Rome is midway down the west coast of Italy, and it’s about 20km inland. It also lies on the River Tiber. It's a vast city, but the historic centre, the main touristy bit, is quite small and so most of the major sights are within a reasonable distance of the central railway station, Stazione Termini. It is also possible to walk between then and that’s what we mostly did.
In addition, we were also lucky to have found a centrally located Bed and Breakfast which meant that we were right in the thick of things so we could walk to most places and there were still near bus and metro if we didn’t feel like walking.
We flew to Rome (Ciampino Airport) from London Stansted with Ryan Air. The flight took about 2 hours and was a bargain at £30. Flying with Ryan Air is never about service or pleasantry. It is simply a ‘cheap and nasty’ way to get from point A to B. No frills, no fuss!
Imperial Fori, Il Vittoriale and the Colosseum
After arriving, and after we’d been to out hotel and alleviated ourselves of our bags, changed into more comfortable clothes we went out for a bit of a wonder to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. We could see Il Vittoriale from in the distance but we first stumbled across the Imperial Forums. Trajan's column, Trajan's market and Il Virroriale were also nearby. So we had a look around this area for a while.
After dinner, we went to the Coliseum – one of the most famous site in Rome. We looked around the outside of it and wondered around the nearby Arch of Constantine.
On day 2, we decided to go on an open top bus tour – Tourist Bus Rome 110 Open. This tour began at the Termini Station and cost €13. They’re probably not enough buses cause we had to queue for ages (maybe an hour) before we could get on a bus.
The bus went past the Piazza di Repubblica, down Via Nacionale, to Quirinale Hill around by the Foro Imperiale, Il Vittoriale, the Colosseum. Then along by the Roman Forums, across the River Tiber, passing near the Castel San Angelo and then stopped on near the Vatican where we disembarked. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the tour as the commentary, which was recorded didn’t always synchronise with what I was seeing.
After disembarking from the coach we entered the Vatican area into St. Peter’s Square. Here you can see the vastness of St. Peter’s Basilica – very impressive! We decided to take the trip up to the dome, so we had to queue, then pay for the lift which only took you part way up, to the roof. There were still 323 steps beyond that to get to the dome. It was worth it, the view from up there is indeed spectacular! You can see so much of Rome from that high up.
On the way back down, we stopped at the gift shop on the roof and bought and sent a few postcards. Then we went back down to ground level and explored the inside of St. Peter’s. I thought about going to the grottoes (where the popes are buried) but the line was too long. As we were leaving, we saw the changing of the special Vatican guards.
After leaving the Vatican, we hopped back on the bus and got off at the stop for the Trevi fountain. It was jam packed with people. Then we went to the Spanish Steps. That too was full of people (tourists probably). And that was that for Day 2.
On Day 3, we opted for a quick visit of the Vatican Mueums, which includes the Sistine Chapel. We tried to get there as early as possible but a lot of people had the same idea and so there was quite a queue.But it moved quickly. There is quite a collection of treasure, paintings, sculpture etc. in the Vatican museum. No wonder the Catholic church is so wealthy.
Next we visited Castel San Angelo. We'd already passed this on the bus tour the day before. This castle is connected to the Vatican by a wall with a passage. Apparently, it's meant to be an escape route should the Vatican be under attack.It was originally built as a mausoleum to Hadrian - so it's really a large tomb. It has a large sculpture of an angel with a sword on the top and we were able to go up there. More stairs, but also another spectacular view of Rome.
Next stop was the Pantheon! This was undergoing some repairs and so there was a fantastic scaffolding tower to one side.That was pretty impressive as caffolding goes. The building itself was fantastically preserved. Apparently it's in the best condition of the domed structures from its period. Architecturally it's spectacular because of the large dome - the largest masonry vault ever built.
After the Pantheon, we visited the 'typewriter' again. This time we climbed the steps and had a more thorough look at the monument. Tempting as it may be, you're not allowed to sit on these steps. You'll be told off by a police woman if you do. Apparently, it's disrespectful to the unknown soldier who's monument is there and marked by an eternal flame. The view from the top of the monument is one of the best in Rome. You get a very clear view of the forums and the colosseum in one direction. In the other direction you can see the city and even as far away as the Vatican and St. Peter's.
This time we went into the Colosseum. As with other attractions in Rome, it was lacking in information. Nothing to tell you what was what. You were just left to wonder around. Guess they wanted people to get the audio guide. At the Colosseum, there was a video art exhibition at the time we were there. This was called 'Resounding Arches' by Gary Hill. It consisted of a holographic-looking projection of a persons playing various sized horns. This was accompanied by the sound of the horn as person turned. Quite spooky but quite entertaining. They were about 4 or 5 of these in various arches throughout the amphitheatre.
We spent a whole day roaming through the ruins of Ostia Antica. Ostia Antica is an ancient Roman City which became buried in silt cause of a shift in the River Tiber. This city was once at the mouth of the River but is now some 3km from the sea (and still next to the river). Ostia Antica now serves as one of the best examples of a ruined city.
It was quite interesting walking through the ruins. A bit like a treasure hunt as we looked for particular 'gems' by reading the guide book and following the map.
I think everyone is familiar with Italian food - pasta in all shapes and sizes. However it usually only makes up one course in an Italian 4-course meal. Normally, you start with the antipasti (starter), then you have the 1st course - pasta (normally vegetarian or with seafood), then the 2nd course - meat or fish, then the desert and coffee.
In Italy, as with most of southern Europe, restaurants are open much later than in the UK. Dinner is usually from 20:00 onwards. You can still be seated and served in a restaurant as late as 23:00. However, if you're after an early dinner (say 18:00) you won't have many options.