• Berni

Best guide for visiting Rome, what you should see in the Eternal City

Rome is the Eternal City that everyone must see at least once in a lifetime.

Visiting Rome is a real time-travel. Despite the city’s large size and nearly 3 million inhabitants, walking along the ruins of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum makes you feel like you’re walking through the cobbled streets of an ancient small town. Wherever you look, there is a monument, ruin, church, ancient building, sidewalk, ...


The atmosphere of Rome is quite special, because the big-city life feeling didn't take over the magic of the ancient city, and they really make sure, that the preservation of memories and ancient sites is the most important. Therefore, there are no large skyscrapers, high buildings, but the memories of antiquity, the cobblestone streets, sculptures, ornate columns, churches characterize the appearance of the entire city center.

But also further away from the city center, the two-storey buildings dominate which are characterized by ornate facade statues and large, beautifully crafted doors. Rome, I think, is a relatively green city, with lots of parks and wooded areas on the streets.

The most special to me, though, were the small drinking fountains on almost every corner (with a little exaggeration, of course) that ensure that no one is thirsty. Rome has an excellent network of drinking fountains. They show up in completely unexpected places, whether in a park or at a statue carved into the wall of a building, or just simply by the sidewalk. What’s special is that most of them can’t even be turned off, they don’t have a tap on them, they just run non-stop. The water quality is very good and not only quenches the thirst of tired tourists but also stands out as a cool refreshment on a warm summer day.


You can enjoy the Italian sense of life completely, while strolling through the small cobbled alleys, where you are invited to friendly restaurants on every corner for a good Italian pizza / pasta / gnocchi. It is normally very crowded on the streets because the restaurants and cafes have their own small seating areas outside as well, full of both locals and tourists. These places are typically furnished according to the motto "many good people can fit in a small place".

Most of the restaurants have their own ovens, where they bake their very tasty pizzas (often right in front of the guests).


How to get to Rome:

There are several budget flights to Rome every day. If you arrive by plane, you will arrive at either Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino Airport or Ciampino Airport. The former one is Rome’s major international airport at the coast, 30 km from the city. The second is only 16 km from the city, but there are fewer types of transport there. Some low-cost airlines have flights arriving at late night, around midnight, when public transport is no longer available. Then a taxi is the only solution. From Fiumicino Airport (upon reservation), taxis can be booked for ~45-50 Euros. Although Ciampino Airport is much closer, this price is only 1-2 Euros cheaper (if at all cheaper). However, transport is much easier during the day. Then there are trains, buses that take you to the city from as little as 6,5 Euros per person.


Public transport:

Due to heavy traffic, public transport buses do not usually arrive on time. The subway is the fastest way to get from point A to point B, but from there you can see nothing but the inside of the old subway trains. By the way, I recommend walking instead of public transport if someone is fit enough. A public transport ticket costs 1,5 Euros, and they are valid for 100 minutes from the start of the validation. It’s not worth cheating because there are a lot of ticket inspectors and they come in groups (under police supervision). In case of on-site payment, the fine is ~50 Euros, but in case of later payment it is double. It’s worth organizing a day where you travel long distances and have a lot of public transportation trips because of it. For this day, it is worth buying a 24-hour ticket for 7 Euros.


Accommodation:

There is plenty of affordable accommodation around Termini Central Train Station. It is also very ideal for transport and it is within walking distance of the city center. I can personally recommend Hotel GIUGIU'. This is a simple hotel run by a lovely little family. Fair accommodation can already be found close to Termini for 50 Euros/night, but of course the limit is the starry sky. At each accommodation in Rome a city tax is charged on top, which is 3,5-4 Euross/person/night.


So now that you are familiar with all the basic information, it is time to go through the sights for which it is worth visiting Rome:


Colosseum

The Colosseum, originally known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium, is Rome's most iconic building and symbol. The construction of the Colosseum began by Vespasian in 69 AD and was completed in 80 AD during the reign of his son.

The Colosseum held mainly gladiatorial fights and other "games." Due to its colossal size, according to estimations, it was able to accommodate approximately 50-60.000 people. It had 80 entrances, the winners and the deads were taken through separate entrances, and the senators and the priesthood, the rich and the poor, could also enter and exit through separate gates.

The Colosseum has more storeys, and the richer somebody was he could take a seat closer to the battlefield. And the poorer people and the women were on the top level, the furthest away from the battlefield. What visitors couldn’t see at the time was the basement level below the battlefield. This was the level where the gladiators stayed before the fights. Also, the wild animals were pulled up from here through secret trapdoors to the battlefield, where they became visible for the audience.


The ancient amphitheater was built with such engineering precision that it was also suitable for holding water battles in it. The battlefield could be filled with water and instead of gladiator fights, spectators could watch the clashes of battleships.

Unfortunately, if we think about it, it is quite sad that the Colosseum served the purpose of having tens of thousands of spectators watching the deaths of hundreds and thousands of people and animals just to entertain the audience. The famous medieval historian Beda Venerabilis said: “As long as the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls, Rome will fall; when Rome falls, the whole world will fall.”


Tickets at the Colosseum have not been sold since Covid started. Therefore, it is best to buy in advance online. (Where, btw a handling fee of 2 Euros is charged per ticket, for a ticket which costs 16 Euros anyway.) This basic ticket entitles you to a single entry to the Colosseum and a single entry to the Roman Forum, the site of the archeological excavations and the Palatine Hill. You have 24 hours for these 2 visits, so you can visit them on separate days, but within 24 hours. It is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to enter after 16:30 during the wintertime, so in this case, you might take advantage of the 24-hour ticket.


This type of ticket is the cheapest. With this you can visit the Colosseum, however if you also want to go the basement level and the battlefield level, then you can purchase a more expensive ticket. But in my opinion, you can see it quite well from the higher levels.

I think it’s better to go to the Colosseum first when the sun is still high and it illuminates the whole interior of the amphitheater. Then afterward, the Roman Forum, the Palatine, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of the ancient ruins, which is extra beautiful at sunset.


Forum Romanum, Palatine Hill

From the Colosseum to the entrance to the Roman Forum, you can walk on an ancient large-stones road, which gives you a tiny insight into a piece of the nearly two-thousand-year-old historical road. The biggest part of the Roman Forum is beautifully visible from the Via dei Fori Imperiali, but still it feels completely different to look at it from the outside or to walk directly among the ruins, churches, columns and the arches of triumph, where everything has a history that is hard to imagine.

You shouldn't miss the Palatine Hill either because it offers an amazing panoramic view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.


Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is most likely the second place after the Colosseum that pops up in everyone's mind when thinking of Rome. The Baroque fountain, which is more than 26 meters high and 49 meters wide, has been adorning the city since the 18th century. Its name comes from the Latin word Trivium, which means the intersection of three roads, and it is really situated like that. The virgin in the group of statues on the facade preserves the memory of the legend that the virgin helped the engineers to find the source of water, which then fed the plumbing.

Today, however, there is a much better-known legend associated with the Trevi Fountain, which is that if one throws a coin into the Fountain while looking back over the shoulder, then that person will surely return to Rome, to the Eternal City. I can confirm that the prediction turned out to be true for me ... :)


It is said that about the value of 3000 Euros is collected daily from the Trevi Fountain. In the past, a few homeless people got really rich from this, but now the city of Rome is entitled to this money, and they use it for charity.


Pantheon

The Pantheon was built in 27. BC by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, in honor of the gods of Rome. The Pantheon is perhaps one of the most outstanding works of the ancient architecture, because even after two thousand years the dome of the Pantheon is still the largest unreinforced concrete ceiling in the world. Because of the 9-meter diameter hole on the dome, doesn't matter if it rains or snows, there is nothing between the inside of the building and the outside world. But at the same time, the sunlight illuminates the inside of the cassette dome throughout the day. Since the roof of the building is practically "perforated", it was necessary to ensure proper drainage inside the building. However, when one walks inside and admires the beautiful interior of the building, s/he sees no trace of the drainage system, but it works properly.


Inside the Pantheon a 43,3 meters diameter sphere would fit exactly, which also shows the perfection of the building.