There are a lot of cultural sights all over Europe and many cities offer a treasure trove of historic buildings and the remains of empires long gone! And if there is one city that manages to seamlessly blend 2000 years of marvelous history with modern life, it is Rome, making it the most fun place you can explore history!
There is something simply stunning about a tour of Rome. You arrive at the airport, take the modern train into town and start your journey through history! Within a short trip, you will see the almost 2,000 year old colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica from the 17th century and stunning new architecture like the auditorium by Renzo Piano… with Vespas and Fiat 500 from the 60s zipping around you, obviously while talking on a smartphone! The completely natural way these historic sights have been incorporated into the modern, bustling city with its crazy traffic, makes it a fun place to explore the historic buildings: a sidewalk cafe or restaurant for a quick break is never far away – or you can stop your tour of historic sights to shop for the fashion objects that will probably make history!
And you will need those breaks, because there are so many things to see. As they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and you won’t be able to see it all in a day either. Check out my map for an idea of how close all those places are to the center of Rome, making exploration easy with public transportation and on foot! If you want to focus on the most important and impressive sites, you could start with the following:
The Colosseum is probably one of the most recognized sights in Rome: After almost 2,000 years it still stands proudly as the cars buzz around it. You can explore it on foot and afterwards make your way to the nearby Forum Romanum, the heart of ancient Rome! While you are standing among the ruins, just imagine yourself watching a victory procession, gladiator matches or public speeches and elections going on around you!
Another well known site you should dedicate some time to explore is the Vatican. St. Peter’s Basilica is an impressive church, even if you are not here to listen to a liturgy. The Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel and its ceiling painted by Michelangelo, 54 galleries of amazing art work or the spiral stairs can keep you busy for hours!
Some of the tourist favorites are the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Navona. While they truly are beautiful, they loose a little of their appeal to me by being swamped by visitors on busy days, so try to see them on off-days to make the most of them!
Yet despite the number of tourists, Rome never felt to me like Disneyland. You only have to go down a few side streets and you can leave the tourists behind, relaxing in a little cafe or restaurant. Judging by the number of people in those cafes, the locals must be spending a good part of their day there – similar to Paris, they always seem to be busy and teeming with live, making it a great place to … just do nothing! Or, you can enjoy the wonderful food you can find in any neighborhood restaurant!
When I left Rome, I had more places to visit on my travel list than before I arrived – there is just so much to see and discover, a return visit is likely to be in your future as well!