A March 2007 trip
to Rome by rufusni
Quote: Naming Rome the Eternal City reveals just how long it would take to explore this glorious city.
Why would you not want to visit this city? So many layers of history and culture exist side by side, never mind the incredible food.
The narrow streets are a web of interesting finds waiting to be discovered, whether incredible churches or divine ice-cream. The main tourist sites will be extremely busy, but it's worth wandering to feel the city. Yes it's worth seeing the main sights - you can't miss seeing the Colosseum and St Peters, however, there are many more interesting sights such as San Clemente with three layers of history or the incredible mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore. Then again drinking coffee in a square or eat slices of pizza at lunchtime are much more enjoyable without hordes of tourists lurking around, even if it means that you are not directly opposite the pantheon, and honestly you'll probably get better food cheaper. Get a feeling for Rome without the tourists hordes and you'll fall in love with the place - its bustle, its beauty and its history.
Rome is probably best explored on foot to really experience the city beyond the usual tourist sights and to see the many gems you'd miss otherwise, never mind the atmosphere of narrow streets and squares. So get a good map and comfy shoes!
The public transport system is centred around Termini in the north of the city with trains arriving here (including the train from Fiumicino airport), metro and buses. The metro system is limited to two lines A (red) and B (blue) and is not all that useful for sightseeing unless you are staying near a station. There are stops close to the Colosseum and the Vatican which are useful. It should be avoid at rush hour as it becomes a sardine tin that is hot and unpleasant. Also note the doors show no mercy in closing so don't get in their way. They do have the advantage over the buses of not getting stuck in traffic, however the bus network crosses the entire city and is useful to get to many sights out of the centre like the catacombs.
The metro, bus and tram system has an integrated ticketing system with several different types of tickets available. The BIT is the basic type which is valid for 75 minutes after being validated and allows unlimited bus changes but only one metro ride per ticket. The BIG is a day ticket for 24 hours after being validated and allows unlimited journeys on buses and metro. There are also similar 3-day and 7-day tickets available. Be prepared to have your ticket checked by staff!
This hotel is part of a convent but is professionally run and the staff are helpful. However there are many reminders of this in the decoration with many religious paintings and religious books in the rooms. The rooms are simple - a firm bed, desk, and chair with a tiled floor but are a reasonable size and are very clean. The breakfast is adequate and the breakfast room pleasant - however the tea should be avoided. One downside is that the hotel is on a busy road and it can be noisy if you are in one of the rooms at the front - however do ask as if possible they will move you.
However, its location is great as its close to Santa Maria Maggiorre on Via Cavour, and easily accessible from Cavour metro stop and a short walk from the main train station, as well as having a bus stop just outside that crosses the city to Travestere. There are quite a few restaurants in the area - some are better than others, but note there is a good gelateria (ice-cream shop) just down the hill from the hotel!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 15, 2007
Domus Nova Bethlem
Via Cavour 85/A
Rome, Italy 00184
+39 (06) 47824414
Attraction | "Colosseum (The)"
One of the most recognisable sites of Rome is the Flavian Amphitheatre, or now as its known - the Colosseum. It is a feat of engineering and architecture especially as it was built in the first century. This arena is amazing enough on the exterior especially when lit up at night, yet take the opportunity to see the interior also.
Part of the distinctive architecture of the arena is the three levels of arches - each of a different style- Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian- which give a sense of the grandeur of the structure. Despite having been abandoned and stripped of many of its assets to be used in other buildings including much of its marble cladding, it still remains impressive - its size, design, and construction are breathtaking - to have stood the test of time is proof of the Romans ingenuity. The wooden floor of the arena has gone and the rooms that lay beneath, where animals were kept and gladiators waited, are now revealed, giving a glimpse into what was necessary to run this entertainment arena. It only takes a little imagination to see its former glory, with huge crowds cheering watching the many events that happened here including gladiator fights. Despite the association of Christians being thrown to the lions here, (including declarations by the Pope in mid-18th century and a large cross Colosseum) there is no evidence to support this theory, but Christians were killed at other sites in the city.
We missed the worst of the crowds by going in the late afternoon, and so we had space to wander unheeded and to consider the immense building this is. The sun was setting and the stone glowed a beautiful pink shade. The upper levels give a better view and tend to be less crowded, and there are also views out over the Arch of Constantine but take care with the very steep stone steps as they are lethal and slippy. It was worth taking time to sit and bathe in the awe of the building in a quiet spot, and to recall this emblem of Rome in its pagan days with its gruesome past.
If you buy a ticket for the Colosseum it also includes entrance into Palatine Hill - since we got tickets in the evening they were valid until noon the following day, and cost about 12 euros. Queues for tickets can be very long (except the group ticket queue) as there is only one entrance now compared to the original 80. The arena opens at 9am but closing times vary depending on the time of year. Take care of your possessions in the area outside of the Colosseum as there are pickpockets about.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 16, 2007
Piazza Del Colosseo
Rome, Italy 00184
+39 (06) 7004261
Attraction | "Fontana di Trevi"
This fountain is built on the back of a Renaissance palace, with water tumbling over rocks with various statues into a pool. It was started in 1732 to the design of Niccola Salvi but took several decades to complete the work. The central figure is Neptune in his chariot with a Triumph arch symbolising the taming of water. Above are bas-reliefs depicting the origins of the aqueduct - the Romans had a tradition of building fountains at the end of aqueducts - and close to this was the terminus of the Acqua Vergine and its fountain it was badly damaged and was later restored in the 15th century and a new fountain was built. However, Pope Urban VIII wanted some more dramatic and had a fountain built on the current site which was later destroyed to built the current fountain.
Of course there is the tradition to throw a coin in the fountain to ensure your return to Rome. The money is cleared out regularly and used to help the poor in Rome. The fountain may be a stunning baroque example, but the crowds around it make it difficult to get a clear view of it. Its size makes it nearly impossible to get a photo of the entire fountain, but any photo fails to grasp the grandeur of it. Note also there are lots of people attempting to sell various items and if you stand still for a moment they will flock around you.
The narrow streets surrounding the fountain are full of small shops selling cheap tacky souvenirs, if you are looking for such items there is a good concentration of them here with reasonable prices. But the cafes and gelaterias close by are not exciting so hold off and walk a little further.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 17, 2007
Piazza di Trevi
Rome, Italy 00187
This church is a little off the beaten track but has incredible fourth century mosaics, some of the earliest in Rome. It is tucked on a side street close to Santa Maria Maggiore, and is below street level and is quite small and quiet with a pleasant courtyard. However how the church became called Santa Pudenziana is a mystery with the story of a woman called Pudenziana - with the Roman Catholic church rejecting that Pudenziana existed and declaring her invalid, though the church retained the name.
One alternate story is that it is a derivation from Pudens who is mentioned in the New Testament as a Christina in Rome and that he lived in this area of Rome, but that this connection was later lost and a woman holding the name Pudenziana was created as explanation. Despite all the confusion, the mosaic in the apse is beautiful, with Jesus and disciples sitting in a what could be described as a Roman setting and in Roman dress. However, later renovation lead to two of the apostles being knocked off one at each side. There are several other paintings that are much later in date but they pale in comparison to the mosaic. If you are visiting Santa Maria Maggiore, take a few minutes and walk across the way to visit this church as the mosaic is exquisite. Entrance to the church is free.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 18, 2007
Via Urbana, 160
Rome, Italy 00184
This is a fascinating find that is not on the major tourist sight list. There is a 12th century church named after Clement, a 1st century church leader in Rome (who is acclaimed as the third pope), which is pleasant, but it is part of the latest layer of the history of the site which is now administered by Irish Dominicans. It was the Irish Dominicans who discovered that there was an earlier church on the site and started excavations, and discovered not only a 4th century church, but a deeper earlier layer also.
The church is lovely with 6th century marble choir section that was originally in the earlier church and then moved here and simply looks elegant. Also there is an incredible golden mosaic in the apse based around the theme of the Cross as tree of life which is simply beautiful. It's considered that this mosaic was somewhat of a copy of an apse mosaic in the 4th century church below, as it seems to reflects a style and content more suited to the fourth century than the thirteenth.
Underneath the church are a further two layers of history that have been partially excavated. The bottom layer is remains of Roman houses and a Mithraic temple which were built after the fire of 64AD that had destroyed the area. You can also hear and see an underground river rushing by, making its way to the Tiber, which gives the excavations a sense of unease that the foundations are built on water.
Above this is the middle layer of a church that dated back to 392AD. Some parts of the church has yet to be excavated and other parts remain bricked up. The structure that has been unearthed had a nave with an aisle on either side but there have been walls built between the pillars. There are several paintings on the walls depicting bible scenes and scenes connected to saints, but they are quite faded and others are fragmented. They are quite interesting if you are interesting in early church history and its impact on artwork, something I have done some study in, but they are probably not that fascinating to most other people. Entrance to the excavations costs 5 euros but note that they are very warm and sticky and that no photography is permitted. There is a small courtyard outside the church which is pleasant to refresh yourself after the breathless underground experience. Although it is possible to see other early churches in Rome, I loved San Clemente as it provided at least three layers of history and showed how Rome had changed and developed over time from a pagan city to being a great centre of Christianity. It is worth a visit to get a sense that Rome is the eternal city that is constantly evolving.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2007
Via Labicana, 95
Rome, Italy 00184
I was fortunate to get tickets to the excavations under St Peter's - the Scavi - as only 120 visitors are allowed down each day, and tickets have to be applied for in advance. The tickets cost 10 euros but no under 12s are permitted. You will be allocated a set time to arrive and taken down in a group of 12 by a guide. No backpacks are permitted and must be left in the office, nor is photography permitted. Once in the excavations the atmosphere is dusty, hot and humid and with the narrow corridors it is not the most pleasant environment.
The guides are well informed and give detailed information as you are lead around the excavations. The excavations under St Peter's discovered a necropolis, a burial place - a city of the dead - with streets and various rooms that belonged to wealthy Roman families where their dead relatives were entombed. Some of the rooms are beautifully decorated, including one where the ceiling depicts Christ as a sun god. The necropolis was discovered by accident but the excavations were commissioned to discover if it was true that St Peter was buried beneath the altar of St Peter's as it was claimed. This is the centrepiece of the tour, a small cheaper grave that has a ancient graffiti wall that indicates that early Christians believed Peter was buried here. The tour guide will explain that bones were removed and later replaced in a niche in a plastic box, which you are able to see. You can see the marble of the earlier altar of Constantine's basilica that is built directly on top of this grave, and the current altar is directly above this. Whether or not this is grave of St Peter or not, it certainly seems that early Christians believed that Peter had reached Rome and that he was buried here.
The tour ends in a small elaborate chapel before you are lead down a corridor into the grottoes were previous popes are buried, close to John Paul II tomb. If you are fortunate to receive tickets for the excavations, it is an incredibly interesting tour and worth enduring the oppressive atmosphere in it.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 22, 2007
The Vatican and St Peter's is the centre of Roman Catholicism, and St Peter's architectural matches its re-position. Its dome is one of the key features of the Rome skyline and it can be seen from many places across the city. Its grandeur is enhanced by the large Piazza that is in front on the Basilica, and is edged with a covered colonnade. At the centre of the piazza is a obelisk that is 13th century BCE and was moved to Rome in Nero's reign as emperor and later placed here.
The emperor Constantine had a church built here in around 330, but this was replaced as work began on the new basilica in 1506 and completed in 1623 with several architects, including Michelangelo being involved in its design. The result is a magnificent building that is considered the largest Church building in the world and has a capacity of over 60,000.
The interior of the building is elaborate and there is a sense of immense space. There are a great many statues and monuments, including Michelangelo's marble carved Pieta which is close to the entrance, but this has a protective glass shield.
There is free entrance into the basilica, however there are strictly enforced regulations about dress in that shoulders and knees must be cover. It is also possible to visit the tombs of the previous popes under the church, but I would probably skip it unless you are especially interested. Note if you do visit the grottoes the exit from this takes you outside the basilica, so make sure you explore the interior of St Peter's before you go. It is also possible to climb the dome for 5 euros, but there is often a long queue to do so, and so we skipped it.
The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, is open but it is as the sign states "Only those who wish to pray may enter" and thus it is a place of peace and stillness for many visiting Catholics. There are also regular masses said in St Peters several times a day - details can be found on the website www.vatican.va. And just for fun why not send a postcard from the Vatican City which is a separate country governed by the Pope. It has its own post office and you'll postcard will get a Vatican City postmark.
I'm not a Roman Catholic but I can appreciate St Peter's importance for millions of Catholics. But Saint Peter's is still an inspiring place that is well worth a visit no matter what your religious views are.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 27, 2007
St. Peter's Basilica
Piazza San Pietro
Vatican City, Rome 00193
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 1, 2007
Piazza della Rotonda
Rome, Italy 00186
Via Nomentana, 349
Rome, Italy 00162
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2007
Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura
Via Nomentana, 349
Rome, Italy 00162
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 28, 2007
Via di San Gregorio 30
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom