Three days in Rome

Hello fellow travellers, I have been quiet for a while as I have been (and still am) super busy! Let’s say I am busier than usual, with lots of planning to do. Anyway…I went home for the Christmas holidays, and stayed in Rome with my friend for three days, so I decided to make my next blog post about one of my favourite cities on the entire planet! Rome is an open-air museum, a beautiful city full of history, art, architecture and ancient ruins which evoke the power of the Roman Empire. One of the coolest places on earth for so many reasons, it’s also a favourite thanks to the delicious food it offers at its “trattorie” (Italian traditional family-owned casual and rustic restaurants, which are a great choice if you want to enjoy local food), “pizzerie” (although the original pizza is from Naples, and still the best one for me, in Rome you can try the tasty “pizza Romana”, which is usually thinner than the Neapolitan one, and crunchier on the edges), and several great restaurants scattered around the city. I have been to Rome quite a few times now, but it’s such a big city, and there is so much to see, that you would never get tired of going back again and again. I used to drive there, as it takes me just over an hour and a half from Caserta, but this time me and my friend decided to travel by train, so we wouldn’t have to worry about where to park and traffic jam. The train from Naples only takes an hour and 10 minutes, so I was really happy I had decided to leave my car at home! If you have never been to Rome, I’d recommend at least a 5-day stay, as that would allow you to see the main sites without rushing from one place to the other. This time we only had three days to wander around, but luckily, we were still able to see a lot and take in many of the beauties the city has to offer.

Day 1

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Hotel Universo, which is only 5 minutes’ walk from Roma Termini (the main train station), where you can also take the metro and busses to wherever you need to go, and is also close to restaurants and some of the main attractions, including the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Rome National Museum, the Opera House and Piazza della Repubblica, one of Rome’s main squares. We did a lot of walking, but if you don’t feel like it, you can use the public transportation, which works quite well. You can either purchase a one-way ticket (BIT), which lasts 75 minutes since its first validation, and allows you to travel unlimited times on busses, metro, trams and urban trains (1,50 €), or a daily pass (BIG), which allows unlimited use of public transportation from the moment you validate it until midnight of the same day (6 €). There is also a three-day tourist pass (BTI) which will cost you 16,50 €, and a weekly pass (CIS), which you can buy for 24 €. Tickets can be purchased directly at the small kiosk selling newspapers and magazines at Roma Termini, at any of the other similar kiosks you find around the city and also at the automated ticket machines located at metro stations.

Piazza San Pietro

As soon as I arrived in Rome, I dropped my luggage at the hotel and made my way to Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square). The square was overcrowded with maybe more people than usual, as we visited at the end of December, so I guess many tourists were going to spend New Year’s Eve in the capital. I had a look around and took some pictures of the beautiful architecture and Christmas decorations, but then decided to skip the Basilica, as it would have taken me at least 2-3 hours to get in, and I had too many other places I wanted to go to. The best time to visit the Basilica is usually between 7:00 and 8:00 am, as after that the queue starts to become quite long! Also, you should avoid going at weekends, as those days are always terribly crowded. The Basilica is well worth a visit, but if you don’t want to spend too long queuing, make sure you still visit the square, and then you can either head to the Vatican Museums and visit the Sistine Chapel (bear in mind that these will also be super crowded and plan your day accordingly), or, you can visit the gorgeous Castel Sant’Angelo, like I did!

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Opening hours:

St. Peter’s Basilica: 1st Oct-31st March: 7:00 am – 6:30 pm // 1st April-30th Sept: 7:00 am -7:00 pm

Vatican Museums: Mon-Sat: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (last admission is at 4:00 pm). Last Sunday of each month (unless it’s a Bank Holiday), from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, with last admission at 12:30 pm

Castel Sant’Angelo

Just over 10 minutes’ walk from St Peter’s Square, Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress located on the right bank of the Tiber. First built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’Angelo has also been used as a prison and a papal residence. On your visit, you will be able to see some of the beautifully decorated rooms, an extensive collection of weapons, the cells where historical figures had been incarcerated, and enjoy amazing views of the Eternal City from the large terrace you find on the upper floor. I arrived at the castle at around 2:30 pm, and had to queue for about half an hour, which was not too bad. I purchased my ticket on site, and spent around two hours visiting the fortress and taking beautiful sunset pictures from the terrace. I was quite impressed with all there is to see at Castel Sant’Angelo, including frescoes and other works by Michelangelo, and I totally recommend it!

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Address: Lungotevere Castello 50

Opening times: 9:00-7:30 pm

Admission fee: Tickets are usually 10 €, but check on the website as prices may vary in case of exhibitions.

For the official website click here

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From Castel Sant’Angelo, I walked along the river, where there was a cute Christmas Market, then headed towards Piazza Navona, which is only 13 minutes’ walk from the castle. In the middle of the large square, is the beautiful Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocenzo X, whose family palace (Palazzo Pamphili) is adjacent to the 17th-century baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which you shouldn’t miss. From Piazza Navona, you can walk to Piazza della Rotonda (about 6 minutes’ walk), where the Pantheon is located. An architectural wonder, the Pantheon is now a church, which was firstly built as a temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It’s one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Rome, which hosts the tombs of Renaissance painter Raffaello, the Italian Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, and Margherita of Savoy. From Piazza della Rotonda, I walked around 15 minutes to get to Piazza Barberini, where you can admire the famous Trevi Fountain, and toss three coins into the water. According to the legend, the first coin should guarantee your return to Rome, the second a new romance, and the third one a happy marriage. Make sure you throw them with your right hand over the left shoulder, and that you are giving your back to the fountain while doing so. Sad to say, I didn’t throw mine, so I cannot guarantee whether it actually works!!! Jokes apart, I then made my way towards Piazza di Spagna, which is only 9 minutes away, and walked along Via dei Condotti, one of the most luxurious shopping streets, which had some really nice Christmas decorations, and then walked back to Piazza di Spagna and went up the Spanish Steps, where I took nice pictures of the square from above, and took the metro back to my hotel, where I met my friend and went for dinner in a cute “trattoria” nearby.

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Sant’Agnese in Agone – Piazza Navona
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Pantheon – Piazza della Rotonda
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Fontana di Trevi – Piazza Barberini
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Piazza di Spagna
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Via dei Condotti

Opening hours:

Sant’Agnese in Agone: 9:00 am-1:00 pm and 3:00 pm-7:00 pm (Sat and Sun open until 8:00 pm). Admission is free

Pantheon: 9:00 am-6:30 pm (Sun until 1:00 pm) Admission is free

Day 2

Terme di Caracalla

After an amazing breakfast at our hotel, we walked to Roma Termini and caught bus 714 (towards Nervi/ Palazzo Sport) to the Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla). The ride takes around 15 minutes depending on traffic. You need to get off at “Terme di Caracalla”, and then walk about 5 minutes to get to the entrance, where you will be able to purchase your ticket. The Roman thermal baths are located along the ancient Appian Way, and used to be Rome’s largest public baths, accommodating up to 1600 people. Apart from providing Romans with sanitation facilities, they also offered a great opportunity to socialise. The ruins are marvellous, we just walked around and read the explanation boards you find in each area, but you can also get an audio guide or rent virtual reality goggles, which will allow you to see how each room used to look like in ancient Rome. We spent about an hour and a half at the baths, as there is a lot to see, then made our way towards Circus Maximus, which is 8 minutes away from the baths.

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Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52

For up-to-date opening hours and tickets click here

Circus Maximus

Located in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, Circus Maximus is the oldest and largest public space in Rome, a chariot racetrack which was also used for other public events such as the Roman Games and gladiator fights. There is not much left to see of the actual hippodrome, but it’s one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, and a must see for all those who love history.

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Address: Via del Circo Massimo

Giardino degli aranci / Buco della serratura

From Circus Maximus, it’s a short 8-minute walk to the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) on the Aventine Hill, which offers panoramic views of Rome, and from where you will also be able to see the Altare Della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). Exit the garden and walk about 5 minutes to your right, and you will reach Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. The elegant building to your right is the Priory of the Knights of Malta; look through the keyhole, and you will be amazed by the stunning view of St. Peter’s Basilica, perfectly centred between two rows of the garden’s trees, which work as a natural frame together with the keyhole. There is always a line of people taking in the view and trying to take pictures. Make sure you have your camera on you, I left mine with my friend and only brought my iPhone with me, and it was really hard to take a good picture!

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St. Peter’s Basilica seen through the Aventine keyhole

Addresses:

Giardino degli Aranci: Piazza Pietro D’Illiria

Buco della Serratura (Aventine keyhole): Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 4

Bocca della Verità

From the Aventine hill, we walked for 10 minutes to reach the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth), which is a large marble mask located on one of the walls of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. According to the legend, the sculpture, which represents a bearded man with holes for its mouth, nose and eyes, used to bite the hands of those who lied. Nowadays, tourists queue for hours to be photographed with their hand in the sculpture’s mouth. When we went, the queue was too long though, so we just took a picture of it from outside.

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Piazza della Bocca della Verità

Address: Piazza della Bocca della Verità

Teatro Marcello

If you walk for 7 minutes from Piazza della Bocca della Verità, you will reach the beautiful Teatro Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus), a semi-circular open-air theatre which used to host performances of drama and song. Works for the theatre began under Julius Caesar, but were completed during the reign of Augustus. The theatre cannot be visited, but it hosts concerts during the summer, and the ticket price will also include a tour of the theatre grounds. Check this website for up-to-date info on upcoming events.

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Address: Via del Teatro di Marcello

Campidoglio

After seeing the theatre, we continued for another 6 minutes to Piazza del Campidoglio (Campidoglio Square) on the Capitoline hill. Walk up the Cordonata staircase by the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), and you will reach the magnificent square, which is surrounded by the Capitoline Museums. From the hill, just behind one of the museums to the other side of the square, you will be able to take in fantastic views of the Roman Forum. We headed back to the square and walked down the staircase to reach the Altar of the Fatherland, which you will find on your right.

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Cordonata staircase

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CAMPIDOGLIO
The Roman Forum seen from the Campidoglio

For up-to-date opening hours and tickets to the Capitoline Museums click here

Altare della Patria

The Altare della Patria is the largest national monument in Italy, which was inaugurated by King Vittorio Emanuele III during the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Two panoramic lifts will take you to the terrace of the Quadrigas, between the two bronze chariots that crown the monument, which offer breath taking panoramic views of Rome. There is also a small museum, the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento (Central Museum of the Risorgimento), which hosts a collection of documents, uniforms, painting, weapons and sculptures from the period that goes from the second half of the 18th century to the First World War.

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Address: Piazza Venezia

For general info click here

Mercati di Traiano

From Piazza Venezia, we reached the Mercati di Traiano (Trajan’s Market) in only 7 minutes. The market is a large complex of ruins, which is believed to have been built between 107-110 AD during the reign of Trajan. The complex included a covered market, shops and apartments, although its main function was commercial. Built on three levels connected by internal staircases, the market became part of a medieval fortress built in the 12th and 13th centuries AD. The complex is huge, and you can easily spend 2-3 hours wandering around, but it’s totally worth your time! We were lucky as there were not so many people when we visited, so we didn’t have to queue to get in. Tickets can be purchased on site, inside the little gift shop.

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Address: Via Quattro Novembre, 94

Admission: Tickets are 15 €. For more info on tickets and reductions click here

For up-to-date opening hours click here

Basilica San Pietro in Vincoli

After spending at least 2 hours at Trajan’s Market, we made our way to the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (Basilica of St. Peter in Chains), so we could admire Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses, which is part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. One of the masterpieces of the 16th century, the statue represents Moses sitting with the Tablets of the Law under his arm. In the church, you will also be able to see the chain with which Saint Peter was bound as a prisoner in Jerusalem. Unlike other churches in Rome, San Pietro in Vincoli is characterised by frescoes depicting skeletons and other images which are usually not shown in Catholic churches.

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San Pietro in Vincoli (1)
Chain with which Saint Peter was bound as a prisoner in Jerusalem
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Michelangelo’s Moses

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Address: Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a

Admission is free

Opening hours:

April to September: 8:00-12:30 pm and 3:00- 7:00 pm

October to March: Same hours but it closes at 6:00 pm

Santa Maria Maggiore

From San Pietro in Vincoli, we walked for 10 minutes to reach the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. Located on top of the Esquiline hill, the Basilica is absolutely stunning; it displays various architectural styles, including spectacular mosaics and marble floors from the medieval times, Ionic columns from other ancient Roman buildings, and domes and chapels from the baroque era. Under the altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity, with a reliquary said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ. Buried in the basilica are Saint Jerome, the 4th-century Doctor of the Church who translated the Bible into Latin, and sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his family.

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Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

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Reliquary containing wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ

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Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (4)

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Address: Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42

Admission is free

For up-to-date opening hours click here

Tired and happy with our very productive day, we headed back to our hotel, which was only 5 minutes’ walk away, rested for a while, then got ready to go to dinner in our area. We chose a cosy “trattoria”, and tried two of the typical dishes of the Roman cuisine: spaghetti with cacio and pepe (cheese and black pepper), and spaghetti carbonara. Both dishes are really nice, so I recommend you try them if in Rome. Feeling full after our starters, main courses and desserts, we decided to walk to the Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains), so called because of the four fountains that decorate the four corners of the intersection between Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via XX Settembre. Built in the 16th century, the fountains are located on the highest point of the Quirinal Hill. Domenico Fontana created the fountains of the Arno, Tiber and Juno, whereas the fountain of Diana was designed by Pietro da Cortona.

Address: Via delle Quattro Fontane

Day 3

The first thing we decided to visit on the last day of our trip was the Colosseum. Conveniently located a 5-minute metro ride from Roma Termini, we managed to get there quite early, so we didn’t have to queue for long to get in. Luckily, we bought our tickets on site, as, surprisingly, the queue for online ticket holders was longer than ours!

COLOSSEO

Colosseo

The largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, with a capacity of up to 70000 people, the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was started under the reign of Vespasian in 72 AD. It was used for gladiator fights and hunting simulations which involved wild animals. A full price adult ticket will cost you 12 €, which also includes access to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, which I totally recommend you visit! The ticket is valid for two days, so you can visit them either on the same day or the Colosseum on one day and the other two on the next day. If you have the time, there are also guided tours you can take at the Colosseum, which include visits to the underground, the belvedere and the third ring. We didn’t have much time, so we visited all three sites without taking any tours. Be aware that there are people outside the Colosseum who will try to sell you guided tours which will allow you to skip the queue. Just ignore them and book your tickets/ tours at the main ticket office, or online from official websites.

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Address: Piazza del Colosseo

How to get there: The Colosseum is accessible via metro (Line B, stop: Colosseo), bus 75 from Roma Termini (Poerio/Marino, Stop: Colosseo). Both means of transportation stop right in front of the Colosseum.

Opening hours:

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to February 15th)

8:30 am- 5:00 pm (from February 16th to March 15th)

8:30 am- 5:30 pm (from March 16th to the last Saturday of March)

8:30 am- 7:15 pm (from the last Sunday of March to August 31st)

8:30 am- 7:00 pm (from the 1st to the 30th of September)

8:30 am- 6:30 pm (from the 1st to the last Saturday of October)

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to December 31st)

Apart from January 1st and December 25th, the Colosseum is open every day

Admission: 12 € for an adult ticket (which includes access to the Palatine and the Roman Forum). Admission is free every first Sunday of the month

For up-to-date opening hours and info on tickets and tours click here

Palatino

A few steps away from the Colosseum, you can admire the beautiful Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine). Once you have visited the amphitheatre, you can make your way towards the Palatino (Palatine Hill), which stands 40 metres above the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), and it is one of the most ancient parts of the city. Once the home of emperors and the site of temples, it is also known for the legend of Romulus and Remo. The views from the Palatine Hill are breath taking; from here, you can see the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Aventine and Capitoline Hills and the Roman Forum. Despite always being crowded with tourists, the place is amazingly peaceful and should not be missed! Be aware that the most obvious entrance to the Palatine Hill is right opposite the Colosseum, but the queue there is always really long. The best thing to do is to walk to the other entrance which is about 7-8 minutes’ walk to your left once you leave the Colosseum. Walk past the Arch of Constantine, and you will find the entrance to your right. Bear in mind that there is a lot to see, so you might want to spend a minimum of 2 hours here.

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Piazza del Colosseo
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Arch of Constantine
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Ruins on the Palatine Hill

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The Roman Forum seen from the Palatine Hill

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Address: Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6

Opening hours:

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to February 15th)

8:30 am- 5:00 pm (from February 16th to March 15th)

8:30 am- 5:30 pm (from March 16th to the last Saturday of March)

8:30 am- 7:15 pm (from the last Sunday of March to August 31st)

8:30 am- 7:00 pm (from the 1st to the 30th of September)

8:30 am- 6:30 pm (from the 1st to the last Saturday of October)

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to December 31st)

Apart from January 1st and December 25th, the Palatine Hill is open every day

Foro Romano

From the Palatine Hill, once you walk all the way to the other end, you reach the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), which is hands down one of my favourite places in Rome!  The beautiful archaeological site, used to be the centre of ancient Rome, with temples, courts, markets, basilicas and government buildings. Although you will only be able to see the ruins of most of the buildings, a few of them are still well preserved. Stunning views of the Forum can be enjoyed from the Campidoglio, but it’s also amazing to walk through the ruins and admire them from up close. We managed to do the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum all on the same day without rushing it, however, if you plan to take also guided tours at the Colosseum, I recommend you visit the three sites over the two days your ticket is valid for, so you can fully enjoy your visit. 

FORO ROMANO
The Roman Forum seen from the Palatine Hill

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Address: Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6

Opening hours:

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to February 15th)

8:30 am- 5:00 pm (from February 16th to March 15th)

8:30 am- 5:30 pm (from March 16th to the last Saturday of March)

8:30 am- 7:15 pm (from the last Sunday of March to August 31st)

8:30 am- 7:00 pm (from the 1st to the 30th of September)

8:30 am- 6:30 pm (from the 1st to the last Saturday of October)

8:30 am- 4:30 pm (from the last Sunday of October to December 31st)

Apart from January 1st and December 25th, the Roman Forum is open every day

ICE CREAM

Last but not least, make sure you check out the Mercato Centrale di Roma Termini (Up-scale food court located at Roma Termini station). We had a delicious dinner there on our first night, and I had a super yummy ice-cream before I got my train back to Naples! The food stalls all look amazing, and offer traditional Roman dishes both to enjoy on site or to take away (Address: Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36).

I hope you will visit the beautiful Eternal City one day, and that my tips will come in handy. In the meantime, I wish you a great rest of the week and a great time exploring, wherever you are headed!

Maria xxx

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