I am a lifelong traveller and have been lucky enough to visit many of the more far-flung destinations around the globe. However, last year, I decided that I wanted to explore more of the wonderful culture right on my doorstep. I also realised that in all my 39 years I had never visited Rome so, adhering firmly to the Latin maxim “carpe diem”, I booked flights and found a conveniently central hotel, deciding I could easily do this on my own. Luckily, though, when my cousin, who knows the city very well, found out I was planning a solo jaunt she insisted on accompanying me.
My first piece of advice is to make sure you have a pre-booked car to take you from the airport to your hotel. As in many cities, cab drivers will be only too willing to take advantage of a lost-looking visitor and charge them triple. Having checked in, our first stop was the Trevi Fountain, just 30 seconds an about 100 paces from our hotel door. After gazing in wonder for several minutes at this truly incredible piece of art, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering amiably about cobbled streets, browsing shops and admiring so much beautiful architecture. Stopping in the late afternoon at yet another picturesque piazza we grabbed a gelato and rickshaw and headed back to our hotel to change for the evening.
My cousin had planned dinner on the renowned Piazza Navona, an impressive square in Rome’s centre that is home to a host of restaurants, their tables spilling out onto the wide pavements surrounding the piazza. We went for the house special, a whole roast seabass, washed down with plenty of delicious Italian wine.
In spite of a late night we were up early the next morning to ensure a peaceful visit to St Peter’s Basilica. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found that it had been closed due to Rome receiving some important visitors that weekend*. No matter, we walked around the corner to the Sistine Chapel. Be warned, this is a busy attraction and you will spend a while queueing to get in……and then queuing through the internal hallways to reach the chapel itself. It is, however, well worth all the waiting and you will be quite stunned to see such familiar images (especially the famous detail from The Creation of Adam of two hands reaching towards one another) in the flesh, so to speak.
Later that afternoon, after a delicious lunch of cured meats and, of course, a little wine, we tackled the Coliseum. It is extremely worthwhile to hire a guide or join a guided group for this and it is amazing how well you feel you get a sense of what it might have been like to watch a display here in Roman times. Follow your tour with a walk up the neighbouring Oppian Hill with its gardens and superb views of the city.
We could not leave Rome without a visit to the Spanish Steps so we spent our last morning exploring this area then enjoying lunch at a restaurant at the top of the steps with more great views.
I feel I only had a brief taste of Rome’s highlights in this two-day tour and will certainly be back for more.
* Be prepared for this in Rome, sites are often covered in scaffolding for renovations or unexpectedly closed and you probably will not know until you arrive.