Check out Part 1 of La Bella Italia for more Italy adventures, such as Venice, Florence, and Pisa. Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. But now onward to Part 2!
“Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” –George Eliot
This quote perfectly captures the essence of Rome, the Eternal City. It’s like constantly walking through a museum because such vibrant history is literally at your fingertips.
When in Rome (pun intended!), of course a must-see is the Colosseum, the infamous arena of ancient sporting events, ceremonies, and the gladiators. We visited the Roman Forum and the Colosseum on a guided tour, so we got to enter through the group entrance (a far shorter line than the regular ticket entrance–or if a guided tour isn’t your thing, you can buy a Roma Pass or an Archeologia Card to avoid the chaos of purchasing at the door). A friend of mine who just visited there last week said that she stood in the regular ticket line at the Colosseum for two full hours, so we highly recommend purchasing your tickets or passes in advance!
A detail that has stayed with me since visiting the Colosseum is how worn the narrow stone stairs are; it made me imagine all the millions of people who have travelled those same steps. After all, the arena is almost 2000 years old (completed in 80 AD) and has about 4 million tourists visit every year.
The iconic Spanish Steps is a bustling tourist spot (pictured atop the Steps with my husband). But what was most meaningful for me about visiting this area was the chance to tour the Keats-Shelley House (as mentioned in an earlier post, the British poet John Keats is my all-time favorite!).
Keats resided in this very room overlooking the Spanish Steps in the final months of his life. He had contracted tuberculosis and sought the milder climate of Italy in hopes of regaining his health. However, he passed away in this very house at the young age of 25 and was buried in Rome in the Protestant Cemetery.
We very much enjoyed visiting Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum. The line to get into St. Peter’s was extremely long (if you look at the picture below you can see that the LONG line follows the half circle shape of St. Peter’s Square). My friend who is currently in Italy said that they avoided the long lines at St. Peter’s by arriving early in the morning, about 20 minutes before the church even opens. She said there were no lines at that time, and they got in right away.
As with many Italian churches, there is a strict dress code–no bare shoulders or cleavage, and knees must be covered. It was a warm, humid day when we visited, and my husband and I stayed comfortable (yet dress code compliant) in white, cotton tops and lightweight pants. You don’t have to dress up fancy–just keep in mind that they very much enforce their dress code and won’t let you enter if you’re not clothed accordingly.
To reach the roof level, you can take an elevator (or climb 231 stairs). But to reach the very top of Michelangelo’s dome (and this incredibly gorgeous view of Vatican City and Rome), you must climb an additional 320 stairs (no elevator option for this part!). I’m a bit claustrophobic, and I’ll admit that the small, winding staircase caused me some anxiety. However, when I made it to the top and saw the view, I was immensely glad I’d done it.
We also visited the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (which is located inside the Museum). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the Sistine, but it was such a treat to gaze up at Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling.
The ruins of Pompeii are an archaeological marvel (cue the Bastille song! 😉). This is a great day excursion if you’re staying in nearby Naples or Sorrento (my husband and I personally love Sorrento!). This ancient site was so much bigger than I had ever imagined it to be and wandering these grounds in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius was a truly humbling experience.
To beat the crowds, we got there in the morning when it opens and were among the first groups to enter that day. Especially during the warmer months I highly recommend going earlier in the day because you spend much of the visit in direct sunlight.
What to Pack
Gray Lace Top: A Diva (similar) Striped Shorts: Forever 21 (similar) Graphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similar here and here) Denim Jacket: Levi’s (similar) Gray Striped Dress: One Clothing (similar here and here) Panama Hat: J. Crew White Button Up: Gap Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster
As I’ve mentioned in previous travel posts, staying within a cohesive color palette is how I prefer to pack for travel. For Italy, particular in the warmer months, I would recommend breathable, lightweight fabrics–and a great hat, like this Panama hat from J. Crew! Pictured is a sample of what I would bring, staying within a gray, white, and blue color scheme.
This gray, striped dress I wore in Rome with a classic, cotton button-up layered over it. We were on an all-day walking tour, and I wanted to protect my shoulders from the sun! I’ve linked similar striped options above.
Pinstripe Blazer: Halogen (similar here and here) Graphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similar) Jeans: Lucky Brand (similar) Heels: Nine West (similar) Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar) Lip Color: Birthday Suit by Tarte
This navy, graphic tee I purchased at the Gucci Museo–when I travel I really enjoy buying items that evoke memories of that trip and location. I often see graphic tees styled on bloggers, influencers, and models all over Instagram and Pinterest (this other Gucci tee is particularly popular lately, but quite pricey!). As such, I wanted to share a polished way to style a fun, graphic tee, especially for those special shirts purchased on a trip or at an event.
This navy pinstripe blazer is by Halogen and is a recent sale purchase from Nordstrom (I found it still available in one size on Nordstrom Rack’s website, but I also linked some comparable options). My jeans are Lucky Brand, and my heels are Nine West.
In honor of our 3rd wedding anniversary this week, I’ll be doing a special themed post on Friday (local vendor recommendations for the Portland area, wedding advice, and style inspiration for brides-to-be and guests!).
Wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!