Rome – Day One
It has been months since I returned home from three glorious weeks in Italy last August/September. Due to traumatic family events and health issues, I have only been able to add small bits to this post infrequently. Finally, I have finished on my first day in Italy. I hope some of you enjoy it and might gain some tips for your own trip to Rome. (Once all this horrible Coronavirus is over)
Rome is as exciting as you would expect from a city that is the capital of Italy. It is bustling with life, creaking with age, passionate, at times crowded and some people either love it or hate it. I for one realized quite quickly after arriving, that I loved it. I also should have allowed at least a week to discover the astounding beauty and historical layers of the ancient city.
We only had two days to explore and were determined to make the most of every moment. We booked Colonna Suite Del Corso with the Bookings.com app. A small boutique style hotel centrally located in the old part of Rome, walking distance to all the iconic landmarks.
The room was small, but modern with excellent air conditioning and the lovely staff let us have access to our room early 9:30am when our booking details said check-in was not available before 4:00pm. There was a small cage-style lift but easy enough to walk the stairs.
Within moments of entering Italy, you realise the importance of arriving with a good level of walking fitness. If not, you will soon achieve this from walking thousands of steps a day seeing the sights. Considering the amount of delicious food you will also eat, it is just as well you get to walk off those calories daily. Some people buy the Roma Pass, which can be ideal if you have a few days and want to see a lot of museums and includes free use of public transport, reserved entrance to the Colosseum and other discounted entries (you can also purchase this on the Tiqets app. At the hotel, it’s important to get a city map and I had brought with me the Rick Steves Italy book which has some great walking maps and details on what to see. On my first day in Rome, I just wanted to explore in my own time with a map and use skip the line entry tickets for my second day.
Our hotel was a perfect location, enabling us to just walk straight out onto a cobblestone street where we meandered past lovely old Churches and cafes right to the Pantheon and close to other historical and popular sights.
The moment we stood in front of the Pantheon we were spellbound and began snapping photos. Luckily we had both bought Anker portable iPhone battery chargers. A travel essential item that proved to be money well spent.
We were so excited to be in Rome and determined to see as much as possible. A quick peek inside the Pantheon, luckily there wasn’t a line and no fee to enter. Once you recover from seeing the amazing exterior, the inside is even more interesting. The round interior is a marvel of design with natural light streaming in from the oculus in the ceiling.
Time was limited so we set off walking to see the nearby Victor Emmanuel II monument in Venezia Square. As it was the first week of August and near midday, the sun’s rays were becoming unbearably hot. My partner ran up the steps of the monument while I rested in its shadow. He texted it was worth the steps to the top to see the view. I almost refused as I felt so hot, a little ill even, but said to myself “suck it up princess you don’t get to see Rome every day”. Once on the roof, I had to agree it was worth pushing myself. The view reached over Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum, the Colosseum and beyond. I was thankful I had packed a light hat and a full water bottle. Most importantly I was wearing comfy leather Planet Earth Zenga sandals. I walked thousands of steps through Italy over the following three weeks and my leather sandals offered not only proper foot support but allowed my feet to stay cool and breathe instead of sweating.
We were fortunate our hotel was in the centre of old Rome, this allowed us a couple of visits back to our room to cool off in the air conditioning and gather strength to keep seeing the sights. Of course, we had to stop here and there for a slice of Pizza, Aperol Spritz and Gelato. So many lovely cafes to stop at, it was always a hard choice.
I was kicking myself for only booking two nights when I should have booked at least four. There is plenty to see in Rome and even just wandering the laneways near our Hotel, little shops and bars to browse in.
One thing I wished I had booked months ahead was Walks of Italy VIP Colosseum at Night tour. I heard this was a fabulous way to see the Colosseum without the crowds. Unfortunately, it was booked out months prior. It was maybe just as well as we were hungry on our first day and starting to feel a bit tired from the jet lag. So for our first night, we wandered only ten minutes walk from our hotel to Piazza Navona. This is such a lovely square with many Trattorias offering alfresco dining. The early evening atmosphere is lively, filled with tourists, food aromas, music and the sound of water spilling from the three famous Baroque fountains.
The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain) which has a large obelisk at its centre. This fountain centre is also surrounded by four muscular river Gods representing the four quarters of the earth and was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X. The Sant’Agnese in Agone Church in the Piazza was thought to have dated back to around AD 300 when the young St Agnes was martyred here. After dinner the area is even more magical, I looked up from the piazza and could see fabulous murals on the walls inside the buildings.
At the northern end is the Fontana di Nettuno, (Neptune slaying a giant Octopus) built in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. The statues of Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs were added in the 19th century.
The Fontana del Moro is another fountain at the southern end of the Piazza Navona, so pretty in the evenings.
The restaurants lining the square are a great location for people watching, they offer a cooling mist spray for the outside diners. Keeping in mind you will pay a little more for the proximity of the table for viewing the fountains and passing tourist trail. The laneways leading off the square towards Campo di Fiori offer some fabulous small cafes where you can enjoy casual alfresco dining and are somewhat more affordable than the main square.
Do explore the laneways leading off the square towards Campo di Fiori. There is great food, cheaper dining, bars, shops and delicious gelato. You will also come across fortune tellers, rose peddlers, artists and live music.
Laneways behind Piazza Navona- Rome
We had a delicious dinner, strolled for some gelato and browsed at some unusual shops. Suddenly, tiredness overcame us and we stumbled to our comfy hotel bed to dream about our first glorious day in Rome.
Day One in Rome Tips and what to take in your day pack:
- Ensure you booked a Hotel in the old city centre close to the sights like the Pantheon – easy walk to see everything
- Buy a Roma Pass at the train station or online app. Ideal if you want to see lots of museums (includes reserved priority entrance to Colosseum and use of public transport for free
- Ask your Hotel for a city map and work out where you want to go
- Download the free Rick Steves Audio Tour app “Heart of Rome walking audio tour” Rick Steves Audio Europe App
- Carry a Travelon security handbag cross over body at all times and don’t wear expensive jewelry
- Pack one of those tiny fold up nylon shopping bags in the event you buy anything (easier to carry items)
- Pack your “Anker” portable phone battery charger so your smartphone doesn’t go dead from snapping photos
- Water bottle, Hat and a light scarf for covering bare shoulders when entering Churches
- Use Tiqets app for skip the line tickets to specific sights
- Buy a travel sim card at the Airport or prior to leaving home so you never run out of data and can phone eachother if separating. I bought mine from Sims Direct
What to See – Day one:
- The Pantheon
- Churches near the Pantheon – some are free to enter – Check out the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi (The Chapel is painted by Caravaggio)
- Piazza Navona
- Campo De Fiori (lively fruit and veggie market during the day) restaurants and bars at night
- Trevi Fountain
- Victor Emmanuel II monument in Venezia Square – walk up to the roof balcony (excellent views)
- Walks of Italy Vip Colosseum at night tour (if you have the energy or save this for your second night – book months ahead when planning)
My next post will be Rome – Day 2