Welcome to historical and cultural paradise!
Get ready for three to four very busy days during which you can cover all major sights. In this post I will present you an intense 3 days itinerary which will cover all the important sights. Of course you can plan for a longer stay and do a more relaxed version. But we were moving around city all the time and saw as much as we could. So this is Rome through our eyes and it was amazing.
Here I would like to suggest that tickets for all the sights you are planning to visit are bought in advance (Colosseum+Roman forum, Vatican museums). Unfortunately you cannot buy reduced tickets online- students or elderly- but it will definitely spare you some nerves as waiting lines during the season are extremely long. And another thing, entry to St Peter’s basilica is free, so you will have to stand in line. When we arrived in Vatican around midday, the waiting line was almost around the whole square. So here is my tip – we waited and visited basilica around 5 o’clock when there was almost no line at all! I do not know what the situation is like in the morning as we had tickets to Vatican museums for 1 o’clock, which is the reason we arrived so late.
First day was the most intense and exhausting one. In the morning we went straight to Colosseum, it was first Sunday of the month – admission free day. We walked around this ancient beauty and admired this monument that is standing here since Roman imperium. It is very thrilling to see the very place where so many humans and animals lost their lives. Actually Colosseum is not the biggest arena – that is Circo Massimo – but it is definitely the most famous one. Ticket for Colosseum also covers entrance fees to Palatino and Roman forum and is valid for 2 days.
From Colosseum I would suggest you continue to Palatino and Roman forum. Palatino hill is where Romulus, supposedly, killed his twin brother Rome. Palatino was the richest neighbourhood in Ancient times and many remains can still be seen. Casas and palaces of most important people were here on Palatino. So walk a little bit around and just take it all in. Below the Palatino hill lies Roman forum – nowadays there is just a lot of ruins, not very organized so you will need quite a lot of imagination. Walk down the Via Sacra and admire ruins of all temples and basilicas that were built here during the poshest times of Roman imperium.
So if you will walk down the Via Sacra from Palatino, you will come to the next sight that is on our list – Capitoline hill (Campidoglio), heart of the Roman Imperium. Next stop will be a huge building on Piazza Venezia made of white marble calle Il Vittoriano. You can get on the top and admire some amazing views or just take some pictures with this beauty in the background. On the same Piazza is also Palazzo Venezia from which’s balcony Mussolini gave some of his most famous speeches. So now you could probably have something to eat and then we will get lost in the narrow streets of Centro Storico.
Some of the most important things to see in Centro Storico are Pantheon, two thousand years old temple that has oculus and was transformed into Catholic church and Piazza Navona with its famous Fountain of four rivers in the middle and chic small cafes around the square. But if you just wander and get lost in the streets of Centro Storico you will see so many ‘’not so famous sights’’. Elephantino – elephant that is carrying an obelisk on his back, the only gothic church in Rome (Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva) and crowds of tourist that are moving from one sight to another. Not so far away from here is also the most famous and probably most photographed fountain in the world – Fontana di Trevi. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of it, because when we were there two years ago, fountain was just undergoing some restoration work. So this will be the end of the first day, the most intense one.
Second day is all about Vatican. As I already said buying tickets for Vatican museum is highly recommended. You buy tickets for specific time of the day so be at the entrance at the time listed on your ticket. Vatican museums is a huge complex, includes two different buildings – Vatican and Belvederes Palace. It is rather impossible to cover everything in one visit. Here I will not get into specifics, a lot of famous artwork is displayed here, but you can read all about it in travel guides or on the internet. The highlight is definitely visiting Sistine Chapel and admiring huge Michelangelo’s fresco all across the ceiling – Genesis (Creation).
After you are done, I would suggest you grab some lunch and a bit later in the afternoon – around 4 or 5 o’clock – try your luck visiting St Peter’s Basilica. Waiting line should be a lot shorter than earlier in the day. St Peter’s Basilica is standing on St Peter’s square, one of the most famous public spaces in the world with the high obelisk in the middle. For entering Basilica you have to be dressed appropriately – shoulders and knees should be covered, otherwise they do not let you enter. So if it is really hot, bring some clothes to cover up. It would be a shame to wait so long and then not get in.
I said that this day will be all about Vatican, but that is not entirely true as very close by, is Castel Sant’ Angelo, castle built as mausoleum for Hadrian, a Roman emperor, but was later converted into papal fortress and connected to Vatican by secret passage way (you probably know that if you have read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown).
Third day will be focused on the northern part of Rome. In the morning, go to Piazza del Popolo (metro station Flaminio). This is a really great spot to just sit down and watch people rush from one place to another. Obelisk that is standing in the middle of the square was moved here from Circo Massimo. From Piazza del Popolo stairs lead up to Vila Borghese Park. Just wander around a bit as park is really huge, there are bust sculptures of many important Italians throughout the history. The most important sight in the park is Vila Medici – this is the place were Galileo was kept during his trial. The park also offers some shade and refreshment during hot summer. When you have enough of wandering around, return to Piazza del Popolo and then walk to famous Spanish stairs on Piazza di Spagna.
When you take a photo, continue your walk to Piazza Barberini and then to Quattro Fontane, four fountains located at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fonatane and Via del Quirinale. Two of them represent rivers – Tibera and Aniene, and the other two represent goddesses – Diana and Juno. From here on you can also visit Piazza del Quirinale and Palazzo del Quirinale, palace that was chosen by Pope Gregory XII as his holiday residence.
That three day plan covers all major and some minor sights in Rome. You can of course extend your stay and enjoy your trip in a more relaxed pace. If you do extend your trip or if you find some extra time during this three days, I would suggest visiting Piazza della Repubblica or Basilica di San Lorenzo – one of four patriarchal basilicas in Rome, built in 4th century!
Until the next time!