Like it is destined, after visiting few cities in Europe, the Eternal City welcomed proving – All Roads Lead to Rome. The train journey along the coast offered great views acting like a lovely teaser for the upcoming romantic movie.
It is a city of its own kind, with a historic look that stuck in the past and resisting to come out of its nature. Streets are old, rusty and people are rigid. Walls are sturdy and buildings are ancient, taking us back in time, just by a stroll in the streets.
Rome is the kind of city where one should totally go out of grid, with no plan at all. This is a landmark city not city with landmarks and to list down few things to do in Rome is a sin. The best way to enjoy the city is walking in the Vias (~Streets) , discovering the places and of course talking to the people.
Here is my experience in the “Caput Mundi” (Capital of the World) –
Like any tourist, the first thing I have to visit is Colosseum. Cant wait any longer to take a look at this 2000 year old building and learn its history. It is a sheer pleasure to see this ancient building directly and have been circling around the building to find the broken top floor for that iconic view as seen in most of the pictures and of course it is best of all in real. The lines are huge as expected and decided to visit the next day for an early morning tour.
With the help of offline google maps, I proceeded north towards other prominent places and can’t help but stop at multiple places along the way appreciating the rustic buildings, vintage cars and beautiful art. It doesn’t matter the path but every street is special and won’t fail to entertain.
Just a block away from Colosseum is – Chiesa di Santa Maria ai Monti – a small Catholic Church but surprised to see such grand art inside – just an example that nothing is small in Rome.
Google Maps help me put on track when I completely wander off the streets especially in cities like Rome when there is beauty every corner and people don’t speak much English. At one point, when I started a conversation and the girl didn’t speak English, I used Google Translate to show her what I would like to say and she used the same on her phone, it is such a funny conversation and we LOLed in the end ?
After 15 min walk exploring the beautiful alleys of Roma, on other side of Via del Quirnale at the junction of three famous streets welcomed Fontana di Trevi (~ Three Street Fountain) which can be easily spotted from any street around it, by the flow of the tourists. Trevi Fountain is unlike any insta pictures and is over crowded by tourists. It is hard to get spot to enjoy this fountain closely unless visited early in the morning or late night. In fact, every major tourist attraction in Rome should be visited early hours to enjoy them.
Built with the same stone as Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain is one of the earliest sources of pure water in the Ancient Rome. Now, the practice of throwing a coin into the Trevi is quite famous that it collects about 3000 Euros per day. As per a legend, throwing a coin facing away from the fountain, with the right hand over the left shoulder ensures return to Rome, and two coins for those seeking love and three for wedding bells. All that money, though, is collected nightly to provide food for homeless in Rome.
It is hard not to notice McDonalds across the Fountain. Step towards it to feast the best fast-food – not inside but in front of it. Loved those roasted chestnuts – Caldarroste – so much from a street vendor for about 3 Euros, that I grabbed for second round almost immediately.
It goes without saying that a restaurant should not be visited if a person is standing outside it and welcoming you. There are several local restaurants with good vibes to try in Rome, the overall look of them speaks. Just a block away from the Fountain, I noticed huge lines in front of a small shop and didn’t even think a minute to go towards it. Pane e Salame is one of the best sandwich shops with thick crust. Prices are reasonable and service is quick, best for take-outs.
Following the crowds, it is easy to land in hustle and bustle of the city with sandwich in hands. Via del Corso, one of the best shopping streets in the world and perhaps the happening place for happy hour in the city. It is one of the main streets sprawling across the city with several local and international stores. It isn’t easy to cross the street without stepping in any store. One great place for window shopping and perfect spot for evenings.
Across Via del Corso, within 5 min walk, Pantheon appeared which is also free to visit. The Pantheon is a Roman Temple which is one of the few large structures that are preserved intact. The dome of the structure is first of its kind which is the main source of the natural light inside the building.
The public squares are really special in Rome and it makes any day better just by spending time here. These are the places where we can find street art along with local people having a great time. Public Square in front of the Pantheon – Piazza della Rotonda is no exception. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the the unbeatable views of Pantheon along with several other ancient buildings.
There is no harm in stuffing calories in Rome as they would be easily balanced by walking. Very close to Pantheon – one of the best places to feast is – Giolitti, the local favorite ice cream store with hundreds of flavors. Service is not that friendly, may be because of a foreign look but had the best time slurping the thick gelato.
Walking couple of blocks on any street, there will be something waiting to surprise in Rome and this time it’s – Spanish Steps. Built as a meeting place between Trinita dei Monti, a French church with the Spanish square below, this is the widest stairway in Europe and its unique design attract several people. It is not allowed to sit on these steps now but walking the steps to the top, offer a great view of Rome.
Even a better view of Rome with Basilica is just steps away on the top. Further north along the hill and climbing few steps is Terrazza del Pincio – one spot to sit and enjoy the panoramic views of Rome along with Vatican City over Piazza del Popolo. Terrace and Piazza are both filled with locals who love to speak Italian, especially youth at their favorite hangout spot in the night. So Being a Roman in Rome truly pays off at least by speaking few words. Credimi! (Believe me!)
Now is the time to visit ancient wonder of the world in the heart of Rome – Colosseo. Standing for about 2000 years, this architecture marvel is unbelievable. Group tours have a special entrance – stern entrance that offer a beautiful panoramic view of the structure. Then the guide continued to explain about the history from Vespasian and Titus to Domitian, the three emperors of Flavian Dynasty who built and maintained the Flavian Amphitheatre, now called Colosseum(or Colosseo) to entertain public but it is daunting to learn that several hundreds of thousands of animals died in the name of entertainment.
On an average, this arena hold 65,000 visitors where various fights and believe or not – even naval battles are demonstrated with free food and wine. The structure of course, is undoubtedly the model of modern day stadiums with seating aisles and exits for easy in and out access. The arena layout is a true piece of art built with several underground chambers, each of them with easy connection to the top of arena. There is so much more to the building from hydraulic mechanisms to secret tunnels and there is so much more we would never know. This is a wonder of the world for a reason but wish it could have been used with better purpose.
Friendship band Scam : A common scam in and around Colosseum not to fall for – where sellers try to offer bands as a friendship sign and then demand money for it.
If not with a guide, it is easy to miss Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, both next to Colosseum. Palatine hill, one of the Rome’s seven hills – is home of several emperors and believed to be the hill, where Roman empire began. Roman Forum is downtown of ancient Rome with several ruins well preserved that give a better picture of Roman lifestyle. Walking along these ruins is the easiest way to time-travel to then Roman life.
It is very common to hear from locals saying not to visit Vittoriano Museum at Piazza Venezia. Otherwise, a very well articulated and thought structure offering 360° view of Rome, it is built obscuring Colosseum and partly demolishing the medieval neighborhood on Capitoline Hill. Do Romans need any other reason to love to hate it?
When its time to explore the now Rome, after being enough in then part, Campo de Fiori is the closest we can get. The colorful market in a perfect setting is a great place to check out the life of Rome. It closes after lunch and is a popular spot to grab one.
A quick 5 min walk from here along classic alleys of Rome bring to Ponte Sisto, one of the vibrant footbridges in Rome with prettiest views of Basilica. Walking along Tiber river is more fun thing to do.
Neighborhoods are the true heart of the cities and in Rome, its undoubtedly Trastevere, which is just across the river. From lively piazzas to lovely views and ancient buildings to amazing food, this is an absolute paradise. First things first, Suppli treated with one of the best snacks, the potato stuffing is delicious and is undoubtedly the best local street food. Eating the Suppli in the nearest piazza, watching kids play in front of the old apartments amid Italian talks, is a memory of lifetime.
Hike up the hill took about 20 min and Janiculum Terrace on top of the hill offer the best view of Rome, the true panoramic view from Vatican city to Colosseum, obscured by Vittoriano Museum 😛
Rome is definitely one of the best cities in the world. One can spend weeks here as every corner can surprise with a bit of history. Its not a city to visit, but one to live and experience our ancient world. Loved exploring alleys alone and at the same time, hearing stories from locals and bartender at Shamrock pub. Everyone is so sweet especially my airbnb host who supplied delicious breakfast everyday, and even packed snacks for me to eat while roaming. It is an absolute classic city which I love to go back in a heartbeat and would be same for anyone who visit.
Like my friends from Rome say –
Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto ( Eat well, Laugh often, Love a lot).