Among all the deadlines and stress, we deserve some time off, so we can recharge and stay happy, healthy, and productive. And travelling is one of the best ways to do that, am I right? I assume you agree since you’re reading the Travel section. Well, lucky for us travellers, it’s possible to visit most European cities in just one weekend, since the distances are relatively short and flights are affordable. Just earlier last week, Ryanair released tickets between the UK and some European destinations starting from just £5 one way. The offer was valid until midnight only, but Ryanair releases such deals from time to time, so it’s possible to score cheap tickets if you keep an eye out.

There are plenty of interesting weekend-trip destinations, but this time let’s talk about Rome – one of the most fascinating cities I’ve visited. I went there on a cold weekend in early December last year. Well, it was cold in London, but Rome welcomed me with mild Mediterranean weather and unforgettable sights. What amazed me the most were the majestic remains of ancient buildings, distributed all across the modern city and responsible for its charm. Impossibly grand, they were built without any modern technology and managed to survive for centuries.

St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican // Edita Pileckyte

Since I arrived in Rome on a Saturday afternoon and had to leave Sunday night, I didn’t have much time to explore the city. But I was determined to make the most of it and committed to a busy weekend. I wasn’t going to miss out on anything – this might be my first and only time in Rome for all I know! The very first place I visited was the Vatican City – the smallest country in the world and home to the Pope. It boasts St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and museums with famous works of art. Since the place was closed for sightseeing on Sunday, I rushed to see everything on the short Saturday afternoon I had left. Unfortunately, being a still-inexperienced tourist, I managed to fall straight into a tourist trap. It was one of those guided walking tours, advertised on the street: I was told the lines to Vatican are very long and there was no way I could see everything by the closing time. So I gave in and bought a €40 tour instead, which was supposed to let me cut the line and give me enough time to look around properly. However, the tour wasn’t really worth it (or at least I was unlucky). The guide would just mumble something, which was impossible to hear most of the time, and still didn’t manage to show us everything in the museums. So coming in late and without a guide might have been the same experience, only much cheaper!

“I arrived in Rome on Saturday, and left on Sunday, so I was determined to make the most of a busy weekend”

Regardless, the Vatican was very pretty and well worth seeing, especially if you’re into art. You can also participate in Sunday Mass with the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica or Square. The tickets are free but need to be collected at the ticket office in advance. However, the museums are closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of every month, when the entry is also free.

But my Sunday was dedicated to sightseeing in Rome. Coincidentally, I was there on the first weekend of the month, when entry to Coliseum is free. The queue was very long but moved quite swiftly. The Coliseum was worth the wait anyway, especially given the free entry, which also included entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. I also visited the Museum of the Risorgimento that offers a mesmerising panorama of the city. Since I had some time left, I walked the lively streets in the city centre, and visited the famous Trevi fountain and the Pantheon on my way.

“I completed my trip by taking a walk along the river Tiber after a slice of pizza, and back to the Coliseum, which was beautifully lit up”

However, the visit to Italy wouldn’t be complete without feasting on pasta and pizza. I was recommended a bakery called Antico Forno Roscioli that offers a variety of delicious pizzas. It’s more popular amongst the locals than tourists and is therefore cheaper. Since this place was close to the River Tiber, I completed my trip by taking a walk along the river and back to the Coliseum, which was beautifully lit up for the evening.

BEWARE: tourist traps! I cannot stress this enough. Street sellers are very persistent and will do anything to get your money. During my visit, many were pestering the tourists in the queue to the Coliseum, offering the overpriced ‘jump-the-line’ tickets, when the entry was free that day anyway. Though the tours were real, it’s still a huge rip-off. But the most infamous example is the people aggressively trying to sell flowers, souvenirs, toys, and whatnot to anyone passing by. If you touch any of that, you’ll be pressured to pay. Some might even start a friendly conversation with you, try to shake your hand and slip something in it, and then demand money. So be vigilant and stay safe!