Italy Travel

Four Days in Italy: Rome, Vatican and Pompeii

July 2, 2015

Italy was our next stop in Europe during our June vacation. We took a quick 2 hour flight from Paris to Rome via Vueling. I’m always amazed at how easy it is travel within Europe via air. We spent four days in Rome in a hotel near the Spanish Steps. Our first day there we my husband downloaded an audio walking tour onto his phone and we set out to explore Rome on foot on our own. It was a very relaxing way to see a lot of things in Rome at our own pace. The week we visited Rome it was very hot and sunny during the day at 28 to 31 ºC (82 to 87 ºF). Three of the four days it was too hot to wear any makeup – I only wore sunscreen on my face. It rained on and off in warm showers but it was more of a light sprinkle.

Walking through Rome felt like we stepped back in time. Ruins and monuments were everywhere and it felt like the entire city was almost like an outdoor museum. Many of the buildings were going through renovations and construction and partially covered, but it was still beautiful to see everything. Most of the Trevi Fountain was covered with scaffolding and the entire area was fenced off.

Our week in Rome was planned more for adventure versus relaxation. Two of the four days were spent hiking and biking outside the city. The areas and sites we visited included the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Appian Way, Roman Forums, Trevi Fountain, Palatine Hill, and the Pantheon. We also took a day trip to Naples to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.

Pantheon

It was really interesting seeing the differences in architecture in Rome after visiting Paris. There are similarities in the classic style that you see throughout the city. The streets in Rome are small and narrow. I was surprised to see that the alleys in between buildings were actually roads – I was seriously impressed to see cars and vans maneuver their way through the tiny roads without hitting motorcycles, other cars, or pedestrians. Many of the cafe tables and chairs were laid out right along the alley – cars would drive up right next to them as they went through the streets.

Beautiful colorful buildings

Some snapshots of Rome

 Roman Forum

 Colosseum

Entry to our hotel on Via Vittoria

We used the iRooms which are more like floors rented out in apartment buildings throughout the city in different buildings. This one is the one near the Spanish Steps. We had a pleasant stay and the rooms were clean with good air conditioning. WiFi was pretty good but we were too tired each night to do any work or internet surfing. Service was excellent but I personally prefer traditional hotels. Our room was used just mainly for sleeping since we spent most of our days outside walking or touring, otherwise I would have felt better if our room had usable windows. (More reviews via TripAdvisor.)

Across the street was the cutest cafe called La Buvette. We ate breakfast here and they had the best café latte that I’ve had in my entire life. Both my husband and I enjoyed breakfast Italian style where you order a drink and pastry at the counter and eat/drink standing up. Note if you’re new to visiting Europe, an American Latte isn’t the same in Europe. If you order a “latte” in Rome, you will only get milk. Ask for a Café Latte. The ones in Rome are truly amazing. My husband enjoyed the cappuccinos.

Food in Rome was pure heaven for me as Italian food is my favorite. I could live off pasta and pizza 24/7. The Italians know how to cook pasta perfectly al dente which is firm but still fully cooked. I wish I took more pictures or note of the restaurants we visited. This pizzeria called La Montecarlo was recommended by our tour guide. She said it was the best pizza in Rome. Both my husband and I really enjoyed the food here. I would go back in a heartbeat.

My favorite place out of all the places we went to in Rome was this restaurant called Gusto. There are several variations of the restaurant all within the same block. There is a cafe for drinks and desserts, an outdoor casual cafe, an area just for pizza and a more formal dining area (although the dress isn’t formal). We ate here twice for dinner – it was that good.

My favorite place was this gelato and candy store called Venchi. I wish I had bought more candy at this store, best chocolates I’ve ever had. This was a rare moment when it wasn’t packed. It was close to our hotel room and every time we walked by there was a line out the door.

In terms of shopping, we didn’t do much. I took a few snapshots of the Valentino windows. I purchased some bath cubes from L’Occitane because I thought they were mini soaps. Oops! Zara seemed very popular – I wish I had stopped inside a few but it was so hot we were in no mood to do any clothes shopping.

For tours we booked three with City Wonders. In general we were happy with the tours. They were easy to find, tour guides were friendly, One was a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius which we both really enjoyed. We had three different guides all of which were excellent. The day we went was extremely hot but we both had a lot of fun. Pompeii was incredible. Mount Vesuvius was the highlight of the trip for my husband. I was ok climbing up the hill. It took about 45 minutes to walk to the third gift shop which is the farthest they will let you walk without a special guide. Walking down the hill was another story – to say I have a fear of heights is an understatement – my husband had to hold my hand the entire way down (yes, I’m a big chicken).

 Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius

Another tour we booked was the Vatican City and Colosseum Duo. We were happy to be able to see both but given the crowds and heat, the tour guides moved us at a fast pace. The heat was unbearable, we almost gave up in the middle of one to skip it, but we stuck with it to walk through the Roman Forum. If you are planning a visit to Rome in the summer, I would recommend checking the weather patterns first before visiting. If it’s in the middle of summer, you might want to consider a night tour where it’s not as hot. St. Peter’s Basilica is amazing – we wanted to visit the catacombs but the tours were booked.

Below is St Peter’s Basilica

Last but not least is the highlight of our trip which was biking through the Appian Way with Top Bike Rentals. This was in the top two of my husband’s list and although I’m not a fan of biking I decided to try it anyways. I gave a sneak preview in my overview post but to recap, there are a number of bike tours through Rome. We both picked the E-bikes which I highly recommend – they don’t have motors but are basically assisted bikes which make it really easy to bike up hills. The tours are very well organized. We took a group tour which had about 10-12 people in it. We biked from center city Rome about 20 minutes to the Appian Way. Before you start biking everything is fitted and adjusted for you and then they take you to a small area to practice as a group. We took the Ancient Appian Way tour that takes you through the Aqueducts Park and St. Callisto Catacombs.

A few more snapshots of Rome


We both fell in love with Rome. June is the beginning of tourist season though so every place we visited was extremely busy and packed (although it was expected for the tourist spots). We considered spending another week in Venice at the end of our trip to be our vacation from our vacation but were concerned about planning too much for one trip so it’s been added to our wishlist for upcoming years.



I have my packing post coming up soon but some have asked what shoes I ended up taking with me on the trip. I had two pairs I narrowed down my picks to: these Nike Pre-Montreal shoes and these Puma Suede sneakers. Both are very comfortable – I think hands down Nike is almost always a good pick because of comfort (I usually go up 1/2 a size). Pumas are true to size for me. I brought the Pumas and it took about 2 days to break in. They do run narrow but I have really narrow feet so if yours are normal to wide you probably will want to try something different. The Pumas worked well for street walking, biking, hiking up the dirt and gravel paths and also walking on slippery cobblestone roads. I would have liked to wear prettier shoes (like nice flats) but they wouldn’t have survived in Rome. I saw a lot of women (both Italians and tourists) wearing ankle-strap sandals that looked similar in style to like these Franco Sarto, these Steve Maddens and these Sam Edelmans. I considered taking those kinds of styles with me on the trip but given the activities I planned I don’t think they would have worked for 1/2 of the things we did. If you have any shoe recommendations for travel in Europe I’m all ears for future trips.



Have you been to Rome before? Any favorites? For Italy any other favorite cities you visited and loved that I should add to my travel wishlist?


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  • Kim

    Sabrina, your pictures are superb!

    • You are too sweet Kim, thank you.

  • Duffi McDermott

    Rome. I spend my teenage years in Rome. I love it. I am so delighted that you had a good time. What fun to follow you on your adventures!

    • How incredible!! That sounds like an amazing experience. Thanks for following along 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Hello! I've been a silent reader for a number of months now, but I absolutely had to comment on this post, because I myself have just returned from 3 weeks in Europe! I spent most of my time in Italy, then hopped over to Spain to visit Barcelona, and it was a trip of a lifetime for me (though I hope there will be many more trips like this to come in the future). Seeing your pictures and descriptions of Rome took me back; on my trip I went to Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, and Rome — I'd initially planned to take a day trip to Pompeii just as the both of you had, but there was simply too much of Rome to see that I wanted to spend an extra day wandering the streets and taking in the sights.

    If you end up returning to Rome, I would absolutely recommend a restaurant called Armando Al Pantheon, which is seconds away from the Pantheon and Piazza della Rotonda, in a semi side-street. Recommendations days in advance are necessary in peak months (I was there in early June); for a dinner reservation it may be best to drop by during their service hours and book a few days from then, or call in if you have an international phone plan. It is usually easier to get reservations during lunch, or if you're lucky you might be able to get in without a reservation. But the food is fantastic; while it's become an attractive spot for tourists, this establishment has not compromised its quality of food or authenticity, and this restaurant has its equal share of local frequenters (a family came in while I was there, and they were warmly greeted by hugs, handshakes, and animated conversations with nearly half the staff).

    For sights, I would recommend visiting Piazza Navona (a really large square with a beautiful, central fountain and filled with touristy sketch artists and painters, but a stunning, spacious, and romantic space), the market that takes place until mid-afternoon in Campo dei Fiori (aka "Field of Flowers"), Borghese Gardens (STUNNING park that also houses the famous Borghese Gallery; tickets to this museum must be booked in advance, as they're almost always sold out due to their daily cap, I believe), and the nightlife across the river in Trastevere.

    Of the cities I visited in Italy, Florence was by far my favorite, and I would highly recommend that you add it to your wishlist. Verona was also a lovely surprise, not as packed in monuments and sights, but I had some of the best food there, and it was a wonderful city to savor. I think you're going to enjoy Venice when you visit, as long as you keep in mind how touristy the island is; I heard about 10% Italian and 90% every other language when I was there (and about half of the Italian I heard came from vendors and owners of the restaurants, haha!). But the sunsets were unreal, there are beautiful, hidden squares that are occupied by nearly all residents and their families, and be sure to take a visit to the island of Burano, which is known for its lace and beautiful assortment of colorful houses bordering the canals.

    –Jana

    • Hi Jana, your trip sounds so dreamy. It sounds like we experienced similar planning challenges – there are so many amazing options, it's overwhelming. Florence is defintely on our list. I think we could spend months exploring Italy. All the cities on your list sound so amazing!

      Thank you for the recommendations for Rome – I'm sure we will visit again, hopefully not in the height of tourist season.

  • Rome looks like such a beautiful city! It's so great that you had an amazing time, and I've been loving your photo diaries of your trip. x

    nueyork.blogspot.com

    • Thank you Nueyork – so happy you have followed along 🙂

  • Coffee in Italy is THE. BEST. EVER. I would go back just for that. Seriously.

    • I totally agree. Why can't everyone make it like the Italians do?

  • Patty H

    What a lovely post! My husband and I will be going to several cities in Italy (including Rome) in August and this post just made me even more excited!

  • Coffee in Italy ruined coffee in Canada for me. I can't do my work's coffee anymore, I have to bring it from home. The Trevi fountain is hands down my favourite site in Rome. I was there last summer, and unfortunately it was having restoration work done then as well.

    I've done ballet flats in Europe anytime I've gone. They've seen me through Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Rome and Santorini among other places. That being said, I don't do it without supportive inserts. I'll pick up a pair of Dr. Scholls before we leave and by the time we come home they're toast.

    • LOL, I think food in Europe has ruined food in the US for me. Nothing is the same now. Good to know on the inserts for flats! I'll have to do that next time. I was so envious of how all the women were effortlessly dressed while looking so incredibly chic. So many cute flats everywhere in Paris!

  • Wow the buildings look amazing

    CANDICE | BEAUTY CANDY LOVES

  • I've already done Rome and Venice but I definitely want to go back and some more of the South! Stunning photos! x

    • Thanks Kara! I want to visit the cities in the south as well. Venice was on our list but we ended up skipping. Next time though!

  • Beautiful pictures. Lived in Europe for many years and you have captured its essence.

    • This brought me to tears. Thank you for being so kind.

  • My absolute favourite travelling shoes are Naot's. They have cute sandals with ankle straps that I have walked for miles in both in Italy and Greece with lots of cobblestone streets. I have a pair of Naot shoes that I carry for rainy days. The soles of these shoes are amazing and supportive and lots more fashionable than runners. I highly recommend them. (You should add the amalfi coast to your future wish list – amazing.)

    • Thanks Maureen! I'll have to look into those 🙂 I will definitely add the Amalfi Coast to our wishlist, although at the rate we've been vacationing, it might not be for another decade, lol.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your travel blog posts. I enjoy them a lot as a means of armchair travel.
    You must add Florence to your list and add two days for tours to Pisa, San Gimignano, Sienna and Tuscan wineries. Art, history, food, luxury shopping if you're so inclined, the rolling hills with olive trees and cypresses… It is an out of this world experience.
    As a side note: Some Barnes and Noble's sell Venchi chocolate, at least in my area (Colubus OH). I especially love the Gianduja.

    • Ooooh, thank you for the travel recommendations! I will check Barnes and Nobles for the chocolates, although I should probably skip. We lost weight from all the walking in Paris and Rome, but gained it all back and then some on the cruise 🙁

  • These photos are so gorgeous! Rome is at the top of my travel bucket list. xx

    champagnedaydream.blogspot.com

    • I hope you visit someday soon!

  • Oh,Sabrina, what wonderful pictures! They bring back such great memories. I haven't been to Rome in well over forty years 🙂 I imagine much has changed, but it's not called The Eternal City for nothing and many of your pictures were exactly as I remembered it. The last time I was in Italy was about twenty years ago. I went on an equestrian tour of Tuscany. Spending our days on horseback, riding through the Tuscan countryside, was absolutely glorious. We'd stop to refresh the horses and there would be a picnic lunch laid out of us. After lunch and a bit of wandering around, we'd mount up and continue on to the inn where we'd spend the night and then continue on our way the following day. We spent a total of four days on horseback and our particular tour was for experienced riders only. It was such a fun and novel way to see Tuscany. I shared the ride with two delightful couples from Germany, one from England, and another from France. It was the highlight of my trip. Memories!

    • Thank you Eileen – your visits to Italy sound amazing! The horseback riding sounds like it was an incredible experience – how fun!!

  • I love these posts! If you ever return to Europe Amsterdam is a must-visit, I really think you'll love it.

    • Thank you Esmeé! Glad you liked the posts, Amsterdam will be added 🙂

  • I have visited Rome several years ago with my family but would love to visit this beautiful city again with my boyfriend! 🙂 I have never heard of audio walking tours before but they sound so great! I will definitely try to look for some for my next trip! 😀 I also loveee Italian food and would not mind eating al dente pasta for the rest of my life haha! <3 I have tried Venti chocolates before as they have a store in London and absolutely love them! I can't remember whether I have tried the cafe lattes in Rome before but I definitely have to give them a try the next time I am in Italy! xx

    Jacqueline | Sail Away to Neverland ♡

    • Hi Jacqueline – I would actually recommend one of the guided tours by a live human instead of the self-guided audio tour. It was fun to explore on our own, but it was so much more interesting to hear about the history of each monument from a live person.

      I hope you can visit Rome again soon!

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful photos! I adore Italy and it's such a vast and interesting country, I've gone 4 times and I feel like I only scratched the surface. My advice for visiting the cities–Rome, Florence, Milano, Pisa–, etc go during spring or fall, with gorgeous weather and cooler and comfortable temps overall for heavy duty walking and museums/cathedrals touring. I went to Tuscany in early October and it was agreeably chilly, and they were harvesting olives and grapes, so the food was beyond amazing. I went to Venice in late July and took a cruise to the eastern Mediterranean from there to Croatia, Santorini, Ephesus, etc. and Venice in July was unbearable with millions of day trippers and 90 degree heat. I went back another time in September and it was much more comfortable and still crowded but not as mobbed as during cruise ship season.
    For shoes, I rely on an Ecco black leather, rubber-soled slip-on pair that have taken me through every capital without blisters or pain, some cushioned insoles are also key. Check out Mephisto and Naot as someone else said.
    When I went to the cruise/Venice in July, my Birkenstock sandals saved me!!! So it really depends on time of year, country, activity level….that being said, I limit my Europe trips to 10 days, I just can't stand too much hotel/airport/train station hustling. Too much of a good thing….

    BTW did you get the hairdryer in Sephora Paris? I thought that was so cute….:-)

    • Hi! Thanks for the sweet comments. I agree about the spring or fall. We now know after having visited mid-June, never again! July is out of the question for sure – I've been looking at the weather this week and it seems insanely hot!

      Oh, Ecco! I had a pair before and they were so comfortable. I forgot about the brand. I saw several Birkenstocks as well. You're so right about the time of year, but thanks for the shoe recommendations.

      I did not end up getting the hair dryer in Sephora Paris. Luckily there were good ones in all our hotel rooms so I didn't end up needing one 🙂 Thanks for asking about it!

  • Wow, Rome looks so beautiful. I am desperate to get there soon it just looks so breath taking x

    Ellé | http://www.ellesimpson.co.uk

    • It is an incredible city – I hope you can visit sometime soon!

  • Beautiful. Makes me want to go back soon.

  • Thank you so much for sharing these lovely photos Sabrina. You have a great eye! Hope there are many more adventures to come so we readers can live vicariously through you 🙂

    • Thanks Jaleey – you're too kind!

  • Anonymous

    Going to Italy next year and your post is super helpful! Amazing photos! And your writing is always engaging! More power Sabrina! (Too many exclamation points here lol)