[travel] 1 week in Italy: all roads lead to Rome

Cliched title alert.

Finally, my overdue post about Rome–the third and last city I visited during my 1-week trip to Italy. I have been ridiculously busy since my last blog post about Venice. Traveling, reading, struggling with school assignments etc etc have eaten up all my time. And Rome, there is simply too much about Rome. This city is saturated in history, myths, legends, and beautiful things. If you want to know what beautied-out means, welcome to The Eternal City.

I shall not talk much about Rome, because one the better things in life is to discover the good things for yourself… Jk I am so lazy/busy that writing a lengthy blog post is no longer an option. If there are 2 things I should tell you guys now, they are 1. Rome is awesome. It is perhaps the finest example of grandeur and history. Every corner there is something beautiful, wonderful, enchanting. The gelato is ridiculously delicious. Food is abound and mouthwatering. And no I did not encounter any trouble, be it the ‘too many tourist’ or petty theft problem. But again, I visted Rome in mid-January–the very low season of the city.

and 2. My tip on visiting Colosseum. One of the main reasons why I wanted to see Rome was the Colosseum. I mean, come ON. It is the best-known example of ancient architecture. It is literally everywhere: your history books, your architectonics books, your travel books, your favorite(?) movies. My readers, you cannot grow up without knowing what Colosseum is. And perhaps anyone with the tiniest bit of interest in history/architecture/beautiful/great/awesome things dreams of visiting this biggest amphitheater one day.

Buying ticket
The queue at the main gate to the Colosseum is ridiculous long, and I am pretty sure you don’t want to wait for hours in the scorching Roman heat in summer. The Colosseum is one of those places in which queuing early simply doesn’t really solve the problem. To fight the nameless crowd, some tourists frantically pre-book tickets to visit Colosseum before the big day. I was almost one of them, but after looking at the inflated prices on various websites, the stingy part in me won.
That said, I still managed to get inside the Colosseum without queuing, here is how.

First, you should get to understand the Colosseum ticket. The only ticket available is FULL ticket (normal price: 15euro), which allows you to visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill for TWO days. What I did was to visit the Colosseum on the first day, and save the two latter for the second day. There are, then, 2 ways to get your ticket without having to queue (at least for too long).

– Buy your full Colosseum ticket at either the Roman Forum or the Palatine Hill gate, and keep in mind that the latter is the emptier of the two. After all, the Roman Forum ticket booth is opposite to the Colosseum, thus attracts tourists (but not at all many), while the Palatine Hill’s one is located on the other side of the complex, which can be tricky to find. Worth a try, still. Just walk around the big green hill and you should find the entrance.

– If you find yourself eagerly heading to the Colosseum, don’t even bother standing on the right hand side line. Go straight to the left hand line (that is, if there is a line…) and buy your ticket. That booth is reserved for those who 1, want to go on a guided tour or 2, want to rent a headset, and somehow it is usually empty. I highly recommend you take the guided tour, as, at least, my tourguide was energetic, welcoming, knowledgable and patiently answered all our questions. For just 5 euro extra, it was a good investment. Plus, only with a guided tour can you go to the basement of the Colosseum–don’t miss out.

Right, now it’s photo time :P
The iconic 17-century Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of the Four Rivers, at Piazza Navona. At this piazza, prized on being one of the most beautiful in Rome, one can find the palace Palazzo Pamphili and the Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agon facing the piazza.

Not far from the Fountain is one of the finest, best preserved Roman ancient buildings, the glorious, beautiful-in-simplicity, (and free to enter) Pantheon. It was an indescribable feeling when I set my foot inside this wonder. My experience was made all the more meaningful as I took a ‘crash course’ on Roman ancient architecture via Youtube :P This video nicely explains and points out the Pantheon’s history and its amazing construction details. I can’t explain better than that, so here are some photos…

Did you know that these huge granite Corinthian columns, 11.9 m tall, 1.5 m in diameter, and 60 tons in weight, were quarried in Egypt at Mons Claudianus and brought back to Rome? You may find it stupid of me to flail over some columns, but these are unlike anything you will encounter in your life.

Not too many tourists inside, and I like the fact that there would always be an authoritative warning to tell people to shut up when they make some noise. Now if only every place I go there was the same kind of silencing system.

Ah, the Trevi Fountain… possibly the most famous fountain in the world, and a well-deserved fame it has. It was crazily packed with people, from morning till night. You can’t blame them though, this fountain is one hell of a sight.

even better at night *.*

Another equally touristic place is the Spanish Steps where tons of youths gather, have lunch, eat an ice cream, or laze around. Way too many people, I just don’t understand the appeal.

Anyone here has watched Roman Holiday? Yes, that witty, lovely, fluffy movie featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the (almost) cutest couple in cinema history? (In case you wonder, I think that it is Audrey & Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina who should win every single prize out there when it comes to cuteness). Then you should remember the scene when Peck puts his hand inside a stone mouth, telling Hepburn that a liar will lose his/her hand, and then pretends that his hand has been bitten off by the mouth? Do you recognize this?

Yes, the mouth is real. It is called Bocca della Verità and you can find it at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. You are obliged to pay 50 cent in the form of donation to take a photo with this mouth, and be prepared to queue. It’s fun, though :D This is how the church looks like, and its interior is also fairly interesting:

Now… onto the main attraction, the Colosseum complex. The amphitheater was massive and spectacular. Worn out by systematic looting, neglect, fire, earthquake and the power of time, the Colosseum still prevails as an architectural wonder with a colorful history. This video should give you a sufficient sense of what to expect, but I’m pretty sure that what you see there can easily take your breath away.


The underground level:

Outside the Colosseum is the 1700 year old Arch of Constantine. When I was there, it was under construction so I couldn’t see much :( don’t walk past it as just another arch, again, this video gives you some amazing facts surrounding the arch.

On my second day, I used my Colosseum ticket to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. A massive area to cover, and the Hill can be a confusing place to navigate around. Unfortunately, there was no guided tour, so I had to figure out things for myself. At least the explanatory signs were plentiful and helpful.

The imposing Arch of Titus to signals the entrance to the Roman Forum. Fun fact, it is the model for many later arches elsewhere in the world, one of its most famous successors is Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.

The Roman Forum was, for centuries, the center of Roman public life: “the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations attracting 4.5 million sightseers yearly.

Now a ruin of fragments of time, the Forum still exudes a bypast glory of one of the most powerful empires in history.

Another impressive arch… Arch of Septimius Severus:

The view of the Roman Forum from the Colosseum:

and from outside:

The Forum is directly connected to the Palatine Hill, so I’m not sure where the boundary is :P Here you can find remnants of the Stadium of Domitian, massive surviving walls or colorful tiles of the imperial building complex.

The ruin of Domus Augusti on the Palatine Hill as seen from Circus Maximus:

Still dazed and confused from your visit to complex? Try walking around in Rome! Told you every corner there is something big and beautiful popping up x)

Even a walk across the Tiber river can still fill you with awe:

But perhaps not many sights can evoke in you a sense of wonder when you watch the twilight drape its blanket of orange-pink-purple hue upon the Altare della Patria… Absolutely breathtaking:

I only stayed for 2 days in Rome, and what I managed to see was a fraction of what Rome has to offer (I also went to the Vatican though! Will blog later). Till next time, the Eternal City. After all, all roads will lead to Rome.


2 thoughts on “[travel] 1 week in Italy: all roads lead to Rome

  1. Pingback: [travel] 1 week in Italy: Vatican City | this user is dead

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