Like Paris, Rome is one of the great European Capitals. We couldn’t live so close and not visit it one more time. I say ‘one more time’ because our first trip to Rome was almost 11 years ago. Back then we were on our whirlwind tour of Europe with Contiki and spent two nights in Rome.
Rome left a dusty, bad taste in our mouth. Actually quite literally; it was so hot and dry. What I remember most was a dirty, unpleasant city. We visited in May when most of Europe’s tourist season was just starting to pick up. But in Rome, it was already in full swing. There were way too many people. The heat was unbearable. The city just assaulted us.
We decided gave Rome another chance since falling in love with Italy’s other cities. We couldn’t resist another weekend to savour Italy’s history, culture and food with our friends Bobbie and Ray.
And the best decision of all: Visiting in the Winter.
So here is an overview of how we enjoyed our four days in Rome in the off-season.
Cheaper fares and hotels
This is a given for any travel destination but can make a big difference in a major city like Rome. We booked our flight on a Monday and were on the plane by Thursday. We easily found a hotel room on short notice without compromising budget or quality. We stayed neared the main train terminal, just a short walk from Trevi fountain. If I were to do it again, I’d pick a more central location. We did a lot of walking as you’ll read.
Walking in mild weather is better than in unbearable heat
While the forecast called for rain almost every single day, we were happy with one sunny day. And the rest of the weekend was relatively dry except for the torrential downpour one night. Even our umbrellas couldn’t save us. All this beats walking around in +30degC heat which is how we first experienced Rome. On this trip, we clocked a total of 104,000 steps (about 79 km) according to my Apple Health app. It sounds crazy but I believe it. We left the hotel at roughly 9am every morning and didn’t return until 6pm. We’d relax and refresh before going out for dinner. My legs were in pain by day 3 but there was no sweaty, thigh chaffing!
Part of all this walking was due to the two free walking tours we did with Rome Free Walking Tour. Both local Roman guides were friendly, knowledgeable and gave us a lot of good advice. We covered most of the main sites and tourist tracks within these two tours: Patheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II. As usual, the walking tours was a great overview and (re)introduction to the city.
Shorter lines at the major sites
The off-season means less tourists. But since Rome is such a popular destination, there are always tourists and lines. Even though we had been before, we re-visited the Colosseum. Our guide gave us a great tip: buy your tickets at the Forum’s ticket office. Since both historical sites share a ticket, save yourself the long line at the Colosseum. Buy the ticket at the Forum and then walk right through the Colosseum’s ticket holder line. There was no wait and this saved us a significant amount of time. The line at the Forum was much smaller (only about 10 people deep) compared to at the Colosseum. We weren’t the only ones that knew this trick so I can only imagine how long both lines would be in the summer.
Overall less people
That means there’s space to move around at the main sites. The streets aren’t overcrowded. Eating at popular restaurants is possible. And there’s less people around when you want to get cozy with the Vespa girl at the Vespa Museum. Thus making it slightly less embarrassing. Also taking beautiful shots of the Roman streets is possible without hundreds of heads and bodies in your frame.
Spanish Steps were closed anyway
Sometime off-season travel can mean certain sites and attractions are closed. In our case the Spanish Steps were closed for renovations. However, they’ll be closed until the end of the year. Just like the Trevi Fountain was last year through tourist season. So you just never know.
We’ll likely never go back to Rome in the summer but visiting in the winter was the best way to do it.
And there’s more! Don’t miss my upcoming posts on the food we ate and our experience at the Vatican.
For now, I’m linking up with some fab bloggers, Swags, Bonnie, Anna, and Diana below! for #TravelTuesday