The Eternal City.
The capital of Italy; abound with amazing artistic and architectural history.
Rome is known as the Eternal City because ancient Romans believed that no matter how many empires collapsed, Rome would go on forever. And so far, they were right.
There is nothing quite like taking to the streets of Rome by foot, immersing yourself in the beautiful culture that surrounds you. We arrived in Rome in the afternoon, and began our adventures with a (really long!) walking tour around the city.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Rome, so I’m going to list for you a few of our favourites.
Piazza di Spagna
This is one of the most famous squares in Rome, situated at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. There are 135 steps, and they were made to connect the Bourbon Spanish embassy to the Church of Trinità dei Monti. The steps are very decorative, with garden terraces blossoming in spring and in summer. Unfortunately, the steps were undergoing maintenance and the gardens were a little bare as it was winter when we visited.
To the right of the Spanish Steps is the house where English poet John Keats lived until his death in 1821, which has now been turned into a museum. To the left you can find Babington’s Tea Room which was founded in 1893. Who doesn’t love a good bit of traditional English tea?
The square is dominated by the beautiful Fountain of the Little Boat, the work of Pietro Bernini.
There is also plenty of high-end shopping to be done in and around the square, with brands like Prada popping up everywhere you look.
Towering in the not-too-far-away distance is the Column of the Immaculate Conception.
This 19th century monument stands in Piazza Mignanelli, the south-east extension of Piazza di Spagna, and depicts a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since December 1953, it has become an annual tradition for a Roman fireman to bring a wreath of flowers to the base of the statue to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
After wandering around the piazza we took off down one of the many cute streets.
The streets of Rome are so picturesque that you don’t really mind if you find yourself lost amongst the tangled lanes of history and art and culture.
Next up on our walking tour was a visit to the famous Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain, shockingly, is nestled inside the Trevi district in Rome. It was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci.
You can hear the fountain before you see it, and the closer you get the more intense the sound of rushing water becomes.
When we arrived, although it was cold and dark – there were people everywhere. We managed to squeeze through the masses of people until we were right at the front and the fountain came into full view.
The fountain at night is breath-taking. The sky was a dark, dark blue and the fountain was bathed in warm light.
This baroque statue is the largest in the city and one of the most magnificent in the world. Rome is known for celebrating the power of water, and the Trevi Fountain symbolises the great forces of nature. I love the sculptures of fantasy creatures and the way they are lit up with elegant lighting. The longer you look, the more the fountain seems to come alive.
Most people know the old legend, that if you stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder into the water, you are guaranteed to return to Rome one day. I hope it works; Katie and I both tossed a few Euros into the water.
It is estimated that around 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day. In Australian dollars, that’s about $4,500, which is huge.
The Roman Catholic charity Caritas sweeps the fountain every night and distributes the money to those in need. In 2008 they opened up a low cost-supermarket from the collection.
So whether or not you believe that the fountain will bring you back to Rome, it’s worth tossing a few coins in.
There’s nothing like a visit to a 2,000 year-old building. The Pantheon, which was once a temple but is now used as a church, is one of Rome’s best-preserved monuments.
Although the exterior looks its age, once we stepped through the bronze doors we were swept up by the sheer magnificence of the place.
The dome of the Pantheon is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, which makes it pretty impressive considering its age. I’m not sure if that exactly increased my confidence standing beneath it, but seeing as it’s survived for 2,000 years I guess it can withstand a little longer!
After we left the Pantheon we hung around outside and watched a street performer. He was dressed up as a mime, stalking passers-by and copying their walking-style.
He was pretty hilarious and eventually drew a large crowd who circled around him. One thing I noticed in Europe was that there are so many talented people around, busking on the streets.
Alright, alright, I know I’ve mentioned gelato a few times before on this blog. I just can’t help it. It’s delicious, it’s amazing, and it’s worth a mention (or two, or three, or four).
We were all pretty exhausted from our massive walk so far – and we were only about halfway done! Luckily for us our amazing Topdeck tour guide Chrystle was taking us to the most amazing gelato shop I have ever seen.
Della Palma is the name of the shop, and if you are in Rome YOU REALLY NEED TO GO TO DELLA PALMA. Excuse the capitals, but when there’s 150 different flavours of gelato inside one shop… you can’t just walk past something like that.
Chrystle passed us each a cup and told us we were allowed to pick not one, but four different flavours, and we were released into the shop.
I remember Katie saying, “I’m so excited I’m shaking.”
It was all a bit overwhelming, really, because we were all crowded around the ice-cream cabinets trying to see what was there. There was literally every flavour I could ever have imagined.
I ended up going for a delicious combination of coconut, mango, strawberry, and double chocolate. There were lots of incredibly quirky flavours to try but I kept it simple, and it was amazing.
The Roman Forum
With our legs rested and our stomachs satisfied, we continued on our walk towards the Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important government buildings. The forum was for centuries the heart of Roman life.
The forum was the place for markets, processions, elections, public speeches, criminal trials and even gladiatorial matches.
Nowadays, what is left is a sprawling mass of incredible ruins. Apparently Rome has a lot of difficulty with extending the metro – everywhere they dig they find more important architectural ruins! There’s just so much history everywhere in this city.
Obviously, a trip to Rome can’t be considered complete without a visit to the famous Colosseum, which is where we ended our walking tour.
This gladiatorial arena was opened in AD 80, with a seating capacity of 50,000. Tiered seating encircles the arena, which ensured spectators a ‘great’ view of the fighting below.
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the idea of gladiators fighting each other and fighting animals, but the colosseum itself is truly spectacular. Although we couldn’t go inside during our walking tour, the next day we grabbed tickets and had a look around.
It’s an amazing piece of architecture, well worth the look. To avoid the queues, I’d recommend going to the ‘secret’ ticket box office that everyone seems to miss. Go down Via di San Gregorio (straight across the plaza in front of the Colosseum as you come out of the metro) and to the right you will find the entrance to the Roman Forum that leads on to Palatine Hill where there is an extra ticket office.
The Vatican City
The next morning we got up early to head out on a tour of the Vatican City.
Vatican City is a city-state surrounded by Rome, and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church – and home to the pope.
There is so much to see within the Vatican, art and architecture galore. Everything is magnificent, extravagant, and glamorous. There is grandeur everywhere you look. I’d recomend doing a guided tour because there is so much history behind the artwork.
I managed to get a sneaky selfie inside the Sistine Chapel looking up at the famous ceiling that was painted by Michelangelo.
Don’t tell the pope, though, because you’re not meant to take photos inside.
If you are a lover of felines, then Rome is the city for you.
Rome’s cat population is estimated at about 300,000. In 1991 a law was introduced to protect stray cats. We visited a cat sanctuary called Torre Argentina.
The cats who live in this sanctuary haunt the ruins where Caesar was murdered, adding to the rather mysterious sense surrounding the ruins.
The cats are very friendly and tame, so it’s a great spot for all you cat lovers. There is even a little gift shop that helps to support the sanctuary.
And that was all we had time for!
Rome is an incredible city, and I wish we had more time to explore. There is so much more to see and do, but the next day we were off on our way for more exciting adventures – this time in Venice.
As always, thanks for reading 🙂
Have you ever been to Rome? What were your favourite sights? If you haven’t been, what would you most like to see there?