Location: Rome, Italy
No. of Days: 3.5
The first thing that struck me when I landed in Rome: THIS PLACE IS A MUST-VISIT BEFORE YOU DIE!
Ok my first impression of Rome wasn’t at all that impressive: we stepped out of the airport at about 9pm and for the first hour in the city it almost felt like zombie town. We hardly saw anyone and the 40min train ride out of the airport was just darkness, remoteness and quietness. It also didn’t help that when we arrived at Ostiense Train Station (supposingly a major train station) there was no one in sight and the next time we saw another human being, it was a good number of homeless people sleeping around the perimeter of the train station… Trying not to be judgmental but I can’t help being freaked out after being robbed twice in Europe and the tons of horror crime stories I’ve heard before arriving.
So from that we learnt that we really shouldn’t be out past daylight hours, and luckily for us, dusk only happens at about 9ish in summer…
The thing about Rome (I’m gonna use Roma from now on – just feel more comfortable using the Italian word!) is that the whole city IS a museum, full of impressive architecture and historical artifacts. And luckily for me, an architecture and history buff, I loved every minute of everything!
Key tourist spots we visited were:
- Day 1: Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum
- Day 2: Vatican City
- Day 3: Pompei
- Day 3.5: Piazza del Popolo & Spanish Steps
Lesson 1: Pay For Guided Tour
If anyone tells you a place is full of tourists, they probably haven’t been to Roma. There is a minimum of 2 hour queue for everything if you didn’t pre-book your tickets and/or sign up for guided tour. Even with pre-booking we had a bit of queuing (about 15 minutes ?), but nothing like the throng who showed up unprepared. I don’t usually like to pay for guides, but in Roma, this is quite necessary because there are so much stories that not all are printed on the boards and you probably don’t have the time to read everything. Plus, you may not know what you are looking at… And not everything is in English. There are also SO MANY tourists that you never get to read everything because someone is blocking you all the time. There is next to no chance of taking a picture without any stranger in it. Guided tours also tends to bring you into more exclusive areas that normal ticket holders don’t get to go.
Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum
The moment the guide talked about Gladiators, my brain woke up. You can read about the history and all elsewhere, so I will save you the pain of reading it here. Our guided tour brought us to the underground and the top floor which was not open to the normal ticket holders so I was a happy camper.
PS: Some places will spell Colosseum as Coliseum, it means the same thing!
The underground – View from the underground!
The underground – view from the top!
The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum are essentially next to each other, so it is necessary to dedicate one full day to them. So when you buy tickets, make sure it covers all of them.
This is the walk up to Roman Forum, and it is quite common for me to snap a picture at such a perfect timing (the flapping pigeon in the middle) so I thought it is worth a little brag. The pebble flooring is not easy to walk…
All ruined.. by what and how, I don’t know (didn’t get the guide for this one, thus the regret!)
In awe that people of almost 1,000 years ago can build something like that, and still standing! Brings a whole new meaning to “built to last”.
It was a bit sad to see the ruins and imagine what it looked like in its heyday…
I probably burned a lot of calories trying to take this view. Made all the pasta I ate worth it.
Lesson 2: Walk as much as you can!
Being a Singaporean, I know walking is not our favourite pastime especially it is 30+ deg C here was well BUT it will be worth it here because it is actually possible to walk this city and there are so many things to see along the way! There are only 2 train lines here (anyone remembers the days of EW and NS lines?) so that gives you an idea how small this city is. Doesn’t help that the Metro looks really dodgy… I don’t think I’ve seen more graffiti on trains more than in Roma.
Even the train station is not spared. I couldn’t even tell what station this is!
A proper visit usually consists of Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica. Again, this is one place where a guided tour is necessary – because there are too many people and there is very little signage to tell you where you are going. All 3 are almost linked internally, so having Google GPS is kind of useless. The Vaticam Museum alone is so big, it is probably second to the Louvre, so if you were to roam around yourself (with the human jams caused by the army of tourists) it will probably take forever. Sistine Chapel strictly bans cameras, so no pictures BUT silly me only found out this piece of art came from inside the Sistine Chapel…
So I sent a post card to myself! hur hur…<
This is one of the shopping areas, but not the main one. But it was good enough, after all we were not there to shop… There are lots and lots of Piazzas around Roma but this is one of the key ones because it is one of the oldest and the grandest. Built around 1,000 years ago…
Spanish Steps from the top