Italy was our second stop on our European adventure, with five days in Rome after leaving Athens. Again, not nearly enough time to see everything we wanted to and no time to just relax. Every single day was full on; we did a full first day of Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in the morning, and Vatican City in the afternoon after arriving late the night before and a full day of walking around Athens the previous day. My feet have never hurt that much! I would do it again tomorrow if I could, but ideally, I wouldn’t try to cram so much into such a short time.
Here is my list of ten things to do when in Rome – note that there are many things I didn’t get to do which is why they’re not included. These are in no particular order.
- Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine
The Coliseum, or Flavian Amphitheatre, was started in 72 AD and finished in 80 AD. It could seat an average of 65,000 people! It was used for entertainment including mock naval battles, where the bottom was filled with water. Other uses included reenactments of scenes from mythology, famous battles and gladiatorial combat.
The name ‘coliseum’ originally referred to a bronze statue of Nero that was situated nearby. The statue was eventually pulled down so the bronze could be reused.
The Arch of Constantine sits between the Coliseum and Palatine Hill and is 21 metres tall. It is the largest triumphal arch in Rome (A triumphal arch is a structure shaped like an arch, with one or more arched passages – the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is another example) and would have originally spanned a road. In this case, it was the ‘Via Triumphalis’ the road used by an emperor when entering the city in triumph. The Arch of Constantine was dedicated to the emperor Constantine I for his victory over emperor Maxentius.
2. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Palatine hill overlooks the Roman Forum and is the centre hill of the seven hills of Rome. It is also one of the oldest parts of Rome and according to ancient Roman mythology was the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus were found as infants by the wolf Lupa who kept them alive.
The Roman Forum was the centre of Rome. It contained a marketplace, important government buildings and was where public speeches, elections and criminal trials were held, among other things.
3. Pantheon and the Piazza della Rotunda
The Pantheon was once a temple dedicated to all gods but now functions as a church. The original building was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa but burnt down and was rebuilt by emperor Hadrian. Because the Pantheon has been continually used throughout history, it is one of the most well-preserved buildings of ancient Rome.
The Piazza della Rotonda is the square outside the Pantheon. The fountain and obelisk were designed in 1575. The Egyptian obelisk is from the reign of Ramses II (19th Egyptian dynasty). In the 1880s, the original marbles figures were removed and replaced with copies. The originals can be seen in the Museum of Rome.
4. Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish steps
The Piazza di Spagna connects the Bourbon Spanish Embassy with Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the Spanish steps. The area is very busy as you can see from my photos – it’s a popular spot to sit and rest as well as being near the high-end shopping area.
There are 135 steps on the staircase with a fountain at the bottom. When we were there in September 2015, the Trinità dei Monti church was undergoing renovations.
This is also the area where you can visit Pompi’s tiramisu! (More on that later)
The Trevi fountain is the largest Baroque (a particular artistic style) fountain in Rome. It was built as a display of the end of an ancient Roman aqueduct. The Virgo aqueduct was constructed by Marcus Agrippa, and was 21 km long!
According to popular legend, if a visitor throws a coin into the fountain (using your right hand to throw the coin over your left shoulder) it ensures you will return to Rome.
Unfortunately, the Trevi fountain was undergoing maintenance when we were there, so we couldn’t throw any coins in, but it was still great to see up close!
6. Altare della Patria
If you want incredible 360 views of the entire city, then head up the lift in Altare della Patria. The tallest building in Rome is St Peter’s Basilica because no buildings are allowed to be built higher.
7. Trajan’s Column
Trajan’s column is a triumphal column that commemorates the victory of emperor Trajan in the Dacian Wars. It is located to the north of the Roman Forum, near the Altare della Patria.
I’m not a religious person, but I still enjoyed visiting Vatican City and seeing the beautiful architecture and art that had been so well maintained.
Vatican City is a city-state and is the smallest sovereign state in the world. By going, you can technically include it as a country by itself!
Don’t underestimate the size – the place is massive. The most well-known parts of Vatican City are the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
My advice is this – if you really want to enjoy seeing the Sistine Chapel go one of the early mornings quiet tours with a small group. Otherwise, the room is packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people and you can’t see much, let alone enjoy it. It’s supposed to be quiet in there, and there are guards telling people to shut up, but when it’s packed it’s just super noisy and hot.
Once you get outside to St Peter’s square don’t try and sit on the steps, no matter how tired you are – you will get told off!
9. Aurelian Walls
The Aurelian Walls are the walls of the ancient Roman city and all seven hills of Rome were contained within them. Only about two-thirds of the original walls remain and are very well preserved.
If you are paying the flat fee for a taxi from the airport into Rome, make sure you check you are going all the way into the city, not just to the Aurelian walls!
10. Try delicious food and drink!
Grab an espresso for €0,90 or €1,00 depending on where you are and stand at the counter to drink it. Remember, in Rome, you will be charged for ‘table service’ if you decide to sit down and eat/drink. It’s usually an extra 10%.
Try the world’s best tiramisu at Pompi. I kid you not – no other tiramisu compares. I was so busy stuffing my face that I didn’t take a photo, but I could’ve eaten it 10 times over.
Try incredible gelato at Fatamorgana.
I can’t for the life of me remember which one we went to, but it was the best gelato I’ve ever had. There are other recommended places to go for amazing gelato, this was one that was recommended by our tour guides from our Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius day trip.
Try gnocchi or Roman-style pizza, and a carafe of wine for lunch!
Grab some free chilled water – regular or sparkling!
Try sangria and delicious food at Bitch. We ate here because it was down the street from our Air BnB apartment, and we kept walking past. It was so worth it!
Thanks for reading!
All images are my own, except for Google Maps images.
All opinions are my own.