Rome is one of these cities which I always used to leave ‘for later’: very beautiful, very popular, and very expensive for a student traveller. It was always also reasonably close and well connected, so the visit could be postponed for ‘a better time’.
When being in Rome you could completely indulge on walking through the streets, watching busy cafes, restaurants, bars and gelaterias (selling delicious Italian ice-cream), rolling through sunny piazzas or taking a stroll along the river… and never get bored.
But it would be a crime to skip the big ancient ‘must sees’ or to miss all the history surrounding you every step you take. You just have to embrace it – at least during the first visit!
Imperial Rome. It can actually give you prickles when you realize how great that ancient civilization has grown, how badly it collapsed and how many years it took to get back to the similar level of knowledge and engineering…
There are a number of places that just cannot be missed when you are in Rome. Forum Romanum, Palatine and Colosseo are definitely among them. The big problem is: everyone knows it. Therefore, the lines can become indefinitely long! I personally HATE standing in queues and would do a lot to avoid it. There are few options:
- Go in low season. The benefit: fewer tourists, cheaper travel. Drawback: there must be a reason for that time to be ‘low’ and if you don’t know what, it’s probably the weather.
- Wake up earlier. The obvious drawback: not all of us enjoy sunrises 😉 The benefit is that you are one of the first visitors admitted to the site, so you can actually see it 😉
- Book your ticket in advance or buy it at the less popular entrance/site (the same ticket is valid for all three sites). The biggest line is to Colosseum, it has only one entrance. Forum Romanum and Palatine are connected and have several entrances, so the lines tend to be shorter. Benefit: you spend less time standing in the queue. Drawback: if you don’t wake up earlier, there still will be a queue.
We combined option 2 and 3 since May happens to be a season high enough to develop lines I do not want to stand in. Overall we did not stay waiting longer than 1h in total and it was enough to be there at 9 am.
Forum Romanum together with Palatine hill can give you a very good idea of how ancient Romans lived. Go around, take a view from the top, step on the streets that remember times of Caesar and use the imagination to reconstruct at least some of the buildings. For me, the most impressive were the remainings of Basilica of Maxentius with its three huge arches that turn out to be only the northern aisle. This biggest building of the Forum set a standard of size which had to be met (and exceeded!) by the architects of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Being in Rome one just has to go to Colosseo. The visit itself does not take too long, but helps to create a very vivid image of the ancient ‘entertainment’. However I have to admit, it is really difficult to accept that bloody fights and death could have been watched for pleasure. The interesting fact from the guide was that all 50,000 spectators could be let in and out only within 15min!
Pantheon is another highlight of the city, which is easier accessible. No ticket is necessary and the line goes very fast, which makes the visit smooth. Personally, I liked it much more than I expected. From outside it does not look too impressive unless you know that the columns supporting the entrance had been brought across the sea as single pieces of granite. Makes you wonder: what’s the point! The funny fact is that the columns were wrongly measured and cut too short than originally planned for transport! The building had to be readjusted to match the new material. You can still see the signs of a remake on its the structure. The Pantheon’s dome is world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and was studied by Michelangelo before constructing the dome os St. Peter’s Basilica. It also has a hole in the middle to let some rain in 😉