Where: Rome - Capri - Vatican
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust
When: April 2019
What: Dream Euro Trip Series DIY (Rome, Italy)
For this series of our blogs, we finally, after preparing ourselves financially and physically we have booked our dream trip to Europe (Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France). This would be our first time as a couple and we are making everything DIY as booking it with a packaged tour is going to be easy but more expensive and less intimate (in travel context meaning we don't get to control how many days we want to be in certain cities. as itinerary are packed tight with schedules) as we try to immerse ourselves and get to know its people, get lost, and always ready to try something that locals do.
Basically we just want to travel at our own pace this time in our European tour.
How To Get There:
Note: PH Passport holders need a visa and should provide sufficient time for the visa processing.
Got the tickets on sale Manila (MNL) - Rome (FCO) then return Paris (CDG) - Manila (MNL) so we immediately grabbed the opportunity then designed our itinerary and had our visa processed. Then once we have confirmed our schengen visa approved went to the specifics of our itinerary which was kinda hard to DIY because we had to make sure times are synchronized to the activities while still giving leeway for any delays and free time. Also lots of research of what to expect on certain places, like what you are doing right now that is why you probably got to this page:)
Visa processing may take up to 2 weeks so we suggest to gather all necessary documents beforehand. Flights and hotel reservations may be needed.
Note: Don't post to facebook your passport/visa info as well as other personal documents because it is also a security risk to identity theft.
Flight was 6 hour Manila to Dubai, then a layover for about 4 hours then another flight Dubai to Rome. After landing to FCO Airport in Rome, we have a pre-booked service that would bring us with our huge luggage to the hotel we chose taxi because train from airport to metro then walking around might not be the best to do after a long flight with all our luggage so we chose a service to bring us directly to the hotel.
Getting around Rome is pretty easy with their train and subway systems, as well as getting out of Rome to other Italian cities is also a breeze with their regional trains. We are saying this as an experience when we booked our regional and inter country train seats, time and date via the internet, months ahead of time, which makes it cheaper and avoid the hassle of lining up to purchase tickets and risk of losing out on seats on the day.
Taxi are also a nice option if it is a long walk and you are too tired from a whole day of walking and want to get as easy as possible, though it may be a more expensive option as taxi will cost you €10 - €15 compared to €3.00 each round trip for train.
Where To Stay:
Staying in EU is financially not a walk in the park for us, in other words, it is expensive and living in a poorer country in Asia truly making it feel more evident for us, Those being said, we have set a certain budget but doesn't mean we would sacrifice quality and a good night sleep. At Rome, so basically scoured the internet, booking sites, and google maps to find the best deals, at the best location, with the best looking hotel within our budget, We chose a small yet modern hotel in the city center near the train station.
Hotel Royal Court
Mr & Mrs Wanderlust's Review
+ Quick Check in
+ Helpful and friendly staff (also many Filipinos) which means no language barrier
+ Small lobby yet clean, modern and still stylish
+ Good Price Near the Terminal Station
+ Also near shops and many stores so no problem buying food & other things outside
+ Free WiFi
+ Free breakfast has very limited choices, but still delicious and satisfying
+ Room was small, yet a bit cozy, nice touch on the windows that can be opened for fresh air
+ Bed was clean and nice to sleep on after a long flight
+ Bathroom was small but has all that we need like shower, toilet with no leaks
- Annex has separate rooms from the lobby like maybe 200meters away on another building
- Stairs to lobby and not wheel accessible which means have to carry luggages to the lobby
- Also our annex room has no direct elevator access so we go to 4th floor, then stairs to 5th which means carry luggage
Price: $$$ 5,000 - 6,000 PHP / night for a room
Service: 4 star - Staff were all friendly
Facilities & Amenities: 3 star - Rooms were modern and comfortable yet small, but some parts not senior friendly as we have to carry luggage up on a few steps of stairs both on lobby and getting to our room in the annex
Restaurant (foods): 3 star - Breakfast has few choices though was satisfying and delicious.
Bar: 2.5 star - Same with the mini reso, they just have a mini bar, but not seems to be popular
Overall: 3 / 5
A bit lower than usual, probably because of our high expectations, but still good place to stay overall, and good value for money, pretty good location.
What To Do
There is so much to do in Rome than even a week is not enough, yet we still managed to cram it all in within 4 days. The eternal city of Rome has so much to offer, from food and drinks to try as well as history to learn and re-learn from their wonderful civilization and culture.
Tip: Our itinerary was already setup, but for some last minute tours with locals, we try to look on the internet this is for us to maximize our time instead of finding and using google maps, we have a local guide to walk us around, and now it is totally easy to book tours via apps/internet on the spot and just show them paperless voucher on your phone. totally convenient! Check out what we think about these booking apps below!
1. Enjoy the Whole City as an open Historical and Cultural Museum
The city is very lovely and small that you can walk around its city center within its walls and the city is full of history about the most powerful empires in the history - the Romans, who have developed and innovated so many things that are still useful after a thousand years, as well as buildings and structures that are majestic and structurally sound as it has survived millennia of nature while sadly others destroyed by war or buried in time waiting to be discovered.
The construction of subway near the Colosseo was actually halted as there were structures uncovered while digging the ground and almost every few months something new is discovered.
*On the photos above:
1, Roman Forum - the city center of Rome in the time of their civilization, where several important buildings of the time was.
2. Campidoglio - the city center now on one of the hills that has government buildings
3. Pantheon - a gigantic temple for all the gods build with a massive dome above, still standing since 126AD
4. Spanish Steps - a steep slope from one Piazza to another that offers really great view of city and also has a lot of shopping around as it is near Via del Corso
Needless to say, one of the modern symbols of Rome, the ever so popular Collosseo built by the Roman as an entertainment ground for the empire's people. Now, one of the most popular tourist sports together with other many historical buildings are driving the tourism economy of the area.
Have a cafe with the view of the area, just choose the ones AWAY from the front of the tourist spot as they are always tourist traps with tourist prices but not much quality in both their food as well as the establishment, so do a little research and you;d definitely find something more worthy of a meal with a killer view, and a much local friendly price ;)
2. Hangout at the many Piazzas and see majestic and really old fountains
Rome has many piazzas or known as a city plaza where its people can hangout and relax, some are new, some are small, some are big, and some older than the millennia, it is a pretty small place that you can walk around as long as you know where you are going (hint: google maps is your friend) and much better with a local guide so you can understand the history behind this, while some use audio guides downloaded from their phones.
The very famous Trevi Fountain is one of the grandest and most majestic fountains we have seen. Also this is the setting of many popular movies that features its legend that you can make a wish here by throwing a coin. Right hand over left shoulder
3. Drink Roman Coffee & Try Their Espresso
When in Rome, you must drink espresso. Fancy shmancy coffeeshops like Starbucks are not much present here as they haven't worked up the way Italians are on their coffee scene and innovation (let me give you a hint, the words, espresso, cappuccino, latte are all Italian words). It is also common for Italians to drink a couple of espressos a day, One of the most famous cafés. Tazza d’Oro, just right at the corner of the famous tourist site - the Pantheon.
It was also cheap as just €0.90 a lot cheaper than our local starbucks but still hella great espresso shot that gave us energy to continue our afternoon tour despite our tiredness from the flight.
To do coffee like the Italians, their default coffee is Espresso (shots) and it is ordered any time of the day, same thing for Macchiato. Cappuccino is also ordered but usually in the morning to avoid indigestion, but still acceptable after a meal in the afternoon. (Our tip? Whatever you prefer, they don't really care, it is your money and your coffee anyway)
4. Have a Grate Day with Italian Cheeses.
Italy is one of the most productive cheese regions in the world, and as a cheese lover this is paradise. They have many cheese, thousands of traditional varieties, hundreds of commercially recognized, and hundreds of varieties that have EU protected status. The list of cheese can go on, so depending on your taste, ask your friendly uomo di formaggio (cheese man!)
Protip, if the cheese shop has tables and chairs, you can ask for a sampler where he will cut you up variety of different cheeses and pair it with a wine.
5. Still FOOD: Taste their Bread, and of course their many flavors of Pizza and Pasta
So many food given by us by the Italians to be thankful for, one is Pizza, another one is Pasta! Now we have our local pizza and pasta but their tastes are way off the authentic Italian flavor, which means, we have got to try them on their land of origin.
Another shop we have visited in the old streets of Rome is a family run bakery named Roscioli, which is the city's family generations of famous traditional baker that still uses the old recipe for Roman bread, though compared to the more delicious breads of today it cannot compare, but it is still nice to taste something that the ancient Romans did millennia ago
6. Try something at market of Campo de’ Fiori
Buying fresh fruit and veggies at the market is a way of life. Many neighborhoods have their own markets, and the produce are very high quality which is perfect for making salads, panini, or even a fruit mix. Even if you’re in Rome for a few days, immerse yourself with the local culture by visiting the market.
We also tried blood orange which was orange fruit on the outside but bloody red on the inside. Still tastes like orange but was red. Also had a cup of their chipped fruits
7. Visit the Vatican City
7.1 St Peter's Basilica
This time, we had booked a guided tour for Vatican tour which includes Vatican skip the line tickets, and we're glad we did as we saved time from buying tickets on the spot as the queue outside the museum was so long. The tour also included the Sistine Chapel which is currently under construction but still gave way for the tourists to see the famous Michaelangelo's masterpiece seen on its ceiling. And of course, the biggest and grandest church in the world of Christendom, where the highest leader of Catholic lives and holds mass once a week, the St Peter's Basilica, inside the walls of the Vatican state a city inside the walls in Rome that is NOT under the control of Italy as they are their own state, led none other by the Pope.
7.2 Vatican Museum
The famous Vatican Museum, art lovers and those who can appreciate will definitely stare in awe and amazement as the museum's art are not in frames, but in its walls, ceiling, tapestry , made by the masters of their time and pioneer of dnew movements who have inspired later generations of art masters around Europe and probably around the world.
7.3 Sistine Chapel
The chapel is currently undergoing restoration yet the most famous part it is known for which is the paintings of Michaelangelo which is probably one of the most famous Catholic paintings with the Creation of Adam right in the middle together with other bible stories on the sides truly a masterpiece, you can read more of its interesting stories from many online resources.
8. Day Trip at Capri Island via Naples
The island of Capri via the Naples port is the way to it from Rome, usually available for group day tours on a coach bus, it is around 3 hours from Rome (with 1 stop over halfway) then another 30minute boat from the Naples port, then another few minute ride to the local smaller bus to reach the city center which also boasts a very nice view of the houses overlooking the Mediterranean sea. You would also get to the higher part of the town which is Anacapri
A cloudy day with some drizzles as we head to the province of Capri with some fog covering the nice view, good thing the fog dissipates after our lunch so we were still able to have a glimpse of the lovely views of Capri.
Without Capri Sun, we still had much fun because there is still that unique quaint little Italian island countryside, very quiet because it isnt the summer season yet, and a bit cold because of the clouds and drizzle.
Another Day trip that would have been great have we had an extra day would be Mt. Vesuvius in the town of Pompeii, but since we have to head to Firenze (Florence) and spend the night there, we really had to choose between Capri and Pompeii. And we chose the former.
9. Quick Stop to Shop @ Via dei Condotti and Via del Corso
So, for the people who love shopping, or just checking out the latest in fashion, knowing that its nearby capital city Milan is one of the world's fashion capital. As well as the luxury brands on old beautiful buildings around the cobblestones streets of Via de Condotti & Via del Corso just a few minutes walk from Spanish steps.
10. More photos of our Stay in Rome
11. More Photos of Capri
TOUR BOOKING APPS: How they match up in Europe
For those asking, we used the mobile apps, withlocals, viator, klook, getyourguide and choose the most convenient and available times (make sure you read completely to see what to expect and itinerary etc.), some of them require singing up for app, while others you can book direct online see which one you find useful. Comparing these booking apps in Europe here is our honest unbiased reviews.
Viator was great and many choices a bit expensive but hassle free experience. Simple navigation and checkout made it easy for last minute bookings. But mostly huge group tours which you feel like a herd, there are also few to private tours but expensive.
Getyourguide was such a hassle and bad experience for last minute booking, website made error and doubled our charge, then we even missed another one because not clear on the time it was written as 7pm then to find out it was 6pm meeting time so we missed one tour and paid another one. To their credit I called their customer service and disputed the charge and they were helpful and was told it is on process for refund and we still about to see because it may take couple of days for the card to reverse charges. (We'll post update)
Klook - easy booking especially on their mobile app, but very limited choices especially in Europe. The app is mostly popular in Asia as there are only few choices in EU compared to other apps mentioned.
Withlocals - nice experience and many choices, can even customize as it is private local guide and cheap price compared to other booking apps. Best of all you can choose your local guide and their different specialties (night life, historian, art enthusiast, sports, music, etc.) their app even offers chat so you can chat with your guide directly be able to customize tour etc.
KKDay - very limited and is advisable to use only in select countries in Asia.
But.... You can't do none of these if you don't have internet access, and Global Roaming is hella expensive for our operator back in the Philippines like USD$20 per 1Gig
Protip: Make sure you also have internet access like we did without the cost of global roaming extorting charges by our phone service providers. By renting a pocket WiFi device set from
> Hippocketwifi < we were able to enjoy fully their coverage for the whole of Europe at reasonable rates. Check their whole Europe package, unlimited data on their website.
Paid them online, had it delivered at our hotel in Rome, Used it for unlimited WiFi services from day 1 to 20, then mailed the whole set back on their prepaid envelope at CDG airport in Paris before going home, pretty simple.
They did not disappoint. 10/10 would use them again (This is NOT a paid advertisement and honest review with our personal experiences)
BONUS: Cannabis in Italy / Europe**
The legal status of Cannabis in Europe and in Italy is still on a loophole allowing them to legally sell light cannabis. Not like in Amsterdam where you get the best quality cannabis, in Italy, they are operating within the bounds of their national law meaning allowing it on condition that it has less of the THC which is the psychoactive part which makes its classification as a drug legal limit is 0.5%, and more of its chemical component called CBD which is the therapeutic side which alleviates symptoms of stress, depression, pain, insomnia, anxiety, etc. Smoking of dry herb is still done within four walls or somewhere private. But the police (Europe, in general) are not keen on catching minor offenders such as smoking weed, but if you get caught with more than 5 grams or more you may get a slap on the wrist, penalized and items confiscated. So this is still working in a gray area and not totally legalized, but decriminalization is still a very good step towards legalization.
As someone who lives in a country who is totally closed minded together with its people having a bad stigma for cannabis, this is something to look up on, it is not a drug, but healing of the nation. Can't win a war against a plant. Might as well have the people benefit from it and revenue it can produce for its people.
Now due to this recent loophole in the law, legal cannabis shops are also popping up around the tourist areas of Rome, and other cities in EU. According to the guide strong weed can still be bought on streets, but if you want legal, or you get caught by police with something bought from the legal shops(which is very unlikely) just show them the receipt and you are all good. It means it was a legal purchase.
*Disclaimer: We did not partake on any illegal activities and just took photos for documentation purposes of what seems to be a legal loophole regarding cannabis and we neither confirm nor deny consuming anything. And definitely NOT bringing or exporting anything to countries that may violate any laws.
Thank you for taking the time to read! Or just checked out the photos or scrolled through them. Hope we have all learned something from today, from the rich history, arts, culture and humanities of Rome, we totally have enjoyed every bit of you, 3 ish days was not enough, but every bit of it was worth it. Till we get see you again!
If you have any questions about Rome or our travels, leave us a message at the comments box below!
* $100 USD = €89 EUROS (as of April 2019)
Accommodation - High End - 1,000€+++
Accommodation - Mid - €150 - €200
Accommodation - Budget - €100 but may be lower depending on haw far area from center
Transport - Taxi - €10 if nearby up to €50 from airport to city centre
Transport - Regional Rail tickets, €15/per person up to €60 depending on time, and trip etc.
Transport - Sightseeing Tour - €50 - €200 tour with private guide car and driver etc.
Food - Snacks - €5 - €10
Food - Restaurant (set meal for 2) - €30 - €50 per head
Food - Fastfood Meal - €10 - €15 per head
Drinks - Hotel Beer €10 - €20
Drinks - Bottled Water - €3 - €5
Drinks - Espresso Coffee - €.90 - €3 (really depending on the place if touristy more expensive)
Drinks - Coffee Cappuccino - €1.50 - €4
Others - Toilet Use / WC - €1 - €2
Misc. - Legal / Light Canna CBD - €12 - €15 / Gram ; €20 Packaged cookies
Souvenir - T-Shirt - €15 €20
Souvenir - Magnets / Keychain = €5 - €10
Souvenir - Premium items, Chocolates etc, - €20 - €50
Souvenir Football Jersey - €15 - €20 (Reproduction/Copy) €50 - €100 (Authentic)
*Note: Different rates for Seniors, and also for toddler
**Protip: book earlier online thru their websites, or thru official booking apps to avoid queue at ticket counter and sometimes even get discounts & better prices just show the barcode/qrcode on your phone, paperless!
**Protip: Have your local home currency exchanged to Euros through your local banks, and also fill your ATM, and ready your credit cards. We got used to having US Dollar as main currency that when we tried to exchange it to Foreign exchange shops, the commissions/fees are outrageous that USD $200 becomes around €120 - €140 instead of becoming €177 (which is the rate today April 2019)
Tips are generally not required however if you have truly enjoyed the service you are always welcome to share a tip to your server, cook, helper, guides, etc.
Part 2 of our Eurotrip Series - Firenze
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