There’s no way you can leave Rome without seeing some of the greatest architectural wonders of all time.
Within walking distance of Hotel Raphael, we wandered to the Pantheon (hands-down, my favorite historical building of all time). It was built 1800 years ago to worship every god but since 609 AD, has served as a Christian Church. It wouldn’t be as impressive of a wonder, if it weren’t for the open dome at the top that brings one, huge ray of light in, to illuminate the entire building.
Other Points of Interest in the Historical Center
While in the historical center of town, we also took in Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain (which was actually closed for restoration), lunch at Hosteria de Pastini (they had gluten-free pasta!), and the Spanish Steps (one of many great places to buy real street art).
From the Spanish Steps, the easiest way to get to the Colosseum is by taxi – it’s a short 14 euro ride. They will drop you off at the taxi stand that sits above the Colosseum’s main ticket entrance.
Something to note.. the first Sunday of every month, the historical sites are free for entry. The best time of day to go (and avoid lines) is around 3pm (it’s only open until 6:30pm). We walked the entire Colosseum and museum in about an hour. If you go any other time, the wait can be up to 3 hours (ticket line and entry line combined).
Once inside, you begin to get this feeling that you’ve been here before. Like walking into an abandoned FedEx Field, Nationals Stadium, or even RFK, you realize that modern-day stadiums have most likely taken a cue from the Colosseum. The rounded structure is the best structure to hold the most people. In this case, it held 90,000.
Two of the best things I learned about the Colosseum:
- Their version of tailgating was playing games on the floor. If you walk around and see different marks (squares, x’s, and lines), you will notice that those were meant for games of dominos, backgammon, as well as other betting games. They would do this, prior to the events starting.
- It wasn’t just about Gladiators and lions… events at the Colosseum had a cadence: A naked man (usually a criminal) and a lion (lions usually won); jugglers, magicians, and satirical performers (half time); and then the Gladiator fights (main event).
If you spend enough time, reading the inscriptions around the Colosseum and its museum, you’ll learn a lot of fun facts!
Across the street from the Colosseum is a long, up-hill path to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. You can spend hours, wandering through the gardens, hidden shrines, and archaeological structures that make up the most awe-inspiring section of the city you could ever see in that part of Europe.
It will continue to be under archaeological dig for quite some time, so I’m sure the next time I visit there, there will be new things to see!
Taking in Final Sights of Rome
I’ve already decided I need to come back to take in more of the well-acclaimed restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightlfe, as this trip was far too short, and we were too exhausted.
When we thoroughly explored the ancient city, we decided to be “All-American” for an evening and go to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We then took the mile-long walk back to the hotel.
Rome is incredibly beautiful at night. And, given how cool and breezy it was, it made for the perfect walking conditions. If you haven’t fallen in love with Rome yet, you will, just by walking around. Being Sicilian and Greek, I love large-gathering meals at one, long table. To see friends and/or families gathering on the sidewalk cafes, or the indoor/outdoor restaurants, laughing and chatting, made me long to come back with friends.
When we got back to Piazza Navona, my level of excitement went up about 12 notches when I saw all the street art vendors – my one goal in Rome was to buy myself art from there, as you never know if that particular artist will become famous later in life, or if his/her work is already worth something much more than what you paid. It’s also clear I love to haggle. Most street art goes for 120 – 200 euros. I was able to get a sizeable oil-on-canvas painting for 102 euros.
- The first Sunday of each month, the historical sites are free. You still need to obtain a printed ticket from the counter but it’s good for both the Colosseum and the Forum (only on that day). Make sure to go around 3-4 pm when most of the crowds have died down.
- Many shops are still open on Sundays in Italy. Some of the smaller mom-and-pop shops might not be (old custom).
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water! If you don’t, the peddlers, selling water, will sell it for 1 euro a piece – don’t pay more than that!
- Hosteria de Pastini (near Piazza Navona) has gluten-free pasta! In fact, many of the restaurants do (and some also have pizza). This ristorante offered large portions for little money. My gluten-free pasta pomodoro was 6 euro.
- Taxis from the Spanish steps to the Colosseum should be no more than 14 euro.
- Street art is everywhere. Make sure to look for the following when haggling/purchasing:
- Make sure it’s oil-on-canvas. Sometimes, vendors will try to sell you a reprint with paint wisps here and there on a print. Ask to check the back of the canvas for authenticity – you will see the different in the pain bleed-through
- Try to find pieces that are signed by an artist. If it does retain a value, it helps to have that signature
- Prices on larger pieces vary from 120 – 200. Haggle 15-30 euro cheaper. Nine times out of ten, that price will be accepted.