“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” Giotto di Bondone.
During my training as an architect, I was told an architect truly learns scale and proportions from Rome and it is a must visit. I will tell you something today: does not matter if you are an architect or not, ROME IS A MUST IN YOUR LIFETIME. It is where one of the greatest civilization rose, where Ceaser ruled and gladiators fought, where roots of the Catholic church resides, where Bernini and Michelangelo blinded us with their magic, where Audrey Hepburn ran away to for a holiday, where Robert Langdon solved mysteries of the Illuminati. Rome is THE place and it is magical. I had 3 and a half day in hand and 13 places to see. But that does not mean this was a rushed visit. Plan it right and you are good to go. Here is how I did it.
(Disclaimer: Rome is huge so is this blog. please bear with me)
INVEST IN A ROMA PASS
Before leaving for Rome, my online research introduced me to this blessing called the Roma Pass. It is a card that offers discounts and special services to tourists. There are two types of this card- one valid for 72 hours and another for 48 hours (below is a screenshot I got from their website: http://www.romapass.it/?l=en)
I got the 72 hour card for €36 (BDT 3240 ) This tourist card, when purchased, gives FREE ENTRANCE to any two archeological sites or museum of your choice and offers discounts to tickets for other museums, theatrical performances, music events and exhibitions visited thereafter. In addition it gives you unlimited free access to all transportation modes– bus, tram, metro and urban trains- within the boundaries of Rome. With the card comes a free map of Rome showing metro lines too and a booklet listing as places of interest which offer discounts via the Roma Pass.
Was getting the pass a good deal?
Each individual one way metro or bus ticket would otherwise cost me €1.50 (BDT 135). I had used the metro extensively; at least 8 times a day which sums up to approximately €36 (BDT 3240). Two free entrances saved me around €15 (BDT 1350). I have saved myself a few euros & a lot of hassle. So yes it was a win-win for me.
Should you get it?
If you wish to visit two or more sites/museums/monuments on the Roma Pass list within 3 days time and also if you intend to use the public transportation modes regularly in these 3 days, YOU MUST GET THE PASS. It is available online and can be found in any tourist shop in Rome.
WHEN IN ROME
Standing at the foot of the colossal 157′ structure, I felt so small and insignificant. Such amazing scale! Colossal meaning enormous is definitely the right pick for its name.Built in 80 AD, it is the largest amphitheater in the world with a capacity of 70,000 spectators who were entertained with fights between gladiator VS gladiator or gladiator VS animals. The Colosseum is without a doubt Rome’s one of the most brilliant pieces of architecture and represents its beauty and history ever so strongly.
Link to my video on the outside of Colosseum: behold the Colosseum
How to get there: Take the metro line B to get off at the station Colosseo.
Entrance fee: Roma Pass – free entrance; Otherwise – €15
Travel tip: A Roma pass will save you from a huge line while entering the Colosseum.
Link to my video on the inside of Colosseum: Colosseum from the inside
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. Located in the small valley between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is an outstanding maze of architectural fragments of Rome’s ancient market place, temples, basilicas and monuments. This was once the central business and the most celebrated meeting place for the Romans. Take a day to explore this extravagant collection of ancient Rome.
How to get there: 1 minute walk from the Colosseum
Entrance fee: Roma Pass – free entrance or the same ticket you got for Colosseum works here
Travel tip: Spend at least half a day here. Wear sunblock and shades. Carry water.
Piazza Del Campidoglio
All thanks to my history teacher in architecture school, I had read so much about this place that a visit to this hilltop plaza was a must for the architect in me. Acclaimed to be one of the most beautiful squares of Rome Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by the master Michelangelo in the sixteenth century. The beautiful pattern on the plaza, Michelangelo’s marble staircase and two mirrored buildings took me an evening to explore.
How to get there: A 10 minute walk from the Roman Forum. Ask around for the Capitoline hill.
Entrance fee: Free.
Travel tip: Try to get here late in the afternoon and stick around to watch the sunset.
My second day started with a visit to Pantheon, the most preserved building in Rome. It looks like as if it was built yesterday. Although built as a temple to all Gods, it is now a church. Architecturally what makes it unique is the dome with its oculus in the middle- the only source of light inside the building. The 142 feet spanned dome is till date the largest unsupported dome in the world! Even Michelangelo thought the Roman Pantheon to be the work of Gods and not humans. Follow the link to see it live: Pantheon and the great oculus
How to get there: Metro line A to the station Barberini.
Entrance fee: Free.
Travel tip: The great artist Raphael’s tomb is here- on your left after you enter through the gates
A busy tourist hub and an extravagant fountain. Legend has it that if you flip a coin into it, you will get to come back to this eternal city of Rome. I honestly didn’t stay here long enough because of the crowd. Take this link to see Trevi Fountain live: Look at all those people at Trevi
How to get there: A few minutes walk from the Pantheon
Entrance fee: Free
A few minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain through beautiful Roman alleys will take you to Piazza Navona. To me this was the best evening I spent in Rome. This place just screamed life and happiness to me. From amazing covers of Pink Flyod, Sinatra and Presleys to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, it is all about live performances here. I grabbed a gelato and enjoyed the rest of the day strolling around this lively piazza.
DAY 3: Vatican City
Third day and I am at the Vatican City- a separate country and NOT a part of Rome! First stop- The Vatican Museums. All of the world’s famous artists’ work are housed here in the Museo Vatican. The exquisite ceiling, tapestries, floors will undoubtedly leave you spellbound. But the best comes after you walk through all the Raphaels, Van Goghs, Picasso, Mondrians.Vatican Museum is the home to Michaelangelo’s most celebrated work- The Sistine Chapel. You cannot take a photo there, which is something great because only then you can actually look out of the viewfinder and absorb this masterpiece as much as possible. My short clip on the inside of the Vatican Museum
San Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro
If you take the small door end of the Sistine Chapel, you will enter the Saint Peter’s Basilica directly. The highest alter of Catholic Christianity and destination to many pilgrims from all over the world, this is the largest church in the world. Take your time to wander in this sanctum.
Not many people know that you can actually climb up to the dome of the basilica. So I did that! 551 steps in total. So I took an elevator ride,saving 320 steps, to a gallery inside the dome from where I witnessed the first ever church prayer of my life. Yes, until then I had never seen one. That echo runs shivers down my spine even when I think about it now.Here is a video of it Wow! A prayer at the Saint Peter’s main alter
After this brief stop, I had 231 actual stairs to climb to be on the top of the cupola. Word of advise: If you are weak at heart or not well, don’t try this. The steps are really narrow and gets narrower with its rise. The narrow passageway can be very uncomfortable if you are claustrophobic like me. I actually thought of turning back.Here’s a photo I found online. But if you can do this what lies on the top is beyond imagination. I am so glad I got an hold of my vertigo and claustrophobia to reach the top and see this!
How to get there: Metro line A to Ottaviano – S. Pietro – Musei Vaticani
Entrance fee: The Vatican museums cost € 16, Cost €8 for elevator, €5 Euros for stairs.
Travel tip: You are not allowed in the basilica if you are wearing shorts or a short dress or no sleeves. Carry a small bag.
Baths of Caracalla
My last day in the eternal city and I was not in the best of my moods. We took the metro straight down to see the second largest Roman public bath – the baths of Caracalla. I couldn’t believe with my eyes the grandeur and scale of this place. I mean seriously can you imagine sixteen hundred people bathing in cold and warm water in this gigantic stadium sized bath? Romans knew all about basics and luxury. This was a social hub with a great opportunity to socialize and network at all levels and also facilitated the people who did not have water supply at home. I saw board games still drawn at the edge of the pools, remains of gyms and bathing pools. What more do you want than relaxing in a warm pool and playing board games? Romans knew how to do it all!
I was not in a mood to take any photos here, Photo credit: Sharif Jahir
How to get there: Metro line B to Circo Masimo
Entrance fee: I think € 14, by this time my Roma pass had expired.
If you ever have a chance to visit Europe, don’t miss out on Rome even if you are not interested in architecture. The day I finished reading the Angles and Demons back in 2006 (a precious gift my mama got for me from London) I had decided I will go to Rome someday. It took me 10 years to finally be there and I am beyond glad that I did.
I know it is horribly long, but I wanted to put in all that I have experienced in one post so that anyone planning to go can have an overview on Rome in one go. Hope you’ve enjoyed. Leave me a comment below if you have any questions and don’t forget to share this post if you liked reading it.:)