After spending a couple of hours getting awed by all the history that lay before us, we exited the Forum and walked towards the Pantheon. It was huge but a plain structure. After that we walked to the Trevi Fountain. We were really looking forward to see it but as luck would have it, the fountain was under renovation. Well it just took two double scoop Gelatos to lift our mood and end our first day in Rome on a happy note.
With incredibly talented graffiti artists, gifted yet hugely unrewarded local musicians, levitating saints from an exotic land (who are invariably trying to dupe you) and art experts willing to create your personal caricatures for a small price, the Piazza Navona is like a party sans the finery and expensive attires. Three elaborate, beautiful fountains adorn Rome's most popular public square. And so do the many cafes and baroque mansions bordering the same. Go early in the evening and spend a few happy hours. Getting there: The Piazza Navona is 450 metres from the Pantheon so it is advisable you see both on the same day. You could take a bus from the Termini station or hop on to the metro. Tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Your stop is 'Spagna' along the A Line and the Piazza is a bit of a walk, about 1.5 kilometres from the station. Watch out for the pickpockets on the train.
St. Peter's Basilica
The entire interior of St. Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding. The Basilica contains a large number of tombs of Popes and other notable people, many of which are considered outstanding artworks. There are also a number of sculptures in niches of the chapel including Michelangelo’s Pieta. The dome is the most outstanding feature of the Basilica. Not only is the art inside the Basilica overwhelming, but also the pure size and grandeur is tremendous. The beauty is indescribable. No photograph can ever capture it; you have to be there to experience it and believe it. It is the perfect blend of art and religion. Even though I am a staunch atheist, I felt a certain spirituality in the air. There was reverence in the eyes of the believers. There was devotion for Christ and there was admiration for the art and architecture. It was like two worlds were coalescing.
Right beside the site of the Colosseum, towards the west lies the remains of the Roman Forum. While it’s one of the oldest yet has exceedingly become the most significant historical as well as architectural landmarks of ancient Rome. Structurally, it’s a rectangular plaza, perimetered with ruins of the most important state and government buildings. As you visit this historic heritage site, you’ll realize how the ever-spoken political public life ran in a day in Rome. And it’s very walls and pillars speak aloud of the origins of present day political thoughts and ideologies of liberalism, democracy, state, and even citizenship! Having been an important part of the popular public life, it stood testimony especially to processions, trails, meetings, speeches, elections and gladiator matches. It is also known to have enshrined Roman Gods & Goddesses, alongside the house of The Senate of Roman city states, which eventually gave birth to the Republican government in Rome. Although visibly in ruins, the Roman Forum resonates the architectural marvels, debatable political past and grandeur culture that ancient Rome was.
Who would have thought that a mere flight of steps could be turned into an extremely popular (and absolutely free) tourist attraction? Possibly the most famous marble steps in the world, the Spanish steps form a heaven for people watchers, bookworms and those looking to spend time with friends and a few bottles of beer. The fuchsia flowers scattered all around the staircase provide an even prettier background to the Piazza Di Spagna and the 'Sinking Boat Fountain' at the foot of the steps. The multitude of branded stores and gelaterias dotting the piazza stand in stark contrast to this 18th Century beauty. Go early in the evening and spend a few good hours there. Getting there: If in case you are not living near the Tridente/Trevi area which is walking distance from the steps, taking the underground metro is the best idea because it is faster and cheaper. The tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Your stop is 'Spagna' along the A Line and the Piazza is less than 200 metres from the station. Beware of pickpockets on the train.
The site where the Papal Conclave meets in order to elect the Pope, this 15th Century Chapel is probably the most popular attraction in Vatican City. Home to Michelangelo's masterpiece 'The Last Judgement' and several ceiling frescoes, you get into this house of wonder after a long walk through the galleries of the museums and a dozen security guards will work hard to keep you from clicking any pictures. The nine frescoes depict God's Creation, the tale of Adam and Eve, the Fall and the plight of Noah. The Last Judgement (Giudizio Universale) on the west wall illustrating Christ passing his sentence over dead souls stands out in every way possible. And no, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling while lying on his back. That is merely a myth. Interestingly, there are stories about how Michelangelo was an artist who refused to conform to the norms of his time. When the Papal officials complained about the existence of nudity in the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted the Gates of Hell behind the pulpit where the Pope delivers his Mass and portrayed several saints as foolish and in compromising positions. Now that's some form of revenge. Getting there: The Sistine Chapel is located inside the Vatican Museums and the entry comes for about 16 Euros. They are open from 9am to 6pm with 4pm being the last admission. Additionally, entry is free on the last Sunday of the month. The queues can be long so book your tickets online if you are in a bit of a hurry. There are several galleries to see in the museums with the Chapel being the final stop, after which you proceed to St. Peter's Basilica. Photography, as mentioned above, is prohibited, but nobody can stop you from gazing at the ceiling in amazement for as long as you like, although the crowd could be a bit of a deterrent. You could take the Metro to 'Ottaviano-San Pietro' which is on the A Line of the Rome Metropolitan and your journey to the Vatican and back should cost you 3 Euros. Beware of pickpockets. The museums are located 900 metres from the station and noon is the best time to visit.
Villa Borghese is not just an exceptionally beautiful park, it is also about 80 hectares of galleries and museums. Loved by joggers, families having a little picnic of their own and lovers alike, this park is all the more popular because it houses the best art gallery in Rome, the Museo e Galleria Borghese. This spectacular place is home to the works of Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and Botticelli among others and requires pre-booking in order to prevent itself from getting too crowded. Tickets inclusive of the booking fee come for about 11 Euros and the museum is open till 7pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. Entry to the park however, is free and you could go with some food of your own. Getting there: The best way to get to the Villa Borghese is by taking the underground metro because it is faster, cheaper and your station 'Flaminio' along the A line is about 500 metres. The tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Beware of pickpockets.
Galleria Alberto Sordi
Built in 1914 after the actor of the same name, this building is a shopping arcade, and a grand structure. It is a shopping arcade with numerous small boutiques, this apart, the interiors are quite beautiful and elegant and even if one chooses not to shop here, just walking around indoors is quite a serene experience.
Piazza del Popolo
This huge square also called as the "People's Square" used to be the gateway into Rome. In ancient times the Via Flaminia was one of the important road links to Rome and gave the visitors a direct entry into the Piazza Del Popolo. Assuming the place's significance and as a show of Roman greatness to the visitor's that would enter pope Pius IV commissioned architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio to build a huge gate called Porta Flaminia. There is also a tall obelisk constructed by Augustus. The square has been a center of many activities in Ancient Rome including public executions.
The river Tiber is the oldest river and one of the lifelines of Ancient Rome. Tiber Island is one of the two island in the river Tiber. The island is home to a temple of Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine and healing, and a hospital. Thus this island is symbolic of health and healing. The island is linked to the mainland with two bridges. There are many legends regarding the formation of the island. Today it hosts a film festival and provides a great twist to any Rome tour.
Campo de' Fiori
Literally translated into the "Field of Flowers" this place was once a meadow. In the Ancient Rome context it lay between the famous theater of Pompey and the Tiber river. It was mainly deserted due to the overflowing of the river. The region populated only a few centuries back though, and now a lively market exists there. There is a huge statue of Giordano Bruno, a philosopher who was burned at stake during the Roman Inquisition. This place has a historical significance and is at the same time a great opportunity to interact with the locals.
Villa dei Quintili
From the Baths of Caracalla, board the 118 bus to go to Appia-Bisignano. This is where you will visit the Villa dei Quintili, one of the most under-appreciated and yet, the most scenic monument in Rome! The entrance ticket to this villa was also included in my Archeologia Card.
Monte Testaccio. This is an ancient man made mountain of pottery which today is surrounded by clubs and bars. Only in Rome will you see this happen and I love it. By day you can go play on monte testaccio and climb up all of this old amphora from all over the ancient world: Spain, Africa, Greece and Egypt, and then later you can go back to the same area to go to bars and clubs and go to the Macro, one of Rome’s brand new Modern art museums. Now I realize that this is once again history but I think a mountain of pottery deserves its own spot.
Basilica Di Santa Prassede
Along with Castel Sant'Angelo, Basilica Di Santa Prassede has stood the testimony of time and a many economical and artistic changes that occurred from the 5th to the 14th century A.D., tracing Roman past from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Having been reestablished under Papal authority, it served as a saving grace and hidden space for many Popes and Cardinals through various tribunal and war times.
Santa Maria in Montesanto
This is one of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo along with Santa Maria Del Miracoli. Built in the 17th century, this church includes the handiwork of three great architects. Started by Carlo Rainaldi, continued by Gian Bernini and finally completed by Carlo Fontana. Literally meaning the Holy Mountain, this is also called as the Church of artists because of the weekly mass conducted here by artists. Referring to Mount Carmel in Israel it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The two structures are considered to be twin structures because they look similar, but if you look closely you will find this one to be much different than the Santa Maria of Miracoli.
Osteria del Pegno
Osteria Del Pegno is one of our favorites and we would have recommended it to everyone when we were in Rome but we only shared our secret with a few special people so count yourself lucky. It is a tiny little Osteria located just a ways from Piazza Navona. It specialized in new Italian Cooking. You can find traditional Roman dishes here like Bucatini Amatriciana and Carbonara but you will also find Sea Bass Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Ravoli in a Zucchini Flower, Saffron and Orange Cream Sauce. It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a bit of a nicer restaurant to eat at without a huge price tag.
Casina delle Civette
The House of the OwlsThis place is hidden in Villa Torlonia, a large park in which the main house is famous as the residence of Mussolini. The House of the Owls is a tiny building in the park, was a princely residence and its architecture, its colors, its windows let it looks like a place came out of a fairy tale.The name “House of the Owls” comes from the almost obsessive presence of the owl theme in the decorations and furnishings of the House wanted by the Prince Giovanni Torlonia, who lived in the House until his death in 1938, and who was a lover of esoteric symbols.The atmosphere in this place is truly magical, and it’s the perfect place to take a break from the tourist crowds in Rome enjoying the quiet in the park and a bit of beauty.
Trinita' dei Monti
We climb up the Spanish steps to meet this magnificent structure. This church is a later Renaissance structure and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This church was originally constructed to commemorate France's victory over Naples and was later re-constructed. It was built in the Gothic style, but the facade is neo-classical. It was raided of its richness during the Neapolitan Invasion.
Ma che siete venuti a fà
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà is located in Trastevere on Via di Benedetta, 25. Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà means “What the hell are you doing here” and is a tiny, fun bar that is really serious about their beers. They have beer selections from all over the world and currently they have 9 Italian beers on tap, 4 English beers, 1 Swiss beer, a Belgian beer and a German beer on tap. They are open from 11am-2am everyday so if you find yourself in Trastevere and you cannot handle anymore wine head here. You may even see our roommate Adrian here (our wonderful guest poster on Paris) but you may not recognize him anymore without all his hair.
Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
A lesser known gothic church in Rome, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is home to Michelangelo's 'Christ Bearing The Cross' and is guarded by Bernini's beautiful 'Elefantino' sculpture mounted on an obelisk outside. The greatly reworked 13th Century church closes at 7 in the evening and the entry is free. If you are a Harry Potter fan, make sure you get a picture of the outer facade of the 'Grand Hotel Minerva' on the Piazza della Minerva, opposite the basilica. It will continue to remind you of everybody's favourite professor/mentor/cat. Getting there: The Basilica on Piazza della Minerva is 200 metres from the Pantheon on Piazza della Rotonda. Taking the underground metro is the best idea because it is faster and cheaper if in case you are not living near the Centro Storico area. The tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Your stop is 'Spagna' along the A Line and the Piazza is a bit of a walk, about 1.2 kilometres from the station. Beware of pickpockets on the train. You could even take a bus from the Termini Station.