Rome, the Eternal City!
The fact that I’ve already been to Italy thrice while I actually told myself that I’ll avoid visiting the same country until after I’ve been to many European countries warrants that I actually write something about the country that I visited the most in this continent! :)
My first stop in Italy was its capital city of Rome. I spent around 4 days there. I would have preferred to stay longer but I had trains and flight to catch. I love to travel and I’ve encountered people (and or links/ blogs) who tend to distinguish between being a tourist and a traveller. Hmmm… I prefer the label traveller but if being a tourist meant going to the must-see places, trying the must-do things, chowing down on must-eat foods and taking loads of picture, then I’m a tourist to a T! But then, I don’t really enjoy joining guided tours and prefer taking my time to explore a place and every now and then, I prefer the less “touristic” route. Having said this, I would like to share how I explored this city (mistakes included so that you may avoid them yourselves. Okay, I went a bit off topic here, I tend to do that but please just bear with me ;)).
The city of Rome has two international airports namely Ciampino and Fiumicino. It’s pretty easy getting to downtown Rome from either of the two: you can arrange for a hotel transfer or take the express train (30minutes between Termini and Fiumicino for €11) but the cheapest option (and this is what I always do) is to just get on a bus, €5, when you arrive at the airport to take you to Roma Termini. If you’re flying out of the same airport, book a return ticket as that will save you a euro or two. Travel time takes between 40minutes (Ciampino) to an hour (Fiumicino) give or take several minutes due to traffic.
I love the fact that in this country, the ancient and the modern blend into each other harmoniously and a result is this very interesting city, much less country, that is just brimming with history, arts and culture! Sipping coffee in a steetside cafe that’s situated in front of a church designed by Bernini several hundred years ago or seeing kids play football and even using a centuries old cathedral’s wall to bounce their ball against.
Some practical tips for the city:
If you plan to stay here for at least 3days and you want to visit museums (and other attractions), buying a Roma Pass is a pretty good way of saving money. For €30.00, you get an unlimited access to their public transportation and free entrance for 2 sites plus discounts to others in a span of 3days. It ends on the midnight of the 3rd day.
There is one more way of saving money while in Rome. In this city, I don’t have to keep buying water which is very important coz it is hot and you’re doing a lot of walking! Why? Well, the city is famous for its aqueducts and its these amazing waterway system that brings fresh water from the outside into the city. There are thousands of little fountains called fontanelle (little fountains) or nasoni (so-called because of the nose shaped faucet) that can be found all over. The water here is refreshingly cool and tastes good. So what I do is just buy a bottle of water for €1 and I just keep refilling it while there! Saves the environment from too much plastic bottles and helps me save some euros too. ;)
Having an aperitif is a nice way of spending your evening. Technically speaking, an aperitif is an alcoholic beverage that you drink before a meal to stimulate the appetite. In Rome though, that means having a cocktail drink (or an aperitif) PLUS an all you can eat (appetizer) buffet for a very affordable price of €7! Foods include cold pastas, finger foods and sandwiches. I went to a couple when I was there and they’d always bring a new dish almost every 30minutes aside from the ones already out. There’s always something new to try! :)
The best way to go about exploring this city (even other places for that matter) is to go by foot, walk I mean. :) Just pick a spot and go from there. They did say that the best finds here be it restaurants, pizzerias or gelaterias are not on the main street but are hidden inside the city’s many nooks and crannies. :)
Sample 3 Days Itinerary
I will be suggesting an itinerary but I am in no way encouraging you to strictly follow it.
Start the day early so you can see more. Go to Spagna Station to visit the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti), the widest staircase in Europe. It links Piazza di Spagna at the bottom with Piazza della Trinità dei Monti at the top.
Walk then towards Fontana di Trevi, a huge Baroque fountain that’s very beautiful and is one of the world’s most popular. That being so,expect many tourists to be here as well. After tossing a coin into the fountain so that you’ll return to this city, head now to the Pantheon. Built during ancient Roman times, it is one of te most preserved buildings since it had always been in constant use. Originally serving as a temple for all gods, it is now a Catholic church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs.
Walk now to Campo dei Fiori which literally translates to a field of flowers. It is a bustling market that sells everything from pasta to hat to fruits and flowers. Buy fresh fruits already chopped and ready to eat in a glass for €3. Near the market is Piazza Navona. It used to be a stadium where the ancient Romans came to watch the “agones” (games).
If it’s around lunchtime by the time you get here, I’d suggest crossing the Tiber River and eat lunch in Trastevere (Trans Tiberem=beyond the Tiber River) district. It is a good place to look for places to eat because they serve good Italian foods at reasonable prices. Afterwards, you can walk around this district travelling in a north-easternly direction. This will lead you to Largo di Torre Argentina. Its claim to faim in this city is that it has now become an unusual cat sanctuary. A few minutes walk away is the Piazza Venezia. Built after World War 1, this monument houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour the soldiers who died and whose bodies were never found during that war. Just beside it is the Palatine Hill where it was said that the abandoned twin brothers Romulus and Remus were kept alive by a female wolf. And from here, you can see Rome’s most iconic structure, the Colosseum. Perfect place to have pictures taken during sunset in Roma. ^_^
If you are a Catholic and would like to go to Rome especially to see the Vatican then it’s best that you allot a day for the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. Visit Castel Sant’ Angelo after too. It was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and was later turned into a papal fortress. The late afternoon and evening would be free though for other stuff. Even if you’re not a Catholic, it’d still be nice to do this coz some of the most famous paintings could be found inside the museum and the Basilica is also really nice inside. ;)
If you’re up for museums and galleries, don’t miss Galleria Borghese when in Rome. You have to call for a reservation before youc ould be let in though. OR just chill, roam around and visit other museums, churches and eat. :)
There are actually a lot more to see in this beautiful cityy but at least if you do this, you pretty much covered the must see! ;)
Hopefully, I can follow up this entry with another soon! Anyways, I’m headed to Nice, France in a few days! Ciao! :D