After a wander around the gorgeous Villa Borghese Gardens, we went back into the city to tick off more items on our Roman checklist. Visiting the Colosseum was certainly an itinerary highlight for this day. We began to slowly wander towards the Colosseum for an afternoon tour. There were a few things to see along the way, however. These include the iconic Spanish Steps, and a number of other iconic and historical sites of Rome.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome
Not far from the exit of Villa Borghese Gardens, you may well come across the Piazza del Popolo. Next to the Via Flaminia, this particular square is where immigrations typically arrived into Rome during the Roman Empire. It actually translates to The People’s Square, and is the centre of three important streets. Each of these streets, in fact, serve important functions as some of the main high streets of Rome, including Via del Corso.
For the best view of the piazza, climb the stairs of Pincio Park. You’ll spot the prominent Egyptian obelisk, Flaminio Obelisk, in the centre. Dedicated to Ramesses II, it was built in the Circus Maximus in the tenth century. Here, you’ll also find Santa Maria del Popolo, a basilica with two beautiful Caravaggio canvases with Renaissance decoration. Additionally, two other churches that appear identical from the outside attract a number of visitors each day.
Spanish Steps, Rome
We walked on through the Piazza del Popolo towards the city. En route, we were near another, more famous Roman square – the Piazza di Spagna. It’s one of the most visited squares in Rome. You’ll know you’re getting close when you begin to pass row after row of designer fashion houses. Italy’s famous for it’s style, after all.
The Piazza di Spagna is a wonderful example of Italian Baroque style. You’ll most likely have also heard of the Spanish Steps. The Spanish influence here hails from the nearby Spanish Embassy for the Vatican from the seventeenth century. The Spanish Steps date back to a little later, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. They connect the Piazza di Spagna with the Church of Trinità dei Monti.
While we were visiting, unfortunately, the Spanish Steps were undergoing a thorough refurbishment and clean. There are 135 steps, and each year in July, the Donne Sotto le Stelle fashion show prepares and decorates the steps for the exhibition. Locals and visitors love the Spanish Steps for relaxing and enjoying the views of the Piazza di Spagna. We were so hot by this point that we had to sit near the Fontana della Barcaccia in the square to cool off for a little while.
The Pantheon, Rome
As with all my travels, I truly believe that the best way to see a new place is by walking. Before we knew it, we were back in one of Rome’s most loved areas, near the Pantheon. Not before I could pose as Pinocchio – well, Pinocchio is Italian after all.
Finding ourselves back at the Pantheon, we got a glimpse of this deeply historic monument in the day time. We took a look inside.
Finally completed in 126AD, the Pantheon was a Roman temple. It’s also the best kept building from ancient Rome. What’s surprising about the architecture of the building is that it has an oculus that serves as its main source of light. Another surprising fact is that it has the same diameter as its height, and the dome is larger than that of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Inside the Pantheon, you’ll see the tombs of several Italian kings, as well as some ancient artwork. The legendary artist, Raphael, is also buried within the Pantheon. It was pretty amazing to see inside such an incredibly old building. It’s pretty opulent with its dark and rich gold colours. Outside the Pantheon is a bustling area of people admiring the building or dining at a restaurant. Don’t pull a rookie move like us and eat or drink here. It’s very targeted at tourists, not entirely authentic, and pretty expensive.
The Colosseum, Rome
At last – the wonderful Colosseum. Although we got a good glimpse of the Colosseum on our first day in Rome, we planned to go inside it. It’s one of the most remarkable buildings in the world, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Each year, it attracts an impressive six million visitors. Not bad going. On the way to the Colosseum, you’ll likely pass Trajan’s Forum. This is the largest and final of the Imperial Forums, dating back to 106 AD. It was the basis of the government and politics of the Roman Empire. Here was once a basilica, two libraries, a few markets, and a temple.
We peeked across at the ancient ruins in awe, before powering on to the Colosseum. Rome’s most famous and iconic symbol is steeped in nearly 2000 years of history, back to the Empire. It was once the greatest Roman ampitheatre in the world, completed back in 80 AD.
Active for over 500 years, it served as a gladiatorial arena with 50,000 seats for spectators. Here, they could watch caged animals, gladiators fighting animals, and even each other. Since then, it has endured earthquakes, lootings, and even World War II bombings. Nowadays, you can wander the ancient ruins and see what life was once like at the Colosseum.
Our final meal in Italy called for pizza, naturally. We were so sad not to have any more Italian food that we even ordered a side dish of carbonara. The food in Rome was impeccable. On the recommendation of our concierge, we hit up Ristorante Zeus, opposite Hotel Quirinale.
Rome, you’ve been a dream. I can’t wait to explore more of Italy in the future.
What are your favourite things to do in Rome? Where do you find the best bites to eat?