As one of the largest cities in Europe, Rome is a natural contender when deciding where to go for your next short city break. And so it should be. A must see for culture vultures, Rome offers you thousands of years’ worth of history in an unquestionably cool, urban Italian setting. It can often seem like the centuries are rushing by you all at once and there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting under the shade of a tree in the Italian summer heat, eating your gelato and watching them go by.
Rome has a way of making you want to stay for just that little bit longer but for those who are short on time, a well-planned weekend in Rome is all you need. The first thing to consider when planning your weekend is your means of travel. Between 3.2 and 4.2 million people live in the metropolitan area of Rome and it can often seem like they’ve all decided to get in their cars at once! There are two primary options for tourists: public transport or a private sight-seeing tour bus. The public transport in Rome consists of city buses, the metro and trams and there is a ticket you can buy which is valid for 1 or 3 days. A full day ticket costs €6 while the 3 day tourist ticket costs €16. The other option is a 2 day city sight-seeing tour, for around €30. This includes a direct route to all major attraction on an open-top bus and a commentary on the sights rolling passed your window. So now we’ve got your transport sorted, we better get going!
A great starting point for your sight-seeing is the Piazza Venezia which is a central hub of Rome, set around the impressive Palazzo Venezia. The palace itself is your first photo opportunity but its location is also a winner as Trajan’s Column, the Forum and the infamous Coliseum are all just a pleasant five minute walk away. Once you’ve taken in the majesty of the palace and had a wander around the square, it’s time to head over to the Coliseum.
Many people are put off by the constantly winding queues outside the Coliseum, but it can’t be missed. A pro-tip is to purchase your ticket for the Coliseum at the Forum or the Palatine Hill. The ticket is valid for a full day for all three attractions and the queues for these two lesser known attractions are always much smaller. Take your time wandering through the magnificently preserved history of the three sites; the Coliseum in particular is awe inspiring.
It seems quintessentially Italian to be able to throw your change into the Trevi fountain. But be warned, in high season the fountain is fenced off to protect it from the crowds who swarm around the little square. Don’t be put off though, depending on the time of year you travel, you might be lucky enough to find the little Piazza di Trevi abandoned. If the crowds become too much, have a wander around the typically roman roads that lead to the fountain.
Whether you subscribe to it or not, religion is ingrained into roman culture and time should be made to see how this has developed over the ages.
The current structure was rebuilt by Hadrian around 125AD and has since played a part in both ancient and modern religion. This building is a feat of ancient architecture, with the original domed roof still standing. Entrance is free but this is a fully-functioning church and if you arrive during a mass you will have to wait. It is also conveniently situated near the Piazza Navona which supplies ample choice of bars and restaurants, perfect for a lunch-break.
The Vatican and St. Paul’s Basilica
From one domed roof to another. Situated at the end of the lovely wide avenue of Via Della Conciliazione, St. Paul’s Basilica is perhaps the most familiar sight you will see in Rome, from multiple appearances on news programs and films alike, the chief architect of which was Michaelangelo. It is free to enter the Basilica, with the best time to go being late afternoon after the crowds have left. It is worth noting that a strict dress code is in place, men and women should avoid baring their shoulders and wearing shorts/short skirts. The Vatican Museums (where the Sistine Chapel is located) are a 5/10 minute walk from St. Paul’s and though the queues are often longer and slower, the strict dress code is not enforced here.
Sunset in Rome
As the sun sets on your weekend in this magnificent city, you’ll want to turn your head to the west. If you’re already at St. Paul’s Basilica, take the last elevator up to the domed roof (45 minutes before closing which is 7pm in summer and 6pm in winter). The view stretches in all directions across the city giving you an uninterrupted panorama of the sunset. If you’re looking for more of relaxed last evening with perhaps a refreshing beverage, head over to the Belvedere Terrace at the Villa Borghese, which rather conveniently faces west, giving you views over the Piazza del Popolo and the city that stretches out after it.
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