Rome is out of this world. I had one of my best vacations in Rome. If you love good food, amazing history, fine art, and classic architecture – Rome is for you. Below is my list of 10 must-dos when visiting Rome:
1. Start your day with a good cup of Italian expresso
If you’re anything like me, you need a wake-up call in the morning. Nothing beats the smell of a freshly made cup of good Italian expresso. This is real coffee – the way coffee is supposed to be enjoyed. Starbucks is blasphemy here, girls & boys!
2. Play a gladiator at the Colosseum
One of the remaining wonders of the world, check out the Colosseum bright and early in the day. Extremely long lines of visitors are daily occurrence at the Colosseum. Do yourself a favor and get a Roma Pass – it will allow you to get in through the express line (totally worth it!). While the Colosseum’s exterior is impressive, the interior architecture is even more impressive. As I walked down the rows of tiered seating, I can almost hear the shouts of Roman senators championing their favorite gladiators on the arena. Behind the Colosseum stood the Arch of Constantine, gateway to the Roman Forum. A look-alike to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, the Arch of Constantine predates its French cousin by close to 1500 years. This picture-worthy structure is a fine example of classic Greek architecture. A few feet away from the Arch of Constantine is the Roman Forum. Walking pass the Palatine Hill, you will come to several structures – one of which houses the great marble figures that is the mark of fine Greek & Roman art.
3. Have lunch at Roma Spirita
The first time I visited Rome, I went to Roma Spirita for lunch several days in a row – yes, it is THAT good! While nothing in the menu disappointed me, I highly recommend two dishes that made this place in my top 10 death row meals: cacio e pepe and the oxtail marinara. Cacio e pepe is simply pasta cooked in cheesewater topped with Pecorino Romano and freshly cracked black pepper – it is lips smacking good, you can’t have it just once. The oxtail marinara is pieces of oxtail that have been slow cooked in marinara sauce until the meat falls off the bone – it is finger-licking good … actually make that plate-licking good (if you dare!)
4. Check out the Spanish Steps
Known to the locals as the Scalinata, the Spanish Steps is the widest staircase in Europe. The church on top of the staircase – Trinita dei Monti – was visited by many Bourbon kings of France. For a place that was built in the 18th century, the Scalinata has served as backdrop for many Hollywood movies, starting with Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday to Matt Damon’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.
5. Feast on fine arts at Galleria Borghese
If you love the life-like marble sculptures of Bernini and the life-like paintings of Caravaggio like me, you would not want to leave this place. The wealth of fine arts in this villa is priceless and the establishment did a great job in their audio guide – telling stories about each piece of work that make the spectators appreciate each item more. The villa gardens are also very lovely to walk through. Make sure to make an appointment ahead of time since this place receives a LOT of visitors every day.
6. Pose in front of the Trevi Fountain
Standing at 86 feet high and 161 feet wide, Fontana di Trevi is one of the most famous fountains in the world and the largest Baroque fountain in the city. The fountain’s legend was that in 19 BC thirsty Romans were guided by a young girl to a source of pure water that led to a construction of a 22 kilometers aqueduct name Aqua Virgo (Virgin Waters) by Emperor Augustus. Renovation on the fountain started in 1629 and was completed 133 years later. Many movies have been shot with this fountain as a backdrop and there are ~3000 Euros of coins thrown into the fountain every day.
7. Take a break of prosciutto & grilled figs
One word: orgasmic!
8. Be awed by the scale of the Pantheon
Boasting the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, the Pantheon was built as a temple to the ancient Roman gods. The circular building has a portico with large Corinthian columns under the concrete dome with an oculus (central opening) to the sky. Almost two thousand years later, this building is still one of the best preserved in Roman history.
9. Buy some artwork at Piazza Navona
I truly enjoyed spending time at Piazza Navona – lots of affordable artwork (for any budget & taste), outdoor cafes, beautiful fountains and buildings, and live classic Italian music aplenty (yes, the accordion kind!). This is a photographer’s heaven – there is something for everyone.
10. Observe the richness of the Vatican
So much has been written about this place, I will highlight some of my favorites here: St. Peter’s Square is outstanding – both from architecture and scale point of views. The Vatican Museum is worth spending your entire day in. The collection of artwork rivals the murals on walls and ceilings. Make sure to visit the Sistine Chapel while you’re here – seeing Michaelangelo’s Last Judgment is a once in a lifetime story to tell your friends back home. Don’t forget the beautifully intricate spiral staircase – the Double Helix. Make sure to pose with the Swiss Guards and their colorful uniforms.
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