Let me begin by saying this: two days in Rome is not enough! It can be done – you can see all of the big sights that we all hear about, but they will be two very full on days! Rome is an incredible city with the history literally surrounding you – everywhere you look there is bound to be something interesting. And a warning: this is a long one – and I barely even touch on the history of the Roman Empire…I’d be writing for days if I did!
We decided that we have made the ultimate itinerary for those who have limited time in Rome. And when I say we made it, we were told by our Busabout guide what to do…but hey it worked for us therefore I will claim it.
DAY ONE: We kicked off our day with a visit to the Roman Forum. Hot tip: the tickets for the Roman Forum are valid for the Colosseum and vice versa for the same day – so instead of waiting for upwards of 2 hours for entry into the Colosseum, take a two minute walk down the road to the entrance of the Roman Forum and wait in line for about 5 minutes and get your tickets there! 12€ for entry into both sites – and absolutely both worth it! We spent about an hour and a half wandering around what could be called the epicentre of Western Civilisation. We thought the ruins were spectacular, so we could only imagine how impressive it would have been thousands of years ago. I absolutely loved the Forum – I didn’t really know what to expect but overall I was just so amazed by the Roman civilisation and what they achieved so long ago – a running trend for my time in Rome. Next up was to meet our walking tour group. We did a tour with the Rogue Historians – it was called the All Over Tour(21€ with Busabout) and that was exactly what it did. We met at 1pm at the Circo Massimo (the worlds largest stadium where chariot races were held – used to hold upward of 200 000 people!!!) and went from there. Our tour guide, Justin, was a hilarious and cynical Canadian – made the day ten times better. He told us two versions of the history of Rome – the Romulus vs Remus twins born from a Vestal Virgin who had been raped by the God of War, Mars. In summary, there was a fight between the twins, Romulus won, hence ‘Rome’…. and thus all Romans were descendant from the God of War and thus could conquer everyone. The other version is far less exciting; Romulus was a trader and was wealthy and thus began a community which attracted more and more people, thereby creating the city of Rome.
We walked both Palantine and Aventine hills, saw the Teatro Marcello (in which people now live, and the top level is for sale for a casual 32 000 000€…pocket money), the national monument (which the Italians hate!), the Palazzo Venezia and of course, the Pantheon. This building is spectacular – the 16 columns in the front were taken by the Romans from Egypt (because why not) and transported all the way from there into Rome – via slaves and elephants. The outside of the building does not represent the inside – the dome is amazing! To make it even more amazing, you can think about how long ago it was made!!!!!! The Romans may have been crazy with their gladiator fighting and so on, but they definitely were an impressive empire.
The tour ended by the Colosseum where Justin made us all squirm with gory stories of a day in the life of the colosseum when games were on (which were all free, by the way!). Think animals versus animals, then animals versus men/slaves, then public executions for fun, then think gladiator fighting…. I won’t go into details but it was disgustingly gory and detailed! The walking tour took about 4 hours and did go to a few other sites, but for the sake of brevity I won’t go into details – but it was absolutely worth it and if you’re pushed for time in Rome I’d definitely suggest it. We then used our pre-purchased tickets and went into the Colosseum. Another tip is to do this in the afternoon – we went about 5/6pm and there was barely anyone there. If you think the outside of the Colosseum is awesome – wait until you go inside! I’ll let the pictures describe it:
We finished the epic day by catching up with a friend of ours, Mel, from uni and having dinner with her and her family in the Piazza Navona.
DAY TWO: Another hot tip: pre book your Vatican museum tickets online!!!!!! DO NOT forget – the line is disgustingly long….hours long. Meanwhile, we just waltzed right in past those line suckers… Very satisfying! The Vatican museums are insane – I had absolutely no idea how much would be in there. Here I was thinking we would just waltz into the Sistine Chapel…wrong! There are 20 exhibitions in total, one of which is the Sistine Chapel, and 14 of which are before the chapel! Prepare yourself for an intense day! We opted for the audio guide which was a good call as it gave us a bit more information so that we were able to appreciate everything we were seeing a bit more, but we could do it at our own pace. Another tip: don’t skip an exhibition that you want to see, because you can’t go backwards. Well technically you can, but have fun battling against those crowds! There are exhibitions covering absolutely everything – my favourites were the ancient Egyptian exhibition, and the Galleria dele Carte Geografiche – I.e. A map gallery. As strange as it sounds, the roof was the most impressive part of this exhibition – as with many of the rooms – the detail of the paintings were incredible. This of course brings us to the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately no photos are allowed in there, so I can’t share them with you. However the Chapel was not at all what I was expecting. Having only ever seen the infamous photo of God and Adam reaching for each other, I assumed that covered the roof….wrong again! This part is only one small part of a larger collection of images – it is an amazing piece of artwork, just completely not what I was expecting! The photo below is of another fresco in one of the exhibitions.
After finding our way out of the maze that is the Vatican museums, we made our way to St Peters Square, because little to our knowledge, even though you bought a ticket to the museums you still have to exit the Vatican, walk around to St Peters and join the queue there. Luck was on our side as we arrived at about 12.30 to find the square closed (the Pope had been speaking earlier that day so it had been closed off to the audience). We were told it was to re open at 1pm so we just planned to hang around with the crowd and fight our way in, but a few minutes later they opened the gates and we were able to scramble into the line, relatively close to the front. Still thinking we’d have to wait 30 minutes to get in (in 30 degrees, not so fun), but knowing this was shorter than any other time, we were very patient (well Lauren was). But 10 minutes later they opened the lines and 2 minutes later we were in!!! Ridiculously lucky as when we came out sometime later, the line stretched aaalllllllllll the way around the square – about a 3 hour wait!!!! I’m not going to lie – I laughed at them . Anywhoo, St Peters Basilica is absolutely gigantic, and incredible beautiful. I knew it was one of the largest churches in the world but that didn’t prepare me for how huge it was! Everything about it was beautiful – floor to ceiling, the whole thing is an incredible work of art! If you get there and the lines are disgusting, you can pay 15€ for a ‘tour ‘ that can help you skip the line. Either way, you definitely have to go in!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, eating and just taking in the smaller sights we had missed before. Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps are completely covered in scaffolding (as is most of Europe it seems!), and aren’t due to be uncovered until May next year. Good timing!
So in a nutshell that was our two days in Rome! Hectic, exhausting, hot but amazing. This is definitely a city I will come back to – even if I didn’t get to throw a coin in Trevi fountain! We head off tomorrow morning to Orvieto, a small city in Umrbia! Then we move onto Siena and then onto Florence! Successfully eating my way through Italy so far!