Possibly more than anywhere else in the world, Rome is a true mix of old and new. It’s a city that proudly flaunts its ancient history while it continues to evolve. It’s a living and breathing city, which means it’s crowded, dirty, noisy, full of kamikaze scooter drivers, and is a little rough around the edges. It’s also beautiful and its narrow side streets and ancient ruins are certainly romantic and magical, so despite its shortfalls, Rome continues to be many people’s favorite city in the world.
Rome is a large city with plenty of things to do and see, especially if you’re a history buff. Luckily, a lot of the main sites are fairly close to each other, so you can see a lot in a small amount of time.
Imagine you’ve been around for over two thousand years and people still come from all over the world to see you and take your picture. That’s what happens with the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and Rome. Unlike its counterparts from the ancient world however, Italy‘s capital city is still crammed full of inhabitants who are busy getting on with their contemporary lives, taking the (packed and slow) bus to work every day, whilst crumbling ruins and millennia-old monuments rise up at the side of the road at every corner. Like all modern metropolises Rome has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants, nightlife and entertainment, but there are very few cities in the world where the sense of history, of world-changing events, bloody spectacles and political intrigue are so palpable that the visitor’s imagination can’t help but stir.
There are a few Roman attractions that require an entire day’s perusal, such as the Vatican Museums, which host centuries of artistic and historical treasures. Admission is free on the last Sunday of every month, when of course the queue is massive and the museum closes at noon, so set the alarm clock and be prepared.
Rome is currently undergoing a bit of a facelift. We arrived late afternoon and wandered the streets until we stumbled upon The Trevi Fountain (which is unfortunately under construction at the moment), The Pantheon, which was one of my favourite buildings in Rome. Its original incarnation was even older than the Coliseum, although that was destroyed by fire. It is particularly remarkable for its enormous dome like ceiling, famous for having a hole known as the occulus at its apex, through which the building is lit. and Piaza Navona (an unexpected favourite).
Italy is a country defined by food, and Rome is no exception. You shouldn’t have to eat badly in this city. Sadly, many unscrupulous restaurants are more interested in gaining a quick buck than making their customers sigh with culinary content. Unfortunately we uncounted this poor food and rude service on our group dinner. The number one tip for ensuring you don’t have a bad meal in Rome is to steer clear of the restaurants near tourist attractions and in tourist hotels.
The next day the group visited the Vatican City in central Rome, which is one of those places that you really can’t visit Rome without seeing. As well as being the seat of Christianity, this place is home to some of mankind’s most famous pieces of art, including Michelangelo's David, and the Sistine Chapel. Not all took the tour, like us we headed down the street to check out Castel Sant'Angelo. I would say, you'll be better off skipping a lot of other bloated attractions such as Trevi and Spanish Steps. You'll need a day to fully check out this magnificent castle, full of history. Take your time and read the descriptions. You'll come out of the castle knowing more about the history of Rome. No time to check it out we all headed over the bridge and looped back to the Vatican to regroup with the others. We then headed to the coliseum guided tour. There is perhaps no more recognisable Italian structure in the world than the coliseum, where early Christians were thrown to the lions, and gladiators battled to the sound of crowds baying for blood. People talk about the place holding a great sense of history and the smell of fear.
The biggest pet peeve of our trip to Rome was the seemingly omnipresent salesmen on the street, offering umbrellas, scarves, knockoff purses, parasols, and the biggest scam, “free roses.” They can be quite insistent; one man even put a rose in Kim’s bag and then tried to charge me for it. (Let’s just say he was smart removing it quickly and walking away) Just avoid direct eye contact, say no, and keep walking.
Watch the tour here: