Rome is a unique city with history etched into it’s veins. It elegantly remembers it’s past and reveals ancient tales around every corner. It’s covered in architectural masterpieces which I can only now fully appreciate after studying them in detail. This letter is about my trip to Rome in August 2015. The next two Sunday’s letters will be about my visits to Florence and Venice in the run up to my Upcoming Italian Adventure.
I arrived in Rome at midday on the 11th of August 2 summers ago. I had flown in from Athens after 7 weeks living in my favourite country on the planet – Greece. It was my first visit to Italy and I was unbelievably excited to start exploring as a budding architecture student. Boarding a bus to the Termini was simple, as was finding my hostel. However, I was early to check in so I wandered around a little and sat reading in the sun, soaking in this new city. When I finally checked in I was pleasantly surprised with my beautiful ‘hostel’ room, which was much more like a room in someone’s house. Read about it here.
I was staying in Rome with my mum, who had flown out from England to meet me. I wandered back into town to the Termini to meet her which we assumed would be relatively simple. It was not. Do you know how big that station is? Unless you have been there, you can’t comprehend it. It’s like an airport, and therefore near impossible to find someone. It took us an hour of circling this monster of a train station to finally find each other. By this time it was dark, raining and we were hungry. So we went for dinner and a lovely catch up after almost 2 months away.
After a lovely nights sleep in our hostel we woke up bright and early to explore Rome. With no plans we just wanted to walk and get our bearings. We met a great Dutch guy who was staying in our hostel who accompanied us for the day (and eventually the whole time we were there). The first thing I remember is just how big everything was. The red brick apartment blocks tower over the parallel streets making you feel quite insignificant. I also remember the heat. I would not advise visiting Rome in August.
We walked through the main tourist sites, but bypassed them knowing we would stop to visit them the following day. We headed for the river and took a lovely walk along it’s banks and over to the other side. We wandered around characterful winding streets which I preferred much more than the New York-esque streets of the centre.
Walking back towards the centre we passed some hidden treasures. Rome is full of them which you’ll find if you’re not looking. We came across some stunning streets, buildings and squares full of people going about their daily lives and ruins to be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
We then headed to one of the most famous, and overwhelmingly busy areas of Rome, the Piazza della Rotonda. This is where you will find the Pantheon, one of the most interesting and remarkable buildings I have ever been to. After studying it I cannot wait to return and spend more time inside this building. Luckily, next time I’ll be there will be February, and it should be much quieter. The Pantheon is a work of architectural genius. Experiencing the perfect rotunda sitting behind the Greek temple front of Corinthian columns is spectacular. Let alone the beam of light formed through the oculus which travels across the dome throughout the day. It’s a wonderful space which left me in awe. The square in front of the Pantheon is also beautiful and brings together people of all walks of life. We happened to catch a wonderful busker which we enjoyed listening to in the late afternoon sun.
We continued walking around and hit an unplanned Piazza (this happens a lot). It’s called Piazza Navona and contains the Fiumi Fountain which is quite beautiful. It connects to the rest of Rome through small streets winding around the monuments which are great to explore.
Our last stop of the day was a stunning white temple which was on the way back, but I was really glad to see it. It’s an absolutely stunning landmark and honours Italy’s first King and WW1 soldiers. It’s called the Alter of the Fatherland. We finished our day in Rome bathed in the late afternoon sunlight and headed back to the hostel.
Our second day was shorter than our first because I received my A level results in the morning and so had a few bits to sort out. (They were good results, so I could spend the day celebrating around Rome!) This was our dedicated day to visit all of the big sites in Rome. We began in the Roman Forum, which was my personal favourite. It wasn’t too busy so we could leisurely walk around and enjoy the sites. There is so much to see and the area also offers great views across Rome.
We then went to the big boy; the Colosseum. This is a magnificent building, as I’m sure you know. I was excited to see it, and it was an incredible piece of architecture, but I didn’t enjoy myself that much. It was crowded with tourists trying to get the best picture, and I found myself being herded around this ancient monument like a sheep. I found the whole thing slightly too touristic and disrespectful to the building, if I’m honest. But it is completely spellbinding none-the-less. We also saw the lesser-spotted Arch of Constantine. This is also a beautiful monument to Rome, and tends to have less swarming crowds than other parts.
We finished our second and final full day in Rome walking back to our hostel alongside a huge expanse of parkland, only after catching a last glimpse of the Colosseum on fire in the sunset.
After only 2 days exploring this vast city, we regrettably had to leave. I was heading to Florence and my mum was heading back home. This is the main reason I can’t wait to return. I didn’t have time to give Rome a chance to show all it has to offer. There is so much left to see and I think I’ll have a very different impression of the city when I’ve had more time to explore it. As it is, I preferred Florence and Venice. In 3 weeks I’ll be there!
Next Sunday (5th) I will write a letter about Florence, so stay tuned!
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts on Rome if you’ve been!