How We Explored Rome in 6D5N

Rome, a city with a rich history that spans more than two thousand five hundred years clearly wasn’t built in a day. It once served as the capital of the Roman Kingdom, followed by the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire. Today, it continues to function as the capital of Italy. No wonder, Rome is known as the Caput Mundi or “Capital of the World”, thus the adage ‘all roads lead to Rome’. 

Dan Brown’s bestseller, Angels & Demons was what first piqued my curiosity about Rome when I read it some years ago. Until recently, exploring Rome was all but a dream. However, I couldn’t have been more ecstatic than to find out from hubby that my dream was finally going to materialise in August. He was selected to attend the week-long European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual congress that took place in Fiera di Roma (1-hour train ride from the city centre) and as usual, I just tagged along.  Angel

 

Flight

We booked our flight with Qatar Airways via Kayak for RM3728.90 per person inclusive of taxes. I’m not sure how many of you realise it, but trust me that Kayak is actually where you get the best deals ever. Expedia used to be our favourite site but after days of research and comparison, we’ve since come to the conclusion that nothing beats Kayak. Best of all, its prices fluctuate everyday and if you have the patience, just keep monitoring your preferred flight everyday until its price falls within your budget.

Up until now, Qatar Airways is probably the best airline we’ve ever taken. The transit time at Hamad International Airport, Doha was less than 3 hours. This airport is arguably the most modern and posh airport we’ve been to so far.

Hamad International Airport

 

Accommodation

We arrived at the Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport in Rome at 6:10am in the morning. The morning breeze was cooling at about 18°C, just comfortable for the summer. We booked 5 nights accommodation at Residenza Leonina via Expedia for RM1701.53 (10% discount code: MAYBMYHOLIDAY) inclusive all taxes except for Rome’s city tax (€3,50 per person per night), which was remitted directly to the hotel. Our room was of a reasonable size with almost all the necessary amenities befitting an apartment. Interestingly, the apartment also had a rooftop terrace, a feature which is not uncommon in Rome. On top of that, we were granted room service every other day.

Residenza Leonina

The reason for selecting this apartment was because it was just a 2-minute walk from the Cavour metro station (mode of transportation to hubby’s congress – Fiera di Roma) and central enough for us to explore all the places of interest on foot. It costed us €35 (RM165) for a cab from the airport to Residenza Leonina on our day of arrival.


 

Transportation

The easiest way to get around Rome would be through its metro and train systems. An individual ticket within the municipality of Rome costs €1,50 (RM7.10). Fortunate for us, hubby’s congress registration came with 10 complimentary tickets, thus saving us some traveling expenses. Be sure to download its map onto your mobile device if you’d like a hassle-free travel. Oh, don’t be overly concerned about your safety as I can assure you that Rome’s metro and train systems are one of the safest in Europe (definitely safer than Paris’). At least 2 soldiers were seen patrolling every metro and train station at all times. This is why even I dared travel around on my own on the few occasions when hubby was at the congress.

Rome Metro

If you decide to stay within Old Rome like we did, most places of interest would be within your reach by just walking. It would also be good exercise for you, all the more when you are definitely going to indulge in Rome’s fabulous gastronomic experience. Besides, you will be able to experience how walking on cobblestone roads is like. Oh, cycling is another great option to get around too and summer is just the perfect season to be doing so.

 

Itinerary

Despite being busy with the congress, hubby allocated some time for us to explore this magnificent city together. Basically, Rome is a sprawling museum by itself with so many archaeological sites, monuments, basilicas, cathedrals, churches, temples, etc scattered throughout the entire city. All these are sure to satisfy a history or architecture buff’s curiosity.

In the past, hubby and I would try to hop to as many cities as possible when we were in a particular country, but nowadays we prefer to just stay put in just one city and explore it thoroughly. This in a way is less stressful, we get to spend more time experiencing the culture of that city and we have reasons to come back to that country (to visit other cities).

As with the train stations, almost all the popular places of interest are guarded by soldiers at various points. Once again, safety should be the least of your concern. Here’s our personalised itinerary:

Day 1 (26th August)

Torre delle Milizie
Torre delle Milizie (Tower of the Militia) Large defensive tower from medieval Rome located next to Mercati di Traiano (Trajan’s Market). This tower is just a 5-minute walk from our apartment.
Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Maria
Left-Right: Santa Maria di Loreto, Palazzo Valentini, Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Maria (Church of the Most Holy Name of Mary) & Colonna Traiana (Trajan’s Column).
Foro di Traiano
Foro di Traiano (Trajan’s Forum) The last imperial fora that was constructed in ancient Rome.
Mercati di Traiano
Mercati di Traiano (Trajan’s Market) Possibly the world’s oldest shopping mall and it is also believed to be Emperor Trajan’s administrative offices.
Foro di Augusto
Foro di Augusto (Forum of Augustus) These ancient ruins once included a temple to Mars and provided space for legal proceedings. There is a light show “Journeys Through Ancient Rome” at this forum every evening.
Basilica Santi Cosma e Damiano
Basilica Santi Cosma e Damiano (Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian) Founded in 527AD, it is the first and oldest church in the Imperial Forum.
Basilica di Massenzio
Basilica di Massenzio (Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine) Completed in 312AD by Constantine the Great, it was once the largest building in the Roman Forum. It is now undergoing massive restoration to bring it back to its former glory.
Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana
Tempio di Venere e Roma (Temple of Venus and Rome) Located on Velian Hill, it is the largest temple in ancient Rome. Behind it is Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana.
Arco di Costantino
Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) Triumphal arch situated between Colosseo (Colosseum) and Palatino (Palatine Hill).
Palatino
Palatino (Palatine Hill) Standing at 40 metres above the Roman Forum, it is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. You can purchase you ticket for Colosseo, Palatino and Foro Romano at any of these three locations, but I’d suggest getting it at Palatino as the queue here is way shorter. The ticket costs €12 (RM56.60) and is valid for 2 days. You can also choose to purchase it online if you don’t mind the €2 reservation fee.
Colosseo
Colosseo (Colosseum) Largest amphitheatre that was ever built for entertainment in the medieval era especially for gladiatorial contests.
Tempio di Antonino e Faustina
Left-Right: Tempio di Antonino e Faustina (Antoninus and Faustina Temple) & Tempio Detto di Romolo (Temple of Romulus).
Foro Romano
Foro Romano (Roman Forum) Also known as Forum Magnum, the centre of Roman public life in antiquity lies in ruins today and surrounded by the ruins of other important ancient government buildings.
Arco di Settimio Severo
Left-Right: Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimius Severus) & Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina (Church of Saints Luke and Martin).
Foro di Cesare
Foro di Cesare (Forum of Caesar) Built by Julius Caeser, it was intended as an expansion of Foro Romano. Columns from the ruins of Tempio di Venere Genitrice (Temple of Venus Genitrix) can be seen standing within the forum.

Day 2 (27th August)

Palazzo del Quirinale
Palazzo del Quirinale (Quirinal Palace) Official residence of the president of Italy that is located on Quirinal Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome.
Piazza del Quirinale
Piazza del Quirinale – Located in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale (Quirinal Palace) with the Obelisco del Quirinale and Fontana dei Dioscuri at its centre.
Fontana di Trevi
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) Largest Baroque fountain in Rome and certainly the most beautiful in the world.
Chiesa Rettoria Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio
Chiesa Rettoria Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio (Church of Saints Vincent and Anastasius) Located opposite Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), it is the perfect place to get a good view of the fountain that is ever so crowded with tourists.
Il Tempio di Adriano
Tempio di Adriano (Hadrian’s Temple)Roman temple from 145AD with its 11 Corinthian columns now form the facade for a conference centre.
Pantheon
Pantheon – Ancient temple that was subsequently transformed into Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres (Basilica of Saint Mary and the Martyrs).
Piazza della Rotonda
Piazza della Rotonda – Located just in front of the Pantheon with the Fontana del Pantheon at its centre.
Sant'Andrea della Valle
Basilica di Sant’Andrea della Valle (Basilica of Saint Andrew of the Valley) Situated at the southern end of Corso del Rinascimento, this is the general seat for the religious order of the Theatines.
Palazzo Madama
Palazzo Madama – Seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic that was built atop the ruins of the ancient baths of Nero.
Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone
Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone (Church of Saint Agnes in Agony) 17th century baroque church which faces Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona – Built on the site of the 1st century Circus of Domitian.
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Piazza Campo de’ Fiori – One of the most fashionable piazzas, in which Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake precisely here (statue in the centre).
Chiesa di Santa Barbara dei Librai
Chiesa di Santa Barbara dei Librai – Baroque chapel that was built into the vault under the cavea of Teatro di Pompeo some time before 1100 AD.
Chiesa di San Carlo ai Catinari
Chiesa di San Carlo ai Catinari – Early baroque style church where we enjoyed a free choir with accompaniment of the pipe organ. It was by chance that we walked passed this church and heard the melodious choir singing.
Teatro di Marcello
Teatro di Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus)Ancient open-air theatre, built in the closing years of the Roman Republic. There was a flute and piano duet performance here almost every night, but you’d have to pay to get in.

Day 3 (28th August)

Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Exposition Palace) Largest neoclassical exhibition venue in the city centre.
Spanish Steps
Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps) Stairway of 135 steps leading up to Chiesa della Santissima Trinità dei Monti from Piazza di Spagna. It was cordoned off for restoration work when we were there.
Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna – Located at the base of the Spanish Steps with the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat) occupying its centre.
Chiesa di Sant'Atanasio
Chiesa di Sant’Atanasio (Church of Saint Athanasius) Located along Via del Babuino as we walked toward Piazza del Popolo.
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) This square was built at the northern gate of the ancient Aurelian Walls. It was where public executions were carried out for centuries.
Mausoleo di Augusto
Mausoleo di Augusto (Mausoleum of Augustus) Completed in 28BC by Emperor Augustus, this tomb housed the ashes of various family members and other notable emperors. Its interior is not open to public.
Chiesa di San Carlo al Corso
Chiesa di San Carlo al Corso – This is just one of the churches we chanced upon after we explored Mausoleo di Augusto (Mausoleum of Augustus).
Piazza San Silvestro
Left-Right: Chiesa dei Santi Claudio e Andrea dei Borgognoni (Church of Saints Claudius and Andrew of the Burgundians) & Piazza San Silvestro.
Terme di Caracalla
Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla) Second largest Roman public baths, which lies in ruins after the earthquake in 847AD. A 7-day ticket costs €6 (RM28.30) and therefore, we refrained from entering as it was too pricey for us.
Circo Massimo
Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) Ancient Rome’s largest chariot racetrack, today this oval basin (600m long) is almost entirely filled in with dirt. People can be seen using it as a jogging track.
Basilica di Santa Anastasia al Palatino
Basilica di Sant’Anastasia al Palatino – Built in the 3rd century, this is one of the earliest churches in Rome. We chanced upon this antiquity that is located next to Circo Massimo.
Bocca della Verità
Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) Enormous marble mask that was said to bite the hand of those who lied. It is located at the portico of Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin (Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin).
Foro Boario
Located within Foro Boario (Forum Boarium), from left-right: Tempio di Ercole Vincitore (Temple of Hercules Victor), Tempio di Portuno (Temple of Portunus) & Fontana dei Tritoni (Fountain of the Tritons).
River Tiber
Ponte Cestio (Cestius’ Bridge) – Ancient bridge that spans River Tiber and links the west of Rome on the left to Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) on the right.
Basilica di San Bartolomeo all'Isola
Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola (Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Island) Built on the site of the ancient temple of Aesculapius in the 10th century, it apparently houses the relics of Bartholomew the Apostle.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Square) Located atop Capitoline Hill (epicenter of Rome’s might), this square was designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century. From left-right: Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo Senatorio (seat of the Roman senate) & Palazzo dei Conservatori (seat of the magistrates).

Day 4 (29th August)

Musei Vaticani
Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums) Possibly house the largest collection of Renaissance masterpieces in the world. Due to the massive number of tourists during the summer, we made sure that we arrived there as early as possible. Even then, the line was already very long. Fortunately, we managed to get our skip-the-line tickets for Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums), Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) & Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Basilica) from one of the touts whom we negotiated with and he finally agreed for €50 (RM237) per ticket (well below market price).
Basilica di San Pietro
Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Basilica) One of the holiest Catholic shrines and pilgrimage sites as seen from Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Square). Beneath the basilica are the Vatican grottoes where most papal tombs are located.
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Castel Sant’Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian) A landmark in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons. It was initially commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, later on used by the popes as a fortress and now a museum.
Corte Suprema di Cassazione
Corte Suprema di Cassazione (Supreme Court of Cassation – Palace of Justice) Located adjacent to Castel Sant’Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian), it is the highest court of appeal in Italy.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Largo di Torre Argentina – Teatro di Pompeo (Theatre of Pompey) within this square was where Julius Caeser was believed to be assassinated.
Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) National monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy as seen from Piazza Venezia.
San Nicola in Carcere
Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere (Church of Saint Nicholas in Prison) Built on the site of 3 temples of Rome’s republican period which were dedicated to Juno, Spes and Janus. Columns of the ancient temples can still be seen as part of its walls. We attended a free voice concerto that was held here at 8pm, which we knew about from an advertisement in the Pantheon.
Area Sacra di Sant' Omobono
Area Sacra di Sant’ Omobono (Sacred Area of Saint Homobonus) Located opposite Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere (Church of Saint Nicholas in Prison), this archaeological site contains important evidence for archaic and republican Rome.

Day 5 (30th August)

Torre degli Annibaldi
Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains) – Home of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. On the right is Torre degli Annibaldi (Tower of Annibaldi) which is located opposite the basilica.
Piramide di Caio Cestio
Piramide di Caio Cestio (Pyramid of Gaius Cestius) Built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius in 12BC. The Mura Aureliane (Aurelian Walls) is seen running through the pyramid and connects to one of its southern gates, Porta San Paolo (on the right).
Porta San Paolo
Porta San Paolo – Also known as Porta Ostiensis, it is home to Museo della Via Ostiense (Via Ostiense Museum) today. Entrance if free.
Mura Aureliane
Mura Aureliane (Aurelian Walls) Built between 271-275AD, it once formed the fortified boundary of ancient Rome.
Cimitero Acattolico di Roma
Cimitero Acattolico di Roma (Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome) Located adjacent to the Piramide di Caio Cestio (Pyramid of Gaius Cestius), it is a well-kept Protestant cemetery with a beautiful garden within.
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano – The Obelisco Lateranense (Lateran Obelisk) occupies its centre. Immediately to its right is Palazzo del Laterano (Lateran Palace). On the far right is San Giovanni in Fonte (Lateran Baptistery).
Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano
Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (Archbasilica of Saint John in Lateran) Oldest and first in rank of the 4 papal major basilicas, it is also the oldest church in the west.
Leonian Triclinium
Chiesa Rettoria San Lorenzo in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum – Famous for the Scala Sancta (Holy Staircase), a stairway of 28 white marble steps leading up to the chapel. On the right is Leonian Triclinium, one of the main halls of the ancient Palazzo del Laterano (Lateran Palace), which displays its Byzantine mosaics.
Torre dei Capocci
Piazza di San Martino Ai Monti – The Torre dei Capocci (Tower of Capocci) and Torre dei Graziani (Tower of Graziani) mark the entrance to Esquiline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome.
Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica – Located at the summit of the Viminal Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome) and next to the Termini station, it has a characteristic semi-circular design, with Fontana delle Naiadi at its centre.
Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) Located at the Piazza della Repubblica, this basilica was built into Thermae Diocletiani (Baths of Diocletian), largest public baths in Rome.
Planetario
Planetario (Planetarium) We chanced upon this building near Piazza della Repubblica that was interestingly built into an ancient structure.

Day 6 (31st August)

San Nicola in Carcere
Before flying out of Rome in the evening, we came back to Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere (Church of Saint Nicholas in Prison) just to descend into the crypts and catacombs, for which we were charged a measly  €2 (RM9.50) per person. The gateway to the crypts and catacombs is beneath the altar.
San Nicola in Carcere
The way leading down to the crypts and catacombs.
San Nicola in Carcere
Exploring the subterranean ruins of the ancient temples beneath the church. It was seriously creepy!

 

Eateries

If you are going to experience Rome to the fullest, the one thing that you cannot afford to miss out on is its cuisine. Pasta, pizza, gelato, tiramisu, caffè and many others, you name it, they are all aplenty in Rome. Besides that, a variety of other Mediterranean cuisines are also widely available for your indulgence. Having said that, since we had the entire apartment to ourselves, there were occasions that we bought some pasta noodles (available in so many different types and colours) and sauces to cook.

Pasta

As far as pasta and pizza are concerned, we tried out so many restaurants throughout the city (those within our budget, though – €7 – €10 per plate). I must admit that the ambience was perfect but the food was pretty ordinary to us. Perhaps, you’d be able to savour better specialities in some upscale restaurants. Nonetheless, among the many restaurants that we frequented, Gli Angeletti that was within walking distance from our apartment seemed to be the most excellent and constantly packed with customers till almost midnight.

Gli Angeletti

One of our best experiences was dining at Mediterranea Caffetteria, a Lebanese restaurant on the bank of River Tiber just across Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island). There were in fact many other eateries along this river bank but we chose this restaurant because of its perfect atmosphere. Words simply cannot describe the awesome feeling of dining here. Trust me, you just gotta experience it yourself!

Mediterranea Caffetteria

What about gelato? Gelaterias were everywhere and there was one just opposite our apartment. The heat of the summer surely encouraged us to hop from one to another gelateria, but the one that really captivated us was Come il Latte. Its gelati were extremely creamy, rich in taste and above all, reasonably priced (€2,20 – €3,50 per cone/cup), nothing like the others. This is definitely a must-try in Rome!  Delicious

Come il Latte

Last but not least, we had the opportunity to try out one tiramisu joint – ZUM Roma. Though I’m not too much of a dessert person, I still think that the tiramisu here was quite good. Oh, by the way, you might also wanna try its wide variety of distinctive coffee blends.

ZUM Roma

 

Peculiar Things

As in any non-anglophone countries, communicating with the locals is always an expected problem. However, to our surprise, most Romans could speak reasonably intelligible English, thus giving us some peace of mind. Actually, reading the menus or signages in Italian wasn’t that difficult as we could still make out a fair bit of what the words meant. In any case, Google Translate will really come in handy should you get lost in translation.

When we first ventured out in the sweltering summer heat, we realised drinking water was the one thing we needed the most. Peddlers were selling a small bottle of water for about €2, which we thought was pricey. Then, we noticed locals drinking directly from the ubiquitous public fountains (nasoni). After researching online, we were more convinced that the water coming from the nasoni was not only free, but also clean and drinkable. That pretty much solved our water issue and saved us some money too.

Nasoni

Anyone who has been to Rome will tell you that the piazzas are locations you definitely need to immerse yourself in. These are public squares that are tucked in various pockets within the city and remain the rendezvous for most people to hang out. As such, street performances, hotels, shops and restaurants tend to gravitate to the more popular piazzas. A typical feature of most piazzas is the presence of a fountain at the centre.

Another peculiar thing about Rome, a city so steeped in Catholicism, is that the chimes of church bells can be heard in almost every corner at certain times. It felt like the entire city was a monastery, an experience we’ve never had in other cities we’ve explored. Now, I can understand why Rome is so appealing since time immemorial – truly the Eternal City!

 

 

NOTES:

All photos and information on Daphne’s Escapades are copyright protected. Please do not use any of the images or content without any prior permission. Should you wish to share this post, please direct this post to its original source.

4 Comment

  1. Rome is such a beautiful place.

  2. This post has basically touched everything one needs to know about Rome. Nice one Daphne

  3. Rome is one of the places on list to visit. Thank you for the very detailed plan. You left no stone unturned. It looks like you have a great visit. Much success on your travel blog.

  4. KatrinaJeanCarter says: Reply

    Wow this post is jam-packed with akk the goodies, I felt like I was on the trip with you! The architecture is just phenomenal. Love that you shared random stuff you found, too!

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