I guess I don’t need to tell you what there is to see and do in Rome. The Eternal City and its many amazing sights are so deeply ingrained in the popular imagination that they hardly need an introduction.
That being said, I’ll try to give you a bit of insight into what it’s really like to be in Rome. What surprised me most about the city was how close together all of the main attractions are. I had assumed that since Rome is such a big, important city, everything would be spread out over vast distances and I would need to ride the metro to get from place to place. In reality, it’s super quick and easy to walk between most of the attractions. You can start at the Spanish Steps and then walk to Trevi Fountain, then continue walking to the Pantheon, the Monument to Vittorio Emanuel II, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. I covered so many sights on my first day that I set a new record for shortest amount of time that my phone battery has died. I just couldn’t stop taking picture after picture after picture. Rome is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I should mention that I didn’t actually stay IN Rome. I stayed at Wiki Hostel and GreenVillage, which is located in the town of Zagarolo, about a 30-minute train ride outside of Rome. It obviously wasn’t the most convenient home base for exploring Rome, but it worked out just fine for me. Trains into Rome are pretty frequent, and the hostel provides the complete train schedule on their website, so you don’t have to worry about looking it up yourself.
There’s not a ton going on in Zagarolo, but Wiki Hostel is fantastic. The staff do a great job at making sure their guests have a good time there. Every Monday they host a free* (*with the purchase of a drink from the bar) pasta party where everyone participates in preparing, cooking, and eating a delicious pasta meal. I had a lot of fun cooking and socializing with the other guests. (Even though I was on onion-chopping duty at the beginning of the night and had tears rapidly streaming from my burning eyes for a while.)
Even better than the pasta party is the hostel’s Friday-night pizza party. This one isn’t free, but the 7€ it costs is totally worth it. Everybody gets to make their very own pizza from scratch and share it with the other guests. I lost track of how many pizza slices I stuffed into my face, but I can tell you that it was a crapload. There was even Nutella pizza for dessert at the end of the night. Trust me, you will not go hungry at this party.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some shitty-quality pictures of my pizza-making efforts.
If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on experiencing Roman nightlife, I can tell you that it’s perfectly easy to have a night out in Rome while staying in Zagarolo. On weekdays, the last train into Rome leaves at 10:58pm (10:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays), and the first train back to Zagarolo leaves Roma Termini at 5:22am on weekdays and Saturdays (6:21am on Sundays). I went out in Rome a couple of times and just took the train back to Zagarolo in the morning. The first time I went out I did the Colosseum Pub Crawl, which was a blast. It costs 20€ and you get unlimited free drinks for the first hour. Plus there’s free pizza and beer pong! Pub crawls are almost always a good bet if you’re travelling alone and you want to have fun and meet new people. Whenever I visit a new city in Europe I always check to see what kind of pub crawls are run there.
As for day trips, one of the easiest and best ones is to the nearby town of Tivoli. It’s only a 40-minute bus ride from Rome’s Ponte Mammolo metro station, which is on the B (blue) line. The two biggest attractions in Tivoli are the Villa d’Este and the Villa Adriana. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit either of them because when I arrived at the door of the Villa d’Este at 11:00 on a Wednesday morning, I found out that it wasn’t opening until 2:00pm that day. This struck me as a bit bizarre, since the sign on the door said that the villa opened at 8:30am every other day that week, and the day that I went wasn’t a holiday or anything. But whatever. I would have gone to the Villa Adriana instead, but it was a walk of a few kilometres and I didn’t feel up to the hike. I knew there was a bus that connected the two villas, but I didn’t want to risk paying for a bus ticket and then finding out the other villa was closed as well.
Instead I decided to visit the Villa Gregoriana, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the Villa d’Este. (Yes, there are a lot of villas in Tivoli!) I don’t know how the Villa Gregoriana compares to the two more popular villas, but it was a lovely place to wander around. It’s full of caves, grottoes, and waterfalls, which give the place a romantic feel.
Next up is a place whose legendary beauty I can’t wait to see in person: the Cinque Terre!