Ollie & Nellie Farewell Tour (Roman Holiday)

It would be our last New Years in Europe, so how should we celebrate? Why not the city we’ve been trying to see for years, but kept pushing off because of COVID-19? We decided it was time to make a trip to the Eternal City, and see all the sights we’ve been dreaming about for years.

While Rome is a world class city, it doesn’t have to be super expensive. During this blog, I’ll lay out most things we did over the five day period, some things costing money, and many things free. I’ll also list the places we ate at and the price. This way, as you build your trip, you can plan for ideas within your budget.

After comparing the cost between Lufthansa and Ryanair, we decided to pay a little more to fly Lufthansa. After adding bags, priority, and reserving seats, the cost-savings of flying Ryanair just didn’t seem worth the tense experience. We flew into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport (FCO) and we asked our Booking.com host to book us a shuttle, which cost €60 from the airport to our hotel in one of the most amazing places in Rome.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment named Bella Nonna that we found on Booking.com. The host has several apartments in the complex, and ours easily fit the five of us in two bedrooms. We also had a kitchen and dining area, which came in handy for the New Year’s Eve meal we ate in the apartment.

The apartment is just big enough, but definitely not spacious. It is located close to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, so the location very much makes up for the size. There is also a quaint and well-stocked grocery store just outside the apartment, which came in handy multiple times during our visit. We paid about €200 per night. I recommend contacting the owner directly before booking, as they may be able to offer a better rate. Even if you cannot get the same apartment, I definitely recommend booking something in the same area!

Must Do

Rome City Center Free Tour

We were in Rome for 5 full days and wanted to start our adventure by getting acquainted with the city. We signed up for Sandeman’s New Europe tour, where a charming and witty freelance guide gave our group a two hour introduction to the city. The tour is tips based, and most people tipped €10 to €20 per person.

Coliseum and Roman Forum

You cannot visit Rome without visiting the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, and you might as well pay €24 per person (under 18 free) if you are going to visit. At the Coliseum, our full experience entrance included entry and access to the arena floor. On the arena floor, you can imagine gladiators who knew were fighting to death against each other or even against animals.

At the Roman Forum, it was moving to see what remains of the great ancient city. In the Forum, you see the triumphal arcs, the residence of the Vestal Virgins, the spot where the body of Julius Ceaser was burned, and the senate meeting place where Marc Antony captivated the public.

Our ticket also included access to Palatine Hill, but we didn’t make it there since we got a late start that day. While at the Coliseum and Roman Forum, we found a perfect way to explore was to download the Rick Steves audio guide app.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon isn’t huge, but it is one of the best preserved structures from ancient Rome. We paid for the tour, and you’ll be impressed how this architectural masterpiece has continued to stand over the last 2000 years!

Vatican City

A trip to Rome also wouldn’t be complete without visiting Vatican City. Aside from seeing some of the most moving artworks and sites, Vatican City is also a way to “check off” another country. We reserved our entry a few weeks ahead and paid €242 for all five of us to be part of the first group to access the Vatican Museum that day. We received a guided tour and breakfast. The best part was early entry into Sistine Chapel, of course the highlight being Michelangelo’s “Creation.”

While in Vatican City, you need to make time to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. The line might be long, but don’t worry, it goes by fast. Like the Vatican Museum, the Basilica is dominated with world class artwork. The most moving part is seeing the tomb of St. Peter at the center of the cathedral.

Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain

Both are easy to visit while just wandering the streets of Rome. The Spanish Steps were made popular by the movie “Roman Holiday.” The Spanish Steps are were built in the 1700s and are 135 steps that connects the 16th Century church Trinità dei Monti to the baroque Fontana della Spagna at the base. It leads into Via dei Condotti, perhaps the most popular and bustling streets in Rome. We wandered through the city to one of the most famous fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain. The fountain’s history goes back to 19 BC, and an estimated €3,000 is thrown into the fountain each day. After all, the legend goes that of you toss a coin into the fountain, you’ll get to come back to Rome one day.

Do if You Have Time

Rick Steves Walking Tour of the Jewish Ghetto

We downloaded the Rick Steves Audio Europe app and followed the Jewish Ghetto tour. What an amazing hour long tour about Rome’s dark history and perseverance.

Hadrians Temple

Visiting the temple dedicated to the former Roman Emperor is free to experience. When we visited in December 2021, we needed an FFP2 mask to enter, so it is great we had them on hand. After exploring the temple, we watched a 20 minute informative video about Rome and the temple’s construction in the 2nd Century.

Pasta and Tiramisu Cooking Class

Maybe the coolest part about making your own pasta in Rome is eating your own pasta in Rome! For €54 each using Get Your Guide, the oldest and Nellie took a 2.5hr pasta and tiramisu-making class. They loved the International experience, as the other families in the class were a Lithuanian family, a French couple, and a German family. The class was conducted in English. The instructor was so wonderful – her parents were from Austria, she grew up in Italy, and she went to school in Heidelberg to study translation.

After the pasta and tiramisu class, the chefs at Ristorante Tucci cooked the linguini and added sauce of choice. The meal also included wine, tiramisu for dessert, and some limoncello to finish it off.

Capitoline Museums

We did this on a whim because we needed a morning to fill. We spent over two hours exploring the museum and easily could have spent more. We only left because we needed to go for lunch before Coliseum tour. It was neat to see some of Rome’s most treasured relics housed, including the remains of a colossal statue of Constantine. There is also an iconic bronze statue of Romulus and Remus being fed by a she-wolf. The tour is €12.50 each, self-guided, and helps you  understand the ancient city of Rome.

Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola

We stumbled upon 17th Century Catholic Church with an incredibly beautifully painted roof with the illusion of a dome. It was shortly after Christmas and they had an interesting Nativity display. The church has many altars dedicated to saints. Free to enter and worth stopping in if you are in the area.

Church of S. Bonaventura at Palatine

This church is a hidden gem on Palatine Hill that we also happened to stumble upon. It is a small church, but worth the five minute uphill walk.

Santa Maria della Consolazione

This church is located next to the capital and we happened to walk in while in the area. It is dedicated to Father Leopoldo Mandic, born into a Croation family and now protector of cancer patients. The church has multiple painted and decorated altars, and most notably an altar with the Father’s relics. Nearby is the Tarpeian Rock where they would throw criminals, so the church offered an opportunity to console criminals before they were flung to their deaths.

Where We Ate

Papa’s Cafè

I’ll start off with my best dining experience in Rome. I found that walking a few minutes outside of the touristy areas could treat you to an authentic and inexpensive experience. While Nellie and the oldest was in her cooking class, the younger girls and I wandered off the beaten path and into Papa’s Cafè. The restaurant had an old Italian family feel, and I had great conversation with the gentleman who ran the restaurant. Apparently he lived in Orlando, Florida years back. We spent €45 for 3 people. We all had pasta and I enjoyed a couple beers.

Edoardo II

Rookie mistake. It was the first restaurant we saw in a touristy area. True tourist trap restaurant and we tried our best to order the cheapest things on the menu for lunch. We spent €106 for 5 people for tiny portions and frustratingly slow service.

Scholars Lounge Irish Pub

If there is an Irish Pub, Nellie and I will find it and spend lots of time there. We spent a few hours in Scholars Lounge Irish Pub. We had family dinner, and after the younger girls left, we hung around a while for drinks. We spent €122 the entire time we were there.

Alle Carrette

Definitely not bad for five people. We only paid €64 to eat lasagna, pizza, and have drinks. Nice portions, but the service was a little slow at lunch.


This was a Parents-only experience. The restaurant had a great vibe and staff was super friendly. We spent €47 for two people, which included appetiser, beer, two meals, and two deserts.


Not going to lie, I was a little skeptical about eating here by the initial impression. It turned out to be a decent experience. This unassuming restaurant had fast service and great portions. We spent €86 for 2 spaghetti bolognese, 3 gnocchi, and drinks.

Ristorante Pizza Forum Roma- Forno a Legna

Oddly next to Bennys and we spent exactly the same amount at this restaurant for five people. For €86, we had pizza, spaghetti, and drinks. The restaurant had a great vibe and service.

I’m really thankful we were able to squeeze in this trip to Rome before we leave Europe. COVID kept delaying the trip, but we were finally able to find an opportunity for the whole family to make it there. I hope you get to visit the Eternal City!