So where do I begin??? It is such an impressive city! Probably the most impressive I have ever been to… All I can say is …you have to go there at your earliest opportunity! It is not something one can describe in words in one blog …Every site is worth a blog and I don’t have the words, neither the time… But this is the one place you have to put on top of your list!
Rome to me (that is now before my visit and only pictures formed in my mind as I have listened to Johann’s experiences …) was The Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica, The Pantheon and the Colosseum with a few special obvious sites like Trevi Fountains and the Spanish steps. As we arrived there with the bus from the airport, it hit me for a duck!… that I have no idea what the extent of this beautiful city really entails!
Rome is much, much more than only the few “Top Ten Things to Do and See in Rome”! It is an architectural phenomenon! There is not a single building in this city (whether it is a bank, a shop or a restaurant or office block) that has just been build to provide an enclosed area for whatever purpose … every building has an enormous amount of detail to it, built with style, artistic angles and finishing touches and obviously with a lot of talent and craftsmanship and insight to it! Rome is just pleasing to the eye!… The buildings, the gardens, the streets, the shops…everything is aesthetically superb! Whether you like old buildings or not – it blows you away.
Rome is in spite of the massive amount of tourists visiting there, a very clean city as well. It is a surprisingly flat city with 7 hills (not massive and walking hight) but will all give you a very nice view of the city and a lot to see and experience once you are there. Although it is a big city, the old city is not enormous and I found it possible to walk where ever I wanted to go (take note… I did not say easy!). If you use transport to get around, you will definitely miss out on the unexpected beautiful fountain, church or piazza that is hidden around the corner of some of the small alleys. As Johann says: it is a walking city! The Vatican City is a long way off and it was a good idea to go there by bus, because you will spend a full day on your feet walking through the wonderful world locked into the Vatican City and the Basilica of St Peter.
Women are supposedly bad at reading maps, and I am worse than that! I found my way around with only a few occasions where I just did not have a clue which way to head! (Normally at the end of the day when you just want to get back to the hotel!)
What makes Rome harder than other cities is that they change the street name at every bend! I was not the only one struggling with it… there were a lot of confusing faces (males as well!) trying to find a street name (not always visible by the way and most of the time 20 meters higher than where you expect it to be!) and turning the map any which way as if that will help! The Police, I found can mostly understand some English and know the area well. They were extremely helpful in that regard… and are everywhere and easy to spot! Remember that, because shop assistants (or Italians in general) most of the time cannot speak English and the people on the street would be 95% foreigners and are just as lost as you are!
As I have said – you need to be there, feel it, see it, smell it and taste it to really know what Rome is like. I am not going to even try and describe places! It would be impossible. Instead I have culled my 1400 pictures of Rome (!) to about 190 with descriptions and explanations going with most of them. If you have the interest to read about some of the places, double click on the slideshow and go manually through them. It was very difficult to leave so many pictures out of the slide show… and even so it is still a big file and might take too much of your time.
Rome is huge in the sense that it takes a long time to walk from point A to B just because there are so much to see! It is not as much the distance, but the time spent on your feet that makes it massive! My feet took a hammering because I was trying to fit Rome into one week … which is never easy! And I knew it … Johann has been here before and I have been told that he and a friend of his have seen more than 45 churches when they visited Rome… I did not get close to that – but according to my calculations …I went into 26 !
I most of the time got bogged down with the detail so much that I sometimes spend 3 hours in one of them!( That excluded the Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica of cause that took me almost a full day to see!) The reason why I love going into churches is that you will find the most amazing paintings (from very well known artists) and sculptures in them! The smallest little church (unmentioned even on the map) might have a Bernini or a Caravaggio inside ! Besides … it is just wonderful to take a break, sit down and relax in the quiet and cool environment of the church! It is all and all an holistic feeling of reflect, rest, enjoy and just stare at the beauty of the masterpieces around your!
My observations about Rome in general:
It is a clean and safe city! I travelled alone and walked around even at night and never felt threatened or intimidated at all being a woman!… in spite of what I have heard…
The food in Rome, I am sorry to say, is pretty close to pathetic and very expensive too! … you will hardly ever get served by an “authentic” Italian (to start with … and that ruined it for me completely!)… and the restaurants are just forced to put too many numbers through the mill! I have not had a single outstanding meal or service there except for one: The Osso Bucco at a restaurant close by to where I was staying … will have to check it out…
The things that I have done that thrilled me most in Rome except for going to the obvious high-lights or “must do things in Rome” would certainly be seeing La Traviata in a cosy small little theatre (Salone Margherita il Bagaglino) that still has a history of more than 120 years! It was magic! That must have been one of the high-lights of my trip! – I have always loved the music, but the atmosphere was fantastic. It was also so nice to really dress up and go out where people will have some common interest! (I was getting sick of sitting all by myself with a glass of wine – and people staring and wondering!!) At the theatre I happened to sit right next to an ex-Zimbabwean girl and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law! They were such a delight to meet and as it turned out, we (pure telepathy) had a lovely dinner together on their last night in Rome at my favourite restaurant!
My hotel was quite central and easy to reach some of the the top sites like the Spanish step, and Trevi Fountains within 3-5 min … the room was called Caravaggio!!! Johann (and certainly mine too) favourite artist of his time!!! Hotel Il Piccolo di Piazza di Spagna was small, friendly and very convenient – especially because the lift (ancient!) indicated no more that 2 people per go!! Suited me fine!! Ha HA! Nothing as bad as a full lift with strangers and nothing to say or anywhere to look… but at your unpolished toenails!!
The Vatican City and The Sistine Chapel were outstanding! Again – just too much to see, understand and experience to even tell you about it! A big must do item it you ever reach Rome! After visiting there, I have made up my mind that Michalangelo must be the best artist that ever lived! His work has been classed the best in the history of art in so many fields : Painting, sculpture, his architectural designs and on top of that he was a poet as well! Why don’t we have those talents anymore?
A few tips about visiting Rome: If you buy a “Rome Pass” it entitles you to 3 days worth of free public transport – bus, tram or train- and a free visit to any 3 museums or archaeological sights excluding the Vatican. If you do buy it, start using it early in the morning, as it goes by date and not by the time of day. In other words, whether you started using it on the 10th at 8pm for the first time or 8 am…it will expire at the end of the 12, which should give you 3 full days if you start using it early on the first day. Then very important: use it on the first 3 places where queuing will be a problem, e.g. The Colosseum. If you scan your card you walk straight through without waiting in a line for an hour or sometimes two! After the 3 free visits, you will still get a good discount until the third day. Hopping on the small tram busses is handy with the card and I mainly used it at the end of the day to take my tired feet home! The one place where you certainly want to book a ticket online and WITH a guided tour would be the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. That gives you a quick access the place (the queuing there is frightening!!) as well as wonderful information. I have spoken to a few people that has bought their tickets months in advance and got it for about 30-40% cheaper than buying it at the site.
The Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of T Peter’s :
Now this is a whole new world all together! Where the best of the best is coming together in one place – amazing, a must and impossible to describe!
It is all soo much that I even find it hard to remember what I have seen and learned. Pictures were not always allowed and that makes it even harder.
What amazes me most of all is the versatile nature of the artists. They were not only painters or sculpturers… they were everything! The masters of design, poetry, the fine art of painting, and sculpture, they were the all!!! I keep on wondering where it all went wrong – that we stopped “producing” those kinds of artists.?? Specializing has probably ruined it all and I think to a big extend the remuneration aspect of it too!! Sadly so – because we do not find them all in one place anymore ( you would either see a great painting or sculpture …but never would the same person be both and on top of that the architect of the big church or office block) has robbed the modern society of the splendour they one produced in those days! We can now only hope that they will forever try and preserve what is out there and please … make sure to go and experience the quality of real artists!
You will need Adobe Flash downloaded to see the picture slide show underneath every post I made!
Most of the museums and important sites will have the option to rent an audio guide. It is worth the 2-3 euro you have to pay for it! (by the way – carry a small ID card/ driver’s licence with you as you will need it for renting audio devices!) Everything has so much more meaning if you get some background information. With my interest in architecture and fine arts, I found it extremely helpful and very interesting to know what the paintings or statues mean or represent and at what stage of the artists life it was done. The one place where I was lost completely was at the Forum Romano… because I did not get an audio guide, I had no idea where to go and what to look for or what I am looking at! It took me forever to find the description of the statues in my travel guide and was one big mistake …because I left it with a feeling that it is just a lot of broken stones! Only after I read about it in detail did I realise how much I have missed out on.
By the end of the week, I had enough of the masses, the ambulance and police sirens and cobbled stone alleyways and my feet needed a rest! I was worn out! Getting to bed after 11.30pm and up and about at 7am (to get to the mayor sites early enough to prevent queuing) took its toll!
The train station is another nightmare experience! I was there the day before my departure to make sure I know where to go and what to do… well I again arrived 2 hours before the time to make sure I find my train! It is a organised mess! Your train only get announced 10-15 minutes prior to departure and the place is massive!!. 28 Platforms taking you a 15 min run from the one end to the other. So station yourself halfway to cut the running time! You will constantly see scenes of people standing waiting and staring at the electronic information board and then suddenly, grabbed their suitcases and make a run for the train!
It would be a huge understatement to say that I was relieved to get on the train to Siena… on my way to Chianti!