I had always wanted to visit Rome. Ever since watching the film Gladiator as a boy I just wanted to see the Colosseum 'in the flesh' and explore the many wonders of the ancient city for myself...
Lois and I went to Rome for our 1st Wedding Anniversary in 2015. We stayed in the Ostiense area on the Viale Guglielmo Marconi road with our hotel just a two minute walk from Marconi Underground Station. I loved our location because we were surrounded by the local people and not lots of tourists, which gave us a much better feel for the Italian way of life. On the Viale Guglielmo Marconi road where our hotel was situated we found a few small grocery and wine shops which were ideal for stocking up the hotel room with pre-dinner indulgences to enjoy whilst sitting on the balcony.
On our first night we asked the hotel staff for a local restaurant that they would recommend. We followed their instructions on a short walk from the hotel to a lovely Italian restaurant called Lo Convento. Although we were the only English people in the restaurant we were made to feel at home and the food was spectacular! It was a little gem to be honest... I'd highly recommend it if you were ever in the Ostiense area!
From the Marconi Underground Station it took us just 15 minutes to reach Colosseo, which was great because from there you can walk to almost all the major landmarks and points of interest in the centre of Rome, such as the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Altare della Patria, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain!
As we walked outside the Colosseo metro station the Colosseum was right on top of us! It's size and awesome structural just stops you dead in your tracks! I'd of enjoyed this moment far more if I wasn't instantly swamped by about 20 street salesmen who waved selfie-sticks in my face and repeated the words "SELPEE, SELPEE, YOU WANT SELPEE?!".. They were wrong, I in fact did not want a "SELPEE", or a selfie-stick as they are more commonly known...
At this point I'd like to just recommend a little place to eat that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Here are some rough directions... When you exit the Colosseo metro station you will see the Colosseum straight ahead of you as shown in the photograph above. Turn left and follow the path, with the road and Colosseum now to your right hand side. Continue on that path and cross the two roads that pass in front of you. The path will soon incline with a few steps climbing to higher ground, you should at this point see a little restaurant up on the left with tables & chairs outside. The restaurant is called "La Biga".
You have reached your destination! Grab a beer or a glass of wine, order something to eat and sit outside with the sun on your skin and the inspiring view of the Colosseum in front of you. It is very reasonably priced as well, considering it’s location. We ate here for lunch two or three times during our trip and everything we ordered was delicious! It was a fantastic central spot to just sit down, get a drink and rest whilst you plan out your next route as well...
On our first day we explored the ancient ruins of Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Altare della Patria and of course the Colosseum. All of these were incredible in their own unique ways. The ruins of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum provided a beautiful insight into how this ancient city once was. Just walking amongst the ruins of these gigantic structures built by the Romans boggled my mind! Not only that, but to think I may have even been walking down the same roads as the Apostle Paul did many, many years ago really made it quite special.
The Colosseum was also quite a surreal experience... Walking through the interior of the amazing architecture, I thought to myself how I am now in the exact same location where horrendous acts of violence took place... for entertainment. You can really appreciate the actual size and complexity of the design once you're inside. The underground rooms, like a stone maze were fascinating as well. I could have spent hours just standing there taking it all in.
On our second day we decided to pay Vatican City a visit, which is actually the smallest country in the world. Taking the metro to Ottaviano station, it was just a 5-minute walk from there to St. Peter's Square, which is where we started our day. The architecture and the attention to detail within St. Peter's Basilica was very impressive, and the view from the top of it's Dome is worth the uncomfortable 30 minute trek up various narrow winding staircases.
The highlight of Vatican City for me personally though was definitely the Sistine Chapel. I had no idea what to expect from it in all honesty, as I had only briefly read about it and seen a couple of blurry photos on the internet. To actually reach the Sistine Chapel we had to walk through the many rooms, corridors and courtyards of the huge Vatican City Museum which seemed to take a lifetime. Of course we didn't mind this at all, as every inch of every wall and ceiling we passed by was filled with art, sculptures, engraving and beautiful decoration. It was just incredible! I kept saying to Lois, "This must be the Sistine Chapel!".. but it wasn't.
After a good 30 minute walk we finally reached the Sistine Chapel, and it was then clear to me what all the fuss was about. I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. The ceiling arched over us at 68ft in height, 44ft wide and 134ft long. It instantly captivated you.
As I stared at the old masterpiece above, I couldn't quite understand how Michelangelo single-handedly painted this massive ceiling in just 4 years. It confused me to how it was even possible. The scale of it, the amazing detail, the way it all merged together effortlessly, it was quite hard to take in all at once.
Photography inside the Sistine Chapel was prohibited. I still managed to take a snapshot without being arrested, but it could never do it justice. I know it sounds cliché, but you really do have to see it for yourself to appreciate it... So for that reason I'm not even going to include my blurry snapshot, I'd just suggest you go and see it for yourself one day (if you can).
During the rest of our stay in Rome we went to see other historic sights such as the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, as well as eating plenty of lasagne and drinking plenty of red wine. There's nothing quite like Italian food and red wine together!
Places to see: Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, The Colosseum, Altare della Patria, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and all the pretty little streets in between.
Places to eat: All of the restaurants in Rome were great, but I can recommend the following - Lo Convento restaurant (Ostiense area), La Biga restaurant (opposite Colosseum), Giolitti Via Del Vicario ice cream shop (close to Pantheon).
Things to be careful of: Pick-pockets are about, so keep your valuables safe and hold on to them in crowds. The street salesmen will annoy the life out of you as well! I purchased 2 selfie-sticks and I didn't even want one! Apart from this just have your wits about you, stay on your toes and enjoy The Ancient City of Rome!
Thanks for reading.