Sometimes on work trips it can be difficult to find the time to do some sightseeing – after a day of work and meetings, most are certainly too tired to trudge zigzigs across a city, and many sites shut after office hours. Luckily though, I managed to squeeze in a few hours between the end of work and dinner to have a wander around Rome.
A word of advice though, if you do have a short time to spend in Rome, choose which sites you see smartly. I ran into a couple on a packaged road trip throughout Italy and they had tried planning wandering around the Vatican buildings and museum, Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, basically every site in Rome. Since the Vatican museum itself can take one day to fully appreciate all the artefacts and artwork inside, their plan was going to fail from the beginning and they spent much of it stressed out and running around instead of enjoying themselves. Either choose your sightseeing geographically, i.e. grouped together, or decide which site is most important for you to see and see how it goes from there.
If, like me, you wanted to see as much as possible, then I would recommend taking the Via del Corso street. It is a main road through the old part of Rome, and many of the city’s famous sites sit on side-streets adjacent to the Via del Corso.
Walking through the Borghese Gardens, I ended up at the elaborate arched entrance to the Piazza del Popolo next to the start of the Via del Corso, where a surprising mixture of architectural styles meshed together.
There’s such a heady mixture of sights, sounds and people all grabbing for your attention down the Via del Corso, that it is a struggle to see everything. My advice? Make sure you look up once in awhile – often the undersides of buildings are equally gorgeous as their outer facade!
A five minute walk down a side street will bring you to the Pantheon, an ancient temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and completed by Hadrian that is one of today’s best-preserved ancient Roman buildings. Years ago when I last visited the site, it was covered in scaffolding and ever since I have wanted to return and see what it looked like in person. Now that it has had its facelift it is back to its former glory (well, almost!).
If those are what you think they are, you are correct – Hari Krishnas did do a performance and meet and greet by the Pantheon! It was such an odd juxtaposition between them and the building, I couldn’t resist taking a photo.
While I generally like to have an outline of what I plan to do each day when I’m away, I also like to give myself some free time to just wander. With a city as beautiful as Rome, you can easily while away hours getting lost in its side streets and admiring its quintessential style and vibrant colours.
(Not sure which building this was, but those bushes on the roof were the size of small trees in person!)
Eventually I wandered up to the Largo di Torre Argentina, a large square complex that is home to four Roman Republic temples and the remains of Pompey’s theatre. Located in such a close proximity to Rome’s Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Trajan’s Forum, it is often overlooked by visitors but means you can have space to wander and look at your leisure. If that isn’t enough to convince you, there is also a cat colony that lives there, but unfortunately they were all having a catnap when I visited! (sorry, couldn’t resist a bad pun!)
The end of the Via del Corso provides a spectacular finale in the form of the Altare della Patria, of Altar of the Fatherland, more commonly known as the Monumento Nazionale or Il Vittoriano. The building is a monument to the first king of a unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel, and is also home to the monument The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is such a photogenic building that you will be hard-pressed to fight amongst the crowds for a good shot, unless you are going for the hipsterish ‘picture of people taking pictures’.
I managed to get it in the end though (hint, go to the front of the building and squat with a wide-lens camera)!
The remains of the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum are just behind Il Vittoriano, and if you get the opportunity to wander through them and explore, then I would heartily recommend it. Palatine Hill is where Rome’s earliest settlers built their foundations and is one of the oldest sites in the city. Even if you are not normally a history buff, it is easy for anyone to be amazed at the ancient Romans’ ingenuity and find something to marvel at amongst these expansive sites.
Of course no trip to Rome would be complete without a trip to its world-famous landmark – the Colosseum.
Wandering back towards the Via del Corso, I stopped to admire Trajan’s Forum, with its signature Column, and the impressive sunset behind its skyline, before hurrying back for dinner.
Do you have any favourite sites or itineraries on Rome you would like to share? Leave it in the comments below!