(f) Rome, our last destination was in our head infamous because of the scammers and pick pocketers warnings that one reads about. However, Rome, pleasantly surprised us by proving all this wrong. We were told 'bus no. 62 to Vatican is an abode of pick pocketers. Keep your bags in front of you'. It was exactly in the same bus that we met an immigrant from Senegal who got us an early entry into Vatican through his tourist guide brother and didn't ask for a dime. All he said was 'Be safe, Sister'.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Rome is from March to June
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
I began my travel through this iconic city with on the most iconic places, not only in Rome, but also in the rest of the world. The Colosseum is right in the center of the city, which itself speaks greatly of its importance. Also known as the Flavius Amphitheater, it is the largest of its kind in the world. This monument is hailed as the epitome of Roman Architecture and engineering. This UNESCO World Heritage site, housed around 50,000 to 80,000 people in its time and was used for entertainment purposes in the early medieval era (remember Gladiator?) The monument is gigantic with four floors and each floor having around 80 arches each. Due to earthquakes much of the monument has been destroyed, but it still spills splendor and awe. If you think the Colosseum looks magnificent during the day, be ready to be blown away by its night view. The monument lights up the cityscape of Rome and looks like a jewel on the street!
Go to Piazza Navona, where you’ll find giant frittelle doughnuts and Sicilian puppets that make special presents. Visit the fashionable thoroughfare of Via Condotti, studded with high-end boutiques like Gucci, Celine, Dior and Ferragamo. If you’ve got old souls on your gift list, the nearby Via Margutta and Via del Babuino are known for their antiques.
St. Peter's Basilica
If there had to be one example to sum up the fury of artistic spirit during the Renaissance it would definitely be the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Rome. This is the largest church ever built in Rome and is built on the crucifiction spot of the first Pope St. Peter. A lot of famous minds worked on this masterpiece namely, Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, Bramante, and Peruzzietc. Built in style with Renaissance as well as Baroque architecture, this church was built during the peak of the Renaissance in Italy. Since it is one of the holiest places for Christians all over the world, this place is flocked with devout Christians and inspired travelers soaking the wonder of art. Basilica is not to be missed, it is one of the greatest buildings of its time!
On the west of the Colosseum lies one of the oldest and most important structures of ancient Rome- The Forum. This rectangular plaza strewn with the ruins of various government buildings of ancient Rome was the center of the city often referred to as the 'marketplace'. This place formed a great part in the public life of ancient Rome with processions, trails, meetings, speeches, elections and gladiator matches happening here. It also housed various shrines of Roman Gods and Goddesses and housed The Senate of Rome, the place which gave birth to the Republican government in Rome. There are also structures made by the great Julius Caesar and till today remains a golden ground for archaeologists and historians. This place, although in ruins, remains to be an architectural wonder and resonates the Rome's rich past.
The Palatine Hill is very closely knit with the history and mythology of Rome. Rome was built on seven hills, the center most of which is the Palatine Hill. According to mythology, this hill was where the makers of Rome, Romulus and Remus were found by the She-wolf who raised them. Many famous senators of Rome lived on this hill (including the great Augustus Caesar) and thus the word "palace" originates from Palatine. Archaeological data have also proven that the early Romans inhabited this place, giving Palatine hill a strong historical reference. Today, most of this place is covered with Domitian's Imperial Palace that was used for around 300 years. Amongst the buildings is also a museum that houses some of the precious archaeological artifacts from Rome's history.
After navigating through the museum, we finally reached the most important part of it, the Sistine Chapel. The wall on which the much-famed The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo, is painted looms out slightly over the viewer, and is meant to be somewhat fearful and to instill piety and respect for God's power. That piece inspires nothing but admiration. The artwork is astounding and nothing rivals it. But again, the crowd dampened the experience. But, this is where I'll explain to you, the perks of being five-feet tall. I walked right to the back of the room and blocked out the crowd. Once you focus on just piece of art, everything else fades away. It's almost like The Matrix, everything slows down. Concentrate enough and you feel like you're a part of Creation of Man.
Trasvetere is the 13th administrative district of Rome situated on the west of the Tiber. This grand square is in many ways the heart of Rome. During the day you will find it filled with tourists and locals spending some quality time, while at night you will find local artists selling their artwork and natives and travelers flocking it's various pubs and bars. Trastevere is always full of life and is a perfect place to end the tour. Not only that, it's narrow alleys and open spaces are extremely photogenic.
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.
I head to the colosseum. The road from the hotel is dingy. I walk past the walls covered in graffiti, the dingy built up streets and wonder whether this is what I could expect from the weekend. Because it is not at all what I had hoped to expect. But as I round the corner, I see it. The colosseum rises out of this mess of buildings, high above them and the contrast between the old and the new is so pronounced, that I see the beauty in everything. All of it. The purpose of the dark to make the beauty of the light more appreciated. The comparison with life is not lost on me.
St. Peter's Basilica
Tear yourself away from the massive glittering trees by the Colosseum, and make your way to Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city. Join thousands of revelers who throng the square to hear Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas sermon; this is where you can experience all the pomp and circumstance expected of the Catholic Church.
Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, stands a structure of great historical importance called the Forum. Originally a marketplace, this site was then used for elections, criminal trials and gladiatorial matches. Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located here and hence proved to be an excellent excavation ground. Many temples and shrines were based here. The Senate and the Republic government began on the same grounds. You can see the ruins of Basilica Julia which was built by Julius Caesar some 130 years ago. Within Roman Forum, three out of the forty triumphal arches are still holding on to their roots. These are Arch of Titus, Arch of Septimius Severus, and the foundations of the arches of Augustus. The survival of these arches has inspired many Roman rulers to erect their own arches. The first recorded Roman triumphal arches were set up at the time of the Roman Republic. One must see these arches for their intricate carvings and sculpted aids. You can discover the Etruscan monarchy, law and order in Republican Rome. Just 40 m away is Palatine Hill, where according to Roman mythology, was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. It is also the center most of the Seven Hills of Rome. In its time, the Hill was also the site of the festival of the Lupercalia.
Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel
The museums of the Vatican are by far the best place to experience Renaissance art. A collection that has taken over five centuries to build, it houses 54 galleries, the last being the Sistine Chapel, the roof of which has been designed by Michelangelo. To get here, one must go through the previous 53 galleries, which, given the objects of beauty placed within them, is something nobody would object to.
The world might not be a wish granting factory but if legends and a million other travellers are to be believed, the Trevi Fountain definitely is. A brilliant example of the Baroque style of architecture, the mythical figures on the fountain are magnificent. The name 'Trevi' indicates the three roads that meet at the fountain which has found place in dozens of popular films. As much as I wanted to throw a coin into the water in order to ensure a second trip to Rome, the restoration work initiated by the fashion house Fendi prevented me from doing so and all that I got to see were scaffolds and glass barriers. Therefore, find out the status well in advance, the evening is the best time to visit and there is no ticket that you need to purchase. Getting there: If in case you are not living near the Tridente area which is walking distance (albeit long) from the fountain, 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 'Barberini' along the A Line and Trevi is about 600 metres from the metro station. Beware of pickpockets on the train.
The museums boast one of the world's greatest art collections. They're a gigantic repository of treasures from antiquity and the Renaissance, all housed in a labyrinthine series of lavishly adorned palaces, apartments, and galleries leading you to the real gem: the Sistine Chapel.
The museums inside the Vatican are home to some of the most envied and treasured Renaissance paintings and sculptures. The various museums and the 64 galleries within the Vatican envisage the works of various artists throughout the century. The museums are more than 500 years old, having being founded in the early 16th century. Not only thousands, but millions of tourists visit these museums each year. The Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo is the most renowned piece of Renaissance Art across the world. Apart form that Stanza Della Segnatura by Raphael is also quite popular. A peek into the culture and the epitome of art in the ancient era of Rome.
The Sistine Chapel is the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It's famed ceiling painted by Michelangelo is the most renowned piece of Renaissance Art across the world. "The Last Judgement" painted by the great artists is what brings art lovers and curious minds together to praise and absorb this beautiful creation. Apart from that, it has numerous frescoes by a team of Renaissance painters like Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio etc. Sistine Chapel is a highlight of Vatican City and definitely cannot be missed.
Piazza S. Pietro
Right next to the Basilica is the St. Peter's Square. With an imposing Obelisk in the center and fountains on the axis which was relocated from Egypt, the square looks particularly delightful in the night with the light playing on the water as well as dancing through the columns of the Basilica.
The first stop on the "other side" is Castel Sant'Agnelo, the walls of which can be seen even from across Tiber. This was a former papal fortress and castle, so I spent about 2 hours exploring the place. Don't miss the former Treasury Room, still intact with its huge chests and cabinets!There is a narrow staircase that leads out to the roof of the castle, where I saw the statue of Saint Michael standing watch over the inhabitants of Rome. Did you know that this castle was once the tallest building in Rome?
Palatino / Palatine Hill
It is the centermost of the famous seven hills of Rome. The Palatine Hill is littered with ruins of palaces and stadiums. Since most of the hill is an excavation site, a good way to understand its significance would be to visit the Palatine Antiquarian Museum on Domitian's Palace.
Piazza Venezia situated in the heart of Rome is a public square with much chaos and traffic. This square engulfs the everyday life of the Romans. Two important monuments are located here. Palazzo Venezia from which the place gets it's name is a palace dedicated to Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.( This place was a former embassy of Venice in Rome.) Another one is Vittoriano, dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy.
The Roman Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was commisioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. The Colosseum is located just east of the Roman Forum and was built to a practical design, with its 80 arched entrances allowing easy access to 55,000 spectators, who were seated according to rank. The Coliseum is huge, an ellipse 188m long and 156 wide. Originally 240 masts were attached to stone corbels on the 4th level.
Santa Maria In Trastevere
An excellent example of Romanesque architecture, the Santa Maria Church situated in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome. Designed by architect Carlo Fonatna, this church was originally founded in the 3rd century by Pope Callixtus. Some of the best 13th century mosaics are be found here including Pietro Cavallini's Life of the Virgin. It was the first church in which mass was celebrated openly. There is a tall column near the church which marks an ancient legend that the day Christ was born a river of oil flowed down to earth. The pillar is built on that supposed spot.
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.
A Roman Catholic church dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola. It offers unique views of the city looking out from the staircase. Once you go inside your eyes will be fixated on the dome. If you look closely, you'll realize that it's not really a dome, but flat. Jesuit painter Del Pozzo painted a trompe l'oeil or optical illusion.
Circus Maximus is where the ancient sport lovers would go to seek some entertainment. It was the largest and the first stadium of Ancient Rome. Since Chariot Racing was the most popular sport back then, loved by all Romans, this stadium held chariot races and entertained the Roman Crowd. It could house almost 1/4th of the Roman population. The first king of Rome, Romulus, is said to have held Chariot races here. This huge stadium today signifies the glory of Roman kings as well as the lifestyle of its people. A very significant monument to understand the public life of Rome.
Museo e Galleria Borghese
The Borghese Museum is one of Rome’s most breathtaking buildings. Filled with some of the most important art in the world, your guide will provide a lively and fascinating commentary as you explore the galleries. Built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 17th century to show off his extraordinary art collection, the Galleria Borghese is set in one of Rome’s loveliest and largest parks. The gallery also includes some great masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael along with many others. The gallery is home to the world’s best ancient Roman and Greek artifacts, including mosaics depicting gladiators in combat and a mysterious sleeping hermaphrodite.
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.