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Pink Couch Travel Guide and Photographic Journal - Rome.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Rome for my birthday. It was a bit of a last minute change to our trip. Originally, we were going to Ferrara where we went at the start of the summer, but a few weeks before we were set to fly, Ryanair changed our flight times, making it really difficult for us. After weighing up the options, we chose to fly in to Rome instead, somewhere I have always wanted to visit and then travel on to Ferrara from there.

When I went to Italy in May, in this post I did a little photographic journal and put together a colour scheme inspired by the colours of the country. This time (along with some photos), I thought I'd let you know more about my trip, where we stayed, where we ate, some places we visited and also some tips for things that helped us, especially as I found looking at information on other travel blogs really useful when planning. In total we had 2.5 days in Rome which when you are in a city with such a rich history meant that we needed to prioritise what we really wanted to see. Rome can also be expensive, as with any large tourist city, so it was a good idea for us to make some plans before getting there.

Where to stay and eat.

First we checked out a few AirBnB's as these have served us well in Paris, but as we were only looking at 3 nights we decided on a hotel this time. Based on price, rating and also a great recommendation from some friends of ours, we decided on Smooth Hotel Termini. Termini is the main railway station in Rome and as we would be travelling onwards by train, this hotel was in a great location about a 10 minute walk away (this proved useful as the airport bus also dropped us off at the station when we arrived). The area was quiet, with the hotel surrounded by the embassies of various countries, including the impressive British Embassy just across the road. It was a short metro ride away from the main attractions, with a station a few minutes walk away. The hotel staff were incredibly friendly and helpful giving us maps, answering any questions we had and recommending places for us to eat. The hotel even provides you with a smartphone, free of charge, which you can take out and about with you (very useful for Google Maps). We ate amazing carbonara at Fuocolento and birthday pizza at REbasilico, both of which were just around the corner from the hotel. As it wasn't in central Rome, prices at the local restaurants were very reasonable and the food still amazing!

What to see.

DAY 1 -

My main request for this trip was to go to the Colosseum. We decided to look into having a tour and found out that there are a lot of private companies who offer tours but these were very expensive, we are talking £100+ each! The official Colosseum website offers general admission tickets and guided tours in various languages. Regular entry alone is €16, with entry plus the guided tour €33, most definitely a more realistic price. The only problem we had - all the English tours were full. Apparently they fill up quickly when dates become available and if I had known we were going to Rome I would have looked at this much earlier, but a couple of weeks notice meant that there was no availability. What did we do? Booked on the only tour left with spaces, the Italian tour! There are certain parts of the Colosseum you can only see with a guide, the underground area below the stage where the exotic animals were kept and the gladiators got ready, and the third floor. I did a little Italian at school, but not enough to be able to understand a whole historical tour so I had to do a little bit of homework. I downloaded Rick Steves Audio Europe which is a free app that has loads of really useful and interesting guides to various locations in Europe (wish I had known about it before our trip to Pompeii), including the Colosseum. I listened to the audio tour on the plane the night before which meant when our guide pointed out certain features I was able to relay what I had heard to my husband! Our tour guide did take pity on us occasionally (considering only 2 people on the tour were actually Italian speaking) and she did briefly tell us a few bits in English. The tour was so worth it, the views from the third floor were spectacular, being so high up really helped you to get an idea of the scale of the place and the underground chambers were fascinating and a little eerie!

Your entrance ticket to the Colosseum also gives you entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill which are right next to it. Their website was a little confusing (they seem to have made it clearer now), it stated you had two days to visit all the sites, but you actually have 24 hours from the entry time on your ticket, which for us was 10 am so it meant we had to do all three sites in one day. It was a lot of walking and a lot of ruins, so if like my husband history isn't you favourite thing, you might run out of steam doing it all in one day. Even I did and I LOVE ruins. I'd recommend getting an entry time around lunchtime, then you could do an afternoon at one and a morning at the other two, just to break it up a bit. The biggest bonus of advanced tickets is that you can skip the line for the Colosseum and that line was BIG even in November, I dread to think what it is like in the height of summer!

DAY 2 -

My birthday started with being brought a cupcake with a candle in it at breakfast by the lovely hotel staff! After that, we had our own walking tour planned and thankfully the weather was perfect. Together with the map given to us by the hotel and "The Heart of Rome" map and audio tour by Rick Steves, we spent the whole day taking in the sights. Starting with the Sunday crowds at the Vatican, we walked toward Castel Sant'Angelo and across the Bridge of Angels. After a pit-stop for a cup of tea and the best pastry of the whole trip in a bar full of priests (Caffe Peru), we headed to the Pantheon (another brilliant audio tour on the app). Next the sensational Trevi Fountain to make my birthday wish followed by the Spanish Steps and ending in Piazza del Popolo for another cup of tea and birthday pastries at Canova. After a rest back at the hotel we headed back out because I wanted to see the Colosseum by night. That turned into an impromptu pre-dinner walk through the city where we saw Trajan's Forum and the Trevi Fountain illuminated too and everything in-between, in the hustle and bustle of an evening in Rome.

DAY 3 -

Sadly the good weather didn't last and it poured almost constantly for our last morning in Rome, to say it didn't dampen our spirits would be a lie, but we did still enjoy our last few hours of exploring. After buying an umbrella and falling over in the wet, we tried our luck in the Mouth of Truth (located at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin). The legend says that if you are a liar it will bite off your hand. We left with all hands intact, but the crying little girl ahead of us was obviously a little more wary! Our destination was the old Jewish Ghetto as I had read it was a good place to go if you only had a short amount of time. As with many Jewish areas, it has a lot of difficult history, but it has now become popular with younger people, pushing up the house prices and filling the narrow cobbled streets with shops and cafes for the tourists. It was quiet when we went which may have been due to the weather, but it has some amazing (free) ruins rising up between the surrounding buildings. They include various structures like Portico D'Ottavia, Teatro Marcello a theatre which predates and looks like miniature Colosseum and various temples. Definitely could have spent longer there if we'd had more time and maybe if it was less wet. On our way to the train we grabbed some pizza, did a lap of Capitoline Hill and took in a different view of the Roman Forum.

Pink Couch tips for Rome.

Download the Rick Steves Audio Europe app and spend some time wandering the streets. There is so much to see for free without having to go in to any of the museums and galleries.

Make sure you get gelato from La Romana. This is a chain so you'll find several in Rome and all over Italy. We first went to one in Ferrara in May and the gelato and the interiors are lovely and even better, there was one right near Smooth Hotel. My flavour pick is Biscotto della Nonna, and my husbands, Crema dal 1947.

Get delicious food for reasonable prices by staying a little further away from the tourist hot spots.

Download TicketAppy for buying metro tickets. It is really easy, all you do is purchase the ticket you want and scan your phone at the barrier, much easier and quicker than navigating the ticket machines.

If you are visiting the Colosseum buy your tickets in advance, it's definitely worth avoiding the queue!

Don't let Russell Crowe near your pizza.

I hope some of these hints and recommendations help if you are heading to Rome soon or maybe it will inspire a trip!

R x


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