The “Eternal City”, once the centre of the Western world, is not just an old Roman city. It is the Roman city, from which an empire sprang. Situated on the Tiber River, a continuity between the early settlements, the myths of Romulus and Remus, the Empire’s rise and fall, the Papal power struggles and the modern city that in itself has gone through various turning points in history.

But the river is not the main attraction, unlike the Siene, Danube or Rhine, this is merely an afterthought, perhaps unfairly. This speaks more of the quality of the architecture, for Rome is an origin of so many techniques and styles. You could spend days exploring buildings like the Pantheon or Piazza Venizia, but it is the subtlety of the lesser famous buildings that are just there for no particular reason, other than having been built for a variety of purposes many centuries ago. Isn’t this the difference between travelling somewhere and merely paging through some pretty pictures?

And then there is the food, the glorious Italian cuisine that is famous the world over. The pizzas from a wood burning oven, the gelatos (ice creams) with their silky smooth texture, the Spaghetti Carbonara made usig lightly cooked eggs and hard cheeses; these are to name only a few. One thing you will be sure of is that the food will be worth the journey and the price will be nothing outrageous.

In Paris there is the Eifel Tower, in Sydney the opera house, but in Rome there isn’t one or two, but many bucket list items to check off ones list. So where do you start? Well this depends on how long you have and what your priorities are, but any journey should start with a walk to the Colosseum. There is a priority card in Rome called the Roma Pass, which can be bought in advance from your travel agent. When you get to Rome, you immediately skip all the queues and you even get two attractions per 3 day pass included in what is a very low price. The Colosseum is one of the choices you have for free entry. Even if you have used your free entry on other attractions, the priority queue still applies to buying tickets and large discounts are also offered.

The Colosseum is not only a must-see attraction, but it is also quite a nice concise museum of the Roman legend, from settlement to Empire to modern Rome, via interesting historical points like World War II and the Papal influence. This is a half-day attraction, so go early and stay long.

Opposite the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, which used to be the centre of commercial activity and contains some of the original temples and shrines. You can literally walk in the footsteps of Caesars. What is rather interesting about the Forum is that it was gradually phased out due to its proximity to the Tiber and the complicated way in which the ground rose over time. This was not destroyed in a large event, rather abandoned due to the high maintenance and parts were paved over. It is a fascinating site and should not be missed.

Another nice site is the Palatino, with nice gardens and a splendid walk. Stroll through Augusta’s palace and enjoy the splendid view of the Colosseum and Rome’s centre. But this is the ancient city centre, as some early settlements had begun here before moving to the Roman Forum’s location. More towards the modern Rome, on the Piazza della Rotonda, you will find the Pantheon. From the front it looks like a “normal” Roman building, the entrance style very similar, but take a second look. This is a round building with a central dome. In the centre there is an opening called the oculus, which assists in lighting this church. Good Christmas markets can be found on the Piazza Navona, just west of the Pantheon.  

The Trevi Fountain is arguably the world’s most famous fountain. The water was originally pumped in using aqueducts from a water source north of Rome. This same water source also supplied water to many of the Roman baths. Place a coin in your right hand, turn your back on the fountain and throw one, two, three coins over your left shoulder. For the superstitious, the first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second brings new romance (perhaps skip this one if on honeymoon) and the third will ensure marriage. For the not-so-superstitious, the coins that are thrown into the fountain is used to feed the needy, so perhaps if you don’t require the luck for yourself, some luck can be brought to somebody else by your contribution.

Have you heard of the Spanish Steps? (Spanish? I thought we were in Italy!) Relax, your travel agent didn’t send you to the wrong place; the name is derived from the square below – Piazza di Spagna or Spanish Square – and in Italian the steps are named after the church towards where it leads. And what church is this? The spectacular Trinità dei Monti, of course.

And while you have scaled those imposing steps, you can now walk through the beautiful and historic Villa Borghese Gardens. There is a collection busts from Archimedes to Julius Caesar. Nearing the river on the north-western side, you will be able to walk down into the Piazza del Popolo, from where you can cross the Tiber and stroll along this underrated river’s western bank. This is where you will eventually come across the Castel Sant’Angelo, which houses Hadrian’s mausoleum. (Hadrian of course is the famous Roman leader that constructed Hadrian’s Wall in Britain.) There is a good vibe here with live performers aplenty.

So what is more famous than the Colosseum?

The Vatican City – or the Vatican City State – is the world’s smallest recognised independent state. This is of course where the Pope resides and it is clear where the church of the medieval era spent their money. At the centre, visible from most of Rome’s elevated districts, is St Pere’s Basilica. You should definitely get tickets to walk to the top, as there is no better view than the one from the top of the dome. You also get a pretty good view of the inside of the church, as you climb the dome. Other attractions are the Vatican Museums, which house vast collections of art and sculptures and you can even look at the Pope-mobiles of old and new. Equally important to visit is the Sistine Chapel, which is decorated with frescos, but it isn’t for these that the Chapel is famous, but rather for Michelangelo’s “The last Judgement” which decorates the ceiling.

There are many more museums and architectural wonders in this spectacular city, so these are just but a few must-sees.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Always look for pizza places that make their pizzas in wood burning ovens. They are cheaper and much better quality. There are a few around the Piazza Navona.
  2. The gelato (ice cream) is some of the best you will ever have, so you don’t have to get it from the touristy locations only. It’s a way of life in Italy, which is why it is so good.
  3. Have cash for dinner, credit card facilities are always advertised as being available, but very few restaurants actually let you pay by card. (A common excuse is that the telephone lines are down or simply that the machine is broken.)
  4. A good way to get around is by tram or bus, should the walking seem too much.

So what are you hanging around here for? Rome awaits!

Written by Super User

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