Rome stands as one of the finest and oldest cities in the world. The history of Rome spans over 2500 years and it has been a centre of power, politics, culture and development since its inception. Creation of the city is steeped in legend and mythology and there are various different accounts of how this majestic place was built. Various Roman emperors and Caesar’s have ruled mighty Rome and this is the place where the colossal Roman Empire grew from.
As time progressed, various monuments, palaces and religious buildings have been constructed in the city and these now stand as beautiful tourist attractions and a reminder of the cities glorious past. Rome is consistently ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe and with sights such as the Colosseum and the Vatican, it is easy to see why.
Some Basic Information
ℹ️ Travel: I flew into Rome Fiumicino airport. The transition from landing to leaving the airport was swift. Trains from the airport directly into Rome City Centre (Termini Station) are frequent, reliable, quick and cheap. A single adult fare costs €15 (GBP£11/US$17) which takes around 35 minutes.
Rome’s Metro (Underground) System is one of the easiest I have ever used. It literally has two lines aptly named ‘Line A (Red line) and Line B (Blue Line)’. The fares for the Metro vary depending on how you use the system. You can use a pre-loaded card that maybe a cheaper option if you know you are going to use the system frequently. I, however, used the system often but chose to pay single fares with each use – its cheap at €1.50.
ℹ️ Currency: Italy uses the Euro € . Italy is a member of the EU (European Union)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Weather: Italy has a typically Mediterranean climate. The Summer months are hot and dry but Winter months can be very cold with often flurries of snow.
ℹ️ Accommodation: The hotel I stayed in for the three days was literally 700 metres from the train station. Hotel Valle is a small 3* boutique hotel that offered a basic Continental breakfast, albeit quite a cramped affair.
WHAT CAN ROME OFFER?
My trip to Rome was for three days. I had to be very organised in my itinerary. There is so much to see and do in Rome. I literally wore the sole off my shoes! Here is a suggested itineray to follow to maximise your stay with as many sites crammed into it.
DAY 1 – The Colosseum, The Roman Forum and the Piazza Venezia
By the time I had checked into the hotel and found my bearings within the city it was mid-afternoon leaving plenty of time to start sightseeing the Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia.
Thanks to the great location of the hotel located on Cavour Street I managed to walk to the Arena within 10 minutes, but if your hotel is not too close then jump on the Metro ‘Line B’ (Blue line – €1.50) to Colosseo Station. The area is a major tourist mecca with market traders selling painting and sketches of the Colosseum; Gladiators touting for a selfie and Tour guides aiming to drum up your business.
Rome’s great gladiatorial arena is the most thrilling of the city’s ancient sights. Inaugurated in AD 80, the 50,000-seat Colosseum, originally was known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The outer walls have three levels of arches, framed by decorative columns. They were originally covered in travertine and marble statues filled the niches on the 2nd and 3rd storeys. The upper level, punctuated with windows and slender Corinthian pilasters, had supports for the masts that held the awning over the arena, shielding the spectators from sun and rain.
The 80 entrance arches, known as vomitoria, allowed the spectators to enter and be seated in a matter of minutes. The Colosseum’s interior was divided into three parts: the arena, cavea and podium. The arena had a wooden floor covered in sand to prevent the combatants from slipping and to soak up the blood. Trapdoors led down to the underground chambers and passageways beneath the arena floor – the hypogeum. Animals in cages and sets for the various battles were hoisted up to the arena by a complicated system of pulleys.
The cavea , for spectator seating, was divided into three tiers: magistrates and senior officials sat in the lowest tier, wealthy citizens in the middle and the plebs in the highest tier. Women (except for vestal virgins) were relegated to the cheapest sections at the top. The podium, a broad terrace in front of the tiers of seats, was reserved for emperors, senators and VIPs.
You can take a self-tour of the Arena but for €15 you can take a tour guide which lasts around an hour as they explain the history of the Colosseum. Its well worth the money and I certainly got more from the visit.
The Roman Forum
Possibly one of the most important Roman ruins in Italy, the Roman Forum is an ancient site that consists of many ruins that were once the centre of Roman public and political life. Various temples, squares and arches stood here including the temples of Saturn, Titus and Vesta and the Arch of Severus.
Much of these structures still stands today and you can still see some of the arches and building foundations and walls. Located next to the Colosseum and Altar of the Fatherland, the Roman Forum really is an important site for your consideration.
Tickets can be bought for entry to both the Forum and the Colosseum and it is advised to allow ample time to properly explore the ruins and learn about the history of this place.
Made from white marble and two proud Italian flags at full mast decorated by two chariot statues of Julius Caesar the building is the central hub of Rome, Italy, in which several thoroughfares intersect. It takes its name from the Palazzo Venezia, built by the Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo (later Pope Paul II) alongside the church of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
The Palazzo Venezia served as the embassy of the Republic of Venice in Rome. One side of the Piazza is the site of Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Altare della Patria, part of the imposing Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of Italy.
You can walk up the steps and inside the Building. Its free to enter. Pay the €7 to take an elevator to the rooftop. Here you will be rewarded with panoramic views over Rome, and if after all this walking your feet begin to tire, there is a small bistro at the top which offer surprisingly reasonable priced food and beverages.
DAY TWO – The Vatican City, Trevi Fountain and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps)
After a hearty breakfast it was time to slip into my walking shoes and plan for a full day at The Vatican City and surrounding area. I walked the 700m to Termini train station and proceeded downstairs to the Metro system.
Take ‘Line A’ (red line) to ‘Ottaviano -Saint Pietro’ station. The fare costs €1.50 to go five stops. The Vatican City is signed from the station but the crowds of tourists all heading in the same direction gives you the general idea where to walk.
The Vatican City
is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With an area of approximately 44 hectares, and a population of 842 it is the smallest internationally recognised independent state in the world by both area and population. It is sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins.
Within Vatican City are cultural sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications.
There are ticket touts everywhere all trying to compete for your business. To enter the Vatican itself and St. Peters Brasilica (Square) is free. If you are wanting to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel you will need to purchase these tickets. In my opinion they are expensive at €30 each, however, it remains cheaper than purchasing on the door itself. The one ticket allows entry to all the museums – please bare in mind that the queues for these venues are extensive, AND, last entry for the Sistine Chapel is 1600.
To enter St Peters Brasilica you will need to queue. Having said that you do not wait to purchase tickets to enter the building but in order to pass through airport style security – once through you are at liberty to wonder. The queue only took 25 minutes to process so it always appears more daunting than it actually is. St. Peters Brasilica is unbelievably beautiful and the sense of wealth and power within the Roman Catholic faith is over-powering!! Inside ornate decorated ceilings, statues and side rooms are all stunning! Even if you find your feet tire from all the walking spend €8 each to use the elevator to bypass walking up several flights of stairs, nonetheless, you are still required to walk the remaining 320 steps to the top after the elevator. You will fall silent at the stunning panoramic views across The Vatican itself and outer lying Rome city once at the top!
The Vatican additionally offered one more ‘unplanned’ sight and was only available to the lucky few as people watched ‘A’ lister Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman filming; who posed for some photographs too!
Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps)
One of my pet hates is back-tracking and fortunately in order to get back to Termini Train station, and my hotel, I have to pass this area on the Metro so the idea was to stop off here after visiting The Vatican.
Catch the Metro (Red Line A) to ‘Spagna’ station (€1.50) and you are thrown into the middle of the Piazza and The Spanish Steps.
The area is a little more up market and here you will discover all your high street and premium brand shops and stores. The Spanish steps were named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, although the staircase, designed by the Italian Francesco de Sanctis and built in 1725 with a legacy from the French, leads to the French Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti.
This landmark church, which was commissioned by King Louis XII of France and consecrated in 1585, commands memorable views and boasts some wonderful frescoes by Daniele da Volterra.
The Trevi Fountain
is a flamboyant baroque ensemble of mythical figures, and wild horses. It takes up the entire side of the 17th-century Palazzo Poli.
The tradition is to toss a coin into the water, thus ensuring that you will return to Rome. The fountain’s design, the work of Nicola Salvi in 1732, depicts Neptune’s chariot being led by Tritons with seahorses – one wild, one docile – representing the moods of the sea. Like everywhere in Rome the fountain becomes very busy during the day, so it’s worth trying to visit later in the evening when you can appreciate its foaming majesty without such great hordes.
If you are visiting the Trevi Fountain you can do all this and encompass Piazza Di Spagna. Catch the Metro to ‘Spagna’ station on the red ‘A’ line.
DAY THREE – Trastevere District
This ancient part of Rome is considered to be one of the few places where you can see authentic Roman life and get a real feel for the city and how its residents live. Located on the west of the River Tiber, Trastevere is the 13th district of Rome and is packed full of narrow cobbled streets and character.
Trastevere is quaint, beautiful, relaxed and cheap compared to the rest of Rome. Ancient houses line the winding streets and many pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars can be found here too. It is not uncommon to see washing hanging out between the streets and for the locals to be shouting to each other from building to building. This is Rome at its most unabashed and simplistic form.
Trastevere I found was not the easiest area to get to. Located on the South side of the River Tiber and really is too far to walk especially after the previous two days.
You can hail a cab at the cost of €18 to ‘Piazza Santa Maria’ (above) which is a beautiful little square rimmed with restaurants and a church, or like myself, caught the Metro Line B (Blue line – €1.50) to Piramide station (aptly named as there is a pyramid monument outside the station), then walk 10 minutes over the river.
La Prosciutteria Trastevere – Eat Here!
This is my favourite place and is worthy of ‘bigging up’. It has been a long time since I have eaten in a venue and been happy to part with my money. Its just not an eatery it is a whole culinary experience with sights, smells and tastes.
The premise is just simply full of character, sensations and culinary delights slicing meats and cheeses whilst you wait with large slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling tied with lavender and the walls framed with bottles of wine, soft drink, pictures etc….why not purchase branded T-Shirts or like myself a couple of handsomely etched wine glasses.
I sampled what’s known as a wood platter garnished with freshly cut meats, cheeses, fruits, pine nuts, dips that is beautifully presented for a cost of €10; all washed down with a bottle of ice cold wine – more than enough to share! Never been so happy eating!
Casetta Di Trastevere
Located in ‘Piazza De Renzi’ is a cute charming little bistro which is extremely cheap too. I spent several hours here eating yet more food with maybe too many bottles of Prosecco overlooking the Piazza people watching. The final bill did not break the bank either which kept my grinning face aglow. The waitress staff are friendly and attentive.
Visit Trastevere for a real slice of culture and take to the streets at night to enjoy some lively nightlife.
Rome! So much to do. So much to see. Make this a top city to visit.