Many argue that to be able to visit a major European city properly, you would need to spend at least a week there and that sounds like something that would hurt your bank account big time, especially if you’re still a student. However, despite what many believe, sometimes just 48 hours would be enough for you to visit a city’s major attractions and in the meantime, have a short yet well-needed break from all that is driving you crazy at University or at work. A city which, in my opinion, fits this description perfectly is nonetheless the Italian capital of Rome or what is known as the Eternal City. This is because the majority of Rome’s major attractions can be reached on foot as long as you’ve made sure to pack with you the most comfortable pair of shoes in your closet.
So here’s how my friends and I have spent this past weekend in Rome…
First on our agenda was the stunning Villa Borghese which makes you forget that you’re in one of the world’s busiest cities due to its peaceful atmosphere. Roaming around its various passageways which are surrounded with nothing but high majestic trees, and listening to the birds chirping away was truly an unreal experience. As part of this enormous estate, one may also find museums, various fountains, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre ,an ice rink as well as a spectacular lake which was certainly my favourite part in the estate. Even though this park would be ideal to visit during the summer months, visiting in a sunny autumn day, like we did, would make it three times more beautiful as everywhere you look you would see all shades of brown and orange.
Spanish Steps/ Piazza di Spagna
Just a 10-15 minutes’ walk away from this tranquil park lies one of Rome’s most popular attraction; the Spanish steps, located between Piazza di Spagna (at the bottom) and Piazza di Trinità dei Monti (at the top). Legend says that in the past country girls used to show up on this staircase waiting to attract artists’ attention as to choose them as their models. Nowadays, it is still considered as an artistic place as many linger on its steps to seek artistic inspiration. In fact, many street artists can be found around this area considering the steps are always crowded with people. In addition, this staircase also serves as a catwalk for models since various Italian fashion shows are held here.
Fontana di Trevi
Our next stop, only 10 minutes away on foot from Piazza di Spagna, was the remarkable Fontana di Trevi which is definitely a must when visiting Rome considering it is one of the most sought-after and stunning attractions in the world. An interesting fact about the recently refurbished fountain is that people toss approximately €3,000 in it, every day, in the form of coins. But that is not all…what many people are not aware of is the fact that every night this money is collected and then given to an Italian charity called Caritas which helps the poor buy their basic groceries. Moreover, according to local belief, whilst tossing one coin will ensure your return to Rome (YAS!), tossing two coins will reward you with love, but if you’re yearning for that long-awaited marriage proposal, what are you waiting for? Head over to Rome and toss three coins in its magical Trevi fountain! FAST.
Next on our list was what is considered as the best preserved building of ancient Rome; the Pantheon, which took us, once again, about 10 minutes to reach it on foot from the Trevi Fountain. Stepping into this building which is more or less 2000 years old, we were left impressed by its jaw-dropping architecture, especially its enormous dome which was the largest dome in the world for over 1,300 years. Its most fascinating feature is its hole, right in the centre of it, which is known as the Eye of the Pantheon since it is the only source of light in the Pantheon… yep, there are no windows inside!
Photo credits: http://www.marthasitaly.com/articles/49/rome-top-monuments
This square, situated 10 minutes away from the Pantheon, is one of those places which you will undoubtedly come across whilst in Rome’s city centre since it is located right in the heart of Rome. The enormity and the beauty of the monument located here, known as Il Vittoriano, distracted us from all the traffic that passes through here. It is so huge that one cannot help but stop to stare at it for a while…especially because many argue that it resembles either a wedding cake or a giant typewriter. Talk about creative architecture!
To start what is known as #sundayfunday with a bang, we headed over to the world’s largest amphitheatre, the Colosseum. This was the first attraction from all the above mentioned which we were required to enter against a fee. But, it only cost us €7 since we are EU Citizens. Normal tickets cost €12 and people under 17 years of age enter for free! Needless to say, my experience inside this extraordinary place was exceptional, when thinking about how much history have taken place in it (let us forget for a moment how many people have lost their lives in there too!)
PS: Just a few minutes before reaching the Colosseum, we passed by what are known as the Fori Imperiali; a series of Roman ruins, which used to be important public spaces where the Romans used to discuss issues of politics, religion and economy. Consequently these were considered as the centre of the whole Roman Empire.
Ponte Sant’ Angelo
This next location was by far the most breath-taking location of all of Roma since the way this beautiful bridge crosses over the River Tiber is simply stunning; not to mention how much more picturesque the orange-leaved trees made the scene appear. This bridge takes its name after the cylindrical castle that is located just next to it: Castel Sant’ Angelo.
To arrive at this location, we decided to take the bus since it is about 4.5km away from the Colosseum. If you’re planning to use the bus as well, you can take bus number 87 from the bus stop behind the Colosseum and stop at Zanardelli which is then only a few minutes’ walk to this piece of Roman heaven.
PS: If you’re visiting the Colosseum on a Sunday, like we did, keep in mind that some roads around it are closed to traffic on Sundays.
The Vatican City
Speaking of heaven, what is a visit to Rome, without a visit to the Pope? Luckily enough, we arrived at the Vatican at 11.45am on a Sunday, only to be informed by a security guard that the Pope will be giving his Sunday Papal speech, Angelus and blessing in just 15 minutes. For any adherent of the Catholic Church, this experience would certainly be one to remember. In fact, being there at the right place and at the right time was truly a special experience. After this super short ceremony, we joined the huge crowds to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, which is an incredibly fascinating work of art considering all the world-class Renaissance painters and architects who were behind this masterpiece including Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante.
However, our visit to the Vatican did not end just there. Being ones who would jump at any opportunity which promises beautiful panoramic views, we decided to wait for about 45minutes in the queue to be able to go up the Vatican’s dome. Moreover, we also decided to go all the way up on foot…551 steps in all. To do this you would need to pay just 6euros, but if you’re less of the adventurous kind, I would suggest you pay 2euros more as to be able to use the elevator for half of the journey up. Either way, the 360ᵒ view you’ll get to see from up there will be, most certainly, like nothing like you’ve ever seen before. However, I have to be honest, the way up will not be that appealing, especially if you’re claustrophobic; but I can assure you it would all be worth it, at the end.
After that bitter sweet experience, we decided to take a relaxing walk (about 25minutes) around Rome’s ancient and winding streets which led us to the magnificent Piazza Navona, which is home to three outstanding fountains. This square, which used to be and continues to be a popular meeting spot for many of Rome’s inhabitants, is full of life since it is surrounded by cafeterias and restaurants one next to the other and various street perfomers may also be found here.
Via del Corso
As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Thus, before heading back to our hotel to do our final packing, being in a country where fashion is of primal importance, we decided to do some long-awaited shopping in Rome’s busy street of Via del Corso, where one can find stores that suit all tastes.
Photo credits: http://www.minitime.com/Via_Del_Corso-Roma-Italy-attraction
Before concluding, some final IMPORTANT tips…
- When looking for a place to eat, don’t sit in restaurants near major attractions, since most naturally these would cost you a fortune. Alternatively, choose to sit in restaurants situated in side streets or less busy areas.
- Keep in mind that if you’re planning to use Rome’s public transport, you would need to buy your tickets before actually boarding the transport. Tickets for both the bus and the metro system may be bought from small ticket offices, tobacconists, or vending machines at metro stations and major bus stops.
- When visiting the Vatican City, ONLY buy tickets from the official Vatican ticket office, once you’re there. This is because it is written right as you enter that no other kinds of tickets will be accepted; neither ones bought online nor ones bought from individual ticket vendors who might stop you on your way to the Vatican claiming to be selling tickets which will enable you to skip the lines. They’re all a scam.
- Finally, if you don’t feel like going through the trouble of looking for an accommodation when in Rome, here’s the one we stayed in, which had friendly staff, was super cosy as well as was very close to Rome’s main railway station i.e. Termini station: http://romaartrooms.it/en/
That’s all for today, hope you’ll find this article extremely helpful!