On our last full day in Rome, we did an eight-hour walking tour of the city that 1) wasn’t as bad as it sounds and 2) I couldn’t recommend more highly. I think we both really enjoyed it and it was such a great way to see two of the most iconic landmarks in Rome without having to wait in line. With our tour, we got to skip lines at both the Colosseum and the Vatican and that was absolutely fantastic!
Sadly, because I’m writing this post so many months later, I don’t remember a ton of the information from the tour, so I hope you’re not looking here for a bunch of facts and a lot of history. Besides, I think the tour was really cool and that it should be experienced by anyone who has the opportunity.
We booked our tour about a week before we left for Italy after having saved that day for something like that. After a lot of research, we ultimately decided to book with Walks of Italy and I’m glad we did! Not only was the tour itself bigger than the tour we had done the day before, but it was also a much bigger operation. We met in a park near the Colosseum in the morning along with at least a half dozen other tours from the same company. The entire tour was done by headsets, which definitely made us feel like cheesy tourists, but really came in handy when you wanted to straggle behind to see something for a bit longer.
Because the tour started near the Colosseum, that was our first stop. Like I said, we got to skip the line, but there are a few things to keep in mind about visiting the Colosseum. First, there’s a bag size limit. Luckily our MUZMM backpack was small enough. (You can use the code HANNAH20 to get one for yourself.) However, we had to throw our spray sun cream because you can’t bring any sprays (sun cream, deodorant, bug spray, etc.) into the Colosseum. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it goes.
After spending much of the morning walking through the Roman Forum, to the Pantheon (which we had seen as part of the tour the day before, but got some new and different information), and more, we took a bus to be closer to the Vatican. So it was a lot of walking in the morning, but when you look at a walking route for everything we saw, including walking to the Vatican, it' seems like a lot.
We broke for lunch, so Luke and I wandered off for our daily pizza, before meeting up again outside of the Vatican. Like the Colosseum, there are things to know before visiting. Most importantly, there is a dress code for the Vatican. You can’t show your knees or shoulders. Luke brought jeans to change into during the break since it was obviously too hot to wear jeans all day, and I made sure not to wear a tank top. There were vendors selling wraps that people had around their waist or around their shoulders, but you don’t want to get stuck paying for an overpriced scarf when you can just dress appropriately to begin with.
Again, we got to skip the line, and the tour guide showed us through some of the museums in the Vatican, as well as the Sistine Chapel. We did have to wait in a line for the Sistine Chapel, but that’s because they control how many people are in there at a time, so everyone has to wait to go in. You can’t take any photographs and you’re not permitted to speak. The experience was, to be honest, a bit underwhelming. There were security guards loudly telling people to be quiet the entire time we were in there. The ceiling is incredibly high, so the painting is far away. And it’s insanely crowded. I can fully understand how that could be a moving spiritual experience, but personally, I would probably need to be in there alone or with only a handful of other people. It was just too much for me.
The tour finished after the Sistine Chapel, but we were already in the Vatican, so we decided to stay longer. We walked up the steps of St. Peter’s dome (which is not included in your ticket and is cash only). We saw St. Peter’s Basilica from the bottom and marvelled at its beauty and intricacy. We walked around the courtyard, which definitely made me think of The Da Vinci Code. We decided that it counts as one of the countries we’ve visited because Vatican City has their own flag, their own stamps, and their own designs on the Euro.
It was such an amazing experience to be able to visit the Vatican. When we go back to Rome (notice I didn’t say if, because we agree that we could easily spend another week at least in Rome), we absolutely want to spend an entire day in the Vatican alone. But the tour was a great way to see some of it and a great way to understand what we were seeing.
The tour cost about £115 for each of us, but we thought it was worth it. Tickets to the Colosseum are €19 to skip the line and it’s €21 to skip the line at the Vatican museums. Even thought that’s only about £36 combined, the knowledge we got from the tour guide was well worth the money. I would recommend a tour like this, especially with Walks of Italy, at the beginning of your time in Rome. You’ll see so much of what you came to Rome to see and you’ll get a good idea of how you want to spend the rest of your time.
WHAT TO WEAR IN ROME
I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. Consider the cobbled streets of Rome when choosing your footwear and stick to something with a sturdy sole. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and you want something comfortable. Rome won’t be as warm as the cities on the coast, but it’s still hot during the day. You might want a light jacket in the evening, especially toward the end of September.
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