Welcome to What to do with a Weekend in Rome Part 2! If you didn’t yet see Part 1, you can do so here.
On Saturday you walked 5km (or 3 miles), and tried the pane, pizza and biscotti before seeing some of the oldest and most beautiful sites in Europe. Now it’s time for the second leg of the journey. Sunday’s game plan is below.
Bus west over the River Tiber
Vatican City/ Sistine Chapel
Dinner in Trastevere
* All depends on what day/time you will be leaving*
Public transportation will be your friend to St. Peter’s Basilica and back, and perhaps to Trastevere from Vatican City. By using public transportation in these three instances you should be walking a total of 4 km or about 2.5 miles during the day.
Sunday morning. Crisp air. Excited for Trastevere at night. To save a bit of money, I try the continental breakfast on the rooftop. Decent variety of pastries, bagels, meats, cheeses, and dairy. Not bad at all, but I still prefer the eatery around the corner.
This is the time to take the bus across the River Tiber. If you will be dedicating your time to exploring west of the river, spend it wisely. Bus 40 and 64 enter Vatican City as does Line A of the metro. For straightforward details check The Rome Toolkit.
Another big tip that will save you waiting in incredibly long lines, is to pay beforehand online. DO NOT pay random tour guides outside the Vatican. They will be approaching you and throw “extras” and “discounted prices” left and right. It may be tempting, but they will all be outlandish. Remember, they don’t do favors. They do deals. And it’s always better for their business. Instead, pay via credit card through the Vatican Website.The last Sunday of each month is free, and if you are a student, rates are discounted. The Vatican also holds a list of other discounts listed on the link above.
Sunday afternoon. What can I say? Get your camera ready. Everything about the Vatican is impressive. From the grand square, the Egyptian mummies and sculptures, to the gold that must be worth a fortune on the ceilings. There are tours if you want them. If you’re like me, you tend to cozy up close enough to hear a bit about an interesting piece, then move on to find exquisite details of art that people tend to pass by too quickly.
After the Basilica, and before entering past the guards and into the Vatican itself, grab lunch at one of the many cafes that share the space with gelato shops, pharmacies, and retail stores. “Must-sees” inside the Vatican museums and within the walls itself reach far beyond Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Bramante Staircase, and St. Peter’s Square. Vatican City deserves a chapter all its own; check out a Guide to the Best Things to See in Vatican City to dive deeper.
Sunday evening. Exit the Vatican and marvel at the gigantic Christmas Tree lit up in St. Peter’s Square for the holiday and the pope’s birthday. Minutes later I find myself walking 5 steps in front of an ongoing Christmas reenactment parade, complete with candles, costumes, and song.
Sunday. After the parade. I walked to Trastevere. Pro: I worked off the gnocci from yesterday. Seeing more and more of Rome sparkle in the darkening hours was really gratifying. Con: 40 minutes. Uphill. A taxi should take around 10 minutes, but you may or may not be able to ask the driver to stop midway for that view where the city goes quiet and you feel like a fly on the wall.
The first stop I made was to Pizzeria da Simone. Located on Via Giacinto Carini, 50. It is well worth the 40 minute climb. I used to frequent this pizzeria while studying abroad. It was always bustling with locals any time of the day. I can still confidently say this neighborhood spot has the best quality and the best variety of pizza west of the river (and perhaps the east too). Besides 5 stars on Yelp, it looks like 83 people on TripAdvisr also agree.
Sunday night. Trastevere is now cold in the December air. The excitement of walking among visitors and locals through a maze of small shop streets keeps me warm anyway.
Trastevere is accessible by bus and train. Of course, I walk from the top of the hill from which pizza heaven sits. As I wonder in and out of shops, I hear a small sound which grows louder and louder. I run down the street and turn the corner to see a very large stone wall. Getting closer I find the stone wall is the side of church. Behind an old wooden door that just won’t close all the way is an entire Christmas service and choir like I’ve never seen or heard. From the outside, I could never tell that there was a room, let alone marble pillars and floor to support the beautiful backdrop and religious relics. I find my place in the back. The choir sings in poetic harmony Italian song after song to 60 or 70 members in the wooden pews. I’m lost in the moment. This is better than the movies.
When the service finishes, I stand and smile and nod to those who smile at me. Next stop, dinner. Giselda on Viale di Trastevere, 52- 58 looks good, smells good, and after finding a nice little spot and having a cocktail with a bit to eat, tastes good too. The owner’s daughter plays by herself a table away. A mother and daughter chat with a cup of something hot behind me. They were speaking Spanish. Maybe they have a flight back to Madrid tomorrow too? Bellies filled and feet tired, it’s time to head back to the hotel. Line 8 tram or bus H will travel from Trastevre headed east of the river, to and past Piazza Venezia to Via di Serpenti.
Monday morning. Early. Scarf and gloves weather. I don’t want to leave. Italians are notorious for thinking they have plenty of time for everything, but trust your schedule and your instincts.
The walk back to Termini station was supposed to feel like a second look before a goodbye. Instead it feels like a mission to get to a shuttle bus that has not yet been pinpointed on my map. There are two airports to fly in and out of: Leonardo Da Vinci aka Fumichino Airport and Ciampino Airport. I fly out from Fiumicino airport. This is a solid 30 to 40 minute ride from Termini station (assuming the driver stays at the speed limit). On Via Giovanni Giolitti there is a shuttle bus called T.A.M outside of the station. Tip: be aware of the location of this bus when you originally arrive to save time later. The best traveler is a prepared traveler. Enjoy the trip! And don’t wait too long to go back.