There's no Place Like Rome
ROMA! This was the city I was most excited to see on my tour of Europe. Rome is Rome, there is no place like it anywhere on this earth. I have always dreamed of seeing the Colosseum for the first time. How I would feel? What would it be like? I anxiously anticipated touring the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and the Trevi Fountain. Continue reading for some suggested sites to see when visiting Rome!
Rome has an extensive public transportation network consisting of buses, a subway (metro), trams, and trolleys. A single journey ticket that’s valid for 75 minutes is 1.50 euro. A 1-day pass is 7 euros, a 2-day pass is 12.50 euros, a 3-day pass is 18 euros, and a 1-week pass is 24 euros. Taxis are very expensive (like everywhere in Italy), so it’s best to avoid them if possible. Uber, the taxi alternative, is available in Rome.
Piazza Navona is one of the nicest squares in Rome. It is full of restaurants, antique shops, and art shops. The Piazza is free, but food in the Piazza is pricy. Go a few streets out and stop in at a little caffe or resteraunt and enjoy. Its harmony and colors, combined with its elegance, give it an irresistible charm. It is a more relaxed part of the city and a good place to visit if you want to see what it is like to live in Rome. I suggest seeing the Pantheon, Trevi and the Piazza together. A short walk from each other. Let yourself get lost rambling down the many beautiful streets around the Piazza.
On my first day of Rome, I took the metro to Barberini. I got off at Barberini to see the Trevi Fountain and made my wish! You don't need a tour or tickets to see the fountain, you can just walk up to it. It is a public space so beware for pickpockets which are very common in this area. It was so beautiful to see the fountain early in the morning because there were no other tourists there making a perfect photo opportunity. The first time walking to the Trevi Fountain, we knew we were getting close to it because we could hear the water running before we saw it. My first reaction, wow. The baroque style fountain is a lot bigger than I had imagined. The architecture was absolutely stunning. The facade of the fountain is made entirely of beautiful white Travertine and the statues are made of marble. When looking at the fountain, the center is dominated by the statue of Oceanus, the god of water. His chariot is being pulled by two sea horses which are being guided by two Tritons. The fountain appears to sit lower into the group compared to the surrounding buildings. This is because it was constructed to use the natural water pressure from the aqueducts for the fountain without the use of pumps. Rome recently passed a law that you cannot sit on the edge of any fountain in the city, so don't sit on it! Also, I learned that every night the money in the fountain is collected and donated to charity. People throw a coin from their right hand over their left shoulder. If you throw in one coin that means you're returning to Rome. If you throw in two coins, that means you will meet a new love interest. If you throw in three coins, you will get married! I won't tell you how many coins I threw in.
Next stop was the Colosseum! The way I walked to get to the Colosseum, I had to walk uphill. When I finally reached the top of the hill, I was not expecting it but I looked up and saw the Colosseum. There it was for the first time ever, I am seeing it in person. I was so in awe of the colossal structure which made me feel so magical. It drew me into its mystery. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason. As I toured the inside, I learned some facts about the Colosseum: 75,000 people could fit inside and the whole Colosseum was built in only 12 years. As soon as I walked inside the Colosseum, I thought about Russel Crowe in Gladiator. I can picture the crowds of men and women sitting separately wearing white robes and waiting to be entertained. I also learned that it wasn't uncommon for people to bring their kids to these events to watch. The Romans brought the animals from other parts of Europe and the Middle East to fight against the gladiators. The animals were starved and locked in pitch dark dungeons so they never really had a fighting chance. I learned from my tour guide that Romans were not very civilized back then. These events at the Colosseum were their main form of entertainment. Even when they held plays, they would legitimately kill people in the death scenes instead of just acting it out to get the full effect for the audience. The layers upon layers of history and stories of people who screamed, laughed, cried and most importantly, died here were far too deep for me to begin to feel like I truly understood what this large theater really was. Overtime, the structure was damaged and repurposed. Today, you can only see the supporting three-walled structures of the Colosseum. Thanks to restoration and preservation efforts, you can visit and enjoy Roman history right in front of you!
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church, in Rome and the best preserved Ancient Roman monument. It is on the site of an earlier temple during the reign of Augustus. Overtime, it came under Catholic rule becoming a church. The most fascinating part of the Pantheon is its giant dome, with its famous hole in the top. Since it is a place of worship, it is free and open to the public. No long queues, no admission fee and what you see will never leave your memory.
On my last day in Rome, I toured the Vatican and saw the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century. Whether you are religious or not visiting the Vatican and Saint Peter's Basilica is a must. The Vatican lies in the center of Rome and it is considered it's own country. Vatican City is the official residence of the Pope. I did learn that you can get your passport stamped there, but do not get it stamped. If you get your passport stamped there, it automatically makes your passport invalid. The artwork in the Vatican is absolutely stunning, I was just mesmerized and in awe. Once we entered the Sistine Chapel, photographs were not allowed. The entire room was filled with fresco paintings telling different narratives. The narrative begins at the altar and then is divided into 3 sections. In the first three paintings, Michelangelo illustrates the story of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, then the Creation of Adam and Eve and the Expulsion of the Garden of Eden, then the story of Noah and the Flood. The cost of the ticket is 16 euro and priceless.
A few general must know's before you visit Rome:
- Getting around Rome is easiest and cheapest by walking so be prepared to walk. Rome has a metro system, it is just very limited on where it goes. I got off the metro at Barberini to see the Trevi Fountain, but even then I had to walk aways to get to the fountain from the metro. So don't plan on wearing your Louis Vuitton heals around Rome even if it fashionable!
- In Rome, pedestrians don't have the right of way so be very careful when you are crossing the street. People in Rome are fearless drivers, they won't run you over, but at the same time they aren't stopping either!
- Do not be surprised with crowds. Rome is a world class city not to mention the capital of Italy so there will probably be people everywhere you go. If you are trying to avoid masses of people there are three solutions: 1) Go somewhere else to visit 2) If you are determined to visit Rome, try visiting in the off season which is between October and April. 3) Tour the city at sunrise. In Rome I got up super early (crack of dawn, literally) to see the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum in all its glory (no tourists) and it was amazing. I didn't have to squeeze through masses of tourists to get to the front or wait for people to move to get my perfect picture.
I was trying to find the best way to describe and give the same feeling that Rome gave me. That's why I added the optional music below because this song is exactly how I felt in Rome. If you ever wondered what Rome feels like, press play and give it listen!
Rome, I loved you.
Off to Florence!