Italy: Rome – A Long Weekend

Rome is a large bustling city and there is so much to do. History is all around you – like many European capitals. Here are a few things to get you started:

The Colosseum and the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

These are sites which really deserve a day of your time between them. They are next door to each other so this is quite easy to do. The Roman Forum is an ancient site where there are a number of important temples and buildings which formed the basis of governance in Ancient Rome. It’s right in the centre of the modern city. It takes a little while to get to grips with the layout – at first glance it’s a confusing collection of stones and columns – but it’s well worth spending some time with a map and tracing out where all the various buildings are and what they were used for as it gives you a real sense of place and history. Try to screen out the hubbub of traffic and imagine it as an ancient town centre, teaming with life, a centre which saw the

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

fall of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. A short walk down Rome’s oldest street takes you to the Colosseum, the same ticket gets you in to both. The Colosseum, a site for ancient entertainment is a sight to behold. It again takes a little while to make sense of visually and it helps to get hold of a guidebook which explains the building to you. The Romans had a rigid social structure and entrances and seating where closely linked to this. The arena itself would have had a wooden floor, now no longer in existence and the scenery and entrance of animals and gladiators alike was closely stage-managed to put on a show.

The Vatican and The Sistine Chapel

Some of the painted ceilings alone are worth seeing in the Vatican

Some of the painted ceilings alone are worth seeing in the Vatican

I’d recommend this as a site not to be missed. Despite the fact that the museums were overcrowded when I visited they certainly contain a vast number of unmissable artworks – paintings, murals, painted ceilings and sculpture all add up to an impressive array. The Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown but try and step aside from the constantly moving crowds to admire some of the other pieces on display including the Gallery of Maps, works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio and ancient Egyptian artefacts. The Sistine Chapel itself is a beautiful work of art although that picture in the centre of God reaching out to Adam seems very small when so many close-ups of it are available – definitely a must see though!

See the Pope

On important days the Pope celebrates a public mass in St Peter’s or St Peter’s Square as

The Pope's mass is also on large screens around the square

The Pope’s mass is also on large screens around the square

the weather allows. I happened to be very fortunate when I was there as he was conducting a confirmation service. Even if you aren’t Catholic, or Christian, or religious in any way it’s worth a little of your time as, if you’re not too near the front, you can leave quite freely. The sense of expectation in the crowd is huge and it’s worth going for the atmosphere (and the cheering when the TV cameras pan around the crowd).

Opera

Spend a pleasant evening at the opera. I went to a charming little theatre near the Spanish Steps to hear La Traviata. It was a small theatre, I booked tickets online before travelling and it made a great evening out as I was travelling alone. I’m no opera buff but it was nice to sit back and be entertained!

The Trevi Fountain

Tourists flock to the Trevi Fountain

Tourists flock to the Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is really beautiful – a nice place to enjoy an ice-cream and make sure that you throw a few coins in for good measure – rumour has it that this will guarantee your return to Rome one day.

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