Known as the Eternal City Rome is the capital city of Italy and was the heart of the Roman Empire. With a vast wealth of history, culture, art, and architecture the city really is quite a beautiful and interesting place. Located near the Tiber River the city is full of narrow, winding bustling streets each with a dash of history. With just three days to explore the city I managed to cram quite a lot in although I would definitely enjoy a return visit. Flying from Manchester to Fiumicino, I realised the plane was full of couples eager to experience this romantic city. As I was travelling solo, I really wanted to see the main historical attractions and I stayed at the Best Western President which was just a short walk up the Viale Manzoni to the Colosseum. For me the Colosseum was the main purpose of my trip to Rome and although I only had a short time in Rome I also managed to visit the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon with time to chill near the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and quickly visit the Vatican.
Within thirty minutes of arriving in Rome I was power walking to get my first glimpse of the Colosseum and I was not disappointed. An enduring symbol of Rome I was captivated and knew I wanted to go inside. It was ridiculously hot and sunny, and I burn very easily and so I did not want to spend too long queuing, but it was 11am by this point and the lines were long. However, I was lucky. Although I would have usually booked ahead, which you can quite easily do online, I was approached by a tour representative for ‘Fun Tours.’ He promised he could get me into the Colosseum and although I was dubious, I decided just to go for it! Thankfully, my instincts were correct and 15 minutes later I was inside the Colosseum on a guided tour of the Colosseum which was absolutely fantastic! The tour was around 45 minutes long inside the Colosseum and it was highly informative outlining the history of the Colosseum and the gladiators that fought within it. After the tour you could pretty much spend as long as you liked inside the Colosseum. As the tour included Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum which wasn’t until after lunch I spent a couple of hours inside the Colosseum which gave me a chance to revisit some of the places within the structure that the guide had been talking about.
I imagined the roar of the crowd and the clash of steel as the gladiators fought inside the arena. Having taught the Romans at school it was great to experience the Colosseum myself. The amphitheatre was commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD to host the brutal but popular gladiatorial games and animal combat. Despite its condition it still remains an awe-inspiring sight! The games were free to the public and gladiatorial combat always ended in death. Gladiators could be pitted against each other or sometimes wild animals that had been brought back to Rome from across the empire. In the first 100 days almost 5,000 animals were slaughtered in the opening of the games when the stadium first opened in 80 AD. The brutal games were eventually abandoned in 523 AD.
With views across Rome and of the nearby Arch of Constantine, there are plenty of photo opportunities and even though it was extremely hot there were places to shade in and enjoy being in the Colosseum. Reluctantly, I decided to leave the Colosseum to be on time for the next part of the guided tour. This was a good idea because of the crowds that I experienced, although the guides usually hold up an umbrella with the tour logo on it is best to make sure you’ve made it through the crowds in order to be in place for the beginning of the tour. I was also approached by several street traders, who can be quite aggressive. Although I was polite, I had to be assertive to escape them – especially one guy, who after he shook hands with me, began decorating my wrist with bracelets that he had designed!
Palatine Hill and Roman Forum
Next to the Arch of Titus is the entrance to Palatine Hill which is the oldest inhabited part of Rome. No visit to Rome is complete without a thorough exploration of the ancient city. This majestic hill towers over the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus, the ruins of its ancient palaces still visible from a distance were once the home of emperors and the site of temples and was at the centre of Rome’s most important myth – the legend of Romulus and Remus who were found in the cave of the Lupercal which our guide very enthusiastically told us about.
Palatine Hill is also something of a green haven containing the Farnese Gardens which offer shade, a place to chill and some amazing views of the Roman Forum below – perhaps the best in Rome. On one side, you can admire the Circus Maximus from high up, and look across to the Aventine Hill on the other side of the valley. But the most spectacular views are on the other side, where you can see the labyrinthine ruins of the Roman Forum in their entirety, the Colosseum, and the Capitoline Hill. From Palatine Hill you can walk amongst the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum. There is so much to see and so much to take in as each ancient ruin has its own history.
Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain
With its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful Scalina Spagna, or Spanish Steps are just one of these must-see places when in Rome and a great example of Roman Baroque Style. It is a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of the Eternal City especially in the evening as it starts to get dark and the whole of Rome lights up. The steps are a wide irregular gathering place consisted of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas, and terraces. They connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its beautiful twin tower church dominating the skyline. Views of the surrounding area are good from here too! The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 by architect Francesco de Sanctis and were financed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier. It was built in order to link the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the king of France, with the Spanish square below.
After relaxing at the Spanish Steps, I was keen to see the Trevi Fountain lit up. The sound of the water is audible before the immense Fontana di Trevi comes into view. The fountain depicts the sea god Neptune and was completed in 1762 making it a relative newcomer to the urban landscape. The theme is a celebration of fresh water into the city and the name Trevi is the meeting of water from the Aqua Vergine, Aqua Virgo and one of the repaired ancient aqueducts. I watched as people followed the traditional custom of throwing a coin into the fountain. Hold the coin in your right hand and toss it over your left shoulder and the tradition holds that you will return to Rome! I did this myself and I am now expecting to return to Rome very soon!
Pantheon and Piazza Navona
I was just relieved to be out of the piercing sun but the walk through the original bronze doors into the Pantheon is astounding. The height and diameter of the dome are exactly the same meaning that the space inside creates a perfect sphere. Light enters the open oculus above, a hole measuring 9 metres in diameter symbolically linking the temple and the heavens. I was happy to chill under the open oculus for quite a while and enjoy the peacefulness of the Pantheon. It was an amazing sight and the marble floors and tombs add to its grandiose.
After relaxing in the Pantheon and taking the opportunity to get out of the sun I decided to walk to the Piazza Navona which is a pedestrianised zone. There is a friendly and happy atmosphere with street performers, portrait painters and tourists. I loved the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi which means the Fountain of Four Rivers which incorporates the obelisk of the Circus of Maxentius. Four continental rivers are represented by massive allegorical figures providing a connection between the powers of the waters and the powers of the continents. The Danube for Europe, Ganges for Asia, the Nile for Africa and the La Plata for America are depicted. The figures provide support to lift the obelisk above the waterfalls. The fountains in contrast with the street performers were absolutely beautiful.
Rome really is a magnificent city which is truly rich in history and culture and I am hoping that I will be able to explore the city in more detail in the future!