Italy is a story waiting to be told.
Rome is a maze of delight; it beckons you to discover quaint patios filled with local people-watchers, enjoying a slow paced afternoon, or to stumble upon a grandeur piazza honoring a heroic moment in history.
Being in Venice is like walking through a painting. It doesn’t feel like a place that can really, truly exist.
When I added Italy to the European itinerary, I was overwhelmed on how to plan this leg of the trip. There is SO much to see, and I only had four full days there – one night in Venice, and two nights/three days in Rome.
Everyone I talked to looked me at like I was ridiculous when I would share how long I was spending in each place. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN get to know these rich destinations in short bursts of travel and time. See how we conquered Oslo and Bergen in just a couple of days, too.
Like the rest of my travels, this trip to Europe was no different in its short nature – a quick getaway of 10 total days, but only spending three at most in each place.
Here are Venice and Rome travel tips to keep in your back pocket in order to get to know the colorful life stories of these destinations in just a few days:
There is no place more picturesque than Venice. It has a uniqueness that cannot be even imitated elsewhere.
I was surprised that such a tourist destination had such a sense of self. I was surprised as we walked through every narrow path to see something more beautiful and scenic than in the last. I was surprised at how kind the locals treated visitors.
Venice is the ideal place to visit for the wanderer. It isn’t a city where you must bring a buttoned-up itinerary. You’d actually miss out on the loveliest aspects of Venice if you did.
Leisurely strolls through markets, main streets, and along the Grand Canal are critical in experiencing the extract of Venice.
For dining, it only makes sense that seafood is something you have to try while visiting Venice, since it is completely surrounded by water and it is a guarantee that whatever you are served is as fresh as it gets.
The city has a few main areas that will be busy with visitors at any time of day, like the Grand Canal and San Marco. But we explored the Jewish Ghetto for some incredible food in a quieter atmosphere. The prices were also much more reasonable than the restaurants along the water.
Ristorante Pizzaria Al Faro in the Jewish Ghetto served local specialties, like a cuddle fish ink pasta and a garlic gnocci. The outdoor seating along the walkway makes for perfect people watching while you sip on your delicious house wine.
We also enjoyed a spaghetti with clams and mussels at Osteria Al Portego, a small cafe that serves both heavy snacks, like gourmet toasts, and delicious specialty entrees. Both local exotic eats and a little bit more familiar meals can be experienced at Al Portego.
We sampled all kinds of gelato in Venice, and Gelateria Ca’d’oro was the top contender. No competition.
We walked in and were gazing at all of the different flavors to try, as this was our first gelato stop in all of Italy. A woman told us that this was her second time here on her culinary tour of Venice because it is hands-down the best gelato in all of Venice. Needless to say, we had to find out for ourselves!
Beating the Tourist Attractions
Gondola rides are pricey and have super long waits on some days. An alternative option that will still get you on a boat and be on the water is to just cross the Grand Canal. It’s a measly euro or two per person, and just a few minutes long, yet long enough to get some gorgeous pictures and take in the scenery.
A must-see stop in Venice is the Realto Market, featuring lots of delicious food, pasta spices, and olive oils. They served as the perfect gifts for our loved ones and are more distinct and special than the magnets vendors try to sell you at their stands in the busier, touristy areas of the city.
Other than that, aimlessly wander and experience Venice in slow motion.
Out of all the places in the world, Rome is the most unique city that I’ve ever visited. It is a seamlessly woven tale of the past and present.
Gorgeous Italian architecture will capture your attention, especially when you pass through piazzas, or plazas, within the city. But right in the midst of it all, you’ll also just come upon the Spanish Steps, or the Pantheon. It’s even so easy as turning a corner and spotting the Coliseum unexpectedly.
Rome is the king of authenticity. There was not thing untrue about this city. What you see is the real deal.
Rome Travel Tips
Though Rome seems never ending in size, it is possible to get to know the city in just a couple of days. We were there for only three full days and I left Italy feeling like I had been there for weeks.
What’s the key? Reading up on your Roman history before you arrive.
Research is not exactly the funnest concept in regards to your vacation. However, Rome itself is an artifact and it is not labeled.
Reading up on Roman history – from the contributions by each emperor around the city, having foundational knowledge about the timeline of Rome’s flourishing to its downfall, and to be able to pinpoint where Julius Cesar was buried and where the Vestal Virgins resided when walking through the Roman Forum – makes a place that once powerfully existed resurrect before you.
That is the essence of travel; learning about another place and how it came to be gives you perspective like nothing else can.
In addition to visiting it, knowing Rome is purely enlightening, and even in just three days you can experience it.
Stay tuned for the next post on our three day itinerary in Rome to learn how to hit all the big scenes and spots and make the most of your time.
Strategizing Your Sightseeing Game Plan
First of all, you have to pick which Roman sights you want to see. This place overflows with things to visit, of course, so if you are on a time crunch it’s best to choose a few big places you’re dying to see, and save the rest for next time.
Otherwise, you’ll defeat the purpose of your vacation and feel rushed trying to get from place to place.
We had three full days, so we picked:
- The Pantheon
- The Coliseum
- Roman Forum
- The Vatican & Sistine Chapel
The Pantheon is free, as you can just walk in and spend as little or as long looking around as you’d like.
Your plan on when you’re seeing what definitely needs some thought ahead of time, since you need tickets ahead of time. If you opt to wing it and waltz up to a box office, kiss half of your day goodbye because you’ll be taking baby steps for a mile to just purchase a ticket.
The Coliseum & The Roman Forum
We knew we wanted a tour of the Coliseum (worth every penny) and to self-tour the Roman Forum with our Lonely Planet Rome guide, which I entirely recommend.
Going onto the Coop Culture, the official site of Roman sights and tickets, allows you to view your ticket options. You can get a range of combined tickets and book tours in advance.
What we did to save time was buy a combined ticket for the Forum and Coliseum, admission only. Then we picked up our tickets at the Roman Forum box office that is located about half a mile from the Coliseum. There was no line there, versus the incredibly long wait to pick up already-purchased tickets at the Coliseum.
However, the line to get into the Coliseum after picking up your tickets was not bad at all, so we took advantage and saw the Coliseum first, also buying a guided tour ticket right then and there for $15 each.
We did not buy a tour for the Forum. If you do not, absolutely either bring a map with you or read up on your history beforehand so you can know what amazing piece of the past you’re looking at.
Even more so than Ancient Rome, getting a ticket for the Vatican online is a must. It is no exaggeration that I have never been in a place with the amount of tourist density I saw that day.
More than any other place I’ve been to in Europe, the Vatican is where I think you need to buy tickets of your choice ahead of time the most. After you enter the Vatican, it takes hours and hours to get through even a limited number of sections.
Personally, I was only concerned with seeing the Sistine chapel and you have to go through about an hour of the Vatican to even get to it.
Believe it or not, we did the Forum, Coliseum, and Vatican all in one day. We spent the morning touring the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, and later took a bus to Vatican City to enter and walk through to get to the Sistine Chapel, seeing plenty of the Vatican along the way.
The main perspective to have when you travel Venice in Rome is to just enjoy. Prioritize a couple of things, and then stroll through the lively neighborhoods, taste local delights and exotic treats, and live like the Romans do.
What are your favorite things in Rome and Venice?