If you happen to find yourself with only 24 hours to explore Rome, don’t fret, just follow our lead with this whirlwind tour of the Eternal City …
Whatever the weather, the city of Rome is a treasure trove of history, culture, and gastronomy. With a history that spans over two and a half millennia, Rome offers visitors an unmatched blend of ancient ruins, Renaissance art, and dangerously delicious Italian cuisine. If you happen to find yourself with only 24 hours to explore this magnificent city, don’t fret – Rome is widely considered to be the world’s largest open air museum, so even the simple act of walking to the bus stop is likely to involve some serious architecturally and historical eye candy. Just make sure to don your comfiest shoes and a warm coat to make the most of this city of all seasons.
Morning Glory: The Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica
Start your very own Roman holiday with an early morning visit to the smallest independent state in the world, Vatican City. Explore St Peter’s Square, where the impressive architectural masterpiece that is St Peter’s Basilica stands. The Vatican Museums open at 9am, so make sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Inside, you’ll find an unparalleled collection of art, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Raphael’s School of Athens, and countless other treasures.
Stop off for a cappuccino and a fluffy maritozzi, a Roman brioche style bun filled with vanilla whipped cream. If a savoury slice if more your style, a classic Roman pizza Bianco with straciateel, mortadella and pistachio from Forno in Campo De Fiori (www.fornocampodefiori.com) is a culinary rite of passage when visiting Bella Roma.
Mid-Morning History Lesson: The Colosseum and Roman Forum
Perhaps the most iconic landmark in Rome, the Colosseum is a must-see on any visit to Rome. This ancient amphitheatre once hosted epic gladiator battles and is a powerful symbol of Rome’s glorious past. Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, a sprawling archaeological site with ruins of ancient government buildings, temples, and marketplaces. The history here is palpable and it’s impossible not to feel dwarfed while taking it all in.
Lunch like a Local: Trastevere Neighbourhood
A mere 15 minutes’ stroll across the Tiber River brings you to Trastevere, a charming, bohemian neighbourhood where you can savour Roman cuisine at its finest. Trattorias line the narrow cobbled streets, and it’s a good place to try authentic Roman dishes. Classics such as Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper pasta), Carbonara or Amatriciana are all safe choices or try something different such as plate of Roman Jewish fried artichokes (Carciofi alla Giudia). If you manage to secure a table, Da Enzo Al 29 (www.daenzoal29.co) is a popular choice but either way, you will be fed well. Don’t forget to sample a glass of local wine and, if space permits, finish with a classic tiramisu.
Afternoon Worship: The Pantheon and Piazza Navona
A 20 minute post-lunch stroll through the city brings you to the magnificent Pantheon, a marvel of ancient engineering with its perfectly preserved dome. Standing on the site of Marcus Agrippa’s original temple that was destroyed by fire, the current building was a temple commissioned by Hadrian around 126 AD. The Pantheon was consecrated into the catholic faith in 609 and mass has been said in the basilica for over 1400 years. Today, it is still a working church with mass said twice weekly. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket to wander inside and wonder at the oculus, a hole in the roof that allows a beam of sunlight to pierce through. An afternoon espresso (or Ichnusa beer) in one of the cafés in Piazza della Rotunda is an idyllic way to soak up the ambiance before making your way to Piazza Navona, considered by many to be the most beautiful baroque square in Rome. Regardless of the weather, grab a proper gelato and wander the piazza, admiring the stunning architecture and Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). If your trip happens to be in December, you might be lucky enough to enjoy the Piazza Navona Christmas market with its festive stalls and carousels.
Early Evening Indulgence: Via dei Condotti, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome, regardless of how brief it might be, would be complete without a spot of window shopping on the famous Via dei Condotti. High end shopfronts include Prada, Dior, Mont Blanc and Van Cleef & Arpels. As evening falls, climb the 135 steps to the top of the Spanish Steps and soak up the striking city views before making your way to The Hassler bar at The Hotel Hassler (www.hotelhasslerroma.com), perched at the top of the Spanish Steps. The Hassler does aperitivo hour in style, and while you will pay top dollar for your aperitif, the spread that comes with it and the glamorous surroundings make it worth every cent.
Dinner in Rome is an experience and there are endless options, depending on who you ask. Salumeria Roscioli (www.salumeriaroscioli.com) is a Roman institution for a reason but dinner at Hosteria Romana, just eight minutes’ walk from Hotel Hassler is as close to an authentic Roman experience as you will find. There is a different Roman special each day, and the pasta is both fresh and plentiful. After dinner, a short stroll brings you to the Trevi Fountain, a stunning 26m high Baroque masterpiece designed by architect Nicola Salvi. Legend has it that tossing a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand ensures your return to Rome so superstitious or not, it’s best to be safe.
Images via unsplash.com.