Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Americans in all of Europe, and it’s easy to see why. In this new feature, I’ll be doing some quick and dirty travel guides to specific cities, this should give you everything you need to spend a few days in Rome and have a blast.
Rome is the Capital of Italy, the Lazio region and is the most populated city in Itay with approximately 2.8 million residents. This ancient city founded in 753 BC is also known as The Eternal City and is full of rich culture, history and traditions.
The architecture of Rome is one of its kind and exhibits works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Bramante and their contribution to the Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
The city is considered to be the seat of Papacy with St. Peter’s Basilica which is the greatest catholic church of the world. Rome has some of the world’s most visited tourist destinations.
Spoken languages: Italian, English
Best time to visit: from April to October (Summers can be quite warm). Rome enjoys a Mediterranean climate with the average annual temperature of 68 °F during the day and 50 °F at night.
Arriving via airport: The Fiumicino Airport is located about 15 miles away southwest of the city.
Transport to the City Center: The Leonardo da Vinci Express is a direct train between the airport termini and the city center, covering the distance in just about 30 minutes, with tickets costing about $15 for a single journey. A shuttle bus can also be caught at the airport, tickets cost about $12 for a single trip and $20 for a return trip. Then, of course, a taxi cab from the airport terminus will cost approximately EUR 40 to the city center.
Places to Stay
Rome offers a variety of places to stay: ranging from five-star hotels, family run hostels to bed-and-breakfasts, all depending on your budget.
Some of the most popular areas of the city to stay are: The Termini, the Vatican City, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps or Campo di Fiori.
Though the historical sites can be navigated on foot, it will be necessary to use the public transport system in Rome. City buses are trams run by ATAC and the network is pretty extensive. The metro system has just two lines – A (Red) Line and B (Blue) line which crosses at the termini station and is very simple to navigate.
For short term travelers it is best to buy a Roma Pass. At only $45, it is sponsored by Rome City Council and the Ministry for Arts and Cultural activities in collaboration with ATAC, and is valid for three days. What’s awesome is it also includes free entry to the first two museums or archeological sites, discounted entry to all other museums and archeological sites, free use of public transport valid across the extensive ATAC network and discounted tickets to exhibitions.
Taxis are also available, but remember, taxis can’t be hailed on the street. The best way to get one is to go to the taxi stand or call for one. Keep in mind the meter fares actually change depending on the time of day or day of the week, so a grabbing a Saturday night taxi after dinner is going to be more pricey than a Tuesday morning on the way to the museum.
Like most European cities, Rome has organized tours for tourists. These include hop on – hop off bus rides. You can book them online.
Also around some popular areas, it is easy to spot tour guides who would be more than happy to guide your group around for a fee.
For all you kiddies, you’re in luck, the drinking age in Rome is 19 and the last call is 2 AM. The most populated Bars, café’s and pubs are on the Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Campo de Fiori, Trastevere, Testaccio and Ostience. The youth college crowd goes to Sloppy Sam’s and Drunken Ship at Campo de Fiori and the pubs on San Lorenzo where the main University is located.
Places to visit
Standing since 80 AD, and built by the Emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum stood in the center of Rome and was used for gladiatorial combats and public spectacles such as animal fights, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and dramas based on Classical Mythology and could accommodate an incredible 55,000 people.
Now, the partially ruined Roman architecture is the iconic symbol of the city and tourists from all over the world come to Rome to see this symbol of antiquity. Entry fee is about $20, but it’s a good idea to use the Roma Pass to waive the entry fee to the Colosseum.
Built in 126 AD by the Emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon still stands as one of the most fascinating buildings of Rome. The temple of Gods’ most attractive feature is the architecture – the circular shape with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment with more than a 43 meter high dome. The coffered concrete dome has a central opening which is the only source of light.
Originally this temple was home to all pagan gods. At the time of the Renaissance, the Pantheon has been used as a tomb and the great painter Raphael was buried here. Located in Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon is used as a Catholic Church now. It is not far from Piazza Navona.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Located in the Vatican City of Rome, Basilica di San Pietro, or St. Peter’s Basilica as it is more commonly known, is regarded as the holiest Catholic site and it is the world’s largest church. The basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter – the chief apostle of Jesus.
The tall colonnades to the dome, the lavish interior, the canopy of the Papal altar, the famous frescoed ceiling, all was designed over a period of 100 years by the finest Italian architects such as Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Rafael, Brunelleschi and Bernini.
The museum is located inside the Vatican City and displays the elaborate collection built by the Roman Catholic Church and some Renaissance art master pieces. Vatican Museum houses the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms as well as to one of the world’s most important art collections.
The Spanish Steps
A monumental stairway designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi, the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna are perfect for tourists to grab a snack and have an incredible view of the city. It is one of the most magnificent urban monuments of the Roman Baroque style.
The foot of the stairs is home to the famous Barcaccia Fountain created by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo. In spring the ramps of the staircase are covered with flowers and the architecture blooms with beautiful colors.
Located at the end of Aqua Verdict in the Trevi district is the famous baroque fountain of Rome. The central figure of the fountain is the God of the Sea – Neptune, riding a chariot in the shape of a shell pulled by two horses. One of the horses is calm while the other is restive defining the two fluctuating moods of the sea. The building behind the fountain has it’s own interesting ghost story, make sure to find out what it is!
The Roman Forum
It is the central area surrounding which ancient Rome was built. The rectangular forum, designed by the architect Vitruvius looks like a disorderly collection of ruins of the ancient is located between the Capitoline and the Palatine hills. The forum is littered with triumphal arches, basilica’s and temples built by the ancient Roman emperors to commemorate their victory.
The Capitoline Hill is the smallest of the Seven Hills of Rome, and is very close to the Roman Forum. Temple of Juno Moneta, The Temple of Virtus and The Temple of Jupiter Optimus are some of the important ancient temples built on this hill.
The Palatine Hill is as old as the city of Rome. Just a short walk from the Colosseum or the Roman Forum, it has deep roots that represent certain aspects of Roman mythology. Archeological findings suggest that the hill was inhibited since 10th Century BC. It now has ruins from the ancient palaces, building, Roman baths, stadium and an apparent imperial garden.
Love the show? In 1605 a nephew of Pope Paul V, Borghese turned a vineyard which existed there into a park. The park now has temples, lake, fountains, statues and several museums. The Galleria Borghese has a collection of some of the most important baroque sculptures by Bernini including ‘the abduction of Prosperina by Pluto’. Since it is so popular consider pre-booking when visiting the Galleria.
Castel Sant’Angelo is located on the right bank of the river Tiber and is close to the Vatican. Built in the 2nd century, this magnificent structure has been witness to a turbulent history: serving first as a mausoleum, then part of the city wall and later served as a Papal residence and finally as a military Prison with torture chambers.
At the top of the fortress stands a statue of an angel overlooking the panoramic terrace, which depicts the archangel Michael. According to a legend, in the year 590 Michael had appeared on top of the fortress and miraculously ended a plague which had severely affected the city.
When you are in Rome, check out some of these cool walks around the city.
A walk around the Piazza della Rotunda heading to the Pantheon is beautiful with the square lined with lovely cafes. After a visit to the Pantheon, walk to Piazza della Minerva which is behind the Pantheon where a statue of an elephant by Bernini stands in front of the church – Santa Maria. Walk around the square and head to Piazza Navonna. Over here you can enjoy the best of baroque space of the city, lovely antique shops and expensive boutiques.
A night walk from the Trevi Fountain to the Vatican can be a magical experience. The Trevi Fountain is lousiest during the day with countless tourists flocking around this magnificent Roman Aqua Virgo aqueduct. To take a close look at the baroque sculptures of the fountain it is best to visit at night when it is relatively less crowded. Walk through the winding streets of the city to the Roman Parliament and head further to San Pietro magnificently illuminated under the night sky.
Walk to the Spanish steps and head to Villa Borghese. Stroll through the sprawling Borghese Park surrounding the Villa while admiring the Roman Sculptures and fountains.
Walk around the Piazza del Popolo to experience the local life of the city. Crowds of Italians stroll around the square to shop or allowing themselves to be pulled into the tourist wave which drifts the city.
So what did you think? Ready to head to Rome and have a great time? Want to see more of these city guides? Let me know!