Newest Review: ... they were able to attend, but they had the stands. The outside of the Colosseum was extremely busy, and we were warned to be aware of ... more
The Eternal City
Member Name: Ainat
Date: 04/09/13, updated on 13/01/14 (78 review reads)
Advantages: Full of history, lovely place, like an open air museum
Disadvantages: Can be expensive, busy, need to be aware of pickpockets - same as any city!
We went on a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon, and were fortunate to see some amazing places. I am hoping to slowly work my way through reviewing some of them. We were only in Rome for a day as part of the cruise, so with the limited time we had we opted to go on a tour (through the cruise ship company) that took us to the key places that we wanted to visit.
Firstly, may I apologise for such a long review! I tried to keep things brief but there is just so much to share about this amazing city.
=== Rome in a Day! ===
Where to go if you only have a day in Rome? As many places as possible! As part of our tour we went to:
St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican
We were able to see some other key places, such as the Forum, and the Altar of the Fatherland (nicknamed 'the wedding cake') though only through a coach window!
=== Our Tour ===
We were lucky in that we had a tour guide that clearly knew her stuff. Benefits of being on a tour such as this meant we were able to see as many places as possible and learn about them, in the short space of time we had. We had units with headphones which meant we were able to hear our guide clearly. An extra benefit to us is that the Port of Civitavecchia (closest port to Rome) is a bit of a distance away from the city and as part of the tour we also had train travel included to and from our ship.
I won't go in to detailed history of each place - this is information can easily be found online. However I may include some historical points I found particularly interesting. I'll try to keep it brief!
=== Colosseum ===
One of the iconic structures in Rome, the Colosseum is towards the edge of the city. Once used for gladiator fighting the ruins of this amphitheatre are still impressive. The building stands in the state it is today after being partially destroyed by an earthquake, and by Romans taking some of the building materials for other purposes. We were unable to go inside - doing Rome in a day we were restricted by time! From the outside we could still admire the beauty and the work that went in to creating the building. The arches are incredible. To think this was able to be built in 70AD.
Something that I found interesting is that apparently there were classes of seating for the spectators. The richer and more notable of a person (scratch that... more notable of a man!) you were the better seats you had. Almost like being a season ticket holder in a box by today's standards. Women were able to go to the Colosseum, but were unable to sit with their husbands. As for poorer people, they were able to attend, but they had the stands.
The outside of the Colosseum was extremely busy, and we were warned to be aware of pick-pockets. There are loads of stands trying to sell souvenirs, be wary as we found all the stalls had similar items but a range of prices.
I enjoyed getting to see the enormousness from the outside. Having heard mixed reviews about the inside I wasn't too disappointed that we didn't get to go in considering the rest of our days plans. Had we had more time this would be something I would have done. Maybe next time...
=== Spanish Steps ===
Next were the Spanish Steps. We took a coach from the Colosseum. The Spanish Steps interestingly lead up to a church that is apparently French! There are 135 steps that form the widest staircase in Europe.
The steps were crowded, but still incredible to look at. We had limited time here so we didn't climb to the top! Something that amazes me is the way that this magnificent staircase is between buildings the way it is. The building to the right is an orange coloured building and is where the English poet Keats lived. This building is now a museum. A few buildings along to the left is where you'll find Babington's tea rooms.
At the bottom of the steps is a fountain with drinking water. A good place to fill up your water bottles!
=== Trevi Fountain ===
One of the main things that I wanted to see during my whistle stop tour. We walked to the fountain from the Spanish Steps. A walk that wasn't too far and was easy on the legs took us down a street that our guide likened to 5th Avenue, New-York - full of designer stores. We were then led down a couple of much quieter streets when all of a sudden - there it was.
Our tour allowed for us to spend a bit of time here and the place is so beautiful I have to give it it's own review. In brief summary though this is a place worth visiting. The fountain is beautiful. Designed by Salvi it is at the point where three roads met (tre vie - three roads) although there are now 5 or 6 small roads leading up to this point. It does seem like a random place for such a fountain, and has some interesting history (a little of which is mentioned in my Trevi Fountain review - I don't want to repeat myself).
=== The Pantheon ===
If my memory is correct, the Pantheon originally built BC was a Pagan church. The building that stands today is not the original built before Christ. The Catholic church 'took over' in 7AD and modified it to remove Pagan symbols. Again, this building is full of fascinating history. Most interesting points are that the dome is one solid piece of material with an opening (the oculus) designed to let in light, and the ancient drainage system that allows for any rain coming in. Other than the entrance, the oculus is the only source of natural light, and also acts a little like a sundial. The artist Raphael is also buried here.
The building is amazing to look at from the outside, and even more so from the inside. To get the most from visiting I feel you would need a guide of some description whether that be a person, an audio guide or a book to enlighten you about all of the things there are to see. We were able to spend a little bit of time here, and with our guide in our ears we were able to discover a lot about this place.
=== Navona Square ===
We passed through Navona Square, or Piazza Navona, but we were not able to spend much time here. It looked like a nice place to sit and have a coffee with the selection of coffee shops available (though apparently they're expensive). The square also has a lot of history. It once was an arena - which you can tell by the shape of it. It is definitely not a square! It is long and thin with one end being straight and one being curved.
There are several statues and three fountains in the square - the most notable (in my opinion) being the fountain of the four rivers in the centre. The fountain has four figures representing the four continents known about at the time it was built. This is a Bernini fountain, apparently commissioned by a Pope whose family lived in the palace on the piazza.
I would have liked to have spent a little time in the square just wandering round and enjoying it, but time being of the essence, we were unable to spend more than 15 minutes here. I would like to come back, but I don't imagine it's a place you would want to spend a lot of time unless you were having a coffee break. Very beautiful though.
=== Vatican City ===
The Vatican technically isn't Rome, and there is a lot to say, so I will give it it's own review, but it is worth noting that this is another interesting place to visit if you plan on visiting Rome.
=== Weather ===
Being British I have to mention the weather. We were only there a day, and temperatures were high at about 33-35 degrees centigrade. Weather is important to consider as if you are planning to do some sight seeing you need to plan for the weather. Plenty of sun cream, plenty of water and take opportunities to spend time in the shade if possible.
=== When in Rome... ===
Rome was a fantastic city to visit, but in reality you need longer than a day. At a guess I would say about 4 days, with one of those days dedicated to Vatican City. We were only able to see the highlights, it was definitely a whistle stop tour! I felt we did get to see an awful lot considering what time we did have, and if you are doing Rome in a day I would suggest a similar sort of programme to what we followed to get the most of your time.
It is worth noting that Rome is quite an expensive city. Though I am certain with a bit of research and know-how it could be done on a budget. It is also worth noting that if you go a little off of the beaten track you can find bars and restaurants with much lower prices. For example, we had lunch at a quiet restaurant as part of the tour (included in the price). On the menu we could see you could order a three course meal from the set menu from 20 Euro. On the main streets in the main parts of Rome you could expect to pay at least double of not quadruple that! There are also water fountains all over the city to re-fill your water bottles. This helps with both budget and with keeping you hydrated.
As with any city that attracts tourists you do need to be aware of pick-pockets and beggars, and there are a lot of people trying to convince you to buy souvenirs at ridiculous prices. As long as you keep your wits about you and don't give in to the sometimes really persistent sales people you will be fine.
There was a lot of traffic about. We got a little stuck when on the coach, but then that is to be expected in a city. Seeing as we were on our tour we didn't use any of the local transport systems. We did see buses and taxis, and there is an underground system. My partner has been on the subway system before and says that it is easy to use, but overcrowded and hot - apparently worse than London underground in rush hour. Most of the main attractions are in walking distance of each other and Rome is a relatively easy city to walk around. If you haven't got someone to follow though I'd recommend taking a map!
Something that may be of interest is that there are a lot of Egyptian obelisks scattered over the city, as well as loads of amazing looking buildings and fountains that aren't considered the 'main attractions'.
=== A few final words ===
Rome is a beautiful city, is full of history, and definitely worth a visit. I do plan to go back to be able to spend a little more time at the attractions and see the places we missed out on. I do enjoy history and find it fascinating and really enjoyed seeing all of the historical sites. I would recommend having some sort of guide with you to make the most of the city.
Summary: The Eternal City - Definitely a place to visit.