How do you take your own Roman holiday? You hire a Vespa, of course. I’ve wanted to drive a Vespa through the streets of Rome ever since I saw photos of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck doing it themselves. We get a lot of our travel inspiration from films, and Roman Holiday is a movie that fills everyone with a desire to visit Rome.
Rome is one of the most glamorous European cities that one can visit. When we drove through the ancient city on the back of a Vespa, we saw all the major sights from a very different vantage point. It felt like we were seeing it through the eyes of a local. Driving in Italy can be overwhelming indeed, so instead of driving your own Vespa, get a local to take you around. Whizzing through traffic with an experienced driver made us feel like true Europeans as we relaxed and let his skill and expertise weave us through the chaos.
Our first stop was the Roman Colosseum. We pulled up to the amphitheater (which dates back hundreds of years – construction started in 70 AD) and were in awe of its massive presence. It’s astounding to think of the history and battles that have taken place here over the centuries. To see it in person doesn’t feel real. It’s as if a giant screen is projecting a picture in front of you in the night sky. It’s enormous, beautiful, and we couldn’t believe our eyes.
Viewfinder Tip: Visit attractions at night to avoid the big crowds.
We whisked through town stopping to see all the usual attractions like the Roman Baths, St. Peter’s Basilica, and a few you may have never heard of, such as the Vittoria Emanuele II Monument, containing the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Another spot you may not know is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It’s a Roman Catholic Religious order that is its own sovereign nation. It is very mysterious and nobody is allowed to step foot on the grounds.
But Rome actually has two sovereign nations within it: the Order of Malta and the Vatican. Yes, the Vatican is its own nation and officially the world’s smallest. We think it’s pretty cool that Rome has two sovereign nations within its city limits, adding even more mystery and intrigue to an already fascinating destination.
But what we love about Rome, however, is how history is woven throughout the city. Monuments and ruins are scattered throughout downtown, adding contrast to the modern vibe of the urban chic.
We discovered Rome by Vespa, bicycle, and on a walking tour to truly get a sense of the Italian way of life. It is a large city, but surprisingly walkable.
We chose our accommodations in the colorful neighborhood of Trastevere, where laundry hangs over cobblestone streets and locals dine in outdoor cafes. Located on the West Bank of the Tiber, it’s the perfect place to make your base. We found it easy to walk along the river to the Vatican on one day and then head over to the Old City to view sights like the Forum and the Pantheon the next.
Many of the major attractions were even within walking distance. We enjoyed gelato at the base of the Spanish Steps and then took a leisurely stroll to sneak a kiss in front of the Trevi Fountain before tossing a coin to ensure our return to Rome.
Another walk took us to the Testaccio neighborhood. This former working-class area has transformed into a hip urban spot where you can sample some of the best culinary delights of the city. Our walking tour with Eating Italy Food Tours not only brought us to local markets like the Testaccio covered market where we met the world famous Tomato Poet, but also to what our guide Kenny thinks is the best gelato shop in all of Rome. We tasted pasta inside the Mont dei Cocci, a giant hill made of ancient clay pots that now houses restaurants transformed from old wine cellars, and visited the Non-Catholic Cemetery. Paris isn’t the only destination that has famous souls resting within its city. This cemetery in Rome houses the likes of Keats, Shelly, and Bulgari.
The cemetery is a work of art with stunning tombstones, gardens, and cypress trees lining the paths weaving through the highest concentration of famous and important graves in the world. The most glorious structure though is the Pyramid of Cestius. Built in 12 BC, this 120-foot tall pyramid illustrates the decadence of ancient Rome. Caius Cestius, the magistrate of Rome, built it for himself when everything Egyptian was fashionable.
To us, the cemetery perfectly sums up what Rome is all about. Rome is a city of surprises and contrasts. Ancient monuments appear where you least expect it, grand works of art stand beside regular buildings, and a modern world blends seamlessly with an ancient past. Rome is truly a city of contrasts.
What’s your favorite monument in Rome?