When in Rome: A city guide

Photo by wikipedia
Photo by wikipedia
Photo by wikipedia

There is that old gem of a saying that “when in Rome … do as the Romans do” and when I visited Rome I most certainly did just that: I embraced the Italian culture with open arms and a gelati in each hand! Walking around Rome is like walking around an open air museum, where every turn there is some archaeological site right in front of your eyes or magnificent ancient buildings with amazing architecture and furthermore – they have the Colosseum! When I first laid eyes on the Colosseum I was awestruck and upon entering the building I nearly had to pinch myself as to whether I was really there! I think Rome just has that affect on you. Then there is the Rome that is all about sitting in beautiful piazzas with impressive fountains, alfresco dining, drinking coffee and tasting every flavour of gelati under the sun! Yes it’s fair to say that I pretty much fell in love with Rome!

Why go?

Go for the fascinating history, the culture, the beautiful Italian food, the shopping, the friendly people, the language, coffee and of course the gelati!

Must sees

The major tourists sites are easily explored on foot and can be done in three days if you are limited on time.

The Colosseum

The colosseum

You can’t go to Rome without seeing the impressive Colosseum. The amphitheatre was built in 80 A.D. in the centre of Rome and inaugurated by Emperor Titus in a -100- day -long festival. In it’s hey day it could hold around 50,000 spectators who came to watch the gladiator games or theatre dramas held there. It’s such a surreal experience to be standing inside the Colosseum and you could almost feel the crowds of ancient Rome as you wander about. If the walls could talk then you could only imagine what they would have to say.

The Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

The Trevi fountain is a magnificent site to behold and if you have never visited the Trevi fountain then you will be surprised at the grand scale of the sculpture some 26 metres high. It is very crowded and busy with lot’s of tourists taking photos or just sitting by the fountain. Don’t forget to toss a single coin over your shoulder into the fountain, as according to the Italians this means you will most definitely come back to visit Rome again.

The Spanish Steps Rome
Spanish steps

The Spanish steps are a vibrant and elegant square where long ago it was the gathering place for the wealthy, the beautiful and the bohemians. It’s a great place to just hang out and people watch! Depending on the weather there are usually lot’s of people sitting on the steps but in the height of summer most will be sitting around the fountain at the bottom. Once you have climbed to the top you will encounter a church, an area of artists and a view over the Rome rooftops.

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona

The well kept piazza is the most famous in Rome and is a wonderful place to relax and watch the day go by. Here you will be entertained by the artists that paint here, the three large fountains that sit in the middle and the hive of activity of people wandering about. The cafes and restaurants in this area are very expensive as you pay a premium for being “seen” in the piazza. But as they say … when in Rome … and what better way to spend the evening than to dine in the charming Piazza Navona.

Vatican City
Vatican City

Vatican City is an awe inspiring and a little overwhelming. The excessive wealth of the Roman church is displayed everywhere from the artworks of Michelangelo on ceilings to the impressive buildings in itself.  St Peters Basilica is large and ornate and offers panoramic views from the dome which is accessed by climbing more than 300 steps. The Sistine Chapel has many artworks that adorn the walls and ceilings many gilded in gold. You could easily spend a whole day wandering about if you didn’t have to contend with the crowds.

Pantheon Rome
Pantheon

The Pantheon is an amazingly preserved building that was built between 118 A.D and 125 A.D. It’s famous for it’s great and still intact dome. The domed roof has a circular opening (called the oculus) that allows natural light to stream into the building. Visiting on a rainy day is interesting when the rain comes through the opening. To get a sense of the enormity of this temple just stand next to the entrance door and the pillars at the front you will feel very small in comparison!

Other places

If you have more time then check these place out too – many of which you will pass by on the way to the above tourist attractions.

Roman Forum and Palentine Hill

Villa Borghese and public gardens

Piazza Venezia and the King Vittorio Emanuel II Monument

Castel Sant’Angelo

Catacombs

There are so many more things to see and do in Rome and really at every turn there is something to discover. A truly amazing ancient city that you must see at least once in your life!

Traveller Tips

  • I went in summer and my absolute recommendation is to get to these sites early before the crowds build.
  • Get to the Colosseum around 9am and there will be no queue. I ended up going with a tour as they combined a ticket with the Forum. The only thing with this is that whilst the tour was informative I had to wait until 10am to enter with the group. In hindsight I would just skip the tour to enter early and then head over to the forum in my own time. I kind of wasted a lot of time just hanging around for the tour group. Two hours is plenty of time to wander about the place.
  • For the Vatican City, I also arrived early and I did not take a tour. When I arrived at the St Peter’s Basilica there was literally no queue at around 8.30 a.m.  By the time I went around to the Sistine Chapel I felt like I was swept up and swallowed up by the phenomenal crowds. If you have time I would do each on separate days. I did line up for the Sistine chapel for around 40 minutes which wasn’t too bad but once inside the crowds were unbelievable and you felt like you were on a conveyor belt forever being pushed forward. The tour groups were the biggest problems – there were countless large groups. Even if you weren’t on a tour you could easily tag along and hear everything that was being said at each point in the Chapel. Don’t forget that to enter the Vatican city you will need to have covered shoulders and knees otherwise you will be refused entry inside the buildings.St Peters Basilica
  • Be careful of pickpockets and bag snatchers at popular tourist attractions and outdoor restaurants. Do not leave your handbag hanging over your chair as this is a prime way it will disappear.

Solo Traveller rating

Rome is a fairly safe city and there is good police presence. I found that getting around at night I felt quite safe, especially in summer when there is a  high amount of tourists around. As with any city you visit always be cautious with your safety.

 

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