3 Days in Rome – Exploring the Best of Rome and Vatican City

(Last Updated On: August 27, 2018)

Right from our school, we have been taught how the Roman Empire has been one of the influential and economically advanced empires. And the Idioms “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” have always been an inspiration.

Rome built on seven hills is also known as the ‘Eternal City’ because the Roman people believed that no matter what happened to the world, Rome would go on forever and it truly does rule our hearts even today!!

Italy’s capital city Rome with 3000 years old history and astounding heritage is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. There is so much to see and do in the city that you will need at least 2 days in Rome. Then there is Vatican City with Vatican Museums, St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Gardens which would need at least another dedicated day. Here is an itinerary with top things to do and see for your 3 days in Rome.

Rome is a city brimming with history and architecture with something new to explore in every nook and cranny of the city, we suggest you explore the city on foot as much as possible.

Due to last moment plans, we could not find accommodation in the city center. We booked an apartment in Trastevere which is a charming neighborhood with cobblestone streets and plenty of shops and restaurants.

From Trastevere, we boarded a bus to Piazza Venezia which is an important square in Rome. Trastevere to Piazza Venezia is about 10 minutes bus ride. From Piazza Venezia, buses connect to different areas in Rome and the Vatican City. Colosseum is about 10 minutes walk from Piazza Venezia.

Getting Around in Rome

Rome is well-connected with bus and metro which makes it easy and convenient to get around and explore the Rome landmarks and attractions. There is a good frequency of buses and metros that connect Rome with Vatican City so getting to the Vatican Museums is easy too. During our Rome sightseeing tour, we explored much of the city on foot. You won’t believe we walked all the way from Vatican Museums to Colosseum which helped us explore nook and cranny of Rome and taste plenty of gelato flavors.

Best Places to Visit in Rome Day 1

Visiting Vatican City

We started our Rome sightseeing tour with the Vatican City. A visit to Rome is incomplete without visiting the World famous Vatican museums and the magnificent St Peter’s Basilica and a chance to cross out another country from your bucket list. From Piazza Venezia, we boarded a bus to Vatican City which dropped us outside the St Peter’s Square, you can even get down at Vatican Museums.

Vatican City can also be reached by Ottaviano-San Pietro station on Metro Line A nearest to St Peter’s Square and Cipro-Musei Vaticani close to Vatican Museums. Details here.

Yes, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world but did you know it has its own post office, stamps, own flag, anthem and even a national football team? That’s astounding, isn’t it? Vatican City the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is a revered pilgrimage site. Vatican City is the home of the Pope since 14th-century. Between 1309 and 1377 popes resided in the Avignon in France.

Visit the Vatican Museums

Our trip to Rome and the Vatican City was a family trip with our parents and a year old kid. Though we love exploring history and architecture it was not really practical to explore each and every section of the Vatican Museums especially when we had a toddler tagged along. The Vatican museum is huge and it is highly recommended you book a guided tour to walk you through the important exhibits as per your points of interest. The guide will provide you with some great insight into the exhibit and the history.

We really wished we had opted for a guided Vatican tour in that way we could have explored even more. The only reason we didn’t opt for the tour was that we were not sure that we could manage to keep up with the pace of the guide while managing our little one and her feed breaks.

We had booked our ticket in advance which was one of the best decisions. We visited the Vatican Museums early in the morning and there was already a km long queue for the tickets. We got direct entry into the museum on presenting the ticket from the phone. At the ticket counter, we collected our ticket voucher and the audio guides and started the tour of the magnificent museum collection.

Here are some important galleries and museums which you should not miss on your tour of the Vatican Museums.

The Pio Clementino Museum was founded in 1771 and houses some of the remarkable collection of classical sculptures from Greek and Roman and important Renaissance work. Do not miss the Red Round Room with a magnificent dome and adorned with large sculptures and colorful floor mosaic work.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The Raphael Rooms are famous for their frescoes painted by Raphael, the Gallery of Tapestries displays 18 Flemish tapestries dating back to 15th and 17th-centuries,

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

the Gallery of Maps displays a series of 40 painted topographical maps of Italy and the Gregorian Egyptian Museum which exhibits antiquities from Roman Egypt.

The Courtyard of the Pinecone with the large bronze named ‘Sphere within Sphere’ must be one of the most photographed exhibits in the Vatican Museums.

Then finally the most exciting and enthralling part of the museum – the Sistine Chapel. We had heard so much about the Sistine Chapel that we couldn’t just wait to visit it. The frescoes on the chapel ceiling and ‘The Last Judgment’ decorated by Michelangelo are an outstanding work of art. And we have to mention that the pictures that we saw on the internet don’t do justice to the magnificence and grandeur of the Sistine Chapel.

We are not allowed to take pictures of the interior of the Sistine Chapel so you will have to see it for yourself on your visit to the Vatican Museums.

As we walked towards the exit we walked through several other rooms displaying Christian antiquities and terracotta items.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The last part of our visit to the Vatican Museums was the iconic Bramante Staircase, a double spiral staircase with an amazing work of art on the balustrade.

Vatican Gardens

We were completely exhausted and hence had to skip the Vatican gardens. The Vatican Garden cover more than half of the country and is decorated with sculptures and fountains. You can visit the garden only with guided tours in an open bus or on a guided walking tour.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. The basilica is an exemplary Italian Renaissance church with awe-inspiring interior decorated with rich baroque artwork, monuments, and paintings. The most important artworks in the St. Peter’s Basilica is the Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s Baldachin.

The entrance to St.Peter’s Basilica is free it is recommended you rent an audio guide which will help better understand the amazing artwork of the basilica interior.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The dome is accessible with an entrance fee and can be reached by either stairs or elevator. From the circular gallery at the top on can enjoy the grandeur interior of the basilica and the majestic panorama of the city of Rome.

To avoid crowds in the St.Peter’s Basilica the best time to visit is early in the morning or at late afternoon. Vatican Museums opens at 9 AM and St Peter’s Basilica at 7 AM you can even finish your tour of the St Peter’s Basilica without the crowd and then head to the Vatican Museums.

St. Peter’s Square

The St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the St Peter’s Square which is the venue for the Papal General Audiences held on Wednesday mornings and which lasts for a couple of hours. The square is also the place where Pope gives a short speech and blessing to the crowd every Sunday.

Interesting points of interest in the square are an ancient Egyptian obelisk erected in 1586 and two 17th century granite fountains on either side of the obelisk. The square is embraced by two colossal colonnades with a total 284 columns and topped by 140 statues of saints.

Castle Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo also known as the Hadrian Mausoleum was originally built as a mausoleum and later used as a fortress. Today the castle houses a museum for Renaissance collection with an extensive collection of frescoes and weapons exhibited on five floors reached by a spiral ramp. The terrace at the top offers wonderful views over the city.

Visiting the castle was not on our list but we were oblivious of some fun awaiting us here. We had lots of fun with some locals dressed as gladiators and enjoyed posing for pictures with them. It is definitely one of the fun things to do in Rome.

Best Things to do in Rome Italy

Best Things to do in Rome Italy

The Castel Sant’Angelo sits on the banks of the River Tiber and is connected to Rome city center by the beautiful bridge Ponte St. Angelo bridge. The bridge was built by Emperor Hadrian in 134 AD. The bridge features 5 arches and is decorated with 10 marble sculptures of angels.

Best Places to Visit in Rome Day 2

Travestere

The quaint neighborhood of Travestere is not very touristy and the cobblestone alleys are delightful to wander. But like any other neighborhood in Rome, you will find some grandeur medieval churches and amazing architecture to explore in Travestere too.

The Basilica di Santa Maria or Our Lady in Trastevere Church is the most opulent church in Travestere. The church originally dates back to the 3rd century with most of its parts including the bell tower and the mosaic of the Madonna and Child on facade dating from the 12th century. The interior of the church is decorated with golden mosaics and granite columns. The Ionic and Corinthian columns adorning the interior were brought from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. There is a gorgeous 15th-century fountain in the Piazza di Santa Maria, the square in front of the basilica.

Also worth a visit in the neighborhood of Trastevere are Villa Farnesina, a 16th century Renaissance villa decorated with paintings on the ceiling by Raphael and other great Italian painters and the Palazzo Corsini, a late-baroque palace exhibiting Renaissance art collection.

We find the Squares dotted with monumental fountains very fascinating we found some of the remarkable and elegant ones in the Swiss capital Bern and the Swiss city Zurich which had left us in awe. But the Rome ones are magnificent. Squares and fountains are top Rome Attractions which exude a historical and architectural charm, Rome boasts of around fifty monumental fountains which can be easily explored on one of the guided Rome tours.

Piazza Navona

The beautiful and lively square of Piazza Navona was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian from the 1st century AD. The square was the venue for games and theatrical events in the ancient Rome and later in the 15th-century the location of the city market. The square is adorned with three fountains the fountain of the moor, the Fountain of Neptune and the Bernini’s masterpiece ‘Fountain of Four Rivers’ at the center. The Fountain of Four Rivers or the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi is a popular 17th-century Baroque fountain.

The square is surrounded by quaint cafes and restaurant and dotted with musicians and street performers. Also not miss here is the impressive 17th-century Baroque church Sant’ Agnese in Agone Church, the Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore church and Palazzo Braschi, a museum on the history of Rome.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Campo De’ Fiori

Campo De’ Fiori is another square south of Piazza Navona. If you are around during the morning time, do visit the bustling market which sells fresh vegetables, flowers, spices and seafood. The market held here was previously held in Piazza Navona.

Pantheon

This 2,000-year-old former Roman temple has the worlds largest unsupported dome with an exemplary Roman architecture and is said to be the most imitated structure of all ancient works. The portico supported by Corinthian columns leads to an ornate interior with an only source of illumination being a small aperture at the top of the dome. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza Della Rotonda and is dominated by the gorgeous ‘Fountain of the Pantheon’.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Trevi Fountain

On enquiring about the route to Trevi fountain an old man held hubby’s hand and walked us all the way to the fountain. We were up for some surprises here too. We were overwhelmed by the spiritual atmosphere created in a foreign land by a group of foreigners chanting ‘Hare Krishna Hare Rama’ and the saree clad blondes performing garbha on the song which was one of the best things to see in Rome for us.

Best Things to do in Rome Italy

The Fontana di Trevi is one of the largest baroque fountains in the world featuring Triton guiding the shell-shaped chariot drawn by sea horses, a sculpture of remarkable beauty. The backdrop of the fountain is the facade of Palazzo Poli featuring triumphal arch with Corinthian pilasters. The fountain dates back to the ancient times when it served as the end point of an aqueduct serving water to the Roman baths.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

A popular tradition associated with the fountain is that one who throws a coin into the fountain with a wish to return to the city is fulfilled. Interestingly it is said that the ancient Romans also threw coins into the fountain for safe journeys.

Spanish Steps

The monumental stairway of 135 steps are the widest stairway in Europe and connects the Piazza di Spagna at the base to Piazza Trinita Dei Monti at the top dominated by the Trinita Dei Monti church.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

The Piazza di Spagna houses the baroque fountain called Fontana Della Barcaccia or ‘Fountain of the Old Boat’ based on a folklore that a boat was washed to this spot during the flood of the Tiber River. The steps are considered as one of the most iconic places to visit in Rome to soak up the historic aura of the eternal city.

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo is a large historic square surrounded by important Rome attractions including the Porta del Popolo part of the Aurelian Walls and fountains. In the center of the square is an Egyptian obelisk known as the Popolo Obelisk which is one of the oldest and the tallest obelisks in Rome. The important churches include the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria Dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria del Popolo.

Villa Borghese Gardens

Villa Borghese is a landscaped garden and a large public park couple of minutes walk from Piazza del Popolo. There are several attractions, museums, buildings, fountains and restaurants in the park. The most convenient way to explore the park is to rent a bike.

Galleria Borghese is the most popular museum in the park, it is an art gallery displaying classical antiquities and classical and neo-classical sculptures. The other important museum is Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna is which displays over 1000 paintings and arts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Also must visit is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco which holds an exhibition of pre-Roman antiquities of Etruscan civilization.

If you are traveling with kids you would want to add these interesting Rome attractions located in the Villa Borghese. The Rome zoological park is home to around 1000 animals of 222 different species, Casina di Raffaello is kids play center with library and a bookshop and San Carlino Puppet Theater hosts shows performed by clowns and puppets.

Do not miss a visit to the Pincio Terrace which offers wonderful panoramic views of the historic center of Rome and the Vatican City.

We had to take a bus back to the apartment so we headed back to Piazza Venezia to take a bus to Travestere. But we couldn’t hold our curiosity to behold the magnificent Colosseum. So we walked to the Colosseum which is 10 minutes walk from Piazza Venezia. The Colosseum was closed but the colossal structure flooded in golden light was an awe-inspiring sight. We also clicked a few pictures of the illuminated Roman Forum which looks majestic.

We just sauntered around the beautifully illuminated Colosseum and the Arch Of Constantine and also the intriguing Roman forum and left for apartment.

Colosseum at Night

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Roman Forum at Night

Best Things to do in Rome Italy

Best Places to Visit in Rome Day 3

Victor Emmanuel II Monument

Victor Emmanuel II Monument also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is a monumental building built in honor of Victor Emmanuel the first king of a unified Italy.

The Vittoriano monument features a massive colonnade at the upper section of the monument adorned with reliefs and murals. A colossal equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel stands at the center of the monument with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame dedicated to the World War I. The base of the structure houses the museum of Risorgimento dedicated to the history of the unification of Italy.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Inside of II Vittorian building museum

Colosseum

We were oblivious that it was the first Sunday of the month when the entry to the Colosseum is free. Though there was a queue for entrance it was quick. We spent a significant amount of time inside of Colosseum imagining how the gladiator wars must have taken place and how the animals hidden underground would appear on to the fight zone. A little bit of homework is expected before one visits the Colosseum for a better understanding of this historical wonder. Or the best would be to book a Colosseum guided tour.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill one of the  Seven Hills of Rome and an important archaeological site. Palatine Hills holds ruins of several temples and imperial palaces which were once the home of emperors. You can enjoy some of the magnificent views of Rome including the Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Capitoline Hill.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a spectacular site of ruins of temples and monuments from the ancient Roman times and must see in Rome. The Roman Forum originally a marshland was developed into an outstanding complex of buildings for the social and commercial activities of the Roman Empire. Several of the structures thousands of years old still remain intact in the forum testimony to the glorious past of the Rome.

Best Things to do in Rome with Vatican City

We just sauntered around the beautifully illuminated Colosseum and the Arch Of Constantine and also the intriguing Roman forum.

Devour on Gelatos and Pizzas

Most Recommended when in Rome is to have as many gelatos as possible they are just yummy and reasonably priced. We had dozens of them when wandering around the city. And you cannot afford to miss relishing on some scrumptious pizzas.

Best Time to Visit Rome

We visited Rome in early June which was just the beginning of the peak season, the climate was pleasant and the crowd was manageable. Same is the case if you visit during the months of April, May, and October. In any case, book tickets online to avoid the long ticket queues.

Late summer from July to September can get hotter with ubiquitous tourist crowd and hence are the months to avoid. Winter months are also the best time when the crowds are less and the room rates lower but make sure to carry warm clothes.

Make note of that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sunday except the last Sunday of each month. There is free entry to top attractions on first Sunday of the month which includes Galleria Borghese, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. We visited Colosseum on the first Sunday though there was queue it was quick so we didn’t have to wait for a long time. But we have heard about these attractions being very crowded during the first Sundays you may want to plan accordingly.

Rome Passes and Cards

Roma Pass

You can enjoy free travel on public transport with Roma Pass which includes buses and metros. The 72 hours Roma Pass offers free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites of your choice and discounted admission to the other museums and/or archaeological sites. Similarly, for 48 hours Roma Pass offers free admission to the first museums or archaeological sites you visit and discounted admission to the other museums and/or archaeological sites.

OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card

Where Roma Pass does not include the Vatican City Museums and St Peter’s Basilica the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is recommended if you are visiting the Vatican too. OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is a sightseeing pass that offers free entry to top attractions in Rome and the Vatican City, Fast Track Entry to St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel & The Colosseum, hop-on-hop-off bus tour ticket of Rome for 3 days, free guidebook and travelcard which offers unlimited free travel on Rome’s public transport system which includes bus, tram and metro.

Read here to decide on which of the Roma Pass and OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is best for you.

Rome City Pass or Turbopass

The Rome City Pass is a sightseeing pass which offers various benefits and discounts to visit the top Rome attractions with free travel on public transport. The Rome City Pass includes free entry to key attractions like Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill with skip-the-line advantage. The pass also includes free hop-on-hop-off bus tour and a map of Rome with Travel Information.

Additionally, if you buy a 3-Day-Pass you also get free entry to Castel Sant’Angelo and with 6-Day-Pass you get additional free entry into Galleria Borghese. More details here.

Where to Stay in Rome

There are plenty of budget and luxury hotels in Rome which are within reach of the important city sights and well-connected by public transport.

Piazza di Spagna Suites

The hotel is just a couple of minutes walk from the major Rome attractions – the Spanish Steps. The room spacious and clean comes with free wifi and offers a great view of the city.

Check Availability and the Latest Prices on Booking.com for Piazza di Spagna Suites.

Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora

The hotel is an elegant Neoclassic building and is located at a walkable distance from one of the top places to visit in Rome – the Villa Borghese gardens. The rooftop terrace of the hotel offers wonderful views over the city.

Check Availability and the Latest Prices on Booking.com for Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora.

Empire Palace Hotel

The Empire Palace Hotel is located in a Venetian style building close to the Villa Borghese Gardens and about 15 minutes walk from Spanish Steps. The rooms are spacious and come with free wifi.

Check Availability and the Latest Prices on Booking.com for Empire Palace Hotel

Looking for more accommodation options? Read here for our post on the best places to stay in Rome with hotel recommendations from our travel blogger friends.

This post covers the best of Rome in 3 days but if you have only one day in the city here are the top things to do and see in Rome in a day. The exceptional art of Vatican museum, the graceful fountains and the glorious squares, millennium-old churches, a real treat for taste; the pizzas and the gelatos, there are much more reasons to fall in love with this eternal city.

Suggested Tours in Rome

Have you visited Rome and the Vatican City? Do share with us your experience, we would love to hear your stories.

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So book an Italy tour package now and set on a journey of the lifetime.

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22 thoughts on “3 Days in Rome – Exploring the Best of Rome and Vatican City

  • April 1, 2016 at 7:25 am
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    Oh your beautiful photos and words brought back so many memories. The first time someone ever gave me a red rose was at the Trevi fountain almost 35 years ago and the art work in the Sistine chapel took my breath away. Thank you for the wonderful flashback in time.

    Reply
    • mm
      April 1, 2016 at 11:01 am
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      Wow Michelle.. looks like Rome means more romantic than historical for you. Trevi fountain is an incredibly gorgeous fountain and on that a red rose we can just imagine how cherishing moments you must have experienced. We are overwhelmed to hear your story of this wonderful city Rome. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • April 2, 2016 at 8:45 am
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    These pictures are beautiful and I love how informative your post is on Roman history. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:40 pm
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      Thank you so much Liz. Roman History is overwhelming and to enjoy a Rome trip at fullest some knowledge of its history is a must.

      Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm
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      Thank u Zaria. Glad you liked them.

      Reply
  • April 3, 2016 at 7:48 pm
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    Piazza Navona is one of my favorite places in Rome. That fountain is based on the different continents and has so much detail in it. I love spending time there!

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:43 pm
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      Yes Piazza Navona is gorgeous indeed. We enjoyed the lively environment and the street performances. There is so much to do there. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 3, 2016 at 7:49 pm
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    Love Italy and Rome. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:44 pm
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      Thanks Jenna for stopping by, Happy Travelling!

      Reply
  • April 3, 2016 at 10:10 pm
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    Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world! Looks like you had a great time 🙂

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:46 pm
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      Yes its our favorite too. We are overwhelmed by its history. We certainly had a great time and wish to revisit some day soon.

      Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:48 pm
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      Thank Candace. We did a walking tour and therefore, are oblivious of what you experienced. Do spare us sometime some day to warn us of the craziness you experience 😉 We would love to hear your stories.

      Reply
  • April 4, 2016 at 6:48 pm
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    Beautiful photos 🙂 Rome is such a great city, I can’t wait to go back!

    x, Juliet

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm
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      Thanks Juliet. Rome is wonderful city indeed and we would love to revisit it too.

      Reply
  • April 4, 2016 at 9:34 pm
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    I have never been here but would absolutely love to go if I get the chance! I hope I can one day afford to take the family there.

    Reply
    • mm
      April 4, 2016 at 9:51 pm
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      Rome is a great place to visit with family with stunning architecture and intriguing history. Keep us updated if you plan to visit. Happy Traveling!

      Reply
  • November 2, 2016 at 2:37 am
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    I didn’t know the Vatican was actually considered a country. I wonder why that is? Also, I would love to tour the gardens comfortably on a bus like you did and the Piazza Navona looks stunning.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2017 at 4:16 pm
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    This is just a beautiful post ! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 1:59 pm
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    What a fascinating place guys. Rome is definitely on my travel list. My wife visited a decade ago and loved the city. Rich history dripping with culture. Pinned and Tweeted.

    Ryan

    Reply

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