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I was treated to a weekend in Rome for my birthday by my daughters. I had always wanted to visit the city but realised there was a great deal to see and that three days would hardly be enough. We booked in at the Mellini Hotel, which was well placed near the river and with easy access to the historic centre and the Vatican. Looking down the index of the Dorling Kindersley guide book for the word Palazzo (palace) I found over 50 entries. Looking for the word Piazza (Square) I found over 30. This may give you some idea of the grandiose nature of Rome over the ages. Everyone wanted their own palace and it had to be grander than their neighbour's ! With over 2000 years of perpetual development (with the occasional setback from fires and marauders) it is not surprising that it takes a while to get to grips with the city.
Many of the original buildings are in ruins, but other buildings such as the Pantheon (originally a temple to all the gods) was built in seven years to AD115 and was designed by the famous Emperor Hadrian on the site of a temple built in 27BC by Marcus Agrippa, whose original portico still bears his name. The fact that the Pantheon stands just as it did in those days is a credit to Hadrian and is partly due to the fact that the dome was constructed in a single piece in poured concrete ! So, he wasn't just a soldier and builder of walls !
Statue of Hadrian
The remarkable - must see - Pantheon
The Agrippa Portico at night
Having said that, the inside is unlike any modern concrete construction being a perfect hemisphere with elegant hollow 'coffers', while it is illuminated by day from a single 'oculus' in the centre of the dome. This elegant structure is supported on walls fifteen feet thick and yet one is not aware of that bulk. The inner walls are decorated with art and the tombs of the famous, such as Raphael.
If I was asked how to see Rome in a day I would suggest a tour starting from the Pantheon then crossing the river to the Colosseum. No-one can be unimpressed by the size of this structure and the stories of its uses over several hundred years. I was amazed to hear about the use of lifts so the animals and gladiators and set pieces of scenery could appear in the middle as if my magic.In the case of the Colosseum there was a slow moving queue but it was possible avoid this if you went to a different kiosk and paid for a handset, which gave an audio description with directions. Well worth it
Once you have had your fill of the Colosseum it is time to walk on by the adjacent arch of Constantine, which spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph after the many Roman conquests. This route started at the Campus Martius, led through the Circus Maximus and around the Palatine Hill.
Immediately after the Arch of Constantine, the procession would turn left at the Meta Sudans and march along the Via Sacra to the Forum Romanum and on to the Capitoline Hill. This is the route I suggest you follow. The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. There were several 'fora' in this area..
A forum was a square which usually contained a statue and at least temple to the gods. It was where the Romans gathered to hear their fellow men and politicians and make their laws but also to hold ceremonies and markets. The largest is the Roman Forum, which contained no less than ten temples and numerous arches, shrines and columns. The present state of the area is, in part, due to the raids of the Goths and Vandals in the 5th century AD but also due to neglect during the Middle Ages, when much building material was removed..
As you climb the steps up the hill, lined with statues, past a plain 7th century church, you come to Piazza del Campidoglio, which is surrounded on three sides by palaces. In the centre is a large statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback and the pattern surrounding the statue was originally designed by Michelangelo. Walking on through this square you are greeted by a view of the many ruins in the forum area.
At the far end of the area is Capitoline Hill, which, from the earliest time was the centre of political, social and religious life of Rome, with great temples dedicated to Jupiter, Iuno and Virtus and you can look down and see them spread out before you
On then, if you have the time and energy, make your way across the Tiber to the Vatican and, of course, the 17th Century Basilica of St Peter's.
You can see St Peters across the Tiber
Entry to St Peter's is free. There was a long queue, reach right back to
the road but St Peters is massive and cope with hundreds of visitors, so
it did not take long to get to the entrance.
There was a small queue and a charge to climb the rotunda.. There is also a charge and often a long queue for the Sistine Chapel with its famous ceiling painting by Michelangelo.
Most museums.also charge so you may wish to consider purchasing a Roma Pass at $34 or one of the special tour tickets.
A service was proceeding and people could join freely
If you are prepared to climb the 320 steps you can go to the balcony of the rotunda and look down on the famous square.and the Pope's garden
Visiting Rome in the winter had its advantages. Although it was still full of tourists, the queues were shorter and the temperature was more acceptable.
A rainy night in Rome - December 2013
The Pope was not always popular. In fact Victor Emmanuel, who was largely responsible for unification of Italy, and became king, actually attacked the Vatican and was excommunicated for his pains. At such times the Pope would take refuge in the Castel sant'Angelo, a formidable looking fortification by the river.
If you care to try your hand at riding a Segway, you will find they are hired
out in front of the castle and it is possible to safely circle the castle
Park which surrounds it.
I wouldn't recommend them on the roads or paths of the city !
Of course, everyone who visits Rome has to see the fountains, the most famous of which, The Trevi, featured in the film "Three Coins in the Fountain" It is enormous and spectacular, especially at night and it is difficult to imagine that it has been in action for over 260 years. The tradition has it that, if you throw a coin into the fountain over your left shoulder, your will return to Rome. Approximately 3000 Euros a day are thrown in and this is used to fund a supermarket for the poor. But Rome is full of elegant fountains and the ones in Navona Square are particularly spectacular. Navona Square is worth a visit as, apart from the fountains it is surrounded by palazzias and cafes. Inevitably, as it is on the tourist route, the prices are fairly high
Expensive trip ? Well, no. Sometimes you can get a weekend there for £199. See http://www.travelzoo.com/uk/holidays/city-breaks/-199pp-Rome-4-Star-Break-inc-Breakfast-BA-Flights-1752951/?ptl=done&rating=&tppct=
Of course, this visit was just brief. What if you are there for a week? What would you want to do? For ideas see http://www.timeout.com/rome/features/51/20-great-things-to-do-in-rome
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