After Crete (and after the airline lost my suitcase), I was ready to start exploring Rome solo, but I only had 2.5 days here - definitely not enough time. First stop was shopping for clothes (RIP to my suitcase that never got back to me).
Pro tip: bring comfortable shoes because you will do A LOT of walking in Rome. I walked 20,000 steps a day. Pro tip #2: DO NOT do both the Colosseum and the Vatican in the same day - your body will hate you.
After nearly crying to the lady at the Rome airport because of the language barrier, I found my way to my hotel at Colosseum Palace Star - booked this hotel for the view! On top of that, the room was very spacious and well worth the price I paid.
Since I spent my first half day shopping around Rome, I needed food ASAP. I ate at La Taverna Dei Fori Imperaili - highly recommend getting a reservation here since it can get quite busy. I am not 100% sure what the waiter recommended for an appetizer (I think it was the Roman roast pork), but for my entrée I got the cacio e pepe with black truffle - and yes this dish alone was the reason I made the reservation. Of course I had to end with tiramisu and Amaro.
This was the day I did both the Colosseum and the Vatican, and I had to stop so many times to stretch. After all the stairs in Positano and walking a lot around Crete, my back was killing me (I messed up my lower back when I played lacrosse in high school).
They had recently opened up a full underground tour of the Colosseum, which I booked on Viator. This was such a cool experience, especially since this tour was about 3 months old. It was fascinating learning about the history of the Colosseum and how inventive they were back then. This tour also included a tour around the Roman Forum - well worth the money.
After this tour, I had to find a way to get to the Vatican, so I took a Bird scooter. I really should have learned my lesson after this to not scooter in Paris, but off I went not knowing where I was going, trying to hold my phone in my hand, and navigate the 2 mile trek on cobble stones. Note to self: just Uber next time.
I think my body was so tired while walking around that I did not really take a lot of pictures of the art, nor did I go into St. Peter's Basilica. I just zoomed right to dinner at Osteria Da Fortunata and they hand roll the pasta right in front of you - such a cool experience. I was lucky enough to get a table inside right behind them rolling out the pasta. I do recommend coming here early as they did not take reservations, and come 7pm there was a very long line out the door. I started with a zucchini flower and got cacio e pepe for my entrée (clearly one of my favorite pasta dishes).
There was so much I wanted to do in Italy, but I was running low on time. So, through Viator, I booked a day trip to Florence and Pisa. The driver picked me up at my hotel around 7:30am and we headed to pick up 3 more people before we made our way to Florence. It was about a 3 hour drive to Florence, and we had a little over 3 hours to walk ourselves around the city.
I fell in love with this city in the few short hours I was there. I loved how small it felt in comparison to Rome, but it still was rich in history and art. I spent an hour alone just looking at the local artists around the Duomo and ended up buying two separate paintings for myself and some for family. One of the stands, the guy painted his own business card right there on the spot - one of the coolest experiences on this trip.
My friend also raved about Florence to me, which is half the reason I was wanting to come here. She told me a very specific place to get gelato, and I was not about to argue with her, so I wandered my way over the Ponte Vecchio bridge to find this place - La Strega Nocciola. Side note: this was essentially my breakfast since it was at 11am. There are also other locations of this same gelato shop around Florence, but that was the location she told me to go to.
After gelato, I guess I needed lunch. I really wanted to try a panini from All'Antico Vinaio, but the lines were so long. Instead, I found a small panini shop, which was basically just a window in the wall, and sat down to eat a $5 panini.
Next on the schedule was an hour drive to Pisa, which we had about 1 hour to explore. I really just wanted to check off seeing the leaning tower of Pisa, so I snagged a Peroni from a stand and sat down in the grass and people watched.
By the time we got back to Rome, it was 8pm - a VERY long day of driving and walking around. I was starving and did not have dinner reservations, so I did what everyone tells you NOT to do - I went and had dinner by the Colosseum at La Biga. Typically restaurants close to tourist sites like the Colosseum are very over rated and not good quality - this was true for where I got dinner, but the view was great and I was too hungry to care.
Overall, Rome is a city filled with rich history and amazing art (and great food - away from the touristy spots). I definitely want to come back to Rome and see more.
Things to Know Before:
I went at the beginning of September and it was HOT
Bring comfortable walking shoes
Do not get an electric scooter and go on the cobble stones
Do not do both the Colosseum and the Vatican in the same day
Rome is HUGE so you need at least 3 days to get the full experience
Have a separate trip for Florence - you need well more than 3 hours there
Don't check your bag with a small Greek airline in case it gets lost - they would not answer my calls and the lady at the Rome airport was no help
Stay away from eating around touristy spots
I was solo during this part of the trip and I never felt unsafe, even when I was walking around alone at night