Rome Stories and Tips

Rome Sights - Day 1

Old Meets New Photo, Rome, Italy

After a great night’s rest and a taste of Rome fueling our enthusiasm, we emerged from our B&B armed with my camera as we set out on our first full day in Rome. On our itinerary were the Forum, The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

The Forum

The Forum was the center of political, commercial and judicial life in Ancient Rome. Dating back to the 5th century BC, the Forum evolved through a variety of expansions to keep pace with the growth of Rome. Archaeological excavations began in the 18th century and continue today with ruins uncovered that date back through the different period of Roman history.

It took us less then five minutes to walk to the forum and entered it at the intersection of via Cavour and via Dei Fori Imperiali. To avoid the 30 minute line at the Colosseum, I would recommend buying your entry passes at the Forum as there was no line at all. A single pass costs 12 Euros and this will get you in to the Forum, Colosseum and Palatine.

The Forum still has some substantial columns and arches still standing and we marvelled at the level of detail still present after so many years. There are guides available should you wish to hire one, but we found our DK Eyewitness guidebook to provide a substantial level of detail in looking at the ruins.

I would recommend allowing an hour and a half to adequately view the site.


The Colosseum

We exited the Forum to the east and walked across the plaza to the Colosseum. It was mid-morning and there were several hundred people already in and around the site. From the would-be Gladiators posing for pictures with you, to the umbrella stands and private tour guides looking for customers, the Colosseum was bustling with activity.

Since we bought our combo pass at the Forum, we bypassed the ticket line and walked straight in. You are able to rent audio tour equipment if you don’t want a guide and don’t have a guidebook of your own. We elected to walk around the Colosseum on our own with our guidebook in hand. There is a museum display on the mezzanine level and it is a great place to get out of the heat for a while.

You can freely explore the Colosseum on your own. Unlike the Vatican where people are herded through on a predefined path, the Colosseum is set up to accommodate those wishing to move about on their own schedule.

Looking closely at the architecture and design of the Colosseum you marvel at how efficient this and advanced this building was. The structure was commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and completed in only 8 years. When it opened in 80 AD it seated 55,000 people and seating was allocated based on social classes. One can’t help to draw comparisons as to how modern day stadiums and arenas are constructed and how events are managed.

It was common to have the emperors hold shows at the Colosseum that would start with animals performing circus tricks, gladiators fighting each other to the death. If a gladiator was badly wounded he would surrender his fate to the crowd. A "thumbs up" sign from the emperor meant that he would live and a "thumbs down" sign meant that he would be put to death. In the late 19th century excavations exposed the labyrinth of underground rooms where the animals were kept.

For a structure that was opened over 2000 years ago, the condition of the Colosseum is amazing. I would recommend allowing an hour to hour and a half to view this site.

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world and definitely the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The fountain is a jewel of water and stone that is nestled between the palaces of the historic centre of the city in Trevi district. From our B&B the total walking time to the fountain was 15 minutes.

The history of the fountain began in 1453 when Pope Nicholas V commissioned the fountain to be built at the end of Acqua Vergine aqueduct. It was redesigned and moved to its current location in 1762.

The fountain is 25.9 metres high and 19.8 metres wide. The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche, is the God of Sea, Neptune, riding a chariot in the form of shell pulled by two sea horses. The horses symbolize the changeable moods of the sea – one is calm and obedient, the second one is restive. Each of them is guided by a Triton. On the sides there are the statues representing Abundance and Salubrity. The backdrop for the fountain is the Palazzo Poli, with a façade of Corinthian pilasters. Above the sculptures in the fountain are bas-reliefs, one of them shows Agrippa, the girl after whom the aqueduct was named. All around, natural and artificial forms merge together in a representation of rocks and petrified vegetation that run along the foundation of the palace and around the borders of the pool, which represents the sea.

Legend says that you will return to Rome if you toss a coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain. Approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day and are collected at night. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy.

The Trevi Fountain is very famous and it appeared in several films. There is a scene in the 1953 comedy Roman Holiday, the film Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) is connected with the fountain, a scene of drenching Anita Ekberg in Federico Fellini's La dolce vita, Bon Jovi's Thank You For Loving Me music video was filmed there, a scene from the 2003 film Under the Tuscan Sun and many others.

The fountain is huge gathering spot for tourist and vendors selling their wares. We were there on two separate occasions once in the afternoon and the other around 10:00 pm and the crowds were large both times. It took over a half hour each time to nudge my way into a position to take the two pictures that I took of the fountain. The night shot was especially difficult as I required a tripod to be set up in order to achieve the exposure that I was looking for. They are two of our favourite shots of Rome.


The Spanish Steps

Located at the heart of the Rome hotel district in the 18th and 19th century, the Spanish Steps, carved between the tall shuttered houses painted in muted shades is a primary gathering place for tourists and Italians alike. From the base of the steps the steps are an intimidating climb but it well worth the ascent especially if you visit the area at dusk where you can look down the shopping district of via Condotti and take in the pink hues of an impending sunset.

Shopping in Rome

As we left the Spanish steps we walked through via Condotti which is home to the every designer imaginable. In the evening, the Valentino and Louis Vuitton stores have very entertaining window displays that are best viewed at night even though the stores are closed. The shopping hours in Rome are different from those in North America with most stores closing in the afternoon between 1:30 pm and 4:00 pm with most closing at 8:00 pm.

Via Del Corso intersects with via Condotti and is also a very nice shopping area with unique shops suited to be more affordable than the designer district on via Condotti. There are more restaurants along via Del Corso however, this is Rome and food is never far away.

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