Rome is the capital and largest city of Italy. It is also one of the oldest continuously occupied site in Europe. Rome’s historic city center is a World Heritage Site. Another independent country –The Vatican City, is completely located inside Rome city. This is a unique and only example of the country located in the city.
In addition to these facts, Rome is a popular tourist destination. With wonderful palaces, millennium-old churches, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues, and graceful fountains, Rome is one of Europe’s and the world’s most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals.
Our very first long vacation in Europe was the visit to Rome. We were there for 3 full days and still didn’t want to leave.
On one evening in March, we flew from Stuttgart by budget airlines – Ryan air. The flight was pretty cheap and after delays took us to the destination. Passengers literally clapped after landing!!! Well, the flight, though not very comfortable, was not terrible also. We flew with Ryan air later too. In Rome, we landed at Ciampino international airport which is located to the southeast of the city. This airport is mainly for budget airlines. The city center is about 30 to 45 min by bus, depending on traffic.
During this travel, we got the glimpses of Rome (or in the broader sense, of Italy). Rome is a big and trendy city. There were lots of shopping complexes displaying fashionable clothes and accessories. Buildings were tall like big blocks. All of them were beautifully decorated with some sculptures. I liked the city’s first impression.
We had booked a private room in a family-run small guest house. Earlier I did not know but later I realized that I grabbed a really good deal as per location and price. The guest house was just in the next lane from Vatican city. !!!
The exploration of Rome started from next day morning.
The day started early. We knew that the Vatican city is one of the major attractions and there will be a long queue for the entry. Therefore to save the time, we reached there before 8 o’clock. But still, we had to stand in a long line. In short, time, when I looked back, I realized, this was not really a long queue. We had lots and lots of people standing behind us. Ok, so it was worth coming early. We had cakes and coffee for breakfast while standing there.
Vatican city has a tall grey wall around it. We were not able to see anything inside.
At around 9 o’clock, we entered the museum. We could see Vatican gardens with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. The museum has many rooms/sections with loads of displays which contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. All the paintings and sculptures are stunning.
The marble sculptures included busts of many famous personalities of that time, animals, birds etc. Minute details like wrinkles of clothes, facial expressions, body postures…. everything is amazing. They have Greek, Egyptian sculpture collections, utensils, pieces of jewelry, artifacts from early Roman periods. Ohh… It is truly a large display. We spent around 5 hours there.
Next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. This is an actual entry for Vatican city. One can see Swiss guards on the gate. The basilica is located in the large square (actually it is elliptical) – St. Peter’s square. The 4 column colonnade and Egyptian Obelisk are important attractions here. Both these monuments and St Peter’s Basilica together are huge structures. Their shapes and proportions are so designed that these structures do not seem to be that big.
Surprisingly, we did not get any queue for the entry into the Basilica. We went straight inside. Interiors are stunning. It is decorated with baroque and neo-classical sculptures made of marble and bronze. With the spiral staircase, one can go up to the top of the dome.
Now we were really hungry and tired. We crossed the river Tiber and sat down at one of the pizzerias alongside the river.
We were now looking over the Castle St. Angelo. This resting time was filled with authentic Italian pizza and pasta enjoyed while watching the life around. The street was busy with many street artists and vendors.
After a while, we headed towards Campo de Fiori. This is a square near Piazza Navona (more famous). This square is famous for flower and food stalls. But I think, we reached at the wrong time. We did not find any such stalls there. So we turned back and walked to Piazza Navona. This is a small square always with some buzz. There was one puppet show going on. We also enjoyed it as much as Aarush did. There were many painters along both the sides of this show. They were painting portraits or some scenes or some modern art like. There are fountains in the square. Many cafes and restaurants are present alongside the square. Overall, this is the nice place to hang out or to stroll along.
Today our first destination was Colosseum. (Do you know that Pozzuoli near Naples has third largest amphitheater?) We went there by metro. In Rome, metro stations are so deep below the ground that we had to go down about 2 – 4 floors. They have long escalators.
Colosseum was present immediately outside the metro station. At a first look, It was gigantic, old, round, stone building. I had the feeling like ‘Yes! this is it for what I came here’. There was a nice green lawn with colorful flowers around this blackish building. We purchased a combo ticket for Colosseum + Roma Forum + Palentine hill. At the Roman time, Colosseum was the tallest building with 5 floors. Inside, first, we reached in the museum display. It describes the history of construction and associated stories. Through this museum, the monument is slowly unveiled to us and then I realized how much crucial this building was in the Roman era. We had taken the audio guide which was very informative.
The Roma Forum is situated beside Colosseum. The forum was developed like the bunch of government buildings for Roman Empires. The main sights of the Forum include the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and the church of San Luca e Martina.
This place is a hill with numerous Roman ruins around. One should note that prams and strollers will be a little difficult to move around. Lots of walking is needed.
After a nice informative stroll through Colosseum and Forum, we rested for dinner. There were still plenty of sights to be covered.
Today we deiced to cover some remaining small monuments and sights by metro and by walking.
First, we reached ‘Piazza del Popolo‘. It is a large square with an obelisk in the center. Few churches, fountains, sculptures, restaurants, and cafes are also present alongside.
Further, we walked along ‘Via del Babulino’ and reached ‘Spanish steps‘. This is a popular destination for a leisurely evening walk. A boat-shaped fountain adds to the beauty of the square.
We bought gelato (ice-cream) and continued walking till ‘Trevi Fountain‘. it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. It is best admired during twilight with focus lights on.
From there we went to ‘Pantheon‘. It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. The fascinating thing about Pantheon is its architecture. The building has a large dome supported by side walls without any pillar.
While walking further, unknowingly we reached colosseum. It was all lit by focus lights.
Now, this building looked like a tired old man who is relaxing in the chair at the end of a hectic day. The blackened and burnt walls seem like screaming for gladiators and slaves. Focus lights were going deep inside through arches and windows. The gleam was from the Roman era, their kings and glories… and yet leading to dark shadows.
Rome is full of historic ruins and cultural hubs. One can see ancient monuments, fountains, and ruins of constructions in each and every corner.
Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.
– Giotto di Bondone
- Rome is absolutely touristic. It is a popular destination throughout the year.
- There are a number of tourist traps near popular sights. Watch your belongings.
- Most of the attractions are always crowded.
- Rome is best explored on foot.