Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Guide to... Rome

Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
You can buy a ticket that grants you entry to both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (plus Palatine Hill) for €12 per person. The best way to get your ticket without having to spend too much time queueing is to buy your entry pass from outside the Roman Forum - the queues here are much smaller than at the Colosseum, and when we got there at around 9.30am we were only waiting for about five minutes. Once at the Colosseum, if you are after an audio or visual guide you have to queue again, but this is a much (much) shorter queue than if you were buying your tickets then and there. The audio tour we did cost €5.50, but we found it a bit lacking in information and wasn't all that clear. Also when we went, two of the 6 audio-tour points were closed off and there is currently no replacement audio so these two sections were a bit redundant. Probably worth doing for the cost, but maybe do a bit of reading-up on it first.

Circus Maximus
En route to the Colosseum, and open to the public to walk through. Has a running track around the edge if you are that way inclined!

Vatican Museum, St Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel
Everyone who visits Rome will tell you that the queues for the Vatican Museum are ridiculous. Well, they were being kind. The museum opens at 9am and when we got there at that time the queue was already enormous, so goodness knows what time the people at the front had arrived. Luckily, we had planned ahead and booked our tickets and tour in advance - there are a few options but we pumped for the 3-hour one that took in the museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica, at a cost of €37 per person. Our tour guide was spectacular - she knew her stuff and made the whole thing so much more interesting and engaging than I could have ever imagined. She gave us a detailed overview of the paintings to look out for in the Sistine Chapel so when we got in there we knew what we were looking at (no loud conversations and no photos allowed at this point) and it made the whole experience so much better. At the end of the tour we climbed up to the top of the dome of St Peter's Basilica (which has some very questionable steps) and the view of Rome from their was breathtaking. I highly, highly, recommend this tour, and even if this one doesn't take your fancy then you really must look online and book something in advance. 

Free. Can get very busy - we wandered past a few times and there didn't seem to be a quiet time. They request silence as it is a sacred building, although the large crowds mean that this isn't often adhered to. The bar directly opposite does a good bottle of house red wine if you fancy a drink with a view, although I wouldn't bother stopping for the food. Instead, walk about five minutes and eat at Maccheroni instead.

Trevi Fountain
Beware: this is currently under renovation and covered in scaffolding. Google suggests that this will be the case until Autumn 2015, but as there is no clear date it suggests this could be an ongoing process. You can still walk over the top of the fountain so you can get the scale of the structure, but this is currently not a trip highlight.

Spanish Steps
Currently has scaffolding and a large Fiat advert at the top so slightly underwhelming. Is worth it to sit on the steps and take in the surroundings, plus there's a very nice coffee bar nearby.

Piazza del Popolo
Rome is awash with various piazza's, but Piazza del Popolo was our favourite. Large, relaxed and with a beautiful fountain, this would make a great pit-stop.

Piazza Navona
Probably our second favourite piazza. Another good one to have a wander around in, before stopping for food and great service at Cantina e Cucina.

Stadio Olimpico
Rome's largest and main sports stadium, this is primarily used for football but also hosts rugby games. It is a bit of a walk out of town but if you're going to an event there the atmosphere will drag you along.

Altare della Patria / Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
A beautiful building, particularly when the sun is shining. There are two guards watching over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which makes for a moving memorial.

Santa Maria in Trastevere
A beautiful church in the equally beautiful Trastevere. The square outside hosts a number of bars and cafes, and this is a great spot to stop and have a drink and people-watch, before heading to dinner at Ivo a Trastevere for a pretty incredible pizza.

We flew to Rome from Luton on Monarch.
We flew back from Rome to Stansted on Ryanair.
We stayed in Trastevere, in an AirBnB apartment.

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