When in Rome...
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do"
I had been dreaming of visiting this wonderful city for a long time. Nothing can prepare you for so much architectural beauty in one place. Every little street, church, garden and restaurant just amazes you in a different way. Rome is definitely one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe, alongside Paris and is the ideal destination for a long weekend. I would recommend going either before or after the summer where temperatures are more enjoyable.
We stayed at a friend’s apartment which had magnificent views of the Vatican – at night it was stunningly lit. We spent each day visiting the emblematic monuments of the city by foot - it's hard to avoid tourists but there are still places off the beaten track. You should watch the film “The Great Beauty” by Paolo Sorrentino to discover the hidden gems of Rome, such as the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola and the Ponte Sant'Angelo.
My biggest and only disappointment was that the Trevi Fountain was being renovated so we weren’t able to admire it in its entirety. We wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel but after realising that there was a mile-long queue we decided to give it a miss. So do remember to plan in advance and be prepared to queue if the Sistine Chapel is on your list of top places to visit in Rome.
The Colosseum is an absolute must. Despite its popularity amongst the tourists you can still appreciate this outstanding amphitheatre in the heart of Rome. It is a very impressive monument and makes you wonder how it must have been like when it was used for the gladiator contests. Back then it used to accommodate between fifty and seventy thousand people and seating went in accordance with the strict divisions of Roman society.
This was my favourite part of our visit to Rome and I definitely think that the queue was worth being patient about. I must say that it does make you feel rather insignificant by being in such a rich historical monument of this size and splendour. I found it hard to take a picture that would properly show the immensity that the Colosseum represents in reality but this was my favourite shot:
Rome is full of history and this can be truly appreciated by all of the roman ruins that you come across in the city, such as the Roman Forum, the Largo di Torre Argentina and Trajan's Market.
The Villa Borghese is a beautiful serene landscape garden and one of the largest in Rome. Enjoy a lovely walk in this park with a gelato.
For traditional Italian restaurants, Trastevere is the place to go to. This charming cobbled street neighbourhood is full of little shops, restaurants and bars, making it rather difficult for you to choose where to go as you are spoilt with choice (see my recommendations below).
You can't visit Rome without going to the Vatican City. On the first day we went, the Pope was in town which meant it was extremely busy so we had to return on another day.
Entrance is free to St Peter’s Basilica but I really do recommend that you buy a ticket to go up to the dome (6€ by foot / 8€ by lift). It is the tallest dome in the world. There are very narrow steps to climb but once you reach the top I can assure you that you will be impressed with the view inside of the Basilica. Take time to observe the golden detail of the mosaics which are not visible from the bottom.
You also get the chance to go outside and admire panoramic views of the Vatican City and of Rome.
There are lovely squares in Rome to visit such as Piazza Navona with its lavish baroque fountains and Piazza di Spagna which is at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. From the Piazza Venezia you can take a lift up the Altare della Patria for a 360° view of Rome.
The architecture of the Pantheon and its dome is outstanding, you can tell that is has been conserved extremely well over all the years.
My advice is to enter all churches and basilicas that you pass by as even the simplest ones from the outside will surprise you with superb frescos, marble columns and mosaics. Rome is full of hidden beauties and you will not want to miss out on a single one. Also, be prepared for a gastronomical feast as you will not be able to say no to all the wonderful foods served in each restaurant and you will not be able to resist all the lovely ice creams and pastries on the go. All foods are even better when you have them at the source.
Have you ever been to Rome?