The first place that comes to everyone’s minds when you think of Europe is Paris. And that is completely understandable because Paris is beautiful. But how about you move your attention towards the Mediterranean and to the lovely, vibrant, and friendly boot-shaped peninsular of Italy! Not only has Italy given us food, fashion and football, but this is also a country with the most breathtaking scenery and the most hospitable culture I have ever visited. We are talking about Rome.
Rome, being the capital is an obvious visit and if you do not visit The Vatican while you are in Rome, then you are committing a major sin! Irrespective of your religious opinions, it is impossible to not marvel at the magnificence of this architectural masterpiece. Nearby is St. Peter’s Basilica, the most famous of the hundreds of Basilicas in Rome. If you feel up for it, you can even catch a glimpse of The Pope at 12 pm when he emerges out on to his balcony to pray with the thousands of people who gather there every day.
Just next door to The Vatican is the Vatican Museum or Musei Vaticani, which houses the greatest of paintings and sculptures by masters like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Giotto. The museum also leads you to the Sistine Chapel with its massive imposing artwork by Michelangelo. It is difficult to not be inspired by the beauty of this artistic grandeur when you are in Rome. But that is what I loved about Rome; you did not need to go to museums or know a lot about art in order to appreciate the beauty. The general architecture of Rome is enough to warrant an appreciation.
Another must-see location is The Palatine which is found in the heart of the city. This massive ground consists of remains from The Roman Empire dating back all the way to the time of Romulus. It contains various gardens and a large number of stone structures in various states of preservation. It also houses The Arch of Constantine which towers over you in all its monolithic glory.
A five minute walk from the Palatine Hill leads you straight to the Coliseum. We have all seen pictures of the Coliseum before, but nothing can prepare you for the actual real life effect of this mammoth monument. Once you are inside it is absolutely silent and for a minute you forget that you are in the heart of a busy city. This is one view you do not want to miss as just standing there gives you this aura of history that is difficult to describe(Tickets for both venues can be purchased at the Palatine Hill itself).
Take a whole day for yourself and indulge in the shopping, culture and food in the heart of the city. Here you will find the famous Trevi Fountain (carry spare coins to make a wish!). You can also visit The Pantheon as it is a 10 minute walk from Trevi. All around the Trevi are little restaurants and cafes which serve you the most authentic Italian food you will ever get. Think of the best pizza you have ever had in your life and then multiply that by a thousand and you will still fall short of rating Italian pizza.
Old Rome, River Tiber
If you feel like getting out of the main city of Rome, then visit Old Rome which has these open air markets or Mercato where you get the freshest of produce available. This will be a great chance to also interact with some locals who always have interesting stories to tell. Most locals do not speak English, so interaction might be a tad difficult, but language should never be a barrier when learning about new places.
The last time I was in Rome, I met a lady who had been a friend of Mussolini when he was alive and she managed to describe how her life had been as a child during that period of history. So, you never know who you might meet if you venture out and talk to people! You can also sit along the banks of the river Tiber and have a picnic and completely escape from the business of everyday life.
Therefore Rome was not built in a day
Be sure to pack comfortable shoes, as most of the activities involve walking for long periods of time. But the ache after a long day in Rome is completely worth it when you realise how wonderful this city really is. It is a beautiful city that makes you feel so completely welcome that leaving it is always a really difficult thing to do. As I have already said, this is the one city that has captured my heart as it makes me feel like I am a part of its vivid history.
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