Visiting Rome – the eternal city

I left Rome yesterday with a bottle of wine in hand – a gift from the hotel where I spent the last few days. A fantastic momento of Rome sure but also completely impractical. In fact I couldn’t fit it in my luggage and gave it to the girl who checked me in at the airport. She was having dinner with the girl at the – desk next to her so they thanked me with gusto and I wished them “buon apetito“. Italians never say no to a bottle of wine! But it’s also moments like these that make being in Italy so memorable.

And what is memorable here? Well everything. Rome features the Trevi fountain, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, St Peters, Spanish steps, Appia Antica… a list that reads like a list of credits.

But a visit here is also about the people themselves. You can learn about Julius Caesar, enjoy mama’s best pasta, dream of Gladiators or be photographed with one in costume and enjoy an aperitivo (aperitif) from one of Rome’s friendly barmen.

There’s also the wealth of the churches to marvel at and perhaps the Pope to see or you can wander any number of ancient roads around the city. There’s just so much to do and see – it truly is one of the world’s most amazing cities! In fact look in any reference list to the world’s most exciting places, best places to eat, most wonderful historic sites and it should be way up there.

Not only is Rome home to the Roman Empire it’s also home to some of our VIP hostels. Yes, I know it’s no comparison, but still we do cover it so check out our options during your visit there.

I’ve been in Rome for the canonization of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, over the past weekend. A close friend and Catholic was keen to go, so I went along too. It was an incredible insight into the ceremonies of the Catholic Church with the Pope presiding over the actual canonization.

And with six saints being canonized including our own, and ones from Poland, Canada, Spain and Italy (they got two actually) it’s been fairly momentous. With that and all the other things to see and do in Rome, I’ve been fairly exhausted and hence a few days late posting this.

However I do have a list of five things not to miss in Rome for you to consider including in your itinerary, or perhaps these things might even tempt you over there.

1. Colosseum and Roman Forum
The might of these ancient relics reflects much on the splendour and grandeur of Rome and no visit to the capital is complete without seeing them. You do have to pay a joint ticket to see them both, but there is plenty to see from the outside if the entry fee is too steep (about 8 Euro). The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre built during the Roman empire and construction began on it between 70 and 72 AD. It could seat 50,000 spectators and was where gladiator’s dueled and public spectacles were held. You may well be familiar with it thanks to the Russell Crowe version of events. In fact there are plenty of Crowe wannabes dressed up in Gladiator costume outside – pose for a photo with them and get into the spirit.

The Roman Forum was the bedrock of ancient Rome’s political arena and where ancient Roman civilization developed. Important structures were located here such as the royal residency, the complex of the Vestal Virgins, the earliest shrines and temples, the Senates House, government offices and so on. Wandering the remains here is like stepping back into ancient Rome itself. You can see the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated for example. Or even the Umbilicus Urbi, the centre of the city from which all distances in the Roman Empire were measured, hence the phrase “all  roads lead to Rome”.

2. The Vatican
Vatican City is just a little outside the main centre of Rome but easily reached by a short metro trip. Here lies the incredible might of St Peter’s square and basilica. St Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and can hold some 60,000 people – great as there are always thousands of tourists in here at anyone time. Wonderfully entry to the church is free.

In Vatican City the other thing worth seeing are the Vatican Museums containing an incredible collection of art and relics built up by Pope Julius II who first founded them in the 16th Century. Amongst the most important works here are the Sistine Chapel and it’s amazing ceiling with Michelangelo’s frescoes and the Stanze della Segnatura which are a suite of reception rooms painted by Raphael. No visit to Rome is complete with gazing at length at these amazing creations. The museum costs about 10 Euro.

3. Aperitivo hour
In the evenings in Rome the best place to go before dinner is one of the numerous bars where for the cost of a drink you can also indulge in some fine bar snacks. Poke your nose into places around the city and you’ll see these lined up along the bar. It’s like the tapas in Spain; simply buy a drink and receive a plate of snacks or help yourself to those along the bar. A great pre dinner snack to keep you going into the evening.

4. Fine Roman cuisine
You’ll find all Italian food in Rome – the pastas, pizza, desserts and wines. But if you really want to get into true Roman cuisine you need to try the carbonara (cheese, bacon and eg) and matriciana (pork, cheese and tomato) pasta sauces. Or indulge in the fabulous bruschetta, the popular antipasto or appetizer from this region. Other specialities include fiori di zucca fritti (courgette flowers in a fried batter) and trippa (tripe with tomato sauce) which may not quite be to everyone’s tastes.

The Via Appia, www.visitedplanet.com

5. Bike or walk the Appia Antica
If you’ve indulged in far too many aperitivos, gelati or pasta it’s time for some exercise. And a wonderful excursion outside the city walls is to the Appia Antica, or Appian way, a strategic road that linked the Roman republic to the south. The first section was completed in 312 BC. When the Western Roman Empire fell, the road fell out of use and a new road was actually built parallel with the old one in 1784. The old Appian Way today is now a free tourist attraction and has been restored. The first three miles are used by cars, buses and coaches but then traffic is very light and can be explored on foot or by rented bike. There are a fantastic range of ruins to explore along the way, some of Rome’s atmospheric catacombs, and it is also lined by a line of cypress trees in parts making it quite picturesque.

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Hope you’re enjoying the VIP Backpacker’s Travel Blog. There’ll be an update added every other Friday, so keep tuning in to keep your travel dreams alive! If there are any travel topics you want covered feel free to contact me, Jo, at blog@vipbackpackers.com

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One thought on “Visiting Rome – the eternal city

  1. I love Rome too. My favourite place is sitting on the Spanish steps eating a gelati or wandering around the Colosseum. The food is great, transport is so easy and Italians are so friendly. Can’t wait to go back again one day.

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