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Some ideas for walks and tours of Rome: I had had little time to waste and wanted a short walk to get the main flavour of the city where would I go?
Entire books have been written on the subject and it is almost impossible to do it justice in just few pages, or perhaps that is just the way to do it justice: some indications and then off you go to discover its wonders.
Here are some suggestions and tips which are sure to serve you well….
First Tip. Rome is obviously an intricate mass of different periods of history annexed and built over one another. Unless you have a vague knowledge of history it is therefore difficult to quite understand and place the bits of the puzzle you're looking at. Bear this in mind and make sure you have a Rome Timeline in the back of your pocket!
Next Tip If you want to ad lib as much as possible read just a little background:
Our bluffer's Rome's history (a page: but not bad for a couple of thousand years)
Bluffer's guide to Roman architecture - another page giving a quick idea of why Roman architecture was great. A good key to understanding the forum, colosseum, pantheon, St. Peter's and many other buildings.
The Bluffer's Baroque Rome - Rome's so full of churches you may as well try to understand why they look the way they do - it's all to do with fighting those protesting Protestant reformers (and power of course).
Almost there Tip is to plan each day out, even if just for a minute. Nothing's to say you can't change your mind half way through - in fact if you do so much the better: something will have grabbed your undivided attention! What's it to be? Soak up some Rome culture? Do a quick tour of the antiquities? Shops? Food and hanging out at the Coffee Bars? See below for some planned tour suggestions.
Last Tip: Avoid going around with your nose stuck in a (guide) book. Better actually get to see Rome. What's so wonderful about the "Eternal City" is the innumerable surprises which lurk around each corner. You're sure to miss them if you're staring into a book. Take a camera and possibly a notepad. Jot a couple of notes of what you really appreciated and read about them in comfort whilst sipping a road-side Espresso at one of our suggested Coffee Bars. They'll also provide a pleasant memory when you're on the plane back home.
This is the "I need to run through the city and take pics of the major bits" sort of tour. Here are the musts which you could probably do in a day. "I've done Rome". Shame to rush about this way but perhaps a good way of getting a taster before delving into the bits you enjoyed best.
Follow the links for a little further detail of the places referred to. Don't forget the Rome shopping section and into Rome restaurants, these aspects are a must as much as the Colosseum! The areas concerned include Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona & Forums with a glimpse of Vatican across the river. The area descriptions include sites and notes of particular interest.
We would suggest starting from the Piazza del Popolo and following Via del Babbuino to Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. From there down Via Condotti. You might try a coffee at the Antico Caffe' Greco. Here's your chance to look at the luxury designer shops and boutiques, not all of them are overly expensive.
We would suggest brunch in (relatively inexpensive) style at the Caffettiera in Piazza di Pietra, between Via del Corso and the Pantheon. Chance to see the side of a major Roman temple - to Hadrian's genius, now the stock exchange - and then on to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona & Campo de' Fiori.
Get to the Tiber & view to St. Peter's. Actually going to St. Peter's would require quite a lot of energy if you're considering the next part of the trip:
Up to Piazza Venezia, see the balcony of Palazzo Venezia from where Mussolini delivered his speeches. The "Type Writer" monument to the unknown soldier & up the steps to the Capitoline Hill. Great view over the Forum from around the back of the hill (go round the Palazzo Senatorio which faces the steps up to the hill).
Back down the steps and a good walk along the Via dei Fori Imperiali will allow you to see the Forums. The Roman/Imperial forums on the right and Trajan's on the left, including the famous Trajan's column which depicts his wars of conquest in Rumania.
Get to the end of the street and you'll hit your nose against the Colosseum.
You should be pretty tired at this point. Clearly it all depends on a trade-off of speed versus quality time.
A 1 day alternative with less walking about: If you're intellectually inclined then you might do away with the shopping side of things and go for Capitol, Pantheon and St. Peter's. Brunch as above.
The Capitol will afford the view over the Roman Forum whilst a march to the top of St. Peter's dome will give you a great view over the entire city.
About the intellectually minded: there are important comparisons to be made between the Pantheon and St. Peter's which will reveal the ingredients which made Rome the "eternal city". Some research into the two buildings, their history and uses will shed light a perfect blend of engineering with architecture, religion with mysticism and politics with propaganda. Read more.
Another idea is to pick a guiding theme like the Obelisks or squares around Rome.
The Obelisks were brought to Rome by the Emperors as bits of furnishing for the city, often placed in the central spine, called "spina", of circuses. Later popes recovered them from where they lay abandoned and stood them throughout the city to act as visible landmarks for the pilgrims to follow round the city. A few have since been moved about but in any case you can be sure they still act as pretty good landmarks. You might add the two columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius.
Following the Squares can be equally entertaining, especially as the "piazze" act as natural focus points throughout the. Follow the tiny streets which run between the hills like streams and converge into the fountains of the many remarkable "piazze". If we try to combine a tour of the seven hills with the more popular squares we obtain a pretty complete tour (10 squares because I couldn't cut it down to 7!). A little more about each may be gained from the area descriptions above.
So to the squares walk:
Piazza del Popolo (northern gate of Rome with Obelisk) - Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps) - Trevi fountain - Piazza del Quirinale - Campidoglio (the Capitoline hill)- Pantheon - Piazza Navona (ancient circus turned into an elongated public square) - San Giovanni in Laterano (the square with Rome's cathedral - predecessor of St. Peter's basilica) - Saint Peter's at the Vatican. Not strictly in this order…
Two more for a good coffee break: Sant'Eustachio and Piazza di Pietra. Two as part of the night life: Campo de' Fiori and Santa Maria in Trastevere. (Campo de’ Fiori can be a little overly lively at times)
Egypt fell into Roman hands at the time when the first Emperor, Augustus, heir of Julius Caesar, brought his rival Mark Anthony and his lover Cleopatra to heel.
What isn't obvious is that the obelisks dotted around Rome were already ancient when the ancient Romans began to bring them over to glorify their capital city. This serves to give an idea of the esteem the Romans held for the ancient Egyptian culture, particularly with the regards to the "sciences".
Obelisks quite evidently hold symbolic meanings. In Egyptian times they represented rays of the sun and glorified divinities. In Roman times this meaning largely persisted but doubled up to constitute first hand evidence of the power of Rome, focused on the Emperor.
As the Empire gave way to the dark ages the obelisks fell off their pedestals but as fortunes picked up again with the papacy so too did the obelisks. Around 1587 Pope Sixtus V gave orders for a number of them to be put to use. They were unburied from their original spots, often in the central spina of the abandoned circuses and transferred with great effort to behave as place markers for the Christian pilgrims to follow and wonder at: a constant reminder of the brutal empire which Christianity had heroically survived.
As the small obelisk in Piazza della Minerva perfectly describes the Obelisks came to hold a new symbolic meaning: wisdom. And more specifically, Christian wisdom.
The major obelisks of Rome (numbers in brackets are height/height with pedestal):
the Pyramid of Caius Cestius (at Testaccio, south side of the city) and the two enormous columns of Trajan (in Trajan's forum) and Marcus Aurelius (Piazza Colonna off Via del Corso). Entire studies have been dedicated to the columns so better leave it to you to dig further.
XX/X/MMVI This page about visiting Rome was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments