Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rome

There are certain places that loom large in the world. New York City is one. I would submit that Rome is another. They are places you can't help having some sense of, even if you have never visited.

Rome scenes - Roman Forum (top) and Colosseum (bottom)

I had seen many Facebook-shared photos of Rome, as well as the usual images in travel guidebooks and in films. Despite this, the scale of Rome still took me by surprise. It didn't leap to the top of my 'favourite city' list but it is definitely one of the most dramatic places I've been to.

Central Rome...ancient ruins just pop up around the place


We got into Rome about 4pm on Monday and flew out on the Wednesday, so we didn't have a lot of time to take in the sights. On our first afternoon / evening, we wandered central Rome streets and squares (piazzas) and saw the impressive Pantheon. It is apparently one of the best preserved Ancient Rome buildings and has the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Indeed, the dome is so large it's difficult to photograph!

Pantheon - exterior, interior, and open-topped dome

I read that one of the most frequently asked questions about the Pantheon is what happens if it rains. As the dome is open-topped, you would certain get wet inside, but apparently there are tiny holes in the sloping floor so the water drains away quickly. The Romans really knew their architecture.

Spanish Steps

Like other great cities, Rome is easy to wander and you can find beautiful sights without trying. Sadly the famous Trevi Fountain was drained and closed off for maintenance, but we enjoyed the equally renowned Spanish Steps and the gorgeous Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona

I had been warned about pick-pockets in Rome but generally felt very safe and we were fortunate not to see or experience any theft. There were also far fewer visible homeless or begging people than in London, although many more (really a lot!) selling selfie sticks.


More Piazza Navona

An unexpected delight on our central Rome wander was the interior of the Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola. This church looks quite standard from outside but has wonderful painted ceilings within, including a Tromp l'oeil dome. The real dome was never built as the church ran out of funds, but the painted effect is so good it's hard to tell when inside.

Tromp l'oeil dome

Whilst Rome is easy to walk, the roads do deserve note for their absolute chaos. We never did work out if cars were meant to stop at pedestrian crossings (zebra crossings) without lights, but our experience was that you couldn't count on it. Even when you had a green light to cross on foot, there was no guarantee a car wouldn't come around a corner at you.

Side note: I just looked traffic rules up and had to share the following from http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/rome/info.html :

"Where there are no lights, crossing places are indicated by white stripes. As a pedestrian you have the right of way here, but drivers are quick to spot a nervous foreigner and are just as likely to accelerate as to stop. You will need to set foot on the road before any vehicle will even consider stopping for you. Make sure that the drivers in approaching cars have seen you and that they have a reasonable stopping distance - and walk. Traffic etiquette in Rome is about survival of the fittest. However aggressive they may seem, drivers are aware that they could pick up penalty points (a recent innovation) or fines from running over pedestrians, and will toe the line if given no choice in the matter."

Evidently we were easy to spot as nervous foreigners!! But it perhaps speaks volumes that drivers only aversion to running you over is a penalty/fine...

Roman traffic...cars everywhere, horses, and a policeman casually exerting minor control

Fortunately there are no roads in Rome's most ancient and stunning attractions. To visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Paletine Hill, you buy a combined ticket that covers all attractions (12 euros each). The Roman Forum and Paletine Hill share a site and the Colosseum is a short walk away. If you are clever, you will do what Mr Bite discovered and buy your combined ticket at the Paletine Hill entrance. It is the least crowded entrance and we didn't have to queue at all. When we went to the Colosseum later, this meant we could enter without joining the very long queues there. Even if you only wanted to see the Colosseum, you would be faster buying your ticket around the corner and walking back!

Paletine Hill

The Paletine Hill site is large and easy to wander, although there aren't a huge number of signs, so if you are interested in the history you may want to take a guidebook or pay for one of the audio guides. There is a small museum on the site (included in the entry price) with impressive sculptures and some additional historical information. The hill also offer good views over Rome and the Roman Forum below.

Roman Forum, seen from above
I loved the Roman Forum and it was easy to imagine it being a bustling meeting and market place in the past. As the photos show (above and far top), it was hot and sunny when we visited but despite lots of people around it wasn't over-crowded.

Colosseum interior
The Colosseum was more crowded, but again, so large that the crowds fit in the space easily enough. It is an amazing arena. It's a shame current sporting arenas are not as dramatic or architecturally inspired, or at least not the ones I've been to!

Colosseum exterior
There is certainly plenty more to see in Rome, but our few days there has gave me a taste of the city and I enjoyed seeing the famous sights in person. And again, like other great cities, it is worth seeing them in person - photos and screen images don't do full justice to the sights.

What are your most memorable cities / places?

12 comments:

  1. One of my biggest regrets to do with having lived in Europe is that I never went to Rome! Venice yes, Rome no! Ditto for Greece! We'll hopefully go on a family holiday one day (when we win the lottery)..

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    1. I haven't been to Venice (or Greece), so we can trade Italian experience ;) I hope you make it one day!

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  2. It does really look breathtaking - I've never managed to get to Rome yet, but I'd really love too. So much history (I'll just ignore the selfie sticks!)

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    1. Yes, definitely ignore the selfie sticks!!

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  3. I love Rome - thanks for sharing your photos. I was anazed by the number of cats roaming around.

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    1. We actually didn't see that many! But the few we did see were surprisingly cute for stray cats.

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  4. Fantastic post, Kari and yes, I've heard all about the poor tourists who are on foot, doing their best to avoid being run over on pedestrian crossings as cars accelerate towards them! You did very well not to be robbed. It's a shame about the Trevi fountain but you certainly took in a lot of the best of Rome while you were there xx

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    1. I wasn't so aware of the traffic hazards before we went! I don't know how I missed reading on them as it seems 'scare the pedestrian' is one of the favourite games of Roman drivers.

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  5. Kari, I haven't travelled a great deal, but through your posts, I feel a bit like I get off the beaten track and experience all these gorgeous little nooks of the world. Thank you.

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    1. I'm so glad Lisa - thank you :-)

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  6. Rome is such an iconic city - your photos are stunning esp the second one of the piazza navona - I really loved the little piazzas and could have spent more time just wandering around them when I was there - though I did visit the collosseum and the vatican which are huge icons and take some time. I found it one of the least safe cities I visited in europe on my travels but it is so beautiful that I am not surprised at all the selfie sticks for sale.

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    1. The vatican will definitely need a dedicated trip sometime. I do like that Rome has those 'big ticket' attractions but also scope for casual but beautiful wandering.

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