Rome – Great Expectations….Even Better in Reality!
We recently travelled Italy and spent time in Rome, Florence and Venice, this will be the first of three posts about our journey…there is just way too much to fit into one post!!! Each place was just incredible with their own stories and personalities, not to mention the food! I really love Italy!
So we travelled by train between each of the cities and the system was great, easy to figure out and navigate your way around, on time, and quick between major destinations and comfortable at a real reasonable cost, plus you can pre-book your seats.
On our first night we wandered the streets, I love doing this, most of the major cities around the world have attractions lit up during the hours of darkness and things can look totally different and it’s almost as if you’ve never seen them before. Rome is great for this with its many piazza’s and decorative intricate fountains. One such place and another nice square to have food in is the Piazza Navona. This was originally a stadium for chariot races and houses a beautiful fountain designed by Bernini.
The Trevi Fountain just seems to appear from nowhere. One minute you are walking amongst the crowds through Rome’s narrow, atmospheric, streets and alleys, then all of a sudden it opens out into this square and you are confronted by a wall of dazzling bright white. It stops you in your tracks and whenever I passed by I just had to stop and take it all in again. It was completed in 1762 and the is tradition is to stand with your back to the fountain and toss a coin in to ensure your return to the eternal city. They say on an average day 2000-3000 euros are thrown into the fountain! Yes it does get really crowded there (even more reason to see it at night) with people vying for space taking photographs holding selfie sticks, but it doesn’t take away from the scene your met with.
Talk about history as well, can Rome be beaten by anywhere? I’m not sure but it’s really impressive and I loved going to the historic sites around Rome and imagining how things would have been, how people would be living their everyday lives amongst what we now think of as amazing monuments and historical sites.
The Pantheon is situated in a really pleasant square surrounded by reasonably priced restaurants, not a bad view to have while you’re eating great Italian food enjoying a glass of Chianti! It was built as a temple and is now a church and has stood since 120 AD. The roof is still the biggest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. From inside you can look up through a hole (oculus) in the top which allows light in and acts as part of the structure to distribute the various forces from the weight of the roof, this place is not to be missed. Originally a temple and now a church inside is totally different, full of marble and colour. Also inside is the artist Raphael’s tomb.
One of the highlights of Rome for me and a place I’ve been to every time I’ve been to Rome is the Coloseum, opened in 80 AD. Everybody has heard of it, and like with many places I’d built this place up in my mind massively before going, you’ve all seen Gladiator right? So many places you can build up in your mind and when you get there you get that slight feeling of being underwhelmed, well this place exceeds every possible expectation. The size, the history, the stories, the architecture, hidden secrets, it amazes in every way.
This picture shows the interior. A part of where the floor would have been has been re-created on the far side. The walls and corridors underneath were where the workings would have been. Slaves would have been there hoisting wild animals through trap doors into the arena. I would recommend having a guided tour as you may miss out on hidden secrets and facts if not, they are really enjoyable and inexpensive.
Just across the road from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, another must visit on a tour of ancient Roman sites.
Dating back to the 7th century BC the Roman Forum was the centre of life in ancient Rome and was the official seat of the Rome senate. Full of the ruins of temples, including Julius Caesar’s, and other monuments. At one end is the Arco di Settimio Severo one of several ancient Roman arches built to celebrate Rome’s war victories. Also the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe, Paris. I would definitely invest in a guide book here. To get a more in depth history of the site I would recommend –
If you exit the forum at the far end, the end furthest from the Colosseum a really cool place to have a drink and a snack is the Terraza Panoramica del Vittoriano. You enter through the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento but there is no entrance fee. Views from the terrace over the Roman forum and over to the Colosseum are really special, plus they serve some great craft beers here, I enjoyed a Brewdog Punk IPA here whilst taking in the view. There are also lifts which take you to a higher platform for even better views.
The Palatine Hill is somewhere you can see views over the forum and as myth has it is the place Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC. Many of the Roman Emperors built their residences here, although it does take some imagination to picture how they would have been as they have been allowed to fall into disrepair.
Rome’s history is entwined with the Catholic religion and a trip to the Vatican, even for those who have no interest in religion is well worth it. The architecture and art has to be seen.
A visit inside is a must, but avoid the dodgy ticket sellers based all around who try and sell you queue jumper tickets and guided tours, when we went the waiting time was not all that massive and you’ll end up paying more than you should. The audio guides are pretty in depth and allow you to stroll through at your own pace and take everything in.
The Sistine Chapel with Michelangelos’s painted ceiling is spectacular, be prepared to fight for space though and there is a strict rule of no photography enforced by security officers.
If you are planning on visiting during the peak seasons then I would recommend pre-booking some of your tickets to the major sights and queue jumping tickets may be relevant then. When we went, the queue jumper tickets were actually longer than the others in some places. We invested in Roma Passes, they include entrance into 2 of any of the many museums and have discounts on most. Some places also have dedicated Roma Pass queues. They also include transport on all public transport networks including the subway system.