Rome is a very special city! Rome is a whole world and an incomparable mix of history and culture. Here you can get lost in all eras of culture, from antiquity to our time.
We visited Rome in December, the time of beautiful winter light. Fewer tourists in the city, which means shorter queues to the major attractions and better space in piazzas, restaurants and public transport. We had some hectic days in Rome in December, we even celebrated Christmas Eve here. We wanted to experience as many of the famous tourist attractions as possible during the 3 days we had available.
Here is our guide to peaces to visit in Rome.
Piazza del Popolo
We start our journey in Rome in Piazza del Popolo – the people’s square – which is located at one of the huge gates into the city. In the old days, this was where people came traveling when they were visiting the city from the north. In the middle of the piazza stands the Flaminio obelisk, the first of 14 sent from Egypt to Rome. It is decorated by order of Pharaoh Seti I and his son Ramses II. Here is also the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, built over the tomb of Emperor Nero.
Along the streets of fascinating Rome
We really enjoy to walk along the streets of Rome. The church bells chime, the ambulances’ penetrating howl, mopeds and scooters that rustle away. Cars honking. And people of all nationalities, who speak loud and gesturing. Never a dull moment, here our senses are constantly challenged
Climb the Spanish Steps
From Piazza del Popolo we walk up Via del Babuino, and eventually come to Piazza di Spagna, Rome’s most famous square. This is also where the Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti, the Spanish Steps and the Fontena della Barcaccia are. A must-see for anyone visiting Rome.
The next stop is a small cafe with a few tables out in the low December sun. We treat ourselves with a glass of prosecco, and enjoy to sit outside in the end of December. But we do not have time to relax for a long time, we have more to see. Much, much more.
The coffee in Italy is known for its quality, and we buy a cup of double Espresso – Esprosso Doppio, please.
There is a coffee shop on every corner and every piazza, and it is perfect to have a cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin,
Villa Borghese – the city park in Rome
The next stop is Villa Borghese park. It is one of the largest city parks in Europe, the State bought it from the Borghese family in 1901 and opened it to the public on July 12, 1903. What a gift to the people! Here you can admire an incredibly beautiful combination of nature and Romanesque art. You can rent bicycles and roller skates, and there are many activities for children. Hungry and thirsty? No problem. Here you will find several good restaurants. We recommend a visit to Borghese Park.
See the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain next! Undoubtedly the most beautiful fountain in Rome, and with its 20 meters wide and 26 meters high also the largest and most famous. The name Trevi comes from Tre Vie which means three roads, the fountain is located at the meeting point between three streets.
Explore the Pantheon – World Class Architecture
On our way to Piazza Navona is the old Pantheon, an architectural masterpiece. This super-circular building has exactly the same diameter as the height, 43.5 meters. At the top there is an opening of 9 meters, which lets in sunlight that illuminates the entire building. The Pantheon is the best-preserved building from all of antiquity.
The area around the Pantheon is always full of people, and in Piazza della Rotonda there are many restaurants.we choose one of them and enjoy the wine and (partly) the food, and make plans for tomorrow. There is so much we want to see, and we realize that we should have more days to catch everything.
We’re on our way to Piazza Navona, when we meet these jogging Santas …
Piazza Navona – baroque and popular
Piazza Navona, is charming and very popular. There are various restaurants and bars around the entire piazza. We soon realize that Piazza Navona really is a solid tourist trap. We walk around the corner, and sit down on a charming bar.
And THAT – was about what we accomplished the first day. We are satisfied;)
Wander around the Colosseum
We have breakfast including a double espresso, and are ready for a busy day. The first stop is the Colosseum, the main symbol of Rome. A history of almost 2000 years brings six million annual tourists back in time to experience life in the ancient Roman Empire. Optimistically, we line up to get in, but the queue is too long. We drop it. Next time we visit Rome, we’ll buy RomaPass.
Just 40 meters away is Palatine Hill. This is a great place for a pleasant stroll. By the way, did you know that the Palatine Hill is the most central of Rome’s 7 heights? Here are several ruins of hundreds of impressive buildings from ancient Rome.
See the Roman Forum
Next stop is the Roman Forum, another place you have to visit when in Rome. As you walk along the Via Sacra, close your eyes and imagine that you are following in the footsteps of Julius Caesar. The Roman Forum was both a political and a social center of ancient Rome.
Crossing Tiber to Trastevere
We cross the river Tiber and enter Trastevere. Here are both narrow alleys and streets, small shops and bars and sunny piazzas. Just enjoy life as a bohemian here in Trastevere!
We stroll along the street, looking at terracotta-colored buildings with green shutters and flower pots. We find a small sidewalk cafe where we have lunch.
The Jewish Quarter and the Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Quarter is strategically located on the east bank of the Tiber, and is a central neighborhood where boutiques and kosher restaurants lie side by side with picturesque historic buildings. You may not be aware that Rome offers a rich Jewish history?
Visit the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum
Finally, we come to the highlight of the day, the Città del Vaticano, an independent city-state right in the heart of Rome. The Vatican City is ruled by the pope himself, and is the smallest state in Europe. About 1000 people live here. The Vatican City was declared independent from the rest of Italy on February 11, 1929. Our plan is to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museums, where the Sistine Chapel is located.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighborhood or rione of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus considered by Catholics to be the first Pope.
St. Peter’s Square – one of the largest
The guided tour starts at St. Peter’s Square, which today is rigged with thousands of chairs. The Pope will be here on Christmas Eve. St. Peter’s Square is one of the largest and most beautiful piazzas in the world. There is actually room for as many as 300,000 people! This piazza was built between 1656 and 1667 by Bernini with the support of Pope Alexander XII. The piazza is flanked by 284 columns and 88 pilasters, as well as 140 statues. In the middle of the piazza there is a huge obelisk and two fountains.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world, and the pope leads many of the liturgies throughout the year. The church was consecrated in 1626, and is named after Peter, one of the 12 disciples. Peter was executed in Rome, and is buried right here where the church now stands.
More than six million tourists visit the Vatican Museums every year, and the queue outside is long.
The frescoes in the Sistine Chapel
We understand why there are few people in the Spanish Steps. This is where they are! In the Sistine Chapel. The chapel is known for its decoration, and here the popes are crowned. It is not the architecture itself that is so fascinating, but all the frescoes that cover the ceiling and walls. It is not little boys who have contributed to the decoration. Listen: Botticello, Perugino, Luca and Michelangelo, folks!
Christmas Eve in Rome
Who said Christmas has to be white? We wanted to make it golden, wanted to experience Christmas in the nice winter light we find in Rome in the winter. This beautiful, fragile light, which casts long shadows in the city streets.
Then it’s Christmas Eve, do not have gifts, no elves or angels in the hooks of our hotel room. Nor a delicious scent of Christmas food. We eat a long breakfast in a cozy cafe, and head over to the large flower market in Piazza del Fiori. We have a Christmas ice cream. Drink a glass of Prosecco. Stop and have a double espresso.
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Eating and drinking in Rome
Italian food is famous all over the world and has an extremely rich selection of dishes and ingredients. A classic proof of this is that it is almost impossible to find someone who has not tried pizza, ravioli or lasagne. In Rome you can indulge in appetizing dishes, from colorful salads to tasty meat dishes and fish dishes.
Shopping in Rome
The most famous and exclusive shopping street in Rome is Via Condotti, between the Spanish Steps and Via del Corso. Here are all the famous fashion houses. The parallel streets Via Frattina and Via Borgognona are also worth a visit. Rome’s main street, Via del Corso , is also a famous shopping street, and is more affordable. Check out Via Cola de Rienza on the Vatican side of the Tiber as well.
Where to stay in Rome
Rome can offer most of the accommodation options, from the most expensive hotels to the most affordable guest houses. What about an apartment? Great if you are going to stay for many days. Fancy something completely different? Choose a monastery!
We choose Relais Orso, a small hotel with 23 rooms and roof terrace near Piazza Navona. Here you choose between Superior Rooms, Junior Suites and Suites. The hotel is centrally located.
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