This month it is Rome month on the blog and we kick off with an itinerary for when you just have one or a few days to spend in the Eternal City.
The amphitheater in the heart of Rome is of course one of the buildings that comes to mind as soon as you think of Italy’s capital. Nonetheless it’s an impressive sight to be welcomed by the iconic symbol of Imperial Rome as it greets you when you look down Via dei Fori Imperiali. The interior itself is incredible as well, and it is well worth to book a tour and learn more about the astonishing history of the Colosseum. Not only does it provides you with more information about the history, it will also guarantee a quick and smooth entrance to the building. Not buying fast-track-tickets or booking a tour will definitely have you waiting in line for up to several hours.
2. Roman Forum
To call Rome the treasure chest of Europe is an understatement. The Roman Forum is over 2000 years old and it’s unbelievable to realize that some of the most important buildings of the Roman Empire from that time are still (partly) intact. Temples, palaces, memorial statues and arches, you can find it all at the Roman Forum. Again, taking a tour here is well worth your time, as it will help you place everything you see into context. If you don’t feel like entering the grounds itself, climb up the small streets behind the Capitolini Museums and take in the beautiful sight from Via del Campodiglio.
The architecture of the Pantheon is truly magnificent, with pillars and a triangular shaped roof on the front, and a cylinder shaped building in the back. A little gasp escaped me upon entering, because I didn’t expect it to be this spectacular. The sunlight entering from the little windows in the dome, the grandeur of the entire building. It was almost too much to take in. That magical moment unfortunately gets broken occasionally by the firm voice coming from the speakers stating that visitors have to be quiet. A small blemish on a wonderful visiting experience.
4. Trevi Fountain
Unfortunately the Trevi Fountain is still under construction at time of writing, so the photo you will see here is the only one not taken by me. If you have ever seen the film La Dolce Vita, you know that this fountain played a large part in this classic movie. For visitors visiting the Trevi Fountain after the renovations are finished, here is a short guide to the coin throwing business: you need to throw in a coin over your left shoulder, using your right hand.
5. Spanish Steps
Probably the most famous steps in the world are located at Piazza di Spagna in Rome and are occupied day and night by tourists and locals alike. From the top, you can look right into Via Condotti: the high-end fashion street of Rome. On front of the steps you will find Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Ugly Boat), the baroque statue of a half sunken ship. The fountain represents a flooded Piazza di Spagna, which occasionally happened in the 16th and 17th century when the Tiber river flooded.
6. The Vatican
Within the boundaries of the Vatican you will find one of the largest collections of art in the world, with pieces covering thousands of years. Highlight of the Museums is the Sistine Chapel where the Last Judgment by Michelangelo covers the entire ceiling. Here, the same counts as for the Colosseum: buy a fast-track-ticket or join a tour, as otherwise you will have to wait in line for up to several hours.
My personal highlight during my visit to the Vatican was the visit to St Peter’s Basilica. It is the second largest church in the world and is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. I was especially impressed by the size and the lavish decoration of the basilica with its tombs, statues and paintings. Looking out over St Peter’s Square after our visit to the church was an absolute bonus.
7. Castel Sant’Angelo
A striking cylinder shaped building dooms up at the other end of the bridge with the angel statues. It’s Castel Sant’Angelo: a mausoleum later formed into a museum. It’s an easy visit from the Vatican, and cross the bridge and you’ll find yourself back in the city center near Pantheon.
8. Campo de’ Fiori
It has to be said, Rome is a city of markets. These public trades still play a large part in the culture of the Romans, as it form the places where locals meet and buy their fresh produce for their delicious homemade pastas and pizzas. Campo de’ Fiori is probably one of the most famous public markets in Rome, taking place every morning. Not always the cheery market place as it is nowadays, Campo de’ Fiori used to be a square where executions took place. In 1600 the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt alive here, and a statue located at the exact spot of his death still reminds visitors of this gruesome event.
9. Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the largest public squares of Rome, and now the place where painters show their talents to the public (think of it as the Place du Tertre Square of Rome). The square makes definitely a great place for photography with a beautiful church, fountain and statues gracing the plaza.
The place to go out at night must be Trastevere. Even though it probably lost a bit of character, due to all the tourists visiting, it’s still absolutely gorgeous with its small cobbled streets and colorful houses. Some of Rome’s best restaurants can be found here, so if you’re looking for a place to get an aperativo or dinner, Trastevere is where you need to be! When you’re visiting during the day, don’t forget to visit S. Maria in Trastevere: a beautiful church famous for its mosaic decorations.
How to get around in Rome:
Most attractions in Rome are within walking distance. If for some reason your prefer to take public transport, be aware that especially buses can get crowded and don’t always run on time. You can get a map of Rome with all public transport connection points at almost every souvenir and tobacco store in town. Also available at almost every tobacco store are public transport tickets (1,50 Euros for a single ticket valid up to 75 minutes, 6 Euros for a day ticket, 16,50 Euros for a 3-day ticket and 24 Euros for a 7-day ticket). You can’t buy a ticket on board of the bus, metro or tram. Use the route planner on www.atac.roma.it to plan your journey.
Taxis are available at almost every street and square in the center of Rome. Please be aware that there are plenty of illegal taxis in Rome as well. Always take a white cab. Visit www.taxifarefinder.com to calculate the rate for a ride.
Local car rental
If you’re a true daredevil and dare to drive around the streets of Rome, Enjoy Car might be something for you. This relatively new idea seems like just another car rental service, but with a twist. You sign up on their website and look on the map where a Fiat 500 Enjoy car is parked near you. Then you just use the app or send a text message and unlock the car. The first 15 minutes are free, and after that you pay 10 cents per minute for the time you use the car. You park the car again near your destination and the app deducts the money from your credit card. This actually sounds like a great idea, but as a non-Italian, I didn’t dare to actually put myself in the chaotic Roman traffic!