Hey, guys! Greetings from inside a bullet train!
Hershey: My parents, Josh, and I are seated together on the train en route from Nice to Paris. It's a 6-hour trip, and I'm bored out of my mind, so I decided to bring out my laptop and persuade Josh to blog with me. LOL.
Josh: Between napping and watching the French countryside roll by, reading seems like a good option. But for now, let's blog!
Hershey: He obviously has no choice—HEHE! Today, we're going to talk about the 10 Instagram-worthy things first-timers can do in Rome. As you may have seen on my Instagram feed, we kicked off our Europe adventure by going around Rome for three days. Here were the highlights of our trip—and the things we'd recommend our friends, too! :)
1. Visit the famous Roman Colosseum, of course!
Josh: All roads lead to Rome, the ancient saying goes. Nothing better represents the old glory of the Roman Empire than the Colosseum, which hosted huge parties, gladiator fights, and even mock naval battles back in its heyday. And for a time, lions vs. Christians was the halftime entertainment. When you step into this masterpiece, close your eyes and imagine the thundering roars of the crowds, and the sweat and blood of slaves spilt on dry sand.
To avoid the long lines at the Colosseum, get your ticket at the Roman Forum nearby. Pay the Forum a visit too, and visualize the beating heart of the Roman Empire.
2. Wake up early to see the Trevi Fountain sans the tourist crowd…
Hershey: After visiting the Colosseum on Day 1, we realized we had to wake up early to avoid the ~tourist crowd~. So on Day 2, we got up at 5AM, hopped on a tram and a bus, and finally got to our destination by 7AM.
The Trevi Fountain was so beautiful, I felt like I was going to cry! I had no idea that it was HUGE in real life—after all, my only basis before were post cards and TV shows. After admiring its beauty, we dropped a coin into the fountain—legend says that doing so will ensure a second visit to this beautiful city.
I'm also a Lizzie McGuire fan (proud '90s kid here!), so seeing the fountain in person was a big deal for me. You guys—this is what dreams are made of! (Only Lizzie McGuire fans would understand! Wink)
3. ...and while you're there, visit the Spanish Steps, too!
Hershey: A few meters away from the Trevi fountain lies the Spanish Steps, which lead up to a marvelous viewpoint of the city and a church. It's also a popular Instagram spot, so try to come before 10AM, when tourists usually arrive.
4. If you're a history fan, visit the Pantheon for FREE!
Josh: If you found the ruins of the Colosseum and the Forum a bit too -archaeological-, drop by the Pantheon, the most well preserved bit of ancient Rome. Originally a temple dedicated to all gods, this building was spared from destruction after popes converted it into a Christian church. it's still being used today—some people even get married here!
The Pantheon looks pretty humble from the outside, but don't let first impressions fool you. Join the line that snakes across the plaza, the wait won't take long. When you enter, find a seat up front and gaze up at the 2,000-year-old dome. Afterwards, walk around the sides, spotting the tombs of Italian kings and the great artist Raphael.
Hershey: My favorite part of the Pantheon is the huge hole you can spot above. Why? Because a ray of sunlight passes through it, making the place look even more magical! The Pantheon is such a work of art that Michelangelo even deems it a work of angels!
Fun fact: The Pantheon is also the world's oldest unsupported dome.
Josh: What if it rains, you might ask? Well, water gets into the building, but small holes in the middle of the floor drain it away. Take a few seconds to hunt for these before you exit.
5. Sip an espresso while standing at the counter.
Hershey: When In Rome, do as the Romans do and take a shot of espresso WHILE STANDING! Yep, in Italy, people don't sit to enjoy their coffee—they drink it straight up at the counter. It is important to note that cafes charge customers double the price when they sit inside.
We visited an LGBT cafe for some coffee!
6. It's not a trip to Rome without seeing the Vatican Museums
Josh: When in Rome, take some time to visit the smallest country in the world—the Vatican! People flock here to admire Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, but not all take the time to admire the other gems in the Vatican Museums.
Hershey: We paid around 20 Euros to get inside the Vatican Museums, but it was totally worth it. There were a lot of interesting pieces, like maps, tapestries, frescoes, and mosaic creations! Hands down though, my favorite part was seeing Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in person. I had goosebumps! Unfortunately, taking photos inside wasn't allowed—but that's okay. Memories are priceless!
7. The St. Peter's Basilica will take your breath away—enter for FREE!
Hershey: Seeing the Sistine Chapel ignited my love for church architecture—but the St. Peter's Basilica stole my heart! The facade and square were grand, but the interiors were even more extravagant. "Wow, wow, wow!" was all I could say.
Joshua: The St. Peter's Basilica is probably one of the most beautiful churches in the world, and entrance to the basilica itself is free! While waiting in line, admire the forest of pillars the ring the square—they're topped by hundreds of saints. Once you enter, take it slow so you won't get overwhelmed. Remember to check out Michaelangelo's Pieta, too!
8. When in Rome, spot picture-worthy doors!
Hershey: The food in Italy is out-of-this-world, but we didn't gain a lot of calories—after all, we were just walking around the city the whole day! Enjoy the great sceneries, the charming cobblestones, and the quaint houses you pass by. If you're a lover of all things vintage, keep an eye out for beautiful doors!
9. Hang out in the piazzas
Josh: The Romans are a pretty chill lot. There's not a lot of 'capital city' central business district vibe in Rome, because locals tend to take things easy. Part of this is the piazza culture, or hanging out in the neighborhood square. Live like a local by taking at least an hour to savour your meal al fresco, just people watching and sipping on a glass of wine.
10. Eat all the gelato!
Hershey: Finally, get yourself a scoop (or two, or five) of the world famous Italian gelato. Dig in, savour the moment, and take a selfie (or in this case, a gelato-fie?) while you're at it!
And there you have it—ten Instagram-worthy things you can do on your first visit to Rome! :)
Rome was a dream come true for both of us—we had an amazing time, and thanks to that coin we tossed into the Trevi Fountain, we know that one day, we'll have the chance to come back!
Hershey and Josh
About the contributing writer
Joshua Chen Young is a public health researcher, a children's book editor, a technical and creative writer, and a backpacker. He also happens to be Hershey's driver.