Rome is one of the most traveled cities in Europe. It’s iconic, quite literally full of history and is where you’ll find one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world. It’s hectic, sometimes insanely so and it’s a little grubby in places. The world’s smallest country is nestled in the middle of it and it’s often considered one of the top places to visit in your lifetime.
Our first stop (obviously) – The Vatican. If you go to Rome and don’t go to the Vatican, it’s like going to Italy and not drinking prosecco or eating pasta and pizza, it’s just weird.
It was chaotic and hot the day we arrived in Rome and there was what seemed like people in every square inch of the place! As we tried to navigate our way from the train station to the Vatican through Rome’s relentlessly busy streets, we decided to let the hoards lead the way and make a few pit stops as we went.
First up was the Spanish Steps – 135 steps built in 1725 to span the gap between the Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. It’s an extremely popular spot with tourists to rest their legs for ten minutes and get a bit of people watching in. If you want a good picture where you can actually see the steps then you’d need to get there pretty early in the morning.
We stumbled upon The Pantheon a while later; a true feast for the eyes and history nerds alike, the Pantheon is one of the oldest and best preserved ancient roman buildings in the world and is the oldest catholic church in Rome.
Once Eamo had his picture taken with the Pope…
…we ventured over to the Trevvi Fountain for a quick rest and an ice-cream.
The Trevvi fountain is stunning, lavishly decorated and there aren’t many other fountains in existence that can rival the Trevvi’s magnificence.
There’s no hope of having a quiet rest with an ice-cream here though, what with the thousands of tourists all trying to get the perfect picture. Oh well.
The Vatican was finally in our sights…
You have to admire St Peter’s Square which is easily one of the most magnificent squares in the world and probably the most renowned. It hosts 284 columns, 88 pilasters, 140 statues, one obelisk, 2 fountains and can hold 300,000 people.
And then there’s St Peter’s Basillica…
The mother of all churches – St Peter’s Basillica interior is meticulously designed and is deceptively large holding 15,000 people at capacity.
The good news is entry is free in to the church; the bad news is that you could wait about three hours to get in. Avoid the tour guides all together who tell you they can get you in straight away but it’ll cost you €50. We timed our visit (by absolute chance) perfectly – a Tuesday afternoon and it only took us about forty minutes to get in. We later learnt that the man himself holds mass every Wednesday morning for about 15,000 adoring fans (and lots of tourists) so the day before is usually much quieter.
Of course, make sure you stop by and see the Swiss Guard…
and tick off ‘visiting a country within a country’ off your to do list.
It took us two attempts to visit the Sistine Chapel; the first attempt the queue was far too long so we bailed and went in search of some Aperol Spritz. Our second attempt was more successful. Luckily we went early in the day, as surprisingly visiting the Sistine Chapel will take up, at least, half of your day. It’s not just Michaelangelo’s most famous piece that you visit; it’s the Vatican’s entire art collection and gardens.
There is so much to see and it really is good value for money at €16 per ticket. By the time you reach the Sistine Chapel though, you’re definitely ready for a glass of wine and a slice or two of pizza.
After visiting Verona’s version of the Colosseum a few weeks earlier, we weren’t that fussed about Rome’s. An amphitheatre is an amphitheatre, right? Surely if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Well…yeah, kind of but as we made our way to the Colosseum to see for ourselves, the rain suddenly came and then went almost just as quick, and as we got closer and looked up, this wonderful sight was dancing above the mighty giant.
A sign maybe, telling us that this amphitheatre is no doubt the best?
Our final stop was the Roman Forum; possibly the most important Roman ruins in Italy. Once the centre of Roman public and political life, this ancient site contains a plethora of ruins from temples to squares and arches to government buildings.
It’s important to invest some time in to wandering through Rome’s history as there’s so much of it and it’s really very interesting. The four days we had exploring the Roman city wasn’t quite enough to see and do everything it had to offer.
Until next time Rome… Ciao!
Distance travelled so far: 7,635 km
Days away: 230