For me, visiting Italy has always been at the top of my travel list. I used to dream of exploring the ancient ruins in Rome, eating pasta and gelato for every meal, and enjoying the vivacious and laid-back Italian culture. Visiting in the summer was out of the question. I’m not a fan of extreme heat and large crowds make me anxious. Autumn sounded ideal but prices tend to still be sky high as their peak season stretches out into the beginning of November. The only thing I was sure about was my destination: Rome.
While I never imagined visiting Rome in the winter, I had some free time towards the end of February so I decided to just go for it. Off season travel, depending on the destination, has always interested me. Benefits such as lower prices and fewer people tend to overshadow the risk of terrible weather. After all, I was going to Rome, not the North Pole.
There’s no better introduction to Rome than staying at The Beehive. This cozy hotel/hostel hybrid is located about two blocks from Termini Station so you’re well connected to the rest of the city. American owners, Linda and Steve, originally opened up The Beehive in the late 90’s as a three room hostel. Now they have several private rooms or “sweets” and shared living spaces like a kitchen and lounge. Their cafe offers up delicious and affordable vegetarian-friendly meals. I highly recommend the oatmeal for breakfast!
Comfortable accommodations are easy to come by in any city but what makes The Beehive so unique is the staff. Every person I met was beyond helpful (special shoutout to Yuli and Francesca!) and would go out of their way not only to make sure we had a comfortable stay, but that we experienced the best that Rome has to offer. I especially appreciated Linda and Steve’s guide to Rome that was left in our room. We ate some of the best food in Rome (possibly… the world) thanks to them.
Less than an hour after checking in, we dropped our bags and raced to see the Colosseum before sunset. We arrived on the most gorgeous, sunny day and did not want to miss a second of it. This was my view after stepping out of the metro.
This view made riding the metro during rush hour all worth it. Trust me. For me, the Colosseum is one of those famous and ancient sights that lives up to every single one of my expectations. Standing in front of it was almost a bit overwhelming. You definitely need to spend a few moments taking it all in, ignoring the men trying to sell you selfie sticks, and just appreciate this magnificent wonder of the world which is almost 2,000 years old. Then, if you’re like me, proceed to take about a million photos.
We returned the next morning to meet Eva, our wonderful Once in Rome tour guide who happily showed us around The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and The Forum for over three hours. It looked more like a wintery day outside but the colder temps and light rain did not ruin our excitement or enthusiasm. Plus… there were hardly any crowds! Eva kept saying that we really came at the right time of year, as it’s just unbearable in the summer, so take note!
It was a lot to take in but Eva helped the history come to life and those three hours seemed to go by in minutes. I was surprised to learn that what we see today is actually only 20% of the Colosseum. And it’s still huge! It could originally hold between 50,000 – 72,000 people and fill up in about 10 minutes thanks to the well placed entrances all around.
If it’s your first time visiting Rome, booking a tour of the Colosseum and surrounding area is the way to go. Not only do you learn so much more than you would from an audio guide, but you get to skip the lines! After the Colosseum, we walked up to Palatine Hill and enjoyed the lush, green hills that made us feel far away from the noisy city down below. I especially loved the oddly shaped Pine trees that were scattered all throughout. Oh, and the ancient ruins around every corner were interesting too 😉 The most memorable set of ruins for me was an old dining room that apparently had heated floors! I’m telling you, those Ancient Romans were geniuses. A bit over the top, but genius.
The grand finale of the tour is The Forum which was the center of Roman public life and essentially the heart of Ancient Rome. I had never been surrounded by so many ruins in my entire life. I snapped a few photos on my phone and sent it to my friend who said “It looks like what Atlantis would look like if you drained all the water.” Sounds about right. Honestly, it’s hard for me to put into words what it’s like standing in the middle of The Forum. Promise me, if you do only one thing it Rome, have it be this.
This was just my first 24 hours in Rome and I still had four days to go. To be honest, I was worried we had seen the best of the Eternal City and everything else would pale in comparison. However, there’s so much more to Rome than their famous ruins and luckily we had a tour booked for Vatican City the next day which I’ll post about on Saturday! Thanks for sticking with me this past month while I struggled to find wifi strong enough to upload this post. I’m always on Twitter and Instagram though so feel free to follow me over there. I’m in Europe until late May so I have some exciting posts coming up!
Have you ever been to Rome in the winter? What are your opinions on off season travel? I’d love to know in the comments below.
*Note: I did receive a complimentary two night stay at The Beehive. However, opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I enjoyed and support! We actually enjoyed our time there so much that we extended our stay for the rest of the week, which we happily paid for of course 🙂