Want to visit a powerful political and economic centre for over 2,500 years? Or a city oozes with history, both ancient and modern?
I believe if you have been there before, you will find that no other city comes close like Rome, a city of Italy. Although it is no longer the capital of the world, but Rome is certainly an epic, bubbling-over metropolis harbouring lost empires. In fact, those who went there often awestruck not only by the sheer pace of life there which often fuel by espresso coffee, but its moments of tranquil reflection, i.e. elderly ladies with dyed hair chatting in Trastevere, priests with cigars strolling the Imperial Forums, traffic jams around the Colosseum, plateloads of pasta in Piazza Navona, sinuous trees beside the Villa Borghese as well as barrages of pastel-coloured scooters revving up at traffic lights as if preparing for a race.
Frankly whether we are shopping on the Via Veneto, visiting ancient ruins or admiring the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, many will agree that once there they rarely will go away disappointed!
Rome with a population of approx. 2.6 millions, is one of the few major European cities that had escaped World War II relatively intact, which means the central Rome remains Renaissance and Baroque in character. With more than 900 churches and basilicas, it has been for centuries the centre of the Christian world. Among those important churches are San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura.
However, you may not know that the ancient Roman ruins are also among the best in the world. Some of the highlights include the sumptuous imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill, the temples in the forum, the huge Baths of Diocletian, Augustus’ Ara Pacis (i.e. altar of peace), the exquisite Pantheon, the eerie catacombs and the chill of the Colosseum where, like the Circus Maximus, where a discontented population was kept in check by often bloodthirsty public spectacles.
Places of interest that I think you should not not miss:
- The Forum – this is a huge site where public meetings would have been held and famous orators would have spoken. You may want to know this is also where Mark Anthony delivered his speech following the assassination of Caesar.
- The Palatine Hill – is an open-air museum with wonderful views of the Forum.
- The Spanish Steps – designed in 1723, and with 138 steps joining the Piazza di Spanga and the Trinita dei Monti church. Interestingly, the house at the base of the steps is where the poet, i.e. John Keats lived and died.
- The Castel Sant’Angelo – this is one of Rome’s finest sights and is originally commissioned by Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family which is located on the banks of the Tiber.
- The Borghese Gardens – is the largest and most elegant park in Rome. It houses a lake, temples, fountains and several museums.
For smart travel and money saving traveling tips, you may want to take note of the following:
- Most tourist attractions have entrance fees. Museum admission varies from about €8 to €13, but many places are free to EU citizens under 18 years and over 60, with discounts generally available to students. In fact, various discount cards are available that might save you money. To avoid disappointment, it is good to check the local times for museum hours as they often vary and change with the seasons. Also, sightseeing in churches during religious rites is usually discouraged.
- Rome is not Italy’s most expensive city (the most expensive one? None other than Venice!), but certainly it is not cheap either. Accommodation is likely to be your biggest outlay, costing anywhere between €80 and €300 for a double room in a three-star hotel.
- Public transport is fairly cheap with a day pass costing €4. However, beware of pickpockets, particularly on buses. Also be alert on subways, and when making your way through the corridors of crowded trains. In general, expect pickpockets to be active in places where tourists gather, e.g. the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Piazza Navona, and Piazza di San Pietro. Besides, you should keep an eye out for purse snatchers that often work in teams on a single motor scooter or motorcycle, in this case, one may drive and the other grabs.
- Mind your dress codes to avoid refuse admittance. This is especially so for visits to the Basilica di San Pietro and the Musei Vaticani. In fact, shorts, tank tops, and halter tops are considered taboo. Shoulders must be covered and women should carry a scarf or shawl to cover bare arms if the custodians insist.
- In Rome, the bill in restaurant will not be brought until we ask for it. Also it is customary to leave an additional 5% – 10% tip for the waiter, though it does depend on the quality of the service rendered.
When is the best time to visit those interesting places in Rome? Well, anytime of a year!