The Vatican , as it is referred to, is a principality inside the city of Rome.
As the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, many make the pilgrimage here to pay honour to the home of the Pope and one of the strongest religions world wide.
Inside the grounds of the Vatican are the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Church (St. Peter’s Basilica) , St Peter’s Square and many museums.
This historical and religiously significant venue is best seen before ALL the crowds arrive. It is one of the most visited places in the world… with millions streaming through ever year.
The good news is the Sistine Chapel and church open really early in summer – usually 7-730am. I would suggest setting an alarm clock and being one of the first in queue. If you don’t want to leg it alone, definitely do a tour as you can jump the queues and this is well worth it otherwise you may spend an hour or two(!) in a line up which is plain exhausting.
The police of the Vatican are the Swiss Army and are a step back into medieval times with their kit and custom. They are friendly and don’t mind a photo but are on duty so don’t be a pest.
St Peter’s square is massive and surrounding the periphery are significant people from the Roman Empire. If the pope is in town and giving a sermon, it will be in this square.
The grandiose centre of the Roman Empire stems from the Roman Forum.
Located in central Roma, this is a must see place when in Roma.
I didn’t have time to fully explore the space (it was closing as I arrived) but I got a fantastic insight to the sophistication of the Roman Civilisation from the hill surrounding the Forum, known as Palatine Hill.
The monuments still standing are incredible!
Built nearly 2000 years ago in Caesar’s rein the buildings give a great insight to the confidence this empire had.
Not only confidence but the pioneers of architecture.
The columns, the arches, and layout still being used by many engineers today.
I am stunned at the incredible details and stories scribed on the great arches.
On Palatine Hill is a great art gallery and many water falls and sculptures.
There is something very special here… make sure you put it on your map. Even if to have a red vino on Palatine Hill watching the sun set over Roma. You can do night tours here which I imagine would be spectacular. Check out more here.
I stumbled across it the first night I was in town and Maurizio, the owner, is a gregarious and friendly soul. Greeting everyone, making them feel welcome, pouring their wines, he is the perfect host and his bar becomes like a home.
The pizzaria and bar is close to everything but very close to the Pantheon. You can sit back away from the hustle and bustle and watch life go by.
The staff are all wonderful and enjoy working for the boss.
Attentative and friendly there is a reason why many Roman’s have made this their drinking hole.
You can wander in and grab a pizza and vino, or eat a main meal.
The vines are amazing, especially the red, which is made by Maurizio’s friend. I found it wonderfully fruity and light, not bitter nor heavy. It was a little to easy to drink, but that’s ok, because you are with friends.
In fact, I started hearing the “Friends”theme when I would walk to the cucina. Fun, times, good people and great wine!
Thanks guys, I look forward to seeing you all again when I come back to Roma.
Roma as it is affectionately known to Europe is an incredible place and will require at least 3-4 full days of sightseeing and exploring… Longer if you have the time and really want to enjoy the Roman lifestyle, of sleeping in, lazying around a piazza for lunch, exploring side streets and relishing in feasts.
I have been to Roma a few times but this time felt different.
Maybe because I wasn’t doing a one day stop over with a contiki crowd, or not with 18 month old daughter so could really savour it from a relaxed grown up perspective.
There is so much to see and do and while I understand people liking maps, I really think half the fun of Roma is following your heart. Not your mind.
See where the streets take you, discover Roma…. you can always ask for directions for the main sites and everyone will be able to guide you in the right direction.
Here are my top 5 things to see and do in Roma
Visit the Colosseum
One of my favourite buildings in the whole world, is the Colosseum.
The sheers size of it is incredible. You can do a tour during the day but can I recommend going at night? It is special. The illumination, the stories, the ambiance, give you insight to a very real world that existed over 2000 years ago.
The Colosseum was a big stadium which had trap doors, floors that could flood and a myriad of corridors beneath it’s surface.
The walls whisper great tales while you are there and it is impossible not to imagine the morbid entertainment, the deaths and massacres that would have taken place hundreds of years ago.
A making of an Empire that would span hundreds of years and travel throughout Europe and parts of Africa, didn’t just pop up.
It has strong roots in Rome and the heart of the Roman Empire is the The Forum.
Here you can see some incredible structures still standing in their majestic beauty and still symbolising strength, precision and beauty.
The architectural genius is second to none. The fact many structures still stand 2000 years on is testimony to its design.
Definitely worth a meander and wander through it’s wonderful gardens and paths.
The religious home of the catholic church and a country in its own right, the Vatican is fascinating.
One of the most visited tourist sites in the world.
Thousands visit each day and just being part of such a pilgrimage is incredible.
If you wish to see the Sistine Chapel, get there early. It opens at 7am. Although check in winter, as this could change.
St Peter’s Basilica is grand and breath taking and worth setting aside an hour just to soak it all in and bath in it’s glory.
The walls around St Peter’s Square are also grandeuse and on a clear day, there is nothing more crisp than seeing the walls silhouetted against the Roman blue sky.
The Swiss Guards still to this day (some 500 years on from being appointed by Pope Julius II) guard the sacred land. There uniforms are bright, distinguished but slight impractical.
There are many amazing piazzas in rome. Which really are large areas, almost like court yards, where multiple roads and back streets meet.
They bring together people and are the basis of modern day villages. Around the periphery are shops and particularly in Roma, restaurants and cafes.
The social hub is fantastic and one of the best is Piazza Navona.
I visit at night time but any time is good, and later in the day, you can sit and have a local favorite, called an Aperol Spritza. Aperol is a palate cleanser and apertif which primes your stomach for food. I find them very bitter – which they are intended to be. Some people love them. Either way, they are very Roman and appropriate to do in Rome!
Anyone who is not impressed by the Trevi Fountain is going to be hard to please.
With it’s huge sculptured works, carvings and at night, illuminosity, the fountain is more than a water feature. It is a living art piece that draws in hundreds of eager tourists, all with a selfie stick, after that “postcard perfect photo.”
I visit the Trevi Fountain most days when in Rome because of its sheer beauty and for some reason it makes me smile! Becareful of pick-pockets in this area who work the surrounding area stealthly.
Not to be over shadowed by all the other incredible buildings in Rome, the Pantheon, in my humble opinion is the most magnificent.
It’s understated persona doesn’t prelude what is inside her magic walls.
Inside is a captivating, perfect sunlight opening.
To me the hole says, “precision” and also shows what a deep understanding of design and maths that the Romans natural have.
You can walk around the inside of the Pantheon and it is free to do so.
The piazza around The Pantheon is fun and lively.
Something not many people do, is come back late at night and lie on her huge stone tiles. I did this a few times, to marvel at the history and size of this amazing building.
Other wonderful things to see are the Spanish Steps, the BIG house, Circus Maximus and the pyramid….