Our roving reporter Sian Collins takes in the sights and sounds of modern Europe in a series of guides for those looking to plan an enlightening journey… On a budget.
If you intend to take in Rome on your travels, make sure you’re prepared for the weather, and for being outdoors. Even in early September, temperatures can reach heights of thirty degrees Celsius. As everything is spread out, and the nature of ruins means their roofs are a thing of the past, you will probably find yourself spending a lot of time outside. There’s plenty to see and do, though, both indoors and out.
The Colosseum and Palatine Hill
You simply can’t go to Rome and not see the Colosseum – it’s the epitome of Roman history, and it’s, well, colossal (hence the name). Its history isn’t confined to ancient history, however, as the monument has stood the test of time, being used across the years for various purposes. Nearby, Palatine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, is one of the oldest sites in the city. Visitors here can wander amongst the ruins, at a suitable distance, of course, reading the extensive historical information pertaining to each. Or just taking a nice stroll. You pick.
- To avoid wasting time standing in the line, buy your tickets online in advance. These get you into both the Colosseum and the Palatine, and for EU citizens between the ages of 18 and 25, they’re at a reduced rate of €7,50. They are also valid for two days, one entry to each attraction, so take your time and do one on each day. Be careful to avoid buying from promotional companies – it’s easy to be scammed into thinking you’re getting a good deal. This is the official website for buying tickets. http://www.coopculture.it/en/colosseo-e-shop.cfm
The Pantheon is a remarkably-preserved specimen of ancient architecture, a former Roman temple used for centuries as a Catholic place of worship. It has a fantastic dome, and the interior and the square outside are both a good place to spend a little time.
- A couple of streets away, there is the lesser-known Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Step inside and experience the sumptuously-painted ceiling, gorgeous sculptures and amazing paintings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sant’Ignazio_Church,_Rome
The Vatican City
This is the smallest recognised independent state in the world, and just so happens to play host to one of the most influential men in the world. The Pope gives bi-weekly audiences, which are ticketless (unless you particularly want to sit down), free events which are a fantastic opportunity to see the Pope and listen to his wisdom. Bear in mind, though, that if you don’t speak Italian, you might have to wait a long time as the translators work their way through almost ten different languages. If you intend to see the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, it is certainly a good idea to buy tickets online (http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html), as the wait to get in can be up to three hours.
- The dome of St Peter’s Basilica is open to the public (for a small fee, slightly more if you take the lift which goes half way up), and sports fantastic views over the city. If you don’t like stairs or you get claustrophobic, consider this a warning – the ceilings of the stairways conform to the curved shape of the external dome wall, and one of the ascending spiral staircases is so steep there is a rope hanging from the ceiling in place of a handrail. If you can manoeuvre this, however, it is well rewarded. You won’t get a better view of Rome. Probably. Afterwards, amble around the outside of the Vatican wall, albeit just for the novelty of saying you walked the perimeter of a country in under an hour. http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/monumenti/basilica-di-s-pietro.html
The Unmissable – street food. In Rome, do as the Romans do – buy pizza by weight. There are all sorts of places you can do this around the city, and everywhere has different variations on the Italian classic. The closer to the centre you are, the more expensive the food costs, so maybe stray a little from the beaten path to find somewhere really good. Mary Pizza offers good quality food at a good price. If remember correctly, a slice is around 200g. http://www.marypizza.it/
The Probably-Missable – Trajan’s Forum. Or rather, any of the forums. These are really interesting archaeological sites, and you’ll pass many historic forums on your wanders through the ancient parts of the city. And that’s the best way to see them – take a look on your way past, but don’t go out of your way to find any because they will most probably find you first. http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/forumoftrajan.htm
Click here for more in the Europe on a Budget Series.
Featured image rights; Zach Dischner.