Italy’s capital city, Rome is known as the City of Love, however, aside from its obvious romantic charms, the city is an excellent choice for those wanting a short city break packed full of culture and reminders of its magnificent history. Louise Chandler recently visited the ancient city as part of a whistle-stop tour of Italy, and shares some of her favourite sights and top tips.
You can’t ignore the glorious stone structure of the Colosseum against the bright blue sky of the city. We often see this structure in films and TV documentaries all the time but when you see it in person, you can’t help but say ‘wow’! Built to host between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators in AD 80, it is the biggest amphitheatre ever built and the ultimate symbol of imperial Rome. You can use your imagination to visualise the bear baiting fights, gladiators combating for freedom and crowds of people enjoying the free spectacle.
Top tip: The audio guides are worth investing in or pay extra to join a tour group. Yes, it means wandering around with other people, but it means you can learn the full history and hear an array of fascinating stories that you won’t get if you wander around solo. The site is hugely popular so plan ahead for your trip because it can take hours to navigate the queues.
The National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II
Situated around the main part of the city is the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II). Named after the first king of Italy, this magnificent building is made of white marble and located at the Piazza Venezia where all the main roads intersect.
Once you ascend a few flights of stairs you will be rewarded by a wonderful panoramic view of the city, but this is just for starters.
Top tip: Enter the building for free to see statues and paintings and as you climb even more stairs, your reward is a bird’s eye view of Rome. If this isn’t high enough for you there is a lift that can take you even higher (for a small fee).
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Carry on walking for a further 10 minutes and you will arrive at the Doria Pamphilj Gallery. This is a large art collection housed in the Doria Pamphilj palace which I found purely by accidents but I’m really glad I paid the six euros to go in!
The splendour of golden framed mirrors, intricate marble statues and detailed oil paintings is a fascinating collection, giving a regal and opulent side to Rome.
The most famous highlight in the Trevi district is the fountain of the same name. The world’s most famous fountain features a dramatic portrayal of tritons, winged horses and snakes with pure blue water constantly gushing throughout its system. Standing at 86 feet high, the scale of this fountain makes it a popular stop on your tour of Rome.
Top tip: Make sure you follow the tradition: throw a coin from the right hand over the left shoulder will ensure you will return to Rome in the future. It must work because this is my second visit to Rome and I certainly look forward to visiting again.
Take the Metro underground train service to the world’s smallest city state and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church – The Vatican. Be prepared for long queues or pay for a tour guide who will gracefully march you past the queues and straight to the entrance. Then you will be treated to a guided tour to find out more about the magnificent collection of exquisite art. The galleries of intricate tapestries, sculpted marble and detailed paintings are awe inspiring. Be prepared to be awed by Michelangelo’s masterpiece: The Sistine Chapel ceiling. Once you see it you will appreciate why it took the artist four years to complete the ceiling fresco.
Top tip: Be mindful that The Sistine Chapel is a religious space and that there is a strict rule for all visitors to be silent; a rule which the security guards will enforce over a loud speaker (how ironic!)
Overall Top tip?
The Metro is a really cheap and easy way to get around Rome. Knowing where to buy tickets is the tricky part. Tickets can be purchased from the tabacchi – tobacco stores, distinguished by the “T” sign outside. This isn’t widely advertised or promoted. These shops can be found inside the station or nearby.
This article was written by Louise Chandler.