stuff). It’s not exactly in the Piazza Navona but nearby the area. With €10 you can ask to be read through your palm or be read by tarot card. It’s quite hard to understand when they speak broken English with Italian accent, but it’s still understandable.
If I have to choose the one that represents Rome the most, it has to be Colosseum. What’s sad is I didn’t get a chance to go inside. I’ve been to Rome twice, been to the outside of Colosseum twice and never go in. This time, it was too late for me and they are already closing the entrance to Colosseum. Usually in the morning there’s pretend gladiators to take pictures with. I just can’t believe that this large amphitheatre (ever built) was a place for battles and execution for public amusement and also for the king. In addition the fact that this building has gone through a lot of history considering how old it is, bravo for the architects and builders of this site.
Roman Forum Ruins
Roman Forum is the ancient government building, something like the parliament building or city hall probably, but ancient. I imagine this Roman Forum as the center of Rome in the olden days. Same thing happens in for the Roman Forum, I didn’t get the chance to go in the area. It probably the same as looking from far away, just in a zoom mode. When I was looking from afar, I discovered that there are cool tours in Rome where you can ride the segway and touring around Rome.
Altare Della Patria
Nearby the Roman Forum Ruins is the Altare Della Patria. It is a monument for the Vittorio Emanuelle II, the first king of a unified Italy and also considered as Padre della Patria (Father of the Fatherland). So it kinda makes sense from the name of it, it’s the Altare of the father of the fatherland haha. It is very grand and you can see it from the Castel Sant’Angelo or Castle of Angels rooftop.
Where to Eat in Rome?
Remember the Eat, Pray, Love movie? The one with Julia Roberts? She went to Rome to bring her appetite back. And I have to say, Rome did bring my appetite even higher (cause I didn’t lose it). Gelato twice a day (just like drinking meds), and the food is either pizza, pasta, panini or antipasti.
The list of restaurant/cafe below is the ones that I like when I was in Rome.
1. La Salumeria
I love everything about La Salumeria because what not to love from a place that only sells. As it is written above, La Salumeria is not a restaurant and I did my own table service like taking my own napkin, cutleries, etc. But when the food arrive and they give us full explanation of when it came from and how to eat it, I know that they are the experts of cured meat. This place is really great for snacks or lunch.
Address: Via del Banco di Santo Spirito 24 Rome, Italy 00186
2. Angelino Ai Fori
Angelino Ai Fori is a restaurant that is half “al fresco” and half indoor. Always eat outdoor if you can! The restaurant has great range of menu and choices. I tried beef carpaccio for starter, conchiglie, which is a shell-like pasta, spaghetti carbonara, and homemade tiramisu “ai fori”. They also sells gelato and it is one of my favorite gelato in Rome. The location of Angelino Ai Fori is quite close to the Colosseum and Roman Forums.
Address: Largo Corrado Ricci, 40 42 43 43a, Via dei Fori Imperiali, 25, 00184 Roma, Italy
3. Sette Oche Ristorante
Located in the neighborhood of Trastevere, I found this restaurant when I was starving and can’t walk anymore. Sette Oche Ristorante seems like a typical Italian restaurant that serves pizza, pasta and wine. Since I ate in Sette Oche at my first night in Rome, I’m dying to try the pizza. We ordered pepperoni pizza with red wine. Before I came to Rome, I was dreaming to eat the whole pizza by myself but let’s get real here. Both my friend and I can’t eat the whole pizza. Even one pizza is already too much for us. But all in all, it was a great dinner. The restaurant is very unique because we have to go kinda to the underground/basement and it seems like a cave-like interior.
Address: Via dei Salumi, 36, 00153 Roma, Italy
4. Cafe in Castle of Angels
What I love about this cafe inside the Castel Sant’Angelo is first, the view. It is overlooking the Vatican City and you can clearly see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and the buildings surround it. Secondly, the fact that it’s outdoor cafe (there are some tables inside, but why stay inside when you can have the great views) and has this al fresco vibe. The plants hanging as a ceiling is just everything for me and I went there in October. Imagine if you go to the cafe in Spring or Summer, it will be so much more beautiful. I got to be honest that the food is alright, the lemon cake (if I’m not wrong) is quite delicious though. Have a cup of coffee or tea and a good chat with a friend, while looking at the amazing view of Vatican City/Rome.
Stay in Rome
I booked an Airbnb somewhere nearby Vatican City. When I arrived, I realized that it’s a guest house. Overall, I really like the place. It has very clean private bathroom (important to me) and very clean bedroom as well. The Airbnb host, Andrea, was very lovely and helpful. As a budget traveler, this Airbnb is just about right for me to sleep and shower. It is also very well-decorated and makes me feel like I’m in a hotel. What I want to stress more is the “Tourist Tax” that is not included in the Airbnb rental fee because it is from the city itself and it is per person per night.
As the capital of Italy, Rome is a must-visit city when you are in Italy or Europe. So many major history and UNESCO World Site Heritage in this historic city. It is also the holy grail for Catholics or food lovers. Don’t forget to subscribe my blog for more travel destinations and posts 🙂 (upcoming travel posts are Denmark, Portugal and Italy again).