THINGS TO DO IN ROME, ITALY | EXPLORING VATICAN CITY
During the summer of 2019, me and my two sons decided to take a European vacation. We ended up traveling for 26 days to a total of seven countries and over 17,000 miles. Day sixteen through eighteen were spent in Rome, Italy with a full-day trip to Vatican City. We arrived at the Rome airport from Barcelona without any issue.
**WARNING** **WARNING** Do not eat at Caffee Vaticano in Rome. They specialize in ripping off tourists and are dishonest liers. **WARNING** **WARNING**
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Ecohotel, which was about 15 minutes from the main part of the city. We had a triple economy room which meant we had three beds, on the basement level but still had high windows to bring in some light. The reception desk was typically only one person but was always sufficient. They helped us order delivery dinner twice and both times the food was amazing.
What we did
After reading many reviews about how the lines were painfully slow and miserable in hot weather at the Vatican, I booked a private tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s with City Wonders Limited. We were to meet the tour guide outside of Caffe Vaticano, so I decided we would just eat there. They had a meat platter menu item priced at 40€ for one person or 60€ for three people. Many of the menu items did not have prices, and as an avid tourist, I do not order unpriced items. While 60€ for three people was still extremely expensive, I was willing to splurge not to have to worry about being late to meet our tour guide – because the private tour was very, very expensive. This was the biggest mistake I made during the entire 25-day European trip. We proceeded to order the meat platter for three people. The bill came and they charged me 40€ times three (so for three single meals) for a total of 120€. They also charged 5€ for each bottle of soda (priced very high, but typical in Rome), 6€ for a bottle of water (again, high price but typical) and a 10% service fee of 14.10€ bringing the grand total for lunch to 155.10€ – so about $174 for lunch. When I asked them to correct the entre price and charge me for the meal for three people instead of the individual meal three times, they refused. This made me very annoyed – but I paid it and later disputed the charge with VISA. We met our tour guide (had a little trouble finding him) and literally went through security and was inside The Vatican in no time. We did see the long endless lines people were waiting in for entry, but we didn’t have to wait at all. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and helpful. The Vatican itself is amazing. Taking a private tour is definitely the way to go. The next day we did an Italian cooking class with One Day Chef, which was for sure the best part of Rome and one of the top activities during our entire European trip. The class was just me and the boys, so we moved at a pace that was great for us. Chef Mateo was amazing and the food we created was some of the best food I have ever had. I greatly enjoy ravioli and our from-scratch ravioli and sauce were amazing.
Mobile phone service
Since there were three of us, I rented at MiFi device through cellhire.com so we could all have data service. I know that from a technical perspective when a phone is connected to WiFi, most apps think the data is fair-game and will use an unlimited amount of data, so I installed an app called NetGuard. This app installs a firewall and will only allow certain apps access to the internet when connected to the MiFi device. Then, once we were on unlimited WiFi at the hotel, the other apps could download and do whatever updates they wanted. With the NetGuard app, we all stayed under the 10GBs of data I purchased. For telephone service, I used my Google Voice account to place calls – calls to the US are free and calls to most of the places we traveled were under five-cents per minute. The calls worked flawlessly while on most hotel wifis and worked reasonably well when connected to the MiFi box.
How did we feel about Rome and Vatican City?
For the most part, none of us really liked Rome. It is hot in the summer and a tad bit humid. The Vatican was amazing and our cooking class with Mateo was memorable. But Rome itself is very dirty, not particularly friendly towards tourists and with the terrible experience at Caffe Vaticano, I questioned the honesty of everyone in Rome. The only people that treated us well in Rome were the hotel staff and Mateo during our cooking class. I would suggest to most people do a day-trip to Vatican City and maybe, just maybe visit Rome for an afternoon. It is possible that Rome just is not a good fit for me, but I have zero desire to return. I didn’t get to see everything, but I was at the point where I was cutting my losses while I was ahead and just wanted to leave.