One Day In Rome
Like most cities, Rome cannot be experienced in a day. Nor a week. Just standing in line to enter the Vatican or tour the roman quarter alone, requires a day of your precious travel time. To worsen matters, a city that has been around for as long as Rome, has no shortage of both touristy and ancient treasures to discover. Your breath will be taken by the sheer scale of the ancient structures dating back to 753 BC. At every turn you will uncover a new and wonderful treasure to observe, to savour, to experience…
Colosseum | Roma | Italy
On a personal note: Roma is rather dear to our hearts for another reason. Nestled between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum , we were strolling along a small pedestrian walkway leading to the Chiesa di San Sebastiano al Palatino. The streetlights had just been switched on in the fading light of dusk. It’s warm glow lighting the songbook of a mature busker, lovingly strumming his guitar. It is here, amidst the falling yellow leaves that we decided to spend our lives together. This called for celebration. With a view of the dramatically lit Colosseum, we enjoyed a uniquely local plate of cheese, charcuterie and wine. After which we made our way to the unassuming Piazza della Madonna dei Monti for a night of celebration with our new-found Roman friends.
Top Left: Bridge to Saint Angelo Castle; Top Right: The view looking down into the city from Piazza Della Repubblica; Bottom: A very shaky photograph of said walkway to Chiesa di San Sebastiano al Palatino
If your road too leads to Rome, join us for an unforgettable 24 hour whirlwind tour of the eternal city.
First things first, we stayed at the Hotel Serena, which is situated a very convenient two blocks from the Roma Termini Railway Station. A quaint, reasonably priced hotel, within walking distance of many of the great sights. The Serena was recommended by my parents, aunts and uncles whom have resided there once or twice before. Upon arrival we were greeted by the delightful Mimi. The four pawed day-time resident of Hotel Serena.
Hello Mimi! Hotel Serena | Rome | Italy
Despite being located amongst a myriad of restaurants, we absolutely have to recommend that you take a walk past the Piazza Della Repubblica to Via Flava, and enjoy possibly the best pizza you will ever have. Pinsere is located in a business district and is bustling with customers around lunch time. The menu is simple and delicious. Orders are taken at a glass counter filled with uncooked pizza. You make your pick, and it is cooked for you on the spot. As Pinsere serves largely the employees of surrounding business, it is not open over weekends- keep that in mind when heading that way. When travelling from the Roma Termini Railway Station, your walk towards Pinsere will take you near the following sights: Piazza Della Repubblica; Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri; Baths of Diocletian; Fountain Dell’Acqua Felice; Chiesa di Santa Susanna alle Terme di Diocleziano and Museo Numismatico della Zecca Italiana. Needless to say, you will also be tempted by a number of delectable deli’s as you wander the streets of Rome.
Top Left: Pinsere Pizza; First and second line: Piazza della Repubblica; Third Line & Bottom Left: Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri; Bottom Right: Fresh produce displayed in the streets of Rome.
Now come with us, as we get lost in the capital of the world for one whole day. In just over 20 kilometres, you will wander to many of Rome’s most loved piazzas, fountains and religious landmarks.
No visit to Rome is complete without standing the in the shadow of the colossal, imposing Colosseum. During the time of our visit , many high-end brands were sponsoring major rejuvenation projects in and around the city. The Colosseum is no exception- at the time, a luxury time piece brand was sponsoring a cleanup of this grand structure. It was absolutely fascinating to see how exhaust fumes have blackened the structure over time, an how light in colour, the structure really is.
From here, we visited the Arco di Constantino (right next to the Colosseum), and strolled along Forum Romanum (Roman forum). It is also from here that you can take guided tours inside the Colosseum or Roman Forum, should your schedule permit it. As perhaps one of the most renowned tourist destinations in the world, you need to be prepared to be overrun by street vendors trying to force the latest gimmick on passersby. During our visit, the item of choice was selfie-sticks. And holy cow were there many people selling these! If we had one Euro for every time we were offered a selfie-stick we would have a coin stack the height of the average man. Unfortunately, this is true for most of Rome.
Top Left: An uncleaned, blackened section of the Colosseum; Top Right: A section of the Colosseum that has already been cleaned; Middle: Colosseum and Arco di Costantino; Bottom: Cleaned sections of the Colosseum- and perhaps the only full view without scaffolding.
From the Colosseum, we made our way along Via dei Fori Imperiali, past the Basilica di Massenzio, Tempio de Antonia e Faustina (inside the Roman Forum), Foro di Nerva, until we reached the Moseo Centrale del Risorgimento. Within a 100 meter radius of this junction, we found a multitude of sights: Piazza Venizia, Moseo Sacrario delle Bandiere, Palazzo Valentini,Colonna Traiana, Piazza Foro Traiano, Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venizia, Piazza di San Marco, Palazzo Venizia, Poazza D’Aracoeli, Chiesa sel Gesù, Palazzo Altieri, Palazzo Bonaparte, Museo della Cere, Palazzo Colonna, Mercati di Traiano…
Next stop: my absolute favourite, the Trevi Fountain. En route, we passed the Largo Angelicum, Villa Aldobrandini and Gardini di Montecavallo into Piazza del Quirinale. This piazza is situated between the Palazzo and Scuderie del Quirinale.
On a side note: One street up we found the most beautiful public gardens that seemed idyllic as the sun danced on the grass was it broke through the rustling leaves. This was one of those places that made us feel like we are truly in Europe. A small and quiet garden across the road from the magnificent Quirinale Gardens- which isn’t open to the public. Here, on the lush green lawns, underneath the trees, we took a brief break to ‘re-group’ and pretend we have days more to spend in Rome.
Top Left: A beautifully kept public garden; Top Right: Autumn leaves in December; Bottom: Roman deli
From the Piazza del Quirinale- packed with journalists and uniformed security at the time- we made our way down a large stone staircase, towards the Trevi.(it is also worthwhile to mention that the Vatican is visible from the Piazza.) A mere 3 or 4 blocks down, we arrived at the wonderful, tourist-packed Trevi Fountain. Now as I mentioned before, many of the sights in Rome were being renovated and rejuvenated at the time, and the famous Trevi too was scheduled for a revamp. Although this was not the day we would get to see the Trevi in all its watery glory, we had the rare opportunity to walk across a bridge, built over the fountain during the renovation. For the first time, the public could get a closer look at the sculptures, typically only seen from afar. Much of the damage caused, was through coins tossed into the largest fountain in the city. At 26,3 metres high, and almost 50 metres wide, this marvel is one of the world’s best known fountains for a reason, and the masses of people didn’t bother as much. To ensure that the temporary bridge isn’t overloaded with too many over eager visitors, only a small group got to walk across at a time. (The brief moment of personal space was immensely appreciated.) Only a few steps into our crossing a small, glimmering object flew by our heads, and pinged into the sculpture behind us. Low and behold, the coins were still flying! It saddened us that despite desperate measures to keep coin flingers at bay, tourists would still chuck coins from very far away, into the now dry fountain bed. Chipping away at the delicate and already damaged surface. Walking across the suspended bridge, it felt a lot like playing real life Angry Birds. We should have patented it then and there and called it Angry Coins…
Top: View from Piazza del Quirinale- our very first view of the Vatican City; Bottom: The Trevi Fountain under construction
Fontana di Trevi
Through a maze of narrow cobble stone streets, we made our way next, to the Piazza Navona. From the Trevi, passed a number of small Piazzi, Palazzi, the Basilica de Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and of course the Pantheon. Piazza Navona was another special stop. For one, I considered it may Trevi-stand in, as there were no renovations at the time. This grand open space contains no less than 3 sculptural masterpieces, a number of small market stalls and stands, and vendors that sold us what would become Hans’ very first roast chestnuts. Notwithstanding the scenery, my favourite part about this Piazza was Hans eating the furry bits of the chestnut. Biting into the extremely bitter, finely textured hair, rendered an hysterical facial expression, and an immediate dislike for chestnuts. It is worth mentioning that this Piazza was less crowded than the Trevi, partially due to its size.
Warm Roasted Chestnuts
Nourished with a generous serving of warm roasted chestnuts, we were off to the Vatican. To reach the Vatican, we had to cross the River Tiber. There are two options near the Piazza Navona. Two blocks down Via Giuseppe Zanardelli, you will find Museo Napoleonico and the River Tiber. Once you’ve crossed the river, Piazza dei Tribunali welcomes you to the Law Courts or Corte Suprema di Cassazione, behind which Piazza Cavour hides. The alternative is losing your way in the general direction of Ponte Sant’ Angelo. This is our suggestion, and also the route we chose. The Sant’ Angelo Bridge leads to Castel Sant’ Angelo, perched on the bank of the Tiber. While finding our way here, we discovered along the way, many of the following : Chiostro del Bramante; Santa Maria della Pace; Piazza di Montevecchio; Piazza san Simoene, Parrocchia Santa Maria in Vallicella; Chiesa di San Salvatore in Lauro and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. From these bridges we had a charismatic view of the lazy Tiber coming and going around the slack bends that shape so many roads of Rome.
The River Tiber
From Ponte Sant’ Angelo, The River Tiber, facing the Vatican City
The star shaped Castel Sant’ Angelo marks the first ground level view of the Basilica di San Pietro. Four blocks down Via della Conciliazione brings you to Piazza San Pietro. If you are uncertain of your location, the longest line known to man marks the entrance to the Vatican. Should your schedule permit it, you can opt for a guided tour inside the iconic headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. You can bypass the tremendous line by paying an additional fee to one of the vendors selling their tours in the Piazza. They fill pre-booked groups from tourists willing to pay the additional fee to avoid the 3-4 hour long line. Nearly trampled by another herd of selfie-sticked street vendors, we took a selfie and moseyed down Via Cola di Rienzo towards Piazza del Popolo.
Left: The line for entrance to the Vatican; Right: The Selfie that almost cost our lives (No stick required)
A considerably sized open plain marked by Rome’s oldest obelisk, welcomes visitors from far and wide with music by small groups of musicians and bands, scattered around the Piazza. As the daylight grows dimmer, the atmosphere of Christmas eve becomes more apparent. With each passing moment, more and more decorative lights begin to sparkle. The crowd simmers down as they flow into the many, decorated streets congregating in the Piazza. Whilst an undercurrent of desperate last minute shopping bubbles through the otherwise docile atmosphere, no-one really seems rushed. The stores are open and filled with customers; restaurants are opening for dinner. Like the lethargic River Tiber we just crossed, we stroll down Via del Babuino towards the Spanish steps .
Top: Sculptures and Architecture in Rome; Bottom: Piazza del Popolo
Past the Fontana del Babuino, Tiffany and Chanel. It was here that we realised just how much there is to see of historical significance in Rome. Gauging by the influx of selfie-stick salesmen, we should have known that we were approaching something ‘big’… Through the crowd here the tranquil sound of water flowing. It is the Fontana della Barcaccia, a boat-like fountain that reminds me strangely of Piazza Navona. This is the Spanish steps. the steps are filled to the brim with groups of chattering teens and tourists alike. If you make your way to the top of the steps, you’ll find the Obelisco Sallustiano, Trinità dei Monti and Fraternita’ Monastica Delle Sorelle Di Gerusalemme. The view we see is far from what we expected. This too is wrapped in the advertisement of the renovation sponsor. Down Via del Due Macelli we walk, as the light grows dimmer still. Here you’ll find the most expensive Mc Donald’s known to man. In their defence , through the underground maze you arrive at perhaps the fast food joint with the most character known to man too. Alas, this is not for us, we want to dine with the locals.
Top Left: Building wrapped during renovation/ rejuvenation; Top Right: Piazza Mignanelli; Bottom: All us tourists documenting each other in Via del Babuino
Spanish steps and Fontana della Barcaccia
Before concluding our evening, we walked straight down Via delle Quattro Fontane and then Via Agostino Depretis to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. In the chill evening light we appreciate the last of the sights on our chosen route: Crossing of Quattro Fontane Incrocio delle Quattro Fontane and Piazza del Viminale. Then, through a forested opening in the architecture, Piazza dell’ Esquilino. The large white facades of Cappella Paolina and Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore are clustered together. And around the corner, Basilica di Santa Prassede and Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale. Closer to home, in our very street, one block over, we come across Acquario Romano and Casa dell’ Architettura, surrounded by gardens.
Sights about Rome
For your last night, may we suggest Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere- a place of gathering for locals and travellers alike- often with live music. Alternatively, opt for our personal favourite, the Fontana dei Catecumeni at Piazza Madonna dei Monti. Here you can acquire wine and Prosecco by the bottle. Glasses come with a polite request to return upon your departure. Take your drinks to the fountain steps, and enjoy a very hipster evening in Rome. This piazza is surrounded by restaurants serving meals and finger foods alike, your munchies will not go unanswered here.
Piazza Madonna dei Monti
For our last evening, we finally had pasta in Italy. It was better than what Venice had to offer some years before. It was in fact, exactly the parting meal we had hoped for.
What To Pack
Rome is an exciting mix of business and pleasure; permanent and temporary residents; Italian nationals and immigrants. Here you could probably get away with almost anything, depending on which crown you want to fit in with. We tend to aim for ‘looking like a local’. Which in Rome means smart, to smart casual. As you will most likely be covering quite a bit of mileage by foot, make sure you have great walking shoes.
How To Arrive
Arrive by road, rail or air. The local airport is Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (Airport code FCO), and from there, you can take a train straight to Termini in Rome. Although Rome is not situated on the coast, 80 kms away is Civitavecchia , which is considered the port of Rome. By train you would travel approximately 1h30 between the port and Roma Termini Station.
What To Eat
- Pinsere Pizza, to begin with…
- The fresh produce is spectacular, and is available all over
- Pizza Bianca- a foccacia style pizza
- Bruschetta- Toast rubbed with tomatoes and garlic, then served with a selection of fresh toppings and olive oil.
- Nonna Betta or carciofi- the famous Italian treat of artichokes
- Fried zucchini flowers
- Pasta Carbonara
What To Drink
- Prosecco – Italy’s take on bubbles
- Local wine (often included in touristy meal packages)
- cappuccino- as it comes
Things To See & Do
The great sights are situated close together, and you can easily walk between them. Do yourself a favour, and avoid driving in Rome at all costs. Many of the streets are not fit for driving, and there are masses of people almost everywhere.
The list of sights to see is long, but here are a few of the big ones:
- Vatican city
- The Colosseum
- The Trevi Fountain
- Spanish steps Piazza di Spagna
- Piazza Navona
- Roman Forum
- St Peter’s Basilica
- Basilica of St John Lateran
- San’t Angelo Castel
- Forum of Trajan
- Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
- Sant’Andrea della Valle
- Santa Maria sopra Minerva
- Sistine Chapel
- Piazza del Popolo
- Galleria Alberto Sordi
- Via del Babuinoand il Babuinospeaking fountain
- Piazza della Repubblica
- Villa Borghese gardens
- Piazza del Campidoglio
- Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II
- Palazzo del Quirinale
There are few places in the world, as densely packed with noteworthy places of interest. Simply getting lost here, is enough to bring you to the doorstep of a thousand wonders. If ever you can avoid it, do not spend just one day here. This magnificent city deserves much, much more of your valuable time.
In the words of Gaius Iulius Caesar
-“Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.)”