This post brings me back to our 3-week honeymoon in Italy! Mike and I hit the road and traveled through Rome, Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany & Sienna, and Cinque Terre. Italia…indeed the sweet life.
The Eternal City. The City of the Seven Hills. The center of the Roman Empire. History spanning 2.5 THOUSAND years. And some say, a birthplace of Western civilization.
Welcome to Rome.
With roughly 3 million residents and 12 million tourists a year, Rome is Italy’s capital and one of the most visited and most photographed cities in the world.
Home to ancient ruins, incredible architecture, Vatican City, masterpieces of art, and a historic center deemed as an UNESCO Heritage Site – this city has the highest concentration of historical and architectural riches in the world. Here, some of those riches you don’t want to miss!
>TIP: If you plan on using public transportation and checking out museums, investing in the Roma Pass can save you some time and money. A 48-hour version is also available if you’re only in Rome a couple days.
Rome is the only city to host an entire foreign state within its confines, the walled Vatican City – center of the Roman Catholic Church and the smallest recognized independent state in the world. Visit the Vatican Museums & Gardens, The Sistine Chapel and St.Peter’s Basilica.
>TIP: Note that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays – except the last Sunday of every month when there is FREE admission from 9am-12:30pm. Get there early to avoid long lines.
The St. Peter’s Basilica stands where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried. It was originally founded by Constantine in 324 but was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Michelangelo, Bramante and Bernini. St. Peter’s tomb rests beneath the main alter of the basilica.
This ancient amphitheater and iconic symbol of Rome was completed in the year 80 AD and used for gladiator contests, Titus’ famous 100-Day Games, and other public festivities/spectacles. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, it was the largest building of its era and could hold up to 60000 spectators! Today, it is one of the top tourist destinations in Rome. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance to skip the line at the entrance.
Currently, this popular site is undergoing renovations and under scaffolding. Tod’s, the Italian luxury shoe brand, is footing the $35MM(!!) bill. This is the first full cleaning in the Colosseum’s history, in 2000 years! Renovations are expected to be completed in 2015.
The Roman Forum
The Forum was first developed in the 7th century BCE and for centuries thereafter, became the economic, political, judicial and religious center of ancient Rome.
Wandering the grounds and imagining what life was like in the Roman Republic over 2000 years ago, I could almost picture the likes of Julius Caesar and Augustus among the ruins – no time machine required here! It’s incredible what still remains standing after so many centuries.
The Spanish Steps
Completed in 1725, this stairway of 135 steps was constructed to link the Trinità dei Monti church above with the Spanish square below. Climb the steps and you’ll be rewarded with great views of the city below.
And fashionistas – the area around the square is today a destination for shoppers looking for luxury brands and a good starting point for this part of your itinerary 🙂 Well, I’m just saying…when in Rome…
Standing 86 feet high and 163 feet wide, the Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in all of Rome and one of the largest in the world. Completed in 1762, the fountain is located at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BCE by the son-in-law of Augustus, Agrippa. The center of the fountain is dominated by Neptune, god of the sea in Roman mythology.
Popular superstition states that tossing a coin in the fountain (with your back towards it) will bring you back to Rome. So go ahead, toss a coin over your shoulder…and let me know if this works for you. I did this in college and well, just a few years later ;), here I am again!
Currently, the Trevi Fountain is also under renovation and under scaffolding until 2015. If this is a must-see for you, delaying your trip until it’s complete is worth the wait.
This monument was built by the Emperor Hadrian around the year 126 AD as a temple for the gods. Originally commissioned by Agrippa, the first two temples that stood before it were destroyed. The third one built was apparently the charm and has stood the test of time. Over 1800 years later, the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Rome.
More than 43 meters high, the dome of the Pantheon was the largest in the world until 1436. In fact, Michaelangelo studied the dome here before beginning his work on the St.Peter’s Basilica.
The inscription in Latin near the top says: “M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT” – “Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius, having been consul three times made it”.
The Pantheon is still an active church today.
>Safety Tips: Just like any other big tourist destination, Rome can be a hotbed of tourist traps and scams. Be careful in crowded areas and keep an eye out. Here, some things to watch out for.
Treating Your Taste Buds
Indeed, the food in Italy and specifically in Rome, is among the best in the world. There is so much deliciousness, it’s difficult to narrow it down! For starters, here are some foods you must have, when in Rome…
- Pasta Cacio e Pepe – famous in Rome, this simple but delicious pasta is made with pecorino romano cheese and lots of pepper
- Pizza Bianca – literally means white pizza and is a focaccia bread that can be found in most bakeries
- Carbonara – this pasta dish based on eggs, cheese, pancetta and pepper is a Roman favorite and must-eat
- Roman Style Pizza – very thin and crispy pizza that is quite different from what you can find anywhere else in the world
- Saltimbocca alla Romana – which translates to “hop-in-the-mouth” is a dish made of veal topped with prosciutto and sage cooked with white wine and butter. Mmmm truly does hop in your mouth!
- Have yourself a delicious cup of cappuccino
- Gelato, gelato, gelato! – Need I say more? 🙂
Some notable restaurants:
So travel back in time, stay safe, eat well and enjoy your Roman Holiday!