Planning a visit to the Italian city of Rome? Here are some recommendations*. To view all the photographs (with the captions in full) of the city, click on any image and navigate using the left and right keys.
1. A city of rich history and culture as well as art and architecture, the many piazzas (squares) in Rome feature ancient ruins and constructions. The Piazza di Spagna is at the bottom of the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps) – named as such because it linked the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Trinità dei Monti church – thereby connecting the piazza at the bottom and the church at the top. There is also a Baroque fresh-water fountain, the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Ugly Boat) just below the steps.
2. What is the most beautiful fountain in Rome was unfortunately undergoing refurbishment. Even with the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) closed, there was a small pond of water just in front of the construction, for tourists to do the customary coin-throwing for good luck. Fountains – like the piazzas – are ubiquitous throughout the city, and in its history the Romans constructed elaborate systems of aqueducts (water supply) and sewage systems.
3. In the centre of the Piazza Colonna is the marble Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column of Marcus Aurelius), the Roman Emperor also known as the philosopher king.
4. The Roman Pantheon, the most preserved building of ancient Rome. This photograph – unfortunately – does the temple no justice, especially when it has the biggest brick dome in the world, was constructed with brilliant engineering and architecture, and houses the tombs of the Italian kings of the past, so a free trip to the interior is absolutely necessary.
5. Built on the site of a former stadium, where ancient Romans watched festivals and games, Piazza Navona is now a beautiful square with three distinct fountains: the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), the Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain), as well as the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). On a regular day the piazza is filled with artists plying their trade, with the spray-paint artists attracting the biggest crowds.
6. Once the tallest building in Rome, the Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) was initially used as a mausoleum for the deceased, and thereafter as a fortress and castle. It now houses a museum, but it is also worth walking around the castle grounds in the evening, where families and young children have gatherings and sporting games.
7. On the top is the Pont Sant’Angelo (Bridge of Hadrian), which is decorated with the sculptures of 10 angels. On the bottom is the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II – just a short walk away – which has high socles holding bronze-winged Victories. Both bridges cross the Tiber river, the third-longest river in Italy and the main watercourse of Rome.
8. At the central hub of Rome, the Piazza Venezia, where there is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II – the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) – who was the first king of Italy.
9. The Fountain of the Naiads stands in the middle of the semi-circular Piazza della Repubblica, and the fountain itself – once again, since Rome had a complex water and sewage system – was also connected to an aqueduct. Across the city, there are also taps dispensing cool potable water, which is a welcome relief in the hot, arid summer. Trips should also be made to the piazzas in the nights, when the atmosphere and sights are different.
10. Italian dinner of crayfish and shrimp risotto, lobster tagliatelle, as well as lamb cutlets, and we also shared a plate of fried calamari.
11. At the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built, there were duels involving gladiators and wild animals, and it has been said that the complex was even flooded for simulated sea battles. The sight of the exterior is grand, but the exhibition and view of the interior is equally impressive. Thus the most important tips, to skip the ridiculously long and uncomfortable queues, are to purchase the tickets online (only 3,000 are allowed into the complex at any one time), and to arrive early (the entrance is open at 8.30am).
12. Do purchase an audio guide and pay close attention to the exhibition panels, since there are so many details: the different steps from the bottom to the top (which segregated the Romans based on their socio-economic class), the pillars and how they were hoisted in the past, and the many archaeological discoveries which shows how the Colosseum was used, decorated, and eventually restored (after earthquakes and attempts by stone-robbers).
13. From the Colosseum the Arco di Constantine (Arch of Constantine) can also be seen. It commemorates a victory of Constantine the Great – the Roman emperor who reunited the empire and won major victories – and along the structure major episodes have been included.
14. At the top of the Palatine Hill (Palatino) – which can be exhausting under the hot summer sun – the Foro Romano (Roman Forum) can be seen. It is said that the original Romans lived on the Palatino, and the Foro Romano was the centre of Roman public life for centuries. After archaeological excavation and preservation various remains and ruins can now be seen.
15. We purchased tickets to the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums) – together with an audio guide – in advance, and even though they have an immense historical collection we did not enjoy the visit. We saw the Stanze di Raffaello (the four Raphael Rooms) and the Capella Sistina (Sistine Chapel). There were too many individuals and tour groups, most of whom were jostling to get to the Cappella Sistina, and it was too warm.
16. In Vatican City, at Saint Peter’s Square, where there is a panoramic view of the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.
* Not an advertisement, and also not sponsored (unfortunately).