Day 11- Rome: Colosseum, Roman Forum/ Palatine Hall, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps

*Backing waaaaay up! The “print your blog to a book” site I use is having a sale, so I am going to try to hammer out my remaining few spring break recaps ASAP!*

Tuesday, March 22

Our first full day in Rome! (See my Travel page for all the recaps from our 1st week in Ireland, plus our arrival day to Rome on Monday 3/21.)

On the agenda: The Colosseum and the Roman Forum

The Colosseum was one of the few places on the trip that I had bought advance tickets. I had read that lines can be horrendous, so I really wanted to avoid that, especially with only a few days in Rome. I bought tickets for 10:30 a.m., to allow us a relaxed/ not rushed morning.

There are several different ticket options for the Colosseum. It actually took me a while to sort them all out and figure out what we wanted. The cheapest option is just the plain entrance, no guide, no extra access besides just wandering around inside. Then they have an option for “General Access + ARENA access”, meaning you get to go down on the bit of reconstructed arena floor (i.e. where the gladiators would have stood). Then there are options for private guide tours, group tours, and also an “underground” tour that takes you underneath, where the animals were kept and the gladiators would have waited.

I thought the Underground tour would be cool for the boys, but the tickets sell out fast. When I looked a month or two before our trip, I couldn’t get any. So we settled for the General + Arena option. I considered booking a guided tour, but ultimately decided to just go with our free Rick Steves audio guides, for more freedom and flexibility.

First though, let me back up a little.

Morning in Rome

(I’m going to try something different in this post- adding time stamps! I feel like I sometimes get comments from people along the lines of how do you fit so much stuff in on a trip?! So I thought it might be interesting to follow along the timeline of our day.)

7:25 a.m – tea!

I started the morning on our hotel’s rooftop terrace with a cup of tea. It was a BEAUTIFUL blue sky day!! YES!! Always am so grateful for good weather on vacation. (It was quite chilly, however, at 7:30 a.m.)

Everyone kind of slowly rolled out of bed, had coffee/tea and then we all took turns taking showers, getting ready, and packing up for a day out. I always enjoy allowing an hour or so in the morning on vacation to just relax a bit, if possible. You know, scroll through the phone, maybe post some pictures on Facebook, check out the maps of where we’ll be going, etc.

By around 9:20/9:30 or so, we headed out. We wanted to stop for breakfast on the way to the Colosseum.

I love this picture! They’re so cute! I took this right outside our hotel door, central Rome! Loved the location.

The plan was to head toward the Colosseum, keeping an eye out for a good breakfast spot.

We ended up stumbling across a little cafe very near the Victor Emmanuel II monument. This was a favorite of mine!! I got a panini, and it was so good. I also just really enjoyed sitting on this little stretch of sidewalk, in the sun, on a beautiful morning in Rome. I have some distinct memories of this meal. 🙂

9:45 a.m. – breakfast

I also really like this picture of me and my Dad:

We had to go inside to order, and the people working there did NOT really speak English. I felt so foolish stumbling around, trying to order in Italian! (Which, unfortunately, I just don’t speak!!) Struggling with language is definitely a pretty novel experience for us English speakers, I will admit. Probably a good thing for us to experience now and again, because it’s a frequent reality for so many other people! 🙂

The boys went with “cornettos con crema”, or cream filled croissants. They LOVED these and got them multiple times in Rome. They were also excited that they learned a) what they were called in Italian and b) how to order them in Italian! (The full sentence, “I’d like a cream filled croissant, please”)

After breakfast, we had to get moving to our Colosseum ticket slot.

Passed the huge monument to the 1st King of Italy:

And got a sneak peek of the Forum:

Everywhere you look in Rome, you might see random ruins at any time. Crazy!

It was a short walk to…..

The Colosseum! The one and only. 🙂

(10:20 a.m)

Wow! They were pretty excited to be seeing this with their very own eyes.

When you go to a place like this, you really need to just PAUSE for a minute and let it soak in. The history is astounding.

We got in the line for “people with tickets” and went through security. It all moved quickly, and before we knew it- we were inside the Colosseum.

We fired up our Airpods and started our audio guides. It begins outside, and then takes you through the hallways, before leading you to the many viewing points of the actual arena.

Imagine living thousands of years ago, entering through this hallway to go watch a gladiator fight?!

The photo opportunities were endless. What can I say.

love this one!

We paused to listen to our audio guides, slowly making our way through. I am glad we could move through at our own pace, versus with a group guide. I sometimes find it hard to even hear what they are saying on those tours, with so many people around.

Our upgraded Arena tickets allowed us access to the special arena floor. The floor itself has disintegrated over the years, but they reconstructed a portion to simulate what it would have been like.

Here I am standing on the arena floor, looking down beneath where the floor would have been:

The gladiators would have been kept down there as they waited to be released into the arena, up through the infamous trap doors.

A great group shot, thanks to some other random tourist we photo swapped with!

The boys were pretty enamored with it all. They kept asking for solo pics, too. 🙂

Next we moved into the “museum” section. It’s not a full museum, but just various exhibits that were very informational.

Full transparency- the boys (well, Asher) were not particularly engaged in this part. They had already listened to the whole audio guide, and just were not really cooperating with reading these museum spreads. I was rather annoyed about it, because they were very interesting!! There was some GREAT info there. Asher especially kept kind of glancing at them and just breezing on to the next one/ going ahead. I felt they were old enough to stand and read them- after all, they were missing school to be on this trip…. But I finally kind of gave up and let it go. Oh well. Ethan was more into it, at least.

We circled up to the upper level then, looking back down on the arena floor we’d been standing on:

I think this one might need to be part of the Christmas card- so cute!

And they wanted solo shots…..

My Roman history loving kid, and the one who made it happen for him 😉 :

This a cool shot of the arena:

Previous pics were taken standing down on that floor piece, at the railing.

We finally felt we had seen the Colosseum from about every angle possible, including checking out the surrounding views from the upper level.

looking out at the Arch of Constantine

And, the ruins of the Temple of Goddesses Venus and Roma!

12:25 p.m.- outside the Colosseum

Our Colosseum tickets included entrance to the Roman Forum/ Palatine Hill, so we planned to spend the afternoon there.

First though, we decided to fuel back up with some lunch.

1:00 p.m- Lunch

We picked a random restaurant located in between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum that had outdoor seating.

It was a nice break after the ~2 hours spent touring the Colosseum.

The boys were big fans of their pasta dishes. They actually will randomly talk about this pasta from time to time.

We didn’t linger too long at lunch, as I knew the Forum was huge and would need a good amount of time.

2:00 p.m.- Arch of Constantine and Roman Forum

The Arch of Constantine is very cool. It was dedicated to Emperor Constantine the Great and a major battle victory. Under Constantine the Great’s rule was when Rome began to transition to Christianity as the dominant religion, as well.

From here, we started our self-guided walking tour. Again we used the Rick Steves app. Really enjoyed being able to start and stop as we desired.

I wish I could sit here and regurgitate all sorts of detailed information about this amazing site, but alas, I cannot. I am sure the many factoids are somewhere deep inside my brain, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing them all at the moment. But let’s just go with this: The Roman Forum was the epicenter of Rome in its heyday. It included major government buildings, as well as marketplaces and other socially important locations, temples, and more. It was “the place to be”, and where all of Rome’s action took place. It must have been an incredible site to see.

great shot of my mom!

We spent almost 3 hours wandering around. It’s huge.

Palatine Hill

Then we trekked up the hill to the Palatine Hill area. This is basically the ruins of Rome’s “best, most desirable neighborhood”. It was where the aristocrats and emperors lived.

We didn’t have as much on the audio guide on Palatine Hill, and my pocket sized guidebook was lacking some. 😦 It would have been nice to have some more info on this whole area- which was also huge and sprawling.

There are some great views looking down on the Forum from the Palatine Hill side.

I also took this great shot of the Colosseum, from a bit of a distance:

5:12 p.m.- Out of the Forum and down the street, gelato in hand

We needed a little break after all the touring. The boys wanted gelato. We stopped at a place near the Victor Emmanuel II monument, but unfortunately, many places in that area didn’t let you sit at a table unless you were going to pay for “table service” prices (much higher/ included a waiter, etc.). We ended up ordering ours to go, although we would have liked to sit and rest our feet and enjoy the view.

Grandma got gelato too.

We headed back to the hotel to regroup for a bit, eating our gelato along the way. At the hotel, we spent an hour or so just relaxing. I freshened up some and just had some tea and rested.

6:45 p.m. Headed back out for the evening!

We didn’t have any big evening plans, exactly. While the rest of us had rested a little, Ivan had taken Asher to get a haircut, of all things, from a Roman barber shop. (Asher had refused a haircut before the trip, but he really needed one.) I didn’t go along, but apparently that was kind of a fun and interesting experience!

7:00- The Pantheon

We had agreed to meet up outside the Pantheon a little before 7:00.

We couldn’t actually enter, because it closed at 7. (It wasn’t far from the hotel at least, so we would go back to tour it in the morning.) I wanted to see it lit up at night, though.

7:10 p.m.Trevi Fountain

From there, we headed to the world famous Trevi Foutain!

Rome is pretty magical at night. Walking to the Trevi Fountain.

Passed several “frutterias” selling fresh fruit…. so cute!

You can hear the roaring of the fountain before you even see it.

One of my favorite places in Rome!! Tucked in between a bunch of other buildings, it’s this amazingly impressive yet cozy site.

With his new Roman haircut. 🙂
You really need to hear the pounding of the water for this have the same effect!

We bought the boys some likely overpriced sweatshirts from a gift shop right in front of the fountain:

The Trevi Fountain area is always jam packed with people. We did sit and just take in the sights and sounds for maybe 30 minutes or so.

7:52 p.m.- Church across the street

We peeked into a church right across the street. They are all just so beautiful! I don’t even know what the name was of this one.

Trevi Fountain square:

Our last “destination” on our little self-guided Rome nighttime walking tour was the Spanish Steps.

8:16 p.m.- Spanish Steps

It was a bit of a walk. Our feet were getting a little tired by this point, and it was actually kind of cold out. But, we rallied and made it over there, because I knew it wasn’t going to fit in well at any other point really.

I would have liked more time to explore this area, because it’s a very trendy, up scale section of Rome. Lots of FANCY shops and stuff around here.

We finally arrived at the top of the steps.

I wanted to recreate this photo from our 10 Year Anniversary trip to Rome, in 2017, on the Spanish Steps:


We didn’t spend a lot of time here- just took some pictures and walked down the steps, basically. It was almost 8:30 and we still needed to have dinner!


I could not love this picture of my parents more if I tried:

Major props to these 71 year olds!! We walked a LOT OF STEPS on this day, and not one complaint out of them.

9:25 p.m.- Dinner!

Kind of by necessity/ kind of by planning, we had a rather late dinner. We knew this was going to be a full day of sightseeing going into it, so the late dinner just made sense.

We were definitely HUNGRY by the time we left the Spanish Steps though. And cold. And getting tired.

Fortunately, we kept the ever popular “Let’s Pick a Restaurant” game to a minimum and chose a place pretty quickly. No one was feeling overly picky at this point. Is it warm? Is it Italian? Does it serve food? Sold.

On the hunt. We were definitely NOT the only people eating a late dinner, though! Seemed to be pretty normal.

Most of us got pasta this time- I went with a pasta carbonara and wine.

Oops, I guess Ivan actually got pizza.
I can tell Asher’s eyes are looking a little sleepy in this picture!

10:20 p.m.

Headed back to the hotel! Finally! WHAT A DAY!

We all pretty much collapsed into bed I think by 10:30 p.m. or so.

I was so glad the boys had their own room at this hotel! Ivan and I put the TV on and lounged in bed for a while just unwinding. We saw so many incredible sights, it was hard to really process it all, in a way. I felt pretty overwhelmed with excitement for having experienced all of those historical sites with the boys. 🙂

*This might be my longest post ever! But oh well! I decided to forge ahead and get this whole day into one post. Hope you enjoyed following along. 🙂

11 thoughts on “Day 11- Rome: Colosseum, Roman Forum/ Palatine Hall, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps”

  1. Nothing like a sale to give yourself a deadline. This is a great recap, we kind of did the same things last month. I am pretty impressed that your kids lasted so long with all the sightseeing. Mine would be done by lunchtime. Our hotel was near the Spanish steps so we saw those fancy shops every day, but we are not really designer people so it was lost on us.


    1. Haha, well, I think my kids are a little older than yours? I forget your kids’ ages exactly. And I’m with you- I wouldn’t have probably actually gone into any of those fancy stores, either!! I would have felt (and certainly looked) out of place! Haha. No high brow designer clothes at my house either.


  2. What a full but wonderful day. You guys saw so much. This is how I would have structured my day when I traveled alone. I think Phil might protest if I filled a day, though. But we have different personalities about how much to fit into a day! But if your parents kept a up, a 41yo fit man could too! I love your dad’s hat. It really suits him!

    It seems like Europeans love to have later dinners. I would majorly struggle with that!


    1. The hat is a bit of a funny story…. So my mom wanted him to get one of those hats in Ireland (they were in lots of stores). My dad had kind of resisted and rolled his eyes about the hat. Then he finally tried one on, at my mom’s encouragement in a gift shop. He ended up liking it ok, so they bought it. Well, turns out he actually really, really liked wearing it! it was chilly in Ireland, so it kept his head comfortably warm, and it really did suit him in general and just looked good on him! He wore it almost non stop on the rest of our trip! haha!


  3. What an amazing day. I’ve been to Italy, but never to Rome or the Colosseum! So impressive – the size, the architecture! What an amazing experience for you guys.


  4. Wow – what a day! You packed it all in. I love how you chose things to do that you knew your boys would like and appreciate. I have never thought of going to Rome but this makes me think it would be a fabulous destination.


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