It had been 15 years since my last visit to Rome and I thought I'd be quite blasé this time: after all, I knew the city well having been there twice before. But, I had forgotten how seductive Rome could be, how its charm starts to work as soon as you stroll down the Via Corso towards the colossal white marble Vittoria Emanuelle II Monument, and then how it takes your breath away when you turn the next corner and are confronted with the huge outer walls of the Colosseum. Modern Rome seems to be at one with ancient Rome, and has the feeling of eternity, of always being there.
ROME - Where the Past Comes to Life
There is nowhere in the world quite like Rome where amid the elegance of the modern-day city, the ruins of antiquity have their place, right in the middle of the high fashion area.
How Long to Spend in Rome
If someone is planning a weekend in Rome and asked me for advice as to what to see and do, I would have to say “Postpone your visit until you can spend a week there, for a weekend is not long enough to come to grips with the magnificence of Rome’s past”.
There will never be enough time because the city throws up so much to intrigue, so much to fascinate, and so much to engage the curious mind. And one has to pace oneself in Rome, more than in any other city, as it is easy to keep on walking, looking, and photographing, until the mind is a jumble of sights and experiences. Time is needed to rest and just let it all sink in, so I would advice a good two hours of relaxation before dining each evening. Don’t forget, you can continue to experience what Rome has to offer after supper. There are Operas, music concerts that include a Museum tour, musical galas in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, concerts in Ancient Rome (the archeological area in Piazza Navona), and of course, a walk around the illuminated Colosseum or a walk to the Trevi Fountain and up the Spanish steps
How to see Rome
For some, the hop on, hop off bus is a good way to start their sight-seeing. For me, I made a list of the main attractions I wanted to see, got out my map, checked my hotel’s location on the map, and set off on foot. The idea was that if, and when, I got too tired, I would hop in a taxi and get back. Truth to tell, our hotel was so central, in Via del Corso, that everything was within walking distance even if I would have taken a taxi on my last day – if I could have found one.
For me, the main attractions are the Vittorio Emanuelle II Monument, the Colosseum, the Roman Forums, Circus Maximus, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, the Vatican City and Sant’Angelo Castle, the Vila Borghese and gardens, and various churches that housed some magnificent Caravaggios. It wasn’t just a matter of standing outside and looking at them either, I wanted to wander inside and around, where permissible.
Vittorio Emanuelle Monument (known locally as the Wedding Cake)
Many of the buildings have hundreds of steps to the top
And there are steps to the top of most of the buildings, and one does need to get to the top to see the best vistas of the city. The Vatican for instance, has a lift to the first level from which the views down to and across the Piazza San Pietro towards the Castel Sant'Angelo are magnificent. If you can manage the next 100 or so steps however, the view is even more stupendous.
The same with the Castel Sant'Angelo (to which the Vatican is connected by a secret passage), the imposing cylindrical building first erected as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian around 135 AD, the inner courtyard of which was once used as a place where executions took place. The steps to the top can leave you breathless but Opera lovers will enjoy standing on the roof and reliving some of the scenes from the last act of Tosca which Puccini set on the battlements of the castle. Cavaradossi (Tosca's lover) has been imprisoned in the Castel Sant’Angelo and when Tosca, discovers that he has actually been killed by Scarpia she leaps to her death from the roof.
Castel Sant''Angelo from across the Tiber
La Pieta by Michaelangelo, St. Peters, Roma
Leave a whole day if you want to see The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, the Vatican Museum and the surroundings. St. Peter's itself can occupy a few hours, some of them spent before the magnificent Pieta of Michaelangelo which is off to the side of the church at the entrance. The Museum houses treasures that have seldom been seen outside the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel needs no further introduction.
With all this sight-seeing one needs to keep the body well nourished, and Rome has plenty of small family run trattorias and pizza parlours to satisfy the visitor as well as the locals. Too many to recommend, just look inside any establishment and check how many locals are eating. Look for dishes you like - and don't forget to try any Rome specialities - and then, after eating, head for the nearest Gelateria and indulge yourself with some of the best ice-cream available, all fresh and all made probably just a few hours ago.
Leave time to walk to the Vila Borghese, not necessarily to view the house and contents although that in itself requires a few hours, but to walk in the peace of the beautiful gardens, stroll around the lake, and sit and listen the birds. Take time and smell the coffee is the current saying, well, you can do this too, as there is a delightful restaurant in the gardens serving excellent coffee - as the Romans like it, strong and black.
And after all the established places, the palazzos and piazzas, churches and castles, I return again and again, every day in fact, to the ever on-going excavations at the Roman Forums. It is fascinating to just wander up and down the sidewalks, watching a city come together from pieces of ancient stone. By day, one can see more and there are always some musicians there playing good classical music, but at night, the Forum takes on a magical air as the place is illuminated and the past seems to creep closer. Lovers kiss and hold hands, dreamers lean on the walls, serious tourists lose themselves in the moment, and the music is now Neapolitan Love Songs.
Roman Forum, end of day
Roman Forum, daytime
Roman Forum, nightime