Section Five of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop
This is the first of two blog postings specifically targeting places to see in the city of Rome.
Rome is one of those cities that prospective visitors tend to know a great deal about and most people have seen pictures of such famous places as the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain (which has been featured in no less than five movies). The city is divided in two by the Tiber River so I will use that as the separator for my postings on places to see. This blog posting will address sites east of the Tiber River with the next blog posting addressing places of interest west of the river.
Before I begin, and as a reminder to my readers, many cruises begin and end in Rome and this city is also a common stop on both eastern and western Mediterranean cruises. As such, it deserves a fair amount of attention. As mentioned in my previous blog postings, cruise ships do not dock in Rome, they dock in the port of Civitavecchia which is located about 37 miles north of Rome. Most people who arrive at Civitavecchia for a day stop, make their way to Rome for a day tour (see my blog posting on transportation to and from the port for information on ways to travel to Rome). If you only have a day to see Rome, you will have to make some decisions as to what specifically you want to see as one day will only allow you to scratch the surface of this history rich city.
My Rome blog entries are divided into the following sections and if you are looking for information on any of the subjects listed, go to that posting for the specific information that will best serve your needs:
1. History of Rome (2 blog entries)
2. Transportation to and from the airport
3. Transportation to and from the port
4. Getting around the city
5. Places to see (2 blog entries)
6. Rome Markets / Food Tours
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome
9. Rome / Italy Fun Facts / Historic Churches
And now to return to the topic at hand - Place to See in Rome
I admit that most of my visits to Rome have resulted in my staying east of the river as some of my favourite places are found in that section of the city. Consequently, I am more familiar with the walking distances from point to point in that eastern area.
This is an iconic landmark in the city of Rome. The first time I saw it was on a city tour I had booked when in Rome on a business trip. I had one free afternoon and the easiest way to cover as much of the city as possible, was on a four hour organized bus tour. Not my favourite means of seeing a city but a great option for those with limited time and a desire to see more than one or two places. As soon as I saw the Colosseum I was in awe of the size and look of the building. Now THIS building represented my mental image of what Rome was about.
Called the Flavius Amphitheatre, it is the largest colosseum in the world. The tour I was taking, allotted time for a quick photo opportunity but not for entrance into the building. The best I could do was to snap a few photos from across the street and frankly, that brief look was not enough. I vowed then and there that on my next trip to Rome I would spend a fair amount of time walking around the Colosseum and buy a ticket to get into the building.
Built under the auspices of the emperor Vespasian in 72AD and completed eight years later under his successor Titus, the Colosseum was a marvel for its time and remains a sensation to this very day. It is listed as one of the seven wonders of the man-made world. The building could hold some 50,000 plus people and is touted as having an average of 65,000 people in attendance for the events. You can buy tickets in advance for the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill for about 39 euros and that will save you time waiting in lines at the entrances to those places. I highly recommend buying a ticket to all three as they are within easy walking distance of each other.
I could write a book on the history and specific details of this building but this blog is designed as an overview of places to see in Rome and it is time to write about other locations. My one piece of advice is to say that the Colosseum is a must see so if your time in Rome is limited, this limestone, tuff and brick building should be at the top of your list. I have now visited this site on each subsequent trip to Rome and it never fails to impress me. I discover new things on each visit. If you are staying in Rome, check to see if you can get tickets to do a night-time tour of the colosseum and you will not be disappointed.
As with most crowded places in Rome, watch for pickpockets and scammers. You will be approached by people offering to give you guided tours of the Colosseum and area. Some are very knowledgeable amateur tour guides or history students while others are not. Their level of expertise/knowledge is never assured. There are also people dressed as Roman soldiers who expect payment to have their picture taken with you. As mentioned in my book, one of them had a large, visible tattoo of a rock band on his arm which detracted from the authenticity of his centurion look.
Arch of Constantine
Located very close to the Colosseum (a little to the west of it to be precise), I stumbled across the arch while heading towards Palatine Hill. Not having any information about the arch, I eavesdropped on a tour guide informing her group about the history of the arch. The only fact I retained was that parts of the arch are composed of reliefs plundered from other memorials that had been previously built to celebrate victories or events that predated it. Rather cheeky I thought. Imagine having a monument built to you and then have it ravaged because someone wanted the best bits for their arch.
On subsequent visits to Rome, I did my own research and learned a bit more about this site. The arch was dedicated in 315 AD to celebrate Constantine's victory at the battle of the Milvian Bridge three years previously. I take it that the delay in finishing the arch had something to do with the pillaging of other monuments. Since Constantine won, and his co-emperor, Maxentius lost, I suspect that any existing monuments to Maxentius were the first to lose their embellishments. Standing at an impressive height of 21 meters (69 feet), it is a great place for photos.
If you walk through the Arch of Constantine, you will be able to see Palatine Hill. Described as being the center hill of Rome’s seven hills, this area consists of sprawling ruins and represents some of the oldest parts of the city of Rome. There are maps of the site available and I highly recommend you use one so you can read as to what the various ruins represent. The Palatine Museum is a good place to explore as there is a treasure trove of items recovered from the site as well as detailed descriptions of the buildings and history. There is also a depiction as to how the landscape has changed over the years. For example, the hill originally consisted of two summits called Cermalus and Palatium and now there is one large mound called Palatine.
You can buy tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (Fast Track Entry Tickets) for 21 euros.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Located a little north west of Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, you will find the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Built in 141 AD in honour of the deified empress Faustina, her husband Antoninus was added to the temple name upon his death and deification. With its impressive six outward facing columns in the front, this ancient temple was converted to a church in the middle ages. It is now called the Church of San Lorenzo (the Church of St. Lawrence in Miranda), and is a building that makes a great photo, whether you take a picture from the archeological park or up close. Try photographing it at sunset for a particularly dramatic shot.
Temple of Caesar (also known as the Temple of Divus Iulius or Comet Temple)
I mention this place as it is located in the area of the Temple of Vesta, and not too far from the Colosseum (north west). From the information I had read, the structure should have had a similar frontal appearance to that of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina with six columns in front etc. But time and mankind have not been kind to this structure and I found it to be an underwhelming ruin. It deserves mention only due to the unique history behind its creation and name. Construction of the temple began in 42 BC and was dedicated to Caesar, who was the first emperor to be deified in August of 29 BC.
You may be asking yourself as to why some refer to this as the Comet Temple and the answer is quite simple; following Caesar’s death, a comet appeared in the sky, and some believed that it represented Caesar’s rebirth. In case you are ever asked the question in a trivia game, this is the only Roman temple that celebrates comets.
Moving north, away from the area of the Colosseum, you will come to the Pantheon. A Catholic church since 609, this impressive building is a former Roman temple built in 126 AD by the emperor Hadrian on the site of a former Roman temple. It is set in an open square called Piazza della Rotonda which allows the visitor to get some great outside shots of the building. Best of all, it is free to enter and look around. As mentioned, the Pantheon was converted to a church and then subsequently designated a basilica. It now has the official name of Santa Maria ad Martyres but is still called the Pantheon and referred to such on most maps and in guide books. The basilica opens at 9am and closes at 7pm although the last entry is at 6:30pm.
There are often people in the square selling various items (on my last visit I found several selling knock off purses) and there are restaurants nearby. I dined al fresco with friends at an outside café that had a clear view of the Pantheon and the fountain in front.
About a kilometre from the Pantheon (walking north), you will find the Spanish Steps. I find this tourist attraction to be unexceptional but it is touted by some guidebooks as a must see. Designed by Francesco de Sanctis, the steps were built between 1723-1725 to facilitate access to the church of Trinoita dei Monti which can be found at the top of the stairs. I highly recommend making the climb up the 138 steps to the church where you will see an altar inspired (some say designed), by Michael Angelo. Two trivia points of interest are that the name of the steps is derived from the square at the base which is called the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square), and secondly, the steps are the widest set in Europe.
The church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti (aka Trinoita dei Monti)
If you take my advice and climb the Spanish Steps, you will arrive at the twin towered 16th century church of Santissima Trinità dei Monti. Built under order of the French king, Louis XII, the church remains the property of the French government and is one of five churches in Rome where mass is celebrated in French. You can begin your journey in the Spanish square, climb Italian built steps, set foot on French land at the top of stairs and enter a French church. As previously mentioned, Michael Angelo inspired the Chapel of the Descent From the Cross. The designer, Daniele Voterra, was a student of Michael Angelo and based the design of the chapel on sketches drawn by Michael Angelo.
Every time I visit Rome, I discover more fountains. Many of them are of exceptional beauty and design. The Trevi Fountain is wonderful, but I would not describe it as the most beautiful fountain I have seen in Rome, or even in Europe. It is however the most famous. Always a popular stop on the city tours, this is a must see for those intent on visiting the typical Rome tourist spots. It tends to be quite busy and pick pockets abound so watch your valuables and exercise caution in the area.
Located in the Trevi district, you can comfortably walk to the fountain from the Spanish Steps or even the Pantheon. The fountain abuts the Palazzo Poli and is located where three roads meet. An interesting trivia fact is that Trevi is a combination of the Italian word "tre" meaning three and "vie" meaning roads.
The fountain was built in 1732 and was designed by Nicola Salvi who was awarded the contract over Daniele Volterra. Volterra, a Florentine native, initially won the contract to design the fountain but there was a public outcry when it was learned that someone from Florence had been awarded the contract. Consequently, Salvi, a native of Rome, was given the project instead. As previously mentioned in this blog, Voterra was a student of Michael Angelo and you can see Volterra's work throughout the city.
Another interesting trivia fact is that although the fountain is a relative new comer to Rome, its water comes from one of the oldest water sources, the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct which dates back to ancient Roman times.
There is a saying that if you throw one coin into the fountain you will return to Rome. I always throw a coin into the water and so far, it seems to have worked. I keep returning to Rome. There is also a saying that if you throw two coins in the fountain you will fall in love with an Italian, but being happily married, I always limit myself to the one coin.
There are a large number of noteworthy churches in Rome, and particularly a number of exceptionally beautiful ones that can be found east of the Tiber. Rather than make this blog posting too long, I will do a separate blog posting on the churches as they are excellent examples of various building styles and contain outstanding artistic works. My favourite church in the world is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore which I feel deserves a little more detail than I can give it in this blog posting. Look for that information under:
9. Rome / Italy Fun Facts/Historic Churches.
As usual, if anyone has any comments that they wish to share, please feel free to add them to the comments section or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.