I have visited Italy a few times so far but have never been to Rome! My Italy trips included Florence, Venice, Pizza, and Milan and I just couldn’t wait to visit Rome.
I knew that one day I will be visiting Rome, but I wanted to make sure that I will have at least one week time for touring the most notable attractions of the city and experience each of them in a best possible way.
December 2018 was the time we decided to take this trip, and we are glad we did it this at time as the weather was perfect (sunny and crisp) and the crowds at the main attractions were not as large as they use to get in summer time.
We were already in Italy on our skiing trip to Livigno, Lombardy region and afterwards we drove to Rome. It was a long 8 hours drive, and due to some traffic jams on our way we arrived at the hotel late at night. It was Christmas time, to be more exact our first day in Rome was on the 23 December, so even though we had one week stay in Rome I knew that it is not going to be enough to fulfil all the planned visits considering that some of the attractions which we were planing to visit were closed on Christmas Day such as the Vatican Museums , Sistine Chapel as well as the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.
1. Vatican City
On our first day in Rome, early in the morning, we headed to the Vatican City to get the tickets for the Museums and Sistine Chapel and realised that we made a big mistake by not purchasing such tickets online with the available skip the line option.
We had to get in line and wait about 2 hours. So, I strongly recommend that you book your tickets online directly from the Vatican official site with skip the line option and allocated time slot for visit; this way you will save your valuable time.
Doors to the Vatican Museum open at 9 am, so I recommend you arrange your entry for as close to then as you can manage. I realised that the Vatican Museum gets really crowded as the day progresses, so getting there early will let you enjoy it for a while before it gets too busy.
There’s loads to see in the Vatican Museums so we spend a whole lot of time here. Our favourites included the Map Room;
the Animal Room;
the Raphael’s Room;
Roman Emperors statue room;
various and endless corridors full of frescos and rich Renaissance art throughout this holy place;
the most presios marble apliques on athe floors and throughout;
the famous Belvedere Torso;
After being amazed by all the art in the endless Museum corridors and various rooms, we entered the famous Sistine Chapel, the Papal election venue. Even though it was early in the morning the crowd on the Chapel was unbelievable. The security gurads kept repeating that we must continue walking and we were not allowed to stop at any point and of course not allowed to take pictures. I was able to circulate for about 20 minutes in there and admire the altar frescos by the incredible Michelangelo.
After exiting the Sistine Chappel we were able to enjoy visiting St. Peter’s Basilica the world’s largest church, and what is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. With designers including Bramante, Raphael, Bernini and Michelangelo, it’s a magical Renaissance building, and is a work of art in itself – before you even start to consider all the artworks within!
We also wanted to take a look of the Basilica from above, so we climbed to the top of the dome. This offered superb views across the city, as well as the view of beautiful Vatican gardens.
2. Castel Sant’Angelo
Originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, the Castel Sant’Angelo has been sitting on the banks of the river Tiber for nearly two thousand years. In that time it has evolved from its initial role as a tomb, becoming a fortress, a castle, and finally, a museum.
3. Piazza del Popolo
This is the location of the northern gate of Rome, and is where, for countless years before trains, planes and cars, travellers would actually arrive into Rome.
From here, three roads span southwards in a trident formation, with the central road, the Via del Corso, running dead straight through the centre of Rome to the Piazza Venezia. Originally this would have been the route from the northern gate of Rome to the Roman Forum.
In the centre of the Piazza del Popolo is an Egyptian obelisk, dating from the rule of Rameses II, which was brought to Rome in 10BC, and put in this plaza in the 16th century. On the south side of the Piazza are the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto, and Santa Maria del Miracoli, sitting either side of Via Corso.
We visited Piazza del Popolo on a Christmas Day, which was a sunny, bright and most beautiful day ever. We sat on the stairs of Egyptian obelisk and enjoyed the sun, the street music and everything this beautiful day had to offer. Afterwards, we walked through Via Corso all the way to the Piazza Venecia, which is a magnificent square. The highlight of this square is the building which was closed on the Christmas day but since it was close to our hotel, we went the next day and had a chance to get in and see how it looks inside. Magnificient, in and out and there were some art exhibitions taking place on the lower floors of the building.
4. Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps were the first attraction that I got to visit in Rome. On our fist day in Rome we got up early to go to the Vatican Museums and the staff from the hotel we were staying at gave us instructions how to reach on foot to the Vatican City. The direction they gave us sent us through these stairs. After a five minute walk from the hotel we reached the Spanish Steps and continued on the Condotti street, which is a high end shopping street, and then headed to the Vatican City. We didn’t know that our hotel is just around the corner of Spanish Steps, a really cool spot to be at and enjoy the Holiday cheer.
This 135 step staircase was opened in 1735 to link the Spanish Embassy near the bottom of the steps to the Trinita dei Monti staircase at the top, and are today a popular spot to stop, eat Gelato in summer, and watch the world go by.
5. Trevi Fountain
Wandering through our hotel neighbourhood we ran into the Trevi Fountain the world’s largest Baroque fountain. Since we walked a lot during our visit in Rome we passed by this fountain almost daily and it is always a crowded location, whatever time of the day (ir nihgt) you visit. Built in the early 18th century, it is said that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome. Of course, I threw a coin and I would love to return there in a near future.
6. The Pantheon
A little walk from the Trevi Fountain is the incredible Pantheon. This building, which has been standing for almost 2,000 years, is the best preserved Ancient Roman monument in Rome. I was impressed by it’s incredible dome, which even today, two thousand years since it was built, still holds the record as the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Originally built as a temple to the Roman gods, the Pantheon was converted for use as a Christian church in 609 AD, which is the main reason it survives in such excellent condition today. It’s also notable for being home to the graves of the painter Raphael and two Italian Kings.
7. The Colosseum
Our fourth day in Rome started with the Colosseum visit. Built in Roman times as a space for holding public spectacles, the Colosseum is most famous for being the home of gladiators, who would battle it out in front of audiences that could number as many as 80,000 people.
The Colosseum, the incredibly large and outstanding human made creation is the largest amphitheatre in the world. Once you visit this site you notice the damage that this structure has suffered in it’s thousand years of existence, but despite everything it is hugely impressive to visit, and anyone is just wowed with the work of the ancient architects and craftsman.
There are always huge crowds to visit Colosseum and Palatine Hill, so purchasing an online skip the line ticket for this attraction is a must. We purchased ours in the official site of Colosseum in this link.
8. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
This was the seat of power during the reign of the Roman Empire, as well as the central marketplace and business district. Basically, Roman life for centuries revolved around this area of Rome, so for me this was the most interesting visit in Rome as no visit to the city is complete without walking these ancient ruins.
During my law studies some 40 years ago, the most voluminous subject on the first year’s curricula was the Roman Law, and I was especially intrigued with the famous Twelve Tables which in fact were stone tables in which Romans engraved and documented the centuries-old customary laws which became the foundation of Roman law as we know it. The Twelve Tables touched on many areas of law, not only the civil law that applied directly to citizens, but also areas such as public law and religious law, which applied to larger social constructs and institutions.
The Temple of Saturn (498 BCE), one of the oldest structures in the Roman Forum, dates back to the earliest days of the Roman Republic. Adjacent to these columns in the Forum are the remnants of the rostra, the speakers’ platform, on which the engraved tablets of the Twelve Tables were mounted for all to see.
We had a week in Rome and were able to visit most of the attractions. We took our time and enjoyed the visit to each of the attraction on our list. The nicest thing is that, because of the central location of our hotel, we could walk to all the attractions. Considering that the weather was perfect we enjoyed the Rome and got quite familiar with the streets and Piazzas of the central Rome.
Piazza dei Venezia
In every street corner wendors were selling baked chesnuts, and I can still smell them!!!
We aslo visited a lot of churches, which are almost 900 in this city and each of them is more beautiful than the other. There are so much to be seen and experienced in this beautiful city, and I know that we just experienced a glimpse of it, but one week is just not enough.
However, when you leave the city and reflect back, you realise that you have seen a lot in one short week, and that the trip have made you feel more positive, enriched and happy.
Hope to get back to Rome again; a made sure to threw a coin in Trevi Fountain, and I am hopping that this will work!
Thank you for visiting this blog and taking time to read this long post.