1 WEEK IN THE “ETERNAL CITY”
Rome is one of the most fascinating cities on Earth and it’s undoubtedly on every traveler’s bucket list. It’s a suitable destination for art lovers, ancient history enthusiasts, aspiring archeologists but also couples, honeymooners and simply curious wanderers.
Let me tell you something more about our 1week trip to Rome and our Italian summer!
Let’s start with a few practical tips
Where to stay
Search for an affordable apartment in one of the most strategic areas of the city:
–Aventino: elegant, quiet and romantic
–Pigna: at the very heart of Rome with the main tourist attractions within walking distance
–Trastevere: if you’re planning to spend a few nights out
–Testaccio: slightly farther from the city center but authentic and traditional
How to reach the city center from the airport:
-Leonardo express train (Leonardo express | Cheap Leonardo express tickets | Trainline (thetrainline.com)):it will take you to Termini railway station. From there, catch a taxi or a subway train to reach your accommodation
–Sit Bus shuttle (Sit Bus Shuttle, transfer bus to and from Rome’s airports.)
–Cotral bus (COTRAL (cotralspa.it))
May – October to get warm and sunny weather every day. If you suffer the heat, it’s best to avoid July and August, since temperatures are often around 30°C (and more!)
It was really easy to reach our apartment with local transports and we got there around noon. After a quick lunch, we decided to start exploring the few blocks around our accommodation.
In less than 10 minutes, we reached Piazza Venezia, an elegant square dominated by Palazzo Venezia and the iconic Vittoriano.
We headed towards that austere, pure white and huge building looking decidedly out of contest in “Ancient Rome”. It is also referred to as the “Altar of the Fatherland” and it was built at the beginning of the XX century in honor of the first Italian King, Vittorio Emanuele II. Inside, there is also the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” in memory of the Italian soldiers who lost their lives in the two World Wars. This complex is worth a visit for the spectacular view you can enjoy from its top: you’ll see Rome at your feet and we thought it was the best way to start our week in Italy!
Despite being tired and a bit jetlagged, we decided to visit a museum nearby: the art one located inside Palazzo Venezia. It displays several artistic masterpieces that belonged to the private collection of Pope Paolo II and it’s a first taste of what Rome has to offer in terms of works of art.
After a 1h visit, we discovered a small and secret garden on the back of the building and we sat on a bench to rest a bit. It is a Renaissance garden which is still quite unknown by tourists and it’s a real oasis of calm and peace in the chaotic and busy city center. Its highlight is the XVII century fountain representing an allegory of Venice in the form of a lady.
Thanks to the strategic location of our apartment, we realized we could walk around the city center and see a great number of attractions in just one day.
We decided to start from one of the most famous spots: the Spanish Steps. We had already seen this place many times on tv and on the web, but it was even more spectacular in person! On top, we also visited the nice church of Trinità dei Monti, but not before taking a minute to admire the famous Barcaccia Fountain by Bernini, down in the square.
We reached another iconic Roman fountain in a few minutes: the Trevi Fountain. The first thing that struck us was its size: it covers an entire block! It’s quite hard to get close to the basin, since there is always a large crowd standing and taking pictures, but we finally made it and we threw the traditional coin to make sure we’d be back in Rome once more, sooner or later.
Just a few steps away, we spotted the dome of the Pantheon. We entered and we realized that its only light source was the hole in the dome, which creates a different atmosphere according to the particular time of the day and the season. The walls are covered in tombstones belonging to famous people and we stopped to pay tribute to Michelangelo.
We then reached Piazza Navona with its fountains and we stood before the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini: a tall obelisk in the middle of the basin surrounded by the allegorical statues representing four great rivers (Ganges, Nile, Danube and Rio de la Plata).
We got a bit hungry, but we did not stop in one of the bars and restaurants of the square, because we knew they’re overpriced. Just a couple of streets away, we found a nice café selling some tasty sandwiches at half price!
After a break, we enjoyed a 25minute walk through the city center and we reached the Colosseum. Thanks to our Roma Pass, we could skip the line and purchase an interesting guided tour at a small price.
After our visit, we walked along via dei Fori Imperiali to reach a famous belvedere: Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of the Capitolino Hill. This square was designed by Michelangelo, as well as the central statue of Emperor Marco Aurelio. But there’s another sculpture drawing attention here: the legendary wolf that raised Romolo and Remo, the twin founders of Rome!
A few words about Roman public transports: slow, late and always stuck in traffic jams but a picturesque and unmissable part of local everyday life! In the morning, we managed to get to the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. We spent a couple of hours among works by Cézanne, Monet, Canova and Van Gogh and we could easily have spent the whole day there!
After this artistic full immersion, we took a break in the beautiful Villa Borghese Park. Close to the entrance, we spotted a sort of Greek Temple. We were intrigued and, as we got closer, we realized that there was also a nice artificial lake with small rowboats for rent! We spent a few hours by the lake and we found out that the “ancient” building was the Temple of Asclepius, the god of medicine. We had lunch in a restaurant by the lake to extend this natural parenthesis as much as possible.
After lunch, we caught another bus to reach the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. These visits took us 4h!
We spent the whole day visiting the Vatican City, a State within a State spanning over 0,44 square kilometers and with about 1000 inhabitants. The Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican Museums require a thorough visit and we decided not to rush it to take in all their artistic beauties. The Vatican is such a special place that I’ll tell you everything later in a dedicated post!
Time to try the local subway lines: faster than local buses but equally crowded and chaotic. After a 30minute ride, we got to Ostiense neighborhood where we visited the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura. It’s the most important church in Rome after St Peter’s Basilica and it was built in the exact place where St. Paul was buried. It has a great religious and historical importance because it was the first basilica built by Constantine in 313 after his edit stopping the persecutions against Christians. We also visited the archeological site and the beautiful cloister.
After a quick lunch, we headed to the Caracalla Baths, near the famous Appian Way. They were built between 212 and 216 by the homonymous Emperor and their charm and luxurious atmosphere is still visible today, despite they are in ruins. Wandering through the complex, you can really imagine what was like to spend some time there during the Golden Age of Roman Emperors: it was not that difficult to believe that we were walking inside the most spectacular thermal complex of the ancient times!
Later, we got ready to spend a night out in Trastevere, like real locals. This neighborhood is vibrant, colorful, picturesque and full of young people, especially during the weekends. We had a nice walk along the neighborhood’s winding and cobbled alleys and we visited the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, whose mosaics and frescoes were recently restored. We enjoyed an Italian-style aperitivo (happy hour), then we chose a typical trattoria to taste some carbonara.
When in Rome, be prepared to visit plenty of churches! To continue our tour of the most famous ones, we headed to San Pietro in Vincoli. The highlight of this church is the statue of Moses sculpted by Michelangelo. There is an important relic too: the chains that imprisoned St. Peter in Jerusalem (“vincoli” meant “chains” in ancient Italian).
Just around the corner, we found the Domus Aurea: the majestic residence of Emperor Nerone which is almost intact after 2000 years.
With a short walk, we reached another Papal Basilica: Santa Maria Maggiore. This huge church is located on top of Esquilino hill and it’s one of the most important Italian holy places for Marian devotion. According to a legend, the Virgin herself asked the Pope to build this basilica in the IV century. The plan of the church was then designed on the ground by snow.
Close to the basilica, another smaller church is worth a visit: Santa Prassede, full of beautiful mosaics.
In the afternoon, we visited another basilica: Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. We hardly realized we had spent more than 30 minutes inside watching its frescoes by Pinturicchio.
We continued our exploration and we spotted a sort of “small colosseum”: the Marcello Theater, which took its name from the nephew of Emperor Augustus. Walking by, we reached the Jewish Ghetto. This part of Rome is often neglected by tourists, but it has some really nice synagogues, a quiet and old-fashioned atmosphere and many Jewish-Roman restaurants offering some local specialties you shall absolutely try!
Our week in Rome flew and it was time to go back home. Fortunately, our return flight was in the afternoon and we could still wander around in the morning! We chose to head towards the Tevere river and we crossed S. Angelo Bridge to take some last pictures. We finally got in front of the huge S. Angelo Castle: over the centuries, it was used as an imperial mausoleum, a defensive rampart, a papal residence, an archive, a prison and a museum! We booked a guided tour to make the best of our visit since we only had 1h to spend there before heading to the airport.
What you shall taste in Rome
Final practical tips