My initial after-Covid venture overseas was last April to London, and it was high time for me to set foot on the continent again; Budapest was the obvious draw, but what to pair with it? I had avoided Rome for many trips but finally, its number came up. Open jaw on Lufthansa with stops in Frankfurt both ways, connected Rome with Budapest via Austrian Air--not a problem with any of my flights. Due to job and other life constraints I had 5 nights in each city, which was enough as my epic crowd tolerance skills were put to quite a test in Rome...and then I got to blissfully soothing Budapest for the wind-down before coming home :)
I arrived in Rome on Thursday 4/27 around 2 pm--taxi to the Hotel Lancelot in the Celio neighborhood, 15 minute walk to the Colosseum and I was delighted to see it every day. Made good use of Metro B there, and also Manzoni for Metro A. The hotel was lovely and staff very helpful & kind, excellent breakfast--rooftop bar across the street meant it was noisy late at night but I had my earplugs. I scoped out the walk to Manzoni in preparation for my early morning visit to the Vatican Museum, and walked the Colosseum area before having dinner outside at the Royal Art Cafe, with the Colosseum right in front of me.
One of the peaceful times in Rome was the next day when I walked to the metro at 6 am--easy ride on A to Ottaviano and ready for my Prime Experience guided tour--honestly, this was the most brilliant thing I booked and well-worth the 64 euro cost! The guide was excellent, a couple of other small groups, 20 minutes in the Sistine Chapel, and then at 9 we had a very good breakfast...after that, all hell broke loose and I quickly lost any enthusiasm for slogging through any of the other galleries. The only time I could get a Colosseum ticket was at 5:45 that day, so a bit of exploring and then rested before that.
Saturday I explored the Monti area and Imperial Forum, then spent a good bit of time getting turned around trying to find the Trevi--though I did have a happy find with the Quattro Fontane on the way. So many people! Marveled at it while enjoying a gelato, then back to see the Forum and Palatine Hill as my Colosseum ticket included that.
Sunday was the Borghese Gallery--I took a taxi for that, and despite my concerns about checking my purse (a small Travelon messenger), they deemed it flat enough and waved me in with it. Such a glorious display of sculpture, paintings and the most wonderful mosaics. Another quietly happy time was my meandering walk through the park to exit and come down the Spanish Steps, to Spagna stop...by then it was trying to rain. I decided to check out Termini to see what it was like...yikes. At the Colosseum stop no one could get out because everyone was sheltering from the rain. Pizza to go in my room that night.
Last day was Monday, 5/1, and a holiday, though most everything was open. I had a timed ticket for the Pantheon and what a mess that was! I arrived 70 minutes early and there were 3 lines, no guidance or signage whatsoever, but somehow I got in and it was worth it. More rain. Kind of happy to be packing up to leave for Budapest the next morning.
I think going near/over holidays made the crowding worse, seemed like a struggle to enjoy anything except a quiet park. Easy to get a solo seat in a restaurant and no shortage of good food & lovely Aperol spritzes and gelato every afternoon. No signs at all of pickpockets, though I was vigilant and used a Travelon bag for the first time. I brought 300 euros with me--100 went to taxis, the rest was accepted readily. So much to see, ancient beauty at every turn and I found the Colosseum and Forum to be the most satisfying things I visited. A return to another city in Italy at a quieter time of year could happen...