When we flew between Ibiza and Corfu, we noticed a connecting flight with a 9-hour layover in Rome, and thought it would be a cool opportunity to explore this Italian city for the first time! It was a whirlwind visit, but enough time to leave the airport, head into the heart of Rome, and check off some of the top tourist attractions before catching our next flight.
Paddy and I have spent quite a lot of time in Italy, however neither of us had ever visited Rome before!
What I really love about Italy is that each region is so different. You can travel to Italy five times and have a new experience every time. You have the rolling hills of Tuscany, compared to high fashion Milan. You have historic Pompeii, romantic Rome, insanely photographic Positano, and the incredible drive along the Amalfi Coast. And then there’s Venice, which is always like a fairytale to me! You can read about how we spent a weekend in Florence here.
Paddy has family that spends half their time out in Marche, which is on the opposite coast to Rome, and is super non-touristy. Not many people speak English there and the area is largely made up of peaceful, rustic villages surrounded by a patchwork of farmer’s fields, so it’s a real authentic, local experience.
Rome, on the other hand, is a hugely popular city to venture to, and sees nine million tourists descending on it each year! What better place to spend our nine hours?!
So, here’s our first recommendation: take a look at some online lists detailing the top things to do in Rome, such as this TripAdvisor one. Choose one main attraction you’d love to do, and then you can work out your travel time from the airport and back, and have a clear idea of what other things you might be able to do while there as well. After all, you don’t want to miss your connecting flight, or find yourself racing through the busy streets feeling super stressed!
Leave your suitcases at the airport
One thing that’s great to do when spending a day in a city between connecting flights is to leave your luggage in a secure location at the airport. You usually pay under $20, and their office will keep it safe for you, ready to collect before your next flight. Then you don’t have to lug suitcases around cobbled streets, in the summer heat, and can be free to explore in comfort!
Train from the airport to the city centre
Traveling from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport to Rome city centre by train is really straight-forward. You catch the Leonardo Express train straight from the airport, and it will take you directly to Rome in about half an hour. During peak seasons, the trains run every 15 minutes, and it’s easy to find a seat. We got off at Rome Termini station, which is in central Rome. As of March 2020, a single ticket costs €14 when purchased from the airport train station, and €11 when purchased from Termini station.
The main attraction we wanted to visit was The Colosseum – the largest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire, and a “must” for first-time visitors to Rome. So we structured our time around getting to and from the Colosseum, giving us a good understanding of how much else we’d be able to squeeze in.
After we’d caught the train to the city centre, we followed Google Map directions to take us towards the colosseum. Along the route, we soaked in Rome’s historic streets, coloured buildings and friends sat sipping coffee outside cafés.
The colosseum itself dates back to AD 80, and was built to seat up to 80,000 spectators. People would watch gladiator fights here, and other forms of contemporary entertainment. It’s huge! And, as you can imagine, entry queues can get quite long. I’d recommend having a bottle of water on you as you wait, especially in the hot summer months.
Pay a little extra for the audio guide, so you know what you’re looking at as you walk around. We skipped this, and wish we had known more details as we explored the ruins.
Of course, while you’re there, you’ll definitely want to snap some photos! There are some great photo spots inside and around the colosseum. If you head out of the stadium, cross the road and up a sloped sidewalk, you’ll get a view of the colosseum without any cars or buildings in the way, like in the photo above. Below you can see some different viewpoints as you wander round the landmark. Have fun with angles and see what you can capture!
Next on our agenda was to enjoy some authentic Italian food! We opted for bowls of fresh pasta, at a small restaurant overlooking the colosseum. There are quite a few good places to eat around the colosseum, all with lovely views for more photos! However, if you head away from the tourist attractions and along the smaller alleyways, you’ll be able to find less expensive food options.
These less touristy food places are always charming, and often mean you can try different dishes. (Sometimes all restaurants along the most popular strips can offer the same cliché food options, for ease, and because they know they’ll sell well). I love eateries off the beaten track as well, because you often get a more authentic, local experience, with super friendly staff.
Exploring the city streets
The third thing on our agenda was simply to wander round the city streets and enjoy the beautiful architecture. I have a soft spot for historic buildings, so love seeing layers of history showing through all the different period designs.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Rome!
Let me know what you got up to while you were there, and what your favourite experiences were!