The historic centre of Rome has an embarrassment of architectural treasures and with so many things to see the city can be a daunting prospect for the visitor on a short break. It is impossible to experience everything that Rome has to offer in just two days but you can certainly manage most of the highlights with a little planning and a lot of walking.
If possible, base yourself centrally, ideally somewhere between Piazza Venezia and the Trevi Fountain. This will put all of the major sights in the city a comfortable walking distance from your hotel. There is an underground rail system in Rome but the service is limited due to the dangers of excavating amongst the ancient ruins. In any case, walking in the city is a more rewarding experience as there is something interesting to see around every corner. Even the people are a picture to behold. Romans have a natural sense of style and panache and it is easy to think you have wandered into a giant fashion show! More Versace than Next, if you want to look the part in Rome, take your designer Jeans, not your Primark denim!
Start out by heading for the Coliseum. No trip to Rome would be a complete without visiting this iconic amphitheatre and it does not disappoint. Arrive early as thousands of tourists descend on the coliseum every day and it can take some time to purchase your ticket and gain access to the interior. Your entrance ticket is also valid for the Forum which is where you should head next. The Forum was the commercial and political centre of ancient Rome and although the area is now largely in ruins you get an incredible sense of the history and power of the empire here. The Forum has an amazing atmosphere and is one of those places where you can really feel the ghosts of the past. If you have managed to negotiate the Coliseum and Forum in good time use your ticket to access the Palatine Hill where the wealthy people of the ancient city made their homes. The Palatine affords great views of the surrounding area and is a peaceful place to stroll amongst the ruins and the orange groves before moving on.
From the Forum stroll down the Via Dei Fori Imperiali to Piazza Venezia where you will find the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, an enormous and extravagant structure dedicated to the first king of a unified Italy. The locals are not keen on this building which they see as ostentatious and in poor taste architecturally. They refer to it as a wedding cake! It is certainly something to behold and negotiating the traffic around the piazza can be quite an experience too. From the monument head to the far side of the square to the north and walk down Via Plebiscito where after a short stroll you will find Largo Di Torre Argentina. This is a stunning square with a large section of excavated ancient ruins at its heart and was the site of the assassination of Julius Caesar. The ruins are below street level and you must view them from above together with the many inhabitants of the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary.
It is now time to grab a brief rest at your hotel before heading out for the evening. Rome is a fabulous city to explore at night and so your sightseeing is not done for the day! Head for the Trevi Fountain and spend some time here, probably wrestling with the crowds before making your way to Piazza Navona. Your route will take you past the Pantheon and its attractive piazza and if the Pantheon is still open when you arrive it is well worth going in to experience the oldest building in the city which is still completely intact. You can then enjoy the gorgeous Piazza Navona and your evening meal. Don’t eat on the square itself as the prices are inflated. Better food at more reasonable prices is available in the surrounding streets.
After your marathon first day you may be feeling short of energy but steel yourself because there is plenty more to see! Make your way across the city to the Vatican to visit the museum and St Peter’s Basilica. Book your museum tickets in advance as this will save you from the ridiculous queues to gain entry. You will be allocated a time slot and this will save you a very long wait. The highlight of the museum is the Sistine Chapel featuring the frescos of Michelangelo but there is a substantial amount to see here and if you are going to make it to St Peter’s you will have to restrict yourself to a whistle stop tour. On exiting the museum head to the Basilica where you may have to queue to pass through the security checks before accessing the building. Both the basilica and the square in which it stands are architectural masterpieces and it worth taking the time to explore. If time permits do take the option to ascend the Dome of the Basilica for the most stunning views across the entire city. The crypt is also worth exploring but by now it might be quite late in the day.
When you have seen all you want to in the Vatican City start back towards your hotel by heading east down the Via della Conciliazione. You can admire the Castel Sant’Angelo, the mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian, as you pass. You probably won’t have the time to tour the building but it is an awesome sight as you cross the Tiber and head east back to your hotel. If you have another evening in the city you can enjoy another meal and take some time to relax strolling around the historic streets.
Whistle Stop Tour
Touring Rome in two days is a bit of a mission and can be hard on your feet but it is well worth the effort. The unique atmosphere and stunning architecture of this city will leave a lasting impression and do make sure you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain as legend has it that this will ensure you return to the city.
Article by Sally Stacey who is frequent visitor to Rome