I read History at university so I’m a tad embarrassed that it’s taken me nearly three decades to pay a visit to Rome. Maybe I’ve been put off by tales of my friends getting mugged or scammed (or both) and I’d heard complaints about overwhelming crowds at every tourist attraction – horror stories of sardine-style groups, sweltering temperatures and enough body odour to knock out a small town. More than likely it was simply because wanderlust saw me travel further afield than Europe, but regardless, I’m happy to say my belated experience of Rome was wonderful. It was crime-free (for me at least), super easy to get around and I was utterly captivated by the culture, in awe of the architecture and full of love for the food. Here’s my top 8 things to do during a short stay in Rome…
1) Go On A Bus Tour
I’d highly recommend getting an Omnia pass before you arrive in Rome. The ticket gives you fast tracked entry to St Peter’s Bascilica & The Vatican museums as well as two other attractions (we used it for the Forum and The Colosseum), plus it gives you a three day pass for the hop on, hop off bus. A 3 day adult pass comes to 98 Euros, bargain. If you’re short of time it’s a great way to see the sights and bus tours aren’t lame, they’re awesome and you know it.
2) Explore St Peter’s Bascilica
There are two things to remember when visiting St Peter’s – it’s a religious building so make sure you’re dressed appropriately (shoulders and knees should be covered) and the queues can get ridiculous. Thanks to our Omnia pass we jumped the line but we did have to book onto a tour in advance, so bear that in mind when planning your trip. Take an audio guide and stroll around the building immersing yourself in the building’s opulence. The dome was created by Michelangelo and it’s well worth walking up right to the top to see the views of the city and beyond. We walked up all the steps (over 500) but you can get an elevator although the last 330 stairs must be navigated and it gets quite compact up there.
Home of the Sistine Chapel, a seriously impressive collection of art work and some strong ceiling game, I really enjoyed my trip to The Vatican Museums. I’m not an art aficionado by any means but even I recognised Le Penseur by Augustus Rodin, the statue of Apollo and the significance of the work by Leonardo Di Vinci. There’s some serious walking involved before you get to the Sistine chapel so make sure you wear comfy shoes. And don’t even think about taking a snap once inside – it’s forbidden and I saw one rule-breaking tourist being screamed out by a guard, which was awkward for everyone. Stick to admiring it with your eyes people.
Pretend to take a man’s life into your own hands by posing with your thumb up or down as you admire the vantage inside The Colosseum. You can see the gallows below where the stage was where slaves and beasts were kept before they came out to do battle. It’s a very impressive structure and I couldn’t shake the image of Russell Crowe in Gladiator from my mind. *Screams* Are you not entertained? 5) Immerse Yourself in History At The Roman Forum
The space has a history stretching back more than 3,000 years and there’s oodles to see giving you an insight into Roman life. From vast temples to the remains of apartment homes of the common man it’s a fascinating spot to really immerse yourself in history. It’s worth walking right up to the top of the hill to admire the ruins from a high. You can see the waterworks and the House of The Vestal Virgins boasts a lovely rose garden.
6) Take A Peek At The Pantheon
I’d heard a lot about this former pagan temple and after visiting St Peter’s Bascilica found The Pantheon a little underwhelming in comparison. That being said the open-air dome here is impressive, it’s as wide as it is high. I’d suggest sitting out in the square outside for a prosecco or two before popping your head in here.
7) Have Dinner And Drinks In Piazza Navona
After a hectic day of sight seeing we made our way to Piazza Navona for sundowners and some supper. It really is quite a spot for a tipple and a spot of entertainment from some delightful, some not so delightful, street performers while you wait for your meal. Speaking of which, the food, oh the food. I gorged on seafood spaghetti and lapped up the lavish spaghetti alla carbonara like I’d just been cured from a lifetime gluten allergy. Italian food really is the best.
8) Stroll Along The Tiber River
It’s really rather nice, don’t be put off by it’s unusual green colour. You can walk from the Roman Forum across to Isola Tiberina and across again to find lots of dinner and drinking options. You can also walk up to St Peter’s Bascilica from here and although it’s quite a trek it’s well worth it to take in the views on foot.