Ideally, if you are coming to visit Italy you wouldn’t have just one day to see the beautiful city of Rome, but sometimes schedules get in the way or you only have so much time so you have to make do.
Unfortunately for myself, it was exactly that. On my week-long holiday with my girlfriend to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome was thrown in to fill one of the final free days we had as a way to get a taste of the city. It would have been nice to have roughly eight hours in the capital, which is what we should have had, but our bus from Naples to Rome was over one-and-a-half hours late (Buscenter was the company if you’re interested).
We went despite many a moment of regret and sitting in the bus terminal wondering if we should just give up and go home. So, we had a more compact day than what we would have liked but we still managed to see a lot thanks to Rome’s layout. We didn’t have much of a plan for the day other than getting the metro to the Colosseum and going from there. Luckily for us we found numerous attractions close by, but looking back, there was a lot we missed that we could have seen if we happened to walk another direction.
With my own experience in mind and using my new-found knowledge of Rome, I know how I would go about walking around the city and seeing the sites.
Firstly, I would start at the Colosseum. The path I’m going to take is a loop that finishes at the Colosseum as well. There are some tourist attractions outside of the loop but I feel this is the best way to get bang for your buck.
Depending on where you are staying it shouldn’t be hard to get to the Colosseum. There is a metro station that leads you straight out to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. So close in fact it seemed like as soon as I stepped outside the station I was already craning my neck to look at the top of the structure. Of course, you can pay to enter the amphitheatre but there is something special about being on the outside looking in. When I think about the history of the Colosseum and the gladiator fights, sea battles, executions and dramas that all took place inside those walls, I feel as though I might be better off leaving the inside to my imagination as I admire the beautiful architecture.
As you continue to walk around the Colosseum you will first see the Palatine Hill in the not too far distance and the Arch of Constantine in front of you as well as the Arch of Titus close by.
Both arches are impressive in stature but commemorate very different types of Roman history. Built in AD 315, the Arch of Constantine is the younger of the two monuments and was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge three years earlier.
The Arch of Titus is just a three-minute walk from the Arch of Constantine and will likely remind you of the Eiffel Tower which was inspired by the Roman arch. Not built for just one triumph, the older arch was built by the Emperor Domitian to commemorate his older brother Titus’s death and victories in battle.
The Palatine Hill is another attraction that requires payment but can be observed from below if you don’t want to pay. There are many temples to see on top of the hill and from the hill you can overlook the Colosseum on one side and the Roman Forum on another.
These four attractions are all very close to each other and if you do decide to start there, it will only make you wonder what more is in store. The only word of warning I would give is take your time around here but don’t overdo it. I thought that because there was so many things to see in such a small area that we would surely have to do a fair bit of walking before we came across anything else. As a result of this, we probably spent more time there than we needed to.
Whatever order you decide to view those monuments, the Roman Forum is just a five-minute walk from the Colosseum and the Arch of Titus.
You can get there by walking along the extremely impressive Via dei Fori Imperiali, which connects the Colosseum to the Venice Square. What makes it so impressive is all of the buildings and history alongside the road. The Roman Forum is located on the left side of the road if you are coming from the Colosseum and is a rectangular forum that is surrounded by the ruins of many ancient government buildings.
Trajan’s market can be seen on the other side of the road as well as Trajan’s Column. Trajan’s market is a complex of buildings that were built on the Quirinale hill mainly for administrative activities as well as some commercial. The market was built in a way that maximised the use of space and stands out not only because of how stacked everything seems but also the almost out of place red brick it is built from. Trajan’s Column was built around the same time as the market, some time in the second century. It was built to celebrate the conquest of Dacia by Emperor Trajan and was the first ever coclide column which simply means there is a spiral staircase inside. You’ll notice a lot of the buildings and ruins you see are built to commemorate emperors or conquests, something there was a lot of in the times of the Roman Empire.
At the end of Via dei Fori Imperiali you get to Venice Square which connects five of the most important streets in Rome. The square’s appearance has changed a lot from it’s original look mainly due to the demolition of buildings to make way for the construction of Victorian or as many people know it the Altar of the Fatherland.
The Victorian is without question the centrepiece of the square and depending on how you view it, it might be the most impressive monument in the capital. The unmistakable white marble and sheer size make it unmissable. The monument doesn’t have a dome or a tower at the top but it is still the largest in Rome. It was built to celebrate Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy, which is why it is referred to as he Altar of the Fatherland.
What makes Victorian such a wonderful thing to behold is the size. Standing beside it or seeing tourists take pictures and looking so small is almost laughable. As I said there is no tower or dome so the fact that this building commands so much space is incredible. It is now seen as a symbol of Italian freedom and unity but I can’t help but think something so grand was a little unnecessary.
The monument took 50 years to complete and not only buildings were demolished in the process but a whole neighbourhood too. From what I have seen there is a mixed opinion of Italian natives about the monument, they too are of the opinion that it is arrogantly large and out of place due to the white marble. However, from a touristic point of view, it is something to behold and although you may be greeted by a dozen soldiers there it is still worth making a stop on your trip.
Up to this point is exactly how myself and my girlfriend explored the city, although we did have a few occasions where we would walk one direction for a few minutes before deciding there might be a better way to get to specific landmarks. And it is at this point that I wish we had the time to veer left towards Pantheon but we were focussed on seeing some other parts of the city.
Pantheon on a map might seem like its a little far from Venice Square but its roughly a ten-minute walk, which again is keeping everything nice and compact for the tourist. Pantheon is the first attraction that I have mentioned that was founded Before Christ. I have seen natural wonders that formed thousands of years ago and I have seen man-made structures that are thousands of years old too but they are nothing compared to a structure like Pantheon. The next time I visit Rome I am not missing out on this.
Again, I have to mention how accessible all of these attractions are in Rome. A couple of minutes walking from Pantheon and you will bump into the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Missing out on seeing the Fountain of the Four Rivers is the main reason why I am kicking myself now. Most of the time I see statues or monuments as simply what they are, statues and monuments. There are also plenty of fountains in Rome that are beautiful but the Fountain of the Four Rivers has an obvious meaning and also metaphors incorporated in its design which intrigue me.
The fountain depicts Gods of the four greatest rivers in four continents according to renaissance geographers. The rivers represented are the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Rio de la Plata in the Americas. There are plants and animals that add to the story of each river for example, the God of the Rio de la Plata sits on a pile of coins to represent the riches of America while being scared by a snake from above that might steal the coins. Details like that make me think that I could probably stare at this fountain for quite some time.
At this point, you could turn around and head back to the Colosseum, you could head to towards the River Tiber and see some of the museums that Rome has to offer, or you could make your way to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain like we did.
Trevi Fountain is spectacular. It’s not a place where you’d want to be for long, but it is spectacular. Along with many other sites in Rome, the size of the fountain is almost bewildering and it is obvious that it was made to impress. The fountain is pleasant to view during a sunny day but I would also love to see it at night when the lights are turned on. The place where it is situated isn’t the best for tourists as there isn’t a lot of space to move around while keeping the fountain in your sight. The fountain is very crowded and because everyone wants a picture of or with the fountain there is a bit of hustle and bustle like what you would expect in a business district at lunch time.
The Spanish Steps for me were a bit of a let-down. If I had to leave anything off this list it would be the Spanish Steps. From the images I have seen it might be more captivating to see them at night but I found them very underwhelming. Not fully because of their design or how they look but more so there is no space for appreciation because of the flood of tourists. When the steps you are trying to see are all being sat on its not as breath-taking as you’d imagine. The next time I am visiting Rome I might save this area of the city for a night time visit and hopefully the lights will be turned on and the tourists will not be out in quite as many numbers. From the steps it is a 20-minute walk back to the Colosseum.
Rome is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever visited and I will definitely be back again probably for longer than just a day. What amazed me most was how close such massive landmarks were to each other and the number of sites we could see without having to use any public transport once we were there. I thought maybe because it was the end of August that tourists might not be out in such big numbers but unfortunately, it felt as busy as any other tourist location I’ve been to. Rome has a very different atmosphere to Milan in that Milan still feels as though there are mainly people working in and around tourist parts of the city, whereas in Rome everyone was laidback and the city seemed to be open only to tourists.
There are many spectacular places in Italy that are filled with grand buildings and wonderful architecture but it seems as though Rome is the extreme version. It’s as if Rome is the Las Vegas of Italy and houses all the landmarks of Italy in close quarters. It’s not a place to go if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday but if you are the kind of person that likes sightseeing, this is the place for you.