As Rome wasn’t built in a day, you sadly can’t expect to see all of it in two days. Even the area occupied by the ancient city is quite vast. Just to make an idea, the ancient city walls didn’t even include the Vatican area, which now can be considered quite central.
If its size alone wouldn’t hinder your progress, its almost 3 millennia of history, which you can encounter in the most unexpected places, would surely take a lot of time to explore and digest. Realistically speaking you’d need at least a week to soak in the Eternal City.
That being said, a determined city-breaker can cram in a lot of experiences in a short time. If for various reasons you can only afford a weekend in Rome, I’d say go for it anyway as you’ll enjoy this place more than you can imagine.
A gelato-filled first day
The first and only time I was In Rome before was also for a city break, and we surely weren’t able to see “everything”. But with a bit of planning, you can thread a path on foot that connects close attractions. As all the famous ones are in the centre or surrounding it, that is easier than you might think.
I’d dare say the best way to see Rome is on foot.
That’s because, in its central area which also happens to be the one you want to visit, the best you can get is a few buses. These cross the area keeping to the big streets. For that reason, you’d probably have to walk more to the desired bus stop than to the next objective. If you do need to get from one side to the other, then a bus is the solution for you.
Since invariably you’ll stumble into plenty of sights, you can even have no visiting plan, as long as you stick to this central area. As we knew that happy attraction-stumbling will happen, we had an audacious plan for this visit: it included a gelato tour for documentation purposes only, I assure you, and a visit to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. You can read more about the five gelaterias we found to be the best in my previous article.
Ah, boarding first. For a precious few seconds before the deluge of people pushes you from behind, you can imagine you’re flying your own private jet. The brutal reality forced us forward to our seats rather soon and two hours later we were landing in Rome. From the airport, there are a couple of buses that take you straight to Termini train station. These cost about 10 euros for a return trip. From Termini, you can reach pretty much anywhere in Rome with relative ease.
As we planned to take a train to Florence on the morning of our third day in Rome, we chose a hotel close to the train station.
We dropped the bags at the hotel, had a nice lunch somewhere nearby, then started our coldly delicious tour of Rome. I am talking of course about the already mentioned gelato tour de force.
We didn’t even have to walk far to see the first epic ruins. As this imposing wall wouldn’t have been enough, the baths of Diocletian, the largest of the imperial baths, are just across the street from the train station. They also happened to be just 100 meters away from our hotel. We didn’t dither too much in this area, despite its historical significance, due to time constraints.
It was already 3 in the afternoon and much gelato had yet to be consumed. The first stop, Gelateria Fassi, founded in 1880 and the oldest in Rome, according to the owner.
From there we headed to the second destination we had on the pre-prepared list. After we fended a quick shower by hiding underneath a door lintel, we continued our determined advance. We crossed next to the Colosseum.
After the always impressing Colosseum, our path took us along the Circus Maximus, where chariot races used to take place. If you’ll look at the photo of it posted below, you’ll notice just how far are the buildings in the background, where the back stand was. It had a “paltry” 621 meters in length, 118 in width and could accommodate “only” 150.000 fans. What we see in the foreground of this shot is actually the lowest of the stands.
The tower is just part of a fortification raised in the middle ages.
After more gelato, we headed for Trastevere, one of the ancient neighbourhoods of the city. It also happens to be one of my favourites, due to its twisty, cobbled streets.
But before reaching Trastevere, we passed this imposing statue of Giuseppe Mazzini. We stopped for a couple of minutes, taking in the details of the arresting monument. And just after the statue, we encountered another one of those places I mentioned, where you just stumble into something impressive without any previous plan to do so.
The Rose Garden of Rome has been founded in 1931, and to this day, it will surprise you with some of the most spectacular roses I have ever seen. Some of the most fragrant as well. Without exaggeration, we’ve spent here almost an hour, smelling the delicate buds, taking pictures and enjoying the sudden sunshine.
All good things have to come to an end and so we picked ourselves up from among the flower beds and ambled on towards Trastevere. By the time we got here, hunger was baring its sharp teeth, despite all the ice creams consumed by that point.
Luckily, I remembered a place we tried in my previous visit. The only problem was that I had no idea how it was called. Just a general idea of where it could have been placed.
Nop, not this one. But it can’t be far!
And it wasn’t. Lo and behold, not five minutes later I’ve found it and we sat ourselves down for a well-deserved dinner. Cheeses, wine, pizza. Although I’ve seen some bad reviews, there are also plenty of good ones, and I feel I can vouch for Il Ponentino. It didn’t disappoint, two out of two times.
Much relaxed after filling our bellies, we went looking for more gelato with fresh energy. And we found it.
It was already getting quite late and there was quite a long walk back to the hotel.
Since there was no pressing need to get to the hotel before midnight, we took our time, we listened to buskers and took photos. We found more ancient relics, like this rectangular arch with an exit (or entrance) on each side. Wikipedia informs me this is called a quadrifrons arch, which is Latin for “four fronts”. It makes sense.
We took what turned out to be a big detour, circling around the Roman Forum, through lots of dark streets. Luckily the area is guarded, as is the rest of the city, so we didn’t feel unsafe. Or at least I didn’t.