Rome, Italy: A Storybook Guide


It all started at my fifth grade birthday party when my eleven year old friends and I watched “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”…and that was that. I was smitten with Italy. As a teen, I spent hours looking at flights on the Kayak Explore search page, dreaming of one day setting foot on the cobblestone streets of Europe, eating fresh local food and being swept up in the hustle and bustle of the city. After a friend posted about an amazing deal he’d found on flights to Italy, my husband and I were able to travel to a place I’d visited in my mind countless times before…

Rome was everything we’d imagined it would be, especially at night. It felt like we were walking on a movie set once the streets were emptied of tour groups and the city lights gave the piazzas a romantic glow.

We decided that all small cars must have been created to exist in Rome, because I have never seen more adept parking jobs and drivers than those I saw there! Curbs? No problem! Crowds of people? Not to worry, just run them over!

Everywhere I’d look I was met with some of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen! All of the colorful plants and flowers I saw in many windowsills actually inspired me to fill my own home with living plants.

Speaking of homes, visiting the unearthed ancient Roman Forum was absolutely MIND BLOWING…

We toured the Colosseum, trailing behind a lovely Italian guide who spoke rather quickly…

And channeled our inner spy kid in order to hear her properly…

And learned that gladiator sandals, despite their culturally appropriate name are in no way proper for the amount of walking you will do in Rome.

We elbowed our way though a sea of selfie sticks and tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain in the hopes that we’d someday return to Rome!

We visited the Vatican City, walked through dimly lit, art-filled rooms in the museums, gazed upward at the Sistine Chapel, and experienced the magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica within just a few hours. It was overwhelming, to say the least…

We imagined what it would be like to see the Pope emerge from his balcony…

And stumbled upon our favorite meal in Rome at a little spot called Pizza Zizza. We got a sampler of fresh pizza on focaccia and it was so fresh and tasty!

Italians are my kind of people! Everything revolves around food and good company. I especially loved our waiters at the restaurants who shouted and sang and laughed so loudly together, it made us feel right at home.

We ate gelato. Real, creamy, sweet, Italian Gelato….

…and I am now RUINED forever. San Crispino stole my gelato-loving heart. My grapefruit and melon sorbetto was so fresh and flavorful, by far the best I had in Italy!

I’ve always had a passion around traveling, experiencing culture in its most authentic and pure form, and eating my way through the kitchens of the world. What a blessing it was to be able to hop off the plane in Italy and realize that my little 5th grade dreams were coming true! Having hoped and planned and saved for so long, I feel very grateful to have had this chance to travel knowing there are many, like me, who camp out on the flights page on google, read endlessly about distant countries, lean in closer when others start talking about places they’ve been…and then after taking a look at their bank account, work and school schedule can never seem to make it happen. I’ve totally been there! I had a friend who would always say, “Where there is a will, there is a way…and there is a WILL!” So find the way! To anyone who dreams of wandering, exploring, and seeing the wonders of the world, I say go ahead and buy the flight you’ve been looking at, pack your bags, and write your own story.

Work out the details as you go, or go with no plans at all, and don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from doing something you hope for in your heart. If you’re planning your own trip and have specific questions about Rome, send us a message and I’ll do my best to help you. I’d also love to read your own travel stories in the comments below! Ciao Ciao!

– Hailey –

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  • I loved this post about your Italian adventure! It is my mom’s dream to go to Italy one day and I too woukd like to travel to Europe. I was wondering if you had any tips on travelimg there like tours you may have gone on or how you got around or found great food places? I love this new blog and can’t wait to here more stories and watch new videos!

    • Hi Sabrina! The best advice I could give you in planning your trip is to read Rick Steves’ guides and to talk to as many people as you can who have been before and get their advice on specific places to stay and eat! Tripadvisor and Rick Steves were pretty accurate. Cities in Italy are walk-able so we pretty much walked everywhere, only taking taxis to and from the airport and train stations. We traveled around the country by train, which was so convenient and easy! We also booked our tours in Rome through Enjoy Rome and really enjoyed them. I hope you make it on your European adventure soon! If you have more questions send us an email and I will try to help you as best I can!

  • Loved this post Hailey! You look so happy.
    I went to Italy when I was 17 (I’m 24 now), and felt the same way. When I came home to Australia, I was adamant that I would live in Italy one day. I love the old fashioned atmosphere of Europe. I’m so excited to read your posts in the future
    Love, Gemma xx
    P.s. I’ve been watching your YouTube channel for over 4 years . I stumbled across it when I searched for ‘Ho Hey’ by the Lumineers, and your cover popped up at the top. I watched the video, and have watched every one since then 🙂

  • I’ll share a travel story: I had heard from multiple people that Rome was somewhat “dirty” compared to other European cities. Well after spending the 2 previous months in India, my memory of that place was that it is SPOTLESS! But given the choice, I’d probably go back to India first. A “festival of human existence” is probably the best way I heard India described. The poverty is intense and widespread to say the least. People’s entire lives are lived out on the streets for the world to see. I’m a nurse and we went to work with Mother Teresa’s religious sisters, caring for the poorest of the poor. I say this not to toot my own horn but just to say that, even after my years of nursing, working there required continuous gut-checks. I don’t think I could dream up a more sanctifying environment. But something I remember the Lord teaching me in prayer was this: Why is it not enough to carry Jesus in our own hearts? Because love that has been given to us should not stay in our souls. It needs to reconnect with its source, and wants to continue through us its drive to give of itself. Jesus thirsts for our love and it is only through our work for love of Him that we could even begin to quench that infinite thirst. The poverty of being unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. Many people we worked with had never experienced what it was like to be loved. After wondering whether two short months of caring for people even made a sliver of difference, this is what I took from that experience. That type of poverty is not only found in is everywhere. From our neighbor to the man in the car next to us. Mother Teresa only did small things, but with great love and look at what she accomplished. I think our response is to humbly recognize that we need Jesus, to love him with confidence, and to give ourselves fully to Him as Mother Teresa told us: “Give yourselves completely to Jesus. He takes you as an instrument to accomplish wonders under the condition that you are infinitely more conscious of His love than your weakness. Believe in Him, put yourself into His hands in the spirit of blind and absolute confidence, because He is Jesus.”
    I love that. This is what your most recent blog post made me reflect back on. The remedy for being self-conscious or so comparative in our thoughts it to move outside of ourselves!
    This comment really turned into a long, rambling book that doesn’t fully relate to your above blog post haha! But thank you for being a spring-board for my thoughts! It’s been a while since I have revisited those memories and I think God may be nudging me towards another missionary experience. God bless, Gardiner fam!

    • Thank you for sharing your awesome travel experiences! It is true, the most certain way to be happy is to forget ourselves and go to work lifting others!