One day travel: Rome, the Eternal City

So Rome is on your list of big famous cities to see?  You’ve seen the classic Russel Crowe flick Gladiator and now all you dream of is old ruined buildings (or eroded stones) with the odd slice of pizza, a glass of Chianti or a bowl of pasta thrown in?  With so much on offer for any type of traveler, what can be done when you realize you only have one day?  Read on to find out how me and two fellow travel companions did it.

In reality we had a day in a half to spend in Rome, the Eternal City.  The first half day was spent getting lost in the historical center, finding a restaurant, eating two different pasta dishes, gnocchi, pizza, emptying two bottles of local Chianti wine, panacotta and finally, little sips of limoncello.  We arrived by bus from Florence around 15h00 battling hunger.  So half a day was wasted in a good way on good Italian food.  We realized that we had one day to do it all before moving on to Venice.  One day is probably not enough to do Rome justice, but if it’s all you have you can definitely try.

Decide on the sites

If you have limited time in any city, you must have at least some sort of plan for what sites you want to see.  If it’s your first time in a big city, I do think it’s a good idea to go see all the main sights, that way you can give truthful feedback and tips to anyone else planning a visit and you’ll know which you want to revisit on a next trip.  Make a list of the top five places you absolutely want to see.  If you’re going solo you can follow your own list.  You might have to compare your top five places with those of your companions and compile a final list of places you all want to see.

A quick guide to Rome Piazza  Navona
Piazza Navona

Find logical means of transport

Get out your city map on Google and determine what locations are walking distance from your accommodation and which are walking distance from each other.  The metro is a quick way to get around, if you understand how to use it.  Rome’s metro is one of the more trickier ones I’ve tried to get on top of in one day.  It’s also a good idea to mark the metro stations near the sites on your map.  We ended up walking everywhere and only used metro transport to and from our accommodation and to Vatican City.

Pre-book for major sites

If you have the option of free wi-fi available to you, pre-book tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican museum.  The line to the Colosseum was the longest one I’ve ever seen, so having the benefit of skipping long queues can save you a lot of time and frustration. The guys at Get My Guide has got some cool deals on fast track tickets and guided tours. Check out this Colosseum skip-the-line option or a guided tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chappel.

Start early and wear comfortable shoes

Some of the sites are actually free to look at: Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.  Now, if you really let your navigation skills take flight, you can navigate a route (without any traffic) where you can see all of these sites in one swoop.  So I recommend to start early with the free sites and wear comfortable shoes!  Don’t try doing cobble stoned streets in heels or wedges for a day.  I love these lovely sneakers from Puma with a thicker sole. The Pantheon, Roman Forum, Colosseum and Vatican Museum opens at 8:30.

The route

Start at 7h00 and take the metro to Spanga station.  With few tourists at an early hour, you can marvel at the Spanish Steps and monument at Piazza di Spanga.  Take a 12 minute walk to the Trevi Fountains, where you can throw in a coin for good luck.  Follow the narrow old streets towards the Pantheon (that will still be closed so early) and make your way towards Piazza Navona (my favourite place in the city!) and marvel at Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers.  Then do a coffee run or have breakfast at the famous nearby Caffe Sant’Eustachio on your way back to the Pantheon.  Head inside as it opens and take in its beautiful structure.

A quick guide to Rome Spanish Steps
The Spanish steps
A quick guide to Rome Trevi Fountain
Trevi fountain

By mid-morning head to the Colosseum and Roman Forum (with pre-bought tickets in hand).  On your way, take a photo at the huge white marble Altar of the Fatherland then climb up Capitoline Hill.  Give yourself at least two hours to take in the historical grandness of the Colosseum followed by the Roman Forum.  Take the metro at Colosseo to Ottaviani for Vatican City (last stop).  Just visit St.Peter’s Basilica or the Museum.  Between April and September St.Peter’s Basilica stays open till 19h00.

A quick guide to Rome inside the colosseum
Inside the Colosseum
A quick guide to Rome the Vatican
The Vatican
A quick guide to Rome monument to the fatherland
Monument to the Fatherland

End the day

Your feet will probably be hurting by the end of the day, and your brain too with image overload.  It’s entirely up to you where to end your one day in Rome.  We headed back to Piazza Navona which is spectacular to see at night.  The fountain is all lit up with art and music exhibitions filling up the space.  Find yourself a restaurant in a hidden side street and order your dream Italian meal and a glass of wine.  You might feel absolutely inspired in the Eternal City as you saw all you could in a day.

A quick guide to Rome Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona

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