Rome, the city of Roman Holiday, visited by Audrey Hepburn on a Vespa, is an icon known all around the world. A million words are not enough to tell about all the beauties in Rome, such as picturesque spots, evocative monuments, traces of ancient history and must-see museums.
Here is our two-days walking itinerary, for a weekend exploring the Eternal City.
The first trip’s day can start with a visit to the most famous monument of all time, as well as the largest Roman amphitheater in the world and one of the eternal symbols of Rome: the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colusseum. Wanted by the emperor Vespasian and completed by his son Titus in 80 d.c., this huge building was built to house the games between gladiators and wild animals, and was inaugurated with an event that lasted one hundred days. Over the years, fires and earthquakes have severely damaged it, and consequently it has been restored several times, until it became a quarry of building materials for constructions. Now the Colosseum, which takes its name from a huge bronze statue of Nero placed nearby – called the “Colosseum of Nero” – welcomes thousands of visitors every day, and has become the icon of Rome and of the whole Italy for millions of tourists.
The Colosseum is only a few minutes’ walk from the Roman Forum, the historic site where the citizens of all the territories of the Republic used to meet for trade and business. Between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, in the valley between the Palatine and the Capitol, and crossed by the Fori Imperiali street, the Roman Forum is the largest archaeological site in the world.
Walking among the ruins is a truly striking experience. Among the most important monuments to visit there are the Forum of Caesar, the Forum of Trajan, Forum of Augustus with the Temple of Mars, and the Palatine Hill, and the archaeological site containing the remains of the Emperors residences, arches and temples with the beautiful Domus Flavia and Domus Augustana.
Next to the Roman Forum there is the majestic Piazza Venezia, that houses the monumental National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, also known as the Vittoriano. At the center of the building is the Altare della Patria, which houses the remains of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of the fallen soldiers unburied, constantly protected by two soldiers and an eternal flame. In 1929 Mussolini chose this building as the headquarter of the Government and delivered his speech from the balcony. Vittoriano has always been the scene of important celebrations, and often hosts exhibitions and performances. The climb on the terrace is worth a visit: you can admire a splendid view of the city.
Ten minute walk in the streets of the center and you will reach the iconic Pantheon. Not everyone knows that the Pantheon was build where traditionally the founder of Rome, Romulus, was seized by an eagle and taken to heaven among the Gods after his death. Built in 27 a.c. by Agrippa and rebuilt by Hadrian, the word Pantheon literally means “Temple of all the gods” – coming from the Greek words “Pan” and “theon” – and in fact its massive dome, the largest in the history of architecture, has a hole in the center to allow a more direct contact with the Gods (actually it was realized also for technical reasons, to avoid the dome of being too heavy and collapsing).
A trip to Rome is not perfect if it does not involve a traditional toss of a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Another short walk and you get to admire this extraordinary work of baroque art, the triumph of water, light and marble, built by Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Pannini, a giant homage to the god of the sea.
A lot of mythological characters, horses marine, newts, on which the God Ocean dominates. The monument, powered by one of the oldest Roman aqueducts, the Aqua Virgo, became famous all over the world in one of the most memorable scenes of Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”, in which Anita Ekberg taks a bath in the fountain inviting Marcello Mastroianni to follow him. The Trevi Fountain is so iconic that in 1919 an American tried to reconstruct it in his garden, with an investment of 14 million dollars, failing miserably.
Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps
Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps, about one kilometer distant from each other, are the two most iconic squares of Rome. Piazza Navona has the same shape of the ancient stadium of Domitian, and was built around 86 d.c. It is hard to believe, but in ancient times the square was flooded by closing the discharges of the fountains to organize shows, competitions and even naval battles, and its name comes from this fact. At the center of the “Fountain of the Four Rivers” by Bernini represents four colossal figures personifying the great rivers of four continents: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata. Piazza Navona is fascinating for traditional street artists who live there, and has always been a meeting place during the Christmas period for the typical market.
In the heart of the most fashionable part of the city, there is the characteristic Piazza di Spagna, framed between the Bernini fountain, the ocher-colored buildings and the Spanish Steps dominated by the church of Trinita dei Monti. Fashion lovers will get lost among the most prestigious brands boutiques, but also the poetry fans will find lot of interesting things: in fact, next to the Steps, there is the “Keats-Shelley House”, the final resting place of English poet John Keats, which houses a rich collection of sculptures, paintings, manuscripts and works of Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, the most important exponents of the second English romantic generation.
The second day of the visit is dedicated to the area across the Tiber leading to St. Peter’s Square. The itinerary can start from Castel Sant’Angelo, the castle built as tomb of Emperor Adriano and another symbol of Rome. Over the centuries it has been used for different functions, and boasts an intricate and very special labyrinth of underground passages, cells, halls, stairways and courtyards. The dungeon of the castle also penned the artist Benvenuto Cellini, and in the Hall of Justice Pope Clement VII condemned to death Beatrice Cenci, Baroness executed for the murder of his father.
St. Peter’s Square
A walk along Conciliazione street drives to Piazza San Pietro, where stands the imposing St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world. The original building was built around 320 by Emperor Constantine in the place where, according to the tradition, rests the apostle Peter. Over the centuries many artists have given their contribution to this place. Michelangelo designed the majestic dome and always by the same artist you can admire the famous sculpture of the Vatican Pietà preserved in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Tivoli gave birth to the colonnade of 284 Doric columns and 88 travertine pillars surrounding the basilica, Bernini concocted the colonnaded structure, arranging the columns radially and making them gradually increase in diameter.
In St. Peter’s Square are worth a visit the huge Vatican Museums, one of the largest museum complex and interesting in the world. Every day the long queues for entrance fill the whole square, then you must arm yourself with a lot of patience. They include several museums, including Museo Pio Clementino, Chiaramonti Museum, Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Art Collection of Modern Religious Art, Superior Galleries, Museum of the Vatican Library, Art Gallery and the incomparable Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel, one of the most known in the world wonders, takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, who had it restored by the end of 1400.
Schools of artists Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli entirely painted the walls with some of the most wonderful works of all time: the false drapes, the Stories of Moses and Christ and the portraits of the Popes. The nine central panels are depicted the Stories of Genesis, from the Creation to the Fall, the Flood and the subsequent rebirth of mankind with the family of Noah.
What to eat
“Roma nun fa la stupida stasera” was sung in Rugantino … A weekend in Rome cannot avoid an evening in its restaurants, walking in the Trastevere streets full of life, with a full immersion in the deliciuos dishes the Roman tradition.
We start from the pasta: macaroni, fettuccine, spaghetti, Pici, the seasonings used in the capital with these types of pasta are several and all mouth-watering. Carbonara is the Roman dish par excellence, rigorously prepared with lard (do not get confused with the bacon, a Roman might be offended terribly!), Garlic, olive oil and a mixture of beaten eggs with black pepper and Parmesan. And yet Amatriciana with bacon, Parmesan, pecorino, red pepper and tomato, and Gricia, born in Grisciano near Amatrice, which could simply be the ancestor of Amatriciana, an even poorer version without tomato. Even the Cacio e Pepe, with pecorino cheese and black pepper, and the Gnocchi alla Romana, prepared with milk, cheese and butter.
Moving on to the main courses, the lamb is a typical traditional Easter dish, Saltimbocca alla Romana, veal rolls with ham and sage, and tripe, for the strongest stomach. As side dishes artichokes, with a filling of breadcrumbs and chopped of the aromatic spices, or chicory. And if you’re still hungry, sandwich stuffed with soft whipped cream, the tart with cherries, ending with a “Grattachecca“, the typical frozen dessert served in the kiosks the Tiber.