When in Rome || Exploring Rome with Viking
Back in July we went on the Mediterranean Odyssey Viking Ocean Cruise. One of the ports was Rome and we want to tell you about our experience.
First things first, check out this fun 45 second recap…
Since Rome isn’t a port city, the Viking Star docked about 1.5-2 hours away. Sounds like a lot, but you get a beautiful scenic drive through the Italian countryside! And the busses Viking use are almost always comfortable, spacious and well-kept.
When you arrive in Rome for the included tour you take a panoramic drive to see some of the major sights like the Colosseum. The driving tour lasts about an hour to an hour and a half and while it is very convenient, some things don’t look as exciting from the window of a bus.
You’ll be dropped off in Vatican City where you’ll be released for about 3-4 hours of free time.
Our tour guide explained that we could either get on the hop-on-hop-off bus ($20+ Euros), stay in the Vatican City, take a cab or walk around. We were, however, highly discouraged from walking around. She said most of the big ticket sights were far away and it was hot. Walking was not recommended.
So, what did we do?
We attempted to walk to the Trevi Fountain.
Whoa, boy! That was a mistake.
if you’ve never been to Rome, let me be the first to tell you… the streets are confusing! We had a map, but couldn’t find street signs (usually on the sides of buildings). We walked over the bridge leaving the Vatican and within a few minutes we were back at another bridge.
We. Walked. In. A. Circle.
At this point we were extremely stressed, our time in Rome was ticking down, and we were getting flustered. So, after a little more aimless walking, we got a cab.
Best decision ever!
The cabs are very convenient and most take credit/debit cards. The fares are also affordable!
The cab took us to an alleyway, which we thought was sketchy at first. Turns out the Trevi Fountain was right around the corner.
I want to preface this next part by saying at this point in our Roman adventure we were hot, tired, stressed and a little hungry. We were not in our right minds. So take this with a grain of salt…
We walked around the corner expecting a big angel’s singing moment like we had with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After all, we’ve seen so many movies with this fountain, so we just knew it would be amazing. Instead, we see thousands of people and this tiny fountain pushed into, quite literally, a corner. At this point Joanie B. just stops and stares and says:
“Is that it?”
We managed to push through the crowds, toss some coins in and within three minutes we were looking for another taxi back to Vatican City.
Once we made it back to our pick-up point and we knew we wouldn’t miss the bus, it was time to hunt down some food. We found an adorable little café (there are tons in Vatican City!) and had the best ravioli of our lives. Highlight of the day, honestly!
So, what did we learn? Let’s recap…
YOU NEED TIME
Realistically 3-4 hours is nowhere near enough time to see Rome properly. You may need 3 or 4 days to really experience it without stress.
Remember in the beginning when we said the tour guide recommended the hop-on-hop-off bus? Well, we can’t say for sure if that would’ve been easier, but we heard plenty of horror stories! So we think the taxi was the best way to go for such a short time frame.
Rome is a tourist hot spot.
There are people everywhere, so be vigilant. This doesn’t mean your bag is going to be ripped from your shoulder or your camera is going to be taken right from your hands. It just means to stay alert. Pay attention. Know where your friends, family or traveling companions are.
Just like with any city, things can change in an instant in Rome. We find that staying together is always the safest option.
Another thing to note about the crowds is that famous places like the Trevi Fountain are going to be crowded. All of the time. So brush up on those Photoshop skills if you want a crowd-free image. We’re not convinced that it’s possible organically.
We went in expecting grand sights and your typical down-home, family friendly Italian people.
In reality, some things don’t look like they do on Instagram or the movies and the people, while still very nice and helpful, are just trying not to get trampled by tourists.
If you’re looking for a more warm and inviting type of hospitality it may be easier to find in smaller areas of Italy. In Rome people are trying to survive and make a living. For a comparative U.S. city, think New York, specifically Time Square.
Overall, our experience in Rome wasn’t exactly what we thought or hoped for. So, we’ll be making a trip back very soon to fully immerse ourselves in the culture, sights and sounds of Rome alone.
And a huge thank you to our Patron… Sylvia Vasquez Plexus.