In an earlier post, I gave you a peek into how we spent 24 hours in Rome. Now I’ll tell you exactly how we did it, and what we saw. Get your walking shoes out!
We started our adventure at about 2 PM on a Friday, after a brief cafeteria-style lunch at the friendly, adorable Agora restaurant around the street from our B&B. We first took the Metro to the Ottaviano stop and walked down Via Ottaviano to the Piazza San Pietro, where we stopped to gaze in awe at St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums
The line to enter was intense, so we chose to simply admire the square and the dome. The basilica evokes Greece and ancient Rome with the colonnades at its facade. We’re not huge into churches though, so we decided to go for one of the masterpieces of the art world: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. If you have time, certainly explore the basilica — inside is one of famed Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s sculpture masterpieces, the Pieta.
The Sistine Chapel, also by Michelangelo, is located inside the Vatican Museum complex. The museums are made up of various buildings with long galleries. It’s important to note that you can only go one way through the museum, so if something catches your attention, make sure to take a moment.
We loved the map gallery, and of course the Chapel itself is amazing (but no photos allowed!). It’s smaller than I expected, as with most things that gain such fame, or perhaps we were just so far below. The nature of the art — stories from the book of Genesis — definitely imparts a certain feeling. It’s necessary to find a quiet corner (there are benches, but they’re almost impossible to get to) in order to have a moment to simply gaze up and admire the lush art that fills the ceiling. For those like us who are generally unmoved by religion, it was still impressive to see the achievement of someone who either truly believed in religion, or believed so much in his ability to bring religious stories to life, that there is almost little difference.
Interestingly, Michelangelo was also partially the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican and the rest of Italy owe much of their beautiful art, whether it’s painting, sculpture or architecture, to this great man.
Entry to the museums is 16 EUR for adults.
Roman Holiday made the Spanish Steps famous. So it was ridiculous how crowded the steps were. It was hard to enjoy them despite the beautiful day and the warm sun, so we only spent a few minutes there before heading away.
The fountain was almost as crowded as the steps, but unlike the steps, there was a little more room here and people tended to drift in and out like waves. The fountain is majestic, and really more a pool than a fountain thanks to its size. Tradition says that sitting at the edge and tossing a coin into the water behind you will bring you luck.
We grabbed gelato from a store nearby and sat at the fountain through sunset, watching people come and go, and admiring the lights as they came on after dark.
Tout watch: There are people here who will very kindly offer to take your photo as you attempt to take your selfies by the fountain. You can take them up on it but be ready to turn them down when they insist that you pay for a photo that they will take with their own professional camera.
One more stop before we headed home for the night: the Colosseum, that most Roman of Rome’s edifices. It was a bit of a walk from Trevi Fountain, but its honeycomb bulk eventually came into sight. Lit yellow and red in the darkness, the almost-2000-year-old amphitheater is still grand and magnificent.
We strolled around it for a while, and then decided that after a night’s rest, we would return to see it in the daytime.
Pro tip: See that daytime photo? Try to find that street along that side of the Colosseum (it’s fairly close to the ticket booths, and up a slope). It’s a great spot for pictures and there’s not a lot of people around. Note the line to enter the Colosseum, If you want to go in, go there early!
The world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, despite 2000 years of existence, is only one amazing thing about the Pantheon. The singular building, with its massive granite columns and circular structure, has seen continuous use throughout the centuries.
The oculus, a circular opening at the top of the dome, lets sunlight into the interior and displays the artwork and tombs that rest inside. It’s a beautiful building and we spent about an hour admiring it, setting the tone for what we would enjoy in Rome the rest of that morning.
Italy has a lot of plazas and squares. The Piazza Navona used to be a stadium where games were held. Now the square holds various fountains and is surrounded by baroque buildings. There is supposed to be a special market here every Christmas, so don’t miss it if you’re in Rome during the holidays.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is a large square that now holds an open-air market. All kinds of things can be bought here: fruits, cheese, flowers, pasta, and more. We bought some delicious strawberries!
We heard that Campo de’ Fiori can be a bit rough at night, so be cautious and alert as usual when traveling through here.
Altar of the Fatherland
The Altare della Patria is also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II in honor of Victor Emmanuel, who was the first king of Italy. You’ll come upon it from Via Venezia: a massive imposing structure filling one end of the road. It houses a museum, and you can ride up to the top for good views of Rome.
I was pretty pleased though with everything we were able to see in the few, short hours that we had. If you have more time, this list is still a good start. You can split it between two or three days: take a whole morning exploring the Colosseum for example, and easily spend a whole day at the Vatican. There is a lot more to see in Rome, of course: I can’t believe we actually missed the Roman Forum! Whether you have a day, two, or a whole week, there is a lot in the Eternal City for you to enjoy.