Best Places to Visit in Rome
Have you ever visited a country you’ve never been to before, yet as soon as you arrive, feel like you’re home? That’s how our featured travel writer Sally Taylor feels about Italy and here she shares her top tips for visiting this world famous city...
Ah, Italy. I may be quietly atheist but if I had a spiritual home, this firmly Catholic country would be it. And out of the parts I’ve visited (so far!) I most happily roam around Rome. Yes, my Fiat Cinquecento would feel quite at home weaving in and out of Vespas through Rome’s busy, winding streets. I’m lucky enough to have visited the Eternal City 3 times in my 24 years, and have discovered something new to fall in love with on every trip. I’ve never had more than a few days at a time, but this inexhaustible city has more than enough to do, see, and eat to keep you very happy – and leave you wanting more.
So. Lets start big – and you can’t get much bigger than the mighty Colosseum. Over 2000 years old, many of the original walls are still intact today. I can safely say it does not disappoint – I’ve gone back each time, and it never fails to produce a “wow” moment! Even the queue is exciting; as you wind around within the shaded walls, gazing up at centuries-old stone archways is truly spine-tingling. Particularly if your favourite film is (like me) Gladiator.
Get a tour, if you can – it costs a little extra but the knowledge and vivacity the tourguides bring shouldn’t be missed. You’ll see guides milling around the Piazza del Colosseo, gathering their next groups. Ours was a little eccentric but really brought what we were looking at to life, pointing out extra details we never would have noticed on our own. And make sure you come back to see the Colosseum at night. Lit up from beneath its archways, it looks truly magnificent.
2. Roman Forum
Now that your historical tastebuds are tingled, your next stop has to be the Roman Forum (Il Foro Romano). This is a sprawling area of ruins that was once the very centre of Ancient Roman life. It was the site of important government and public buildings, the venue for public speeches, and had statues and monuments to Rome’s greatest men. Again, try and tag on to a tour group.
Many of these are operated by students from the US, Australia and the UK (err, hello dream job!) and ask for a donation at the end rather than a fee upfront. Our guide was a History and Archaeology student from Down Under, and knew a frankly enormous amount. Having run out of change, we paid her in ice cream – a pretty good deal!
3. Trevi Fountain
As night falls, head to the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world! Like everything in this city, it does not disappoint. You round a perfectly plain-looking corner and suddenly – wham! This enormous fountain feels like it’s emerging from the back of a building, and the narrow streets and bustling, noisy crowds mask the sound of the rushing water as you approach, making it feel like a wonderful surprise to happen upon.
The Trevi Fountain is also the place where I had two of my best culinary discoveries. Looking at the fountain, head to the street on your left and stop at the first pizzeria you come to. Grab a piping-hot slice of the delicious, garlicky, herby foccacia to take away, then sit on the steps and people-watch to your heart’s content. Then, for dessert, go to the gelateria (ice cream shop) on the right hand side of the square. I’ve been here every time I’ve been to Rome, on a mission to discover just what their “Zuppa Inglese”, or “English Soup” flavour gelato is – so far without success! Maybe you’ll be able to work it out?
When in Rome, you can’t miss a visit to St Peter’s Square and a tour of the Vatican. The Cistine Chapel is even more breathtaking than you can imagine, and you learn some secrets that even the Da Vinci Code would be proud of, like the tunnels in the walls that the Pope can be squirreled away through if he needs to be. The queues can be enormous, so make sure you get there early! Also be sure to dress appropriately. This is the home of the Pope after all. On my first visit the security turned me and my denim short-shorts away! St Peter’s Square is also very wide and open, so try not to be stood out in the queue during the hottest part of the day.
5. Piazza Navona
For more atmosphere and people-watching, spend an evening around the Piazza Navona. This has its own three fountains, including the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), and is popular with artists in the summer months.
6. Castel St'Angelo
There are so many other fantastic things to see in Rome, if you have the time, including the Castel St’Angelo, which has fantastic views over the river, the Piazza del Popolo, which is beautiful at sunset. Rome never fails to impress and to inspire, and has sites that I will never tire of seeing, no matter how many times I go. Eternal satisfaction from the Eternal City.
Last Tip - Accommodation
Try and stay centrally, if you can, or at least as close as you can be to the very easy to use Metro. Like all big cities, the further out you get the more “suburby” it becomes – and while living like a local can be lovely, you can lose that “Roman” atmosphere. Twice I’ve found excellent and very reasonable hotels and hostels within a stone’s throw of Termini (the central station – which has excellent shopping, by the way!).
By Sally Taylor
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