(ARTICLE BY FIONA PATERSON)
Ready for a splash of culture and non-stop sight-seeing but you only have a couple of days to get away? Look no further than Rome, Italy. With historical, architectural and religious wonders galore there are a plethora of sights and locations to explore within the Italian capital. But with so much to see, where do you start? Here’s a quick guide to the top attractions you don’t want to miss and some handy tips for getting around the city.
Rome’s Classic and Essential Attractions:
- Colosseum and Roman Forum – The largest ever amphitheatre built, completed in 80 AD, and host to gladiator contests, is certainly number one on the list when visiting Rome. Don’t forget the ruins of the Roman Forum after you have been around the Colosseum: these offer some of the best views near the top. Be aware when approaching the Colosseum in peak season: the queuing systems are a little confusing but if you pre-book your tickets online in advance, you can avoid queuing twice!
- Vatican City–The smallest independent state in the world is situated in the centre of Rome and is home to the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, as well as a host of religious sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. If visiting the Basilica, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect as it is primarily a place of worship. Dedicate an entire day of your trip to explore the Vatican and make the effort to climb all those steps into Michelangelo’s dome for the best views. For extra tourist points send a postcard with a stamp from Vatican City.
- Trevi Fountain – The largest Baroque fountain in the city is a must-see both during the day and when illuminated a night. Visitors from all over the world throw coins in the fountain with their right hand over their left shoulder, amounting to around €3,000 a day. These funds have recently been used to fund a supermarket for Rome’s needy.
- Pantheon – A former Roman Temple, now a church and landmark, the Pantheon is famed for its circular shape, columns and its oculus in the dome’s centre.Surrounded by numerous other churches and ancient Roman architecture, the immediate vicinity of the Pantheon is expensive as a tourist hot spot. Take a westward wander from the Pantheon towards the more reasonable Piazza Navona for a bite to eat with a view.
- Piazza del Popolo – A large urban square situated a stone’s throw from luxury and high street shopping and home to the church Santa Maria del Popolo; a location used for both the book and filming of Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. This square is beautiful at sunset and provides steps to the Villa Borghese Gardens.
- Galleria Borghese and Gardens – For the best display of ancient Rome sculptures and art from Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael, visit the Borghese gallery set amongst beautiful kept gardens. Pick up the audio tour guide to take you around the gallery for a snapshot into the wonders of the sculptures.
- Spanish Steps – Ascending from the Piazza di Spagna, the monumental stairway of 135 steps was built with the money of a French diplomat in the 1700s. Like at any major landmark in Rome, be aware of illegal street traders and pickpockets who target tourists.
A final essential attraction of Rome (and indeed the entirety of Italy) is the food! One simply must try a local pasta dish and indulge in some gelato whilst visiting, and the city is not short of places to go. Prices vary but Rome is generally very reasonable; try restaurants further away from tourist hot spots for a better value meal. For those looking for a quick fix, there are many vendors who sell large pizza slices to takeaway. By law, all menus and prices are up front and outside of restaurants, so you won’t be surprised when the bill (ilconto) comes along!
How to get around (and how not to):
- Rome is a large city and walking from A to B can take some time. The underground metro is very useful and simple, running a few lines around the city. However, Rome is full of idyllic sights and architecture; if you can suffer the walk, your eyes with certainly be thankful. If taking the metro or a bus, be sure to validate your ticket before you travel, or you might face some hefty fines if caught.
- Be aware in stations of people offering to help you find your platform or carry your luggage – if you follow them they will expect payment. Be sure to keep an eye on your luggage and personal belongings at all times.
- Be aware when booking your accommodation that a variable nightly city tax will be applied in addition to your room rate when checking out; hotels may ask that you pay this in cash.
- Looking to leave Rome for another Italian sight? The trains between major cities in Italy are excellent and are good value: try a one-country inter-railing pass if you are looking to hop between a couple of cities. Just remember that seat reservations need to be booked separately on the trains website and may cost you a few extra Euro.
For more information on safe travel, Italy and passport advice see the FCO Travel Advice website.