They say Rome is one of those cities that truly captivates all who pass through its doors, that instills only the greatest desires and passions one could possibly imagine.
Stepping from the crowded flight, ablaze with tumultuous tourists and contented natives, the heat of the eternal city allowed one to bask in its glory, and devour its beauty.
Admittedly, when thinking of Rome, the mind can instantly conjure images of Legionnaires, battalions and Emperors, marching in impressive thousands along dusty roads.
You muse over the Colosseum, and the historical transition from barbaric amphitheatre to world-famous, iconic tourist attraction. And of course, all the guilty women out there will be thinking of that thick, charming accent that could melt butter, and millions of hearts around the world.
But that day, all I could think about was how truly lucky I was to be standing in this city. For years, I had wondered, marvelled and dreamt of wandering the streets, getting lost in the puzzle of alleys and side-streets, and feeling my heart swell at the sight of incredible architecture. It is in very few other cities which you can truly imagine yourself residing, living la Dolce Vita, am I right?
But what is there to do in this wonderful city, other than stand in awe? Here, I’ll be explaining some of the best sights and attractions in the eternal city, as well as speaking to Margie Miklas, a popular author and blogger, from MargieinItaly.
We arrive in the Vatican City, the cool stone of the columns reminiscent of the role of a truly stunning building throughout the centuries. A pillar of society, the Vatican has welcomed visitors, religious and non-practicing, in their thousands, leaving them in complete awe.
Outside, a gentle breeze caresses the cobbled streets, whispering stories of this historically succulent city, and of the remarkable building which captivates all who stand before it.
In the searing summer heat, and the perfect sun, the religious structure of St Peter’s Basilica stands at an impressive 484 feet tall, and covers almost 6 acres of land. Although incredible by day, the Basilica can truly visually arrest at night, with its main dome and statuettes illuminated, giving off a breath-taking, almost haunting glow – almost like that of a dream.
For a mere €15.00, you can purchase tickets online, which will grant you permission to skip the lines – which can save you a four-hour wait, and have you sailing through security in no time.
PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL OF THE RULES FOR ADMISSION INTO THE BASILICA AND THE SISTINE CHAPEL – IF YOU ARE WEARING SHORTS OR A MINI-SKIRT, OR TRY TO ENTER WITH BARE SHOULDERS, YOU WILL BE ASKED TO COVER UP, OR TURNED AWAY.
Ask anyone who has visited prior, and I can assure you, they will have nothing but the utmost admiration for St Peter’s Basilica.
However, no good reviews or local praise will ever prepare you for the breath-taking encounter you are yet to experience.
Entering the doorway of this incredible building, I couldn’t help but marvel at the polished wood, the carvery, and of course, the noble airs of the Swiss Papal Guards.
And then we stepped into, what I firmly believe, is the most exhilarating, stunning and divine place of worship the world has ever seen.
Margie explains: “For me the highlight of Rome is the Vatican, even though it is its own separate city-state.
“The Vatican includes St Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums, and to do it properly, it is important to allow close to an entire day for this experience.
“I never tire of visiting St Peter’s, and no matter what faith you are, it truly is an incredibly moving experience.”
From the moment you set foot in the Basilica, you are surrounded by incredible architecture, art and sculptures.
It really feels as though you’ve stepped into a masterpiece. To your right, a small crowd gathers, marvelling at perhaps one of the most treasured works in the Basilica – Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’. This marble marvel depicts the virgin Maria holding the recently crucified Christ.
No matter what your religion or beliefs, this seemingly simple statue is incredibly powerful.
After all, in a world ravaged by poverty, war and corruption, isn’t it just truly humbling how so many of us, regardless of race, colour or creed, can come together to respectfully appreciate this scene of tranquillity?
Look up, and become blissfully lost in an abundance of painted frescoes, beautifully illuminated in the morning sun.
If you want to spend a bit more time in the Basilica, then why not wander around, be taken aback by the sheer scale and detail of the Papal Altars? How about a visit to the tombs of previous Popes? Here, you can visit the resting place of the beloved Pope John Paul II, or even the tomb of St Peter himself.
You could even take a trip to the Vatican Museums, where you can muse over ancient artefacts behind the glass, and admire paintings and murals that tell their own beguiling stories of time.
For a mere price of €15, the Vatican really is one of those places that creates priceless memories.
Today, we reminisce in the oldest parts of Rome.
A jump-the-queue ticket at €16.20 will guarantee prompt and seamless entry into both the Roman Forum, and perhaps the most iconic landmark in Rome – the Colosseum.
With origins dating back to the 7th century BC, the land which houses the Forum was originally marsh and wasteland, separating two realms, Palatine Hill, ruled by Romulus, the first King of Rome, and Capitoline Hill, ruled by Titus Tatius, his rival.
According to tradition, the Forum’s origins began with an alliance between the pair, following the pleas of the Sabine women as a result of combat.
Formerly a marketplace for the Roman people, the Forum quickly became the political and religious centre of the city, and was in use for approximately 1400 years.
Walking along the dusty paths now, with a little imagination, you can see hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ancient Romans, jostling through the crowds, negotiating prices and mingling with family and friends.
In later years, audiences gathering to witness powerful orators, debating for the masses, thriving on their cheers, as they rose to fame with dwindling competition.
Now, the sounds in the area are dominated by the crunching of collective footfall upon gravel, the clicking of cameras, and chattering of tourists as they make their way around the ruins, dwarfing all those who enter.
Most of these impressive structures were built during the reign of the infamous Julius Caesar, and then that of his successor, Augustus. The remains which stand here today are said to have taken over a century to excavate.
In just one year, the Forum can expect over 4.5 MILLION visitors, so the vibrancy that once thrived here is in no danger of being lost.
If history is your main interest, then you’ve every reason to visit what was once the social pillar of the city.
With the whole day ahead, it’s time to visit Rome’s iconic structure.
The road on approach to the Colosseum is completely charismatic, with street performers enticing tourists with their ambitious acts, and artists contentedly painting away, offering you the chance to purchase a little bit of Rome for yourself.
The sun bears down on the backs of all, a catalyst for curiosity and inspiration.
A quick security check, a show of tickets, and we’re here. Standing inside the very structure that has survived through the centuries, that renders tourists in awe, and forever resides in the hearts of those who visit.
Pacing through the archways and along the travertine floor, it truly amazes one to muse the history of this prodigious building.
Back in the days of Emperors and Centurions, the Flavian Amphitheatre, as it was formerly known, was a location of violent entertainment, and impressive displays. The floor, which is now minimal, could be filled with gallons upon gallons of water, to stage water battles upon ships, then drained to form the arena for battle once again.
A place which harboured some of the most bloodthirsty, murderous sports, with gladiators fighting to the death in the name of glory, their average lifespan reaching 27. The unfortunate gladiators who fell often met a grisly end, whether fighting with other men, or exotic animals.
Now, the Colosseum welcomes thousands of tourists per year, its romantic properties far outweighing that of violence or bloodshed. The contrast really is incredible, no?
Of all the places to visit in the Eternal City, the Colosseum is a must.
The evening draws near, the sun illuminating the stone of the buildings, giving an almost fairy-tale-like glow to the city of dreams. An hour later, and the alluring sunset gives way to the night sky, unveiling a tapestry of brilliant, sparkling stars.
Of all the places I’ve been in this world, Rome, with its charm, beauty and history, is sure to remain my most beloved destination, with memories made to cherish, and instilling overwhelming nostalgia at the mention of its name.
If you go anywhere this summer, or any time of the year, for that matter, make it Rome. I promise you, you will NOT be disappointed. But for now, it’s Arrividerci, Roma.