Ciao, Roma! With the status of a global city and having been ranked 14th most visited city in the world in 2014 with an average of 8.6 million tourists, it is difficult to not want to visit this masterpiece of a city. From the breath-taking beauty of its architectural monuments, to majestic archaeological finds and artistic wonders, Rome is a piece of Italian magic waiting to be explored. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then neither should the time spent there be as short. It is recommended that if one is on a limited time budget about five days will allow the real splendour of the city to really come alive to the sights and senses.
It is for Rome’s artistic and archaeological gems found in its historic city centre that it has been awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO. It is two and a half thousand years old and is one of the oldest sites in Europe. Some of the more well-known historical periods in Rome’s life have been the Italian Renaissance and the Baroque period, as well as this city positioning itself as the seat of Catholicism and the papacy. Many practising Catholics still make the pilgrimage each year to Rome. Today, it is world-renowned as the central posit of Western civilisation, with rich cultural heritage which the traveller with a thirst for history will lap up.
The Vatican City, also the home of the Pope, is a spectacle that all should witness. Walking on the cobbled paths, one feels as if you’re walking through history upon the footsteps of those gone before. The Vatican City is made up of many memorable statuses and places of interest such as St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Apolostic Palace, and of course the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted a jaw-dropping masterwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, with other Italian Renaissance painters contributing their brushstrokes to various frescos on the walls.
Within the same geographical area in the cityscape, are the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. These are the symbols of Rome that almost every traveller can identify with and wants to say “I’ve been there!” Built between 70 and 80 AD, the principle purpose of the Colosseum was once as a gladiator combat arena. The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre personifies Rome in its concrete stature. As it is the largest amphitheatre ever built, the Colosseum definitely lends itself to panoramic views.
Situated along the shores of the Tiber River, Rome is not all stone and statues. Beautiful fountains grace the piazzas or squares and large public gardens grow lush in the warm Mediterranean climate. Fountains have formed part of the Roman architectural culture for almost two thousand years. The Trevi Fountain is one in particular that decorates the piazza in all its grand glory. Roman fountains were once fed by underground aqueducts, which provided a cool drink of water to residents and thirsty travellers. It is not advisable to drink from them today, however!
While visiting the piazza, why not sit down for a cup of real Italian coffee or better still a traditional dish. When in Italy, one cannot stay away from carbohydrates with all the pizza and pasta being served up in gorgeous little restaurants; try spaghetti alla carbonara for a truly authentic Roman dish. If it is at all possible to get sick of pasta, try the saltimbocca alla Romana, which is a delightful offering of veal topped with prosciutto and basil. For a vegetarian dish try the Carciofi alla Romana, which literally translates to “Roman style artichokes”.
The best time to travel to Italy is between April and June. This way, one misses the influx of tourists from across Europe who are on summer vacation from July and August. Also, the climate is preferable as it is the tail-end of spring moving towards a warm and dry summer, which if caught in the middle of it can reach up to a hot 30 degrees Celsius. Winters are cool and humid, never usually passing the zero mark.
Getting to Rome one will usually fly into the Fuimicino or Leonardo da Vinci airport, after which travelling around the city is a breeze. The main inner city modes of transport are by bus and tram. The Termini Railway Station is the central station in Rome, with the Roma Triburtina being another important station to remember. The three line Metropolitana is an alternative mode of transport when the buses and trams get grid-locked in peak hour traffic.
Whether it is for the delicious food, the art or the history, there is a reason for every traveller to make a stop in Rome.