The cobbled streets of Rome are a pleasure to wander. For those who prefer more stamps in their passports than savings in the bank, getting lost isn’t an inconvenience – it’s an adventure.
There’s something new to discover around every corner; from the city’s most iconic landmark the Colosseum, commissioned in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, to the picturesque square Piazza del Popolo, of which a climb above to Terrazza del Pincio, hosts panoramic views of the entire city (and it’s neighbour Città del Vaticano). The list of monuments, ruins and ancient sights to explore is as long as the Eternal City’s history itself.
COLOSSEUM, PALATINE HILL AND ROMAN FORUM
The saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’ couldn’t be more true. Long straight routes make up a vast majority of the roads in the city, with many finding their way to the most visited trio of landmarks in the capital; the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum was the stage of an endless number of bloody battles between the years of 80 AD, when it was completed, and 404 AD, when the last known gladiator competition was recorded. Each were watched not only by those important enough to be allowed front row seats, but by all wealth classes – even those considered slaves – providing entertainment to over 80,000 people.
If you plan on taking a tour inside just one of the many sites in Rome, make sure it’s the Colosseum – its incredible size and structure cannot be fully appreciated until you’re walking inside its walls, standing where so many Romans, both gladiators and spectators, have sat before you.
The Palatine may be overshadowed by the fame of its next door neighbour, but the most famous of Rome’s seven hills is still worth a walk around. In Ancient Rome, it was considered one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the city, and therefore was the home of many aristocrats and emperors.
The majestic hill of Palatine towers over the Roman Forum, which was once the centre of public and political life. Today the Forum is the Eternal City’s most impressive archaeological site.
PIAZZAS (NO, NOT PIZZAS)
Despite not being in the centre of the city, from the Roman Forum you can easily wander to many other monuments and landmarks. Take a walk down Viale di Fori Imperiali, and you’ll reach Piazza Venezia. At this square, four major roads meet, and as a result the square has become a central hub for traffic. Regardless of this, it is still worth a visit as the intersecting thoroughfares are lined with clothing retailers, souvenir shops and an endless number of quaint Italian eateries.
A second pedestrianised square worth taking a wander to is Piazza Barberini. It is particularly striking due to its two fountains, built by sculptor Bernini, however the real gem in this area is it’s adjoining road, Via Veneto. This street is one of the most famous (and expensive) in Rome, however is also home to some of the most elegant cafes and restaurants in the city. Bottega Italia is one of these restaurants, and serves up a tasty Roma pizza – with buffalo mozzarella and cured prosciutto ham – for only €10. Not so expensive after all.
If you’re content sitting with a coffee or a slice of pizza and watching the world pass by, other idyllic piazzas to explore include Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.
TREVI FOUNTAIN, SPANISH STEPS AND PANTHEON
Just north of Piazza is Venezia is the Fontana di Trevi. The Trevi Fountain is another of the most visited tourist attraction in the city, and is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain in all of Rome.
Fun fact – the Trevi Fountain, along with a few other major Roman landmarks, has made it to the big screen. Its most famous cameo was in La Dolce Vita, when actress Anita Ekberg bathing in the fountain clothed, however the monument has been featured in many other films including Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain and even The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
A short walk from the Trevi Fountain is Piazza di Spagna. This Spanish square is the home of the Spanish Steps. The 135 step staircase was built at the beginning of the 18th century to connect Piazza di Spagna and the Church of Trinità dei Monti above. This favourite tourist spot is the ideal location to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of Rome.
Another monument to visit to soak in the culture and atmosphere of the city is the Pantheon. It’s a bit of a mystery how the Pantheon managed to survive over the years – when almost all of the other Roman monuments had been shattered by raids – but today it still stands intact and is the most well-preserved monument in the whole city.
Walk east from the Pantheon, crossing the river Tiber, and before you know it you’ll be in another country (yes, really!). It’s easy to think that a visit to Vatican City doesn’t involve leaving Italy, but technically speaking, that’s exactly what those who cross the border are doing. Completely encircled by the city of Rome, the Vatican is the world’s smallest country and occupies a mere 0.44 sq km.
Although small, Vatican City contains some of the most popular attractions in the entire Italian peninsula, including the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Just be prepared to queue to get inside.
Also on the west bank of the Tiber, south of Vatican City, is a district that is often overlooked. Escaping the modern developments which have changed the face of much of the rest of the city, the area of Trastevere has retained its narrow lanes and unique character, making it a charming place to wander around, eat and relax.
Split into two distinct sides by Viale Trastevere, the Santa Maria side sees tourists and students mingle in and out of expensive pubs and tavernas. On the other side, to the south, the genuine spirit of Rome breathes amidst the cobbled streets and traditional osteries.