A day at the beach, and the last of the sights of Rome. 

Today we fancied getting out of the City completely, and we knew Rome was near the coast. A quick bit of research and we were on our way, taking a train from pyramide station to Ostia. We had read about a few different beaches but decided to stick to the closest which was a pleasant ten minute walk from the station. 

Once we arrived at the beach we had to find a spot that was free to stay on but it was only a short walk befire we found a spot and rented a couple of deck chairs. 

The beach was quite busy but big and there were a couple of bars and restaurants close by. We relaxed for a few hours in the sun…enjoying having a day of relaxation. I managed to find some pizza and arancini, the delicious deep fried risotto balls that had melted cheese in the middle. The place I went to was so cheap and had so many different types of food! 

After a while we were done with the beach and headed back on the train. It seemed like it was very frequent which is useful, we walked back to the apartment along the river and spotted a nutria! A large aquatic rodent that originally comes from S.America but has made much of Europe it’s home. 

I had sorted out a plan for tge evemi and we ate in a little restaurant just off Campo d’fiori called Ditorambo. It was amazing, we got a sharing platter with cheese, meats bread and other delights. 

I had a gorgeous ravioli for mains and Peter had some great lamb. It’s such a cute little place and the staff were so friendly. I’d definitely recommend it, loads of really good sounding traditional dishes. 

Once done we headed over to the Colosseum to have a few beers in a bar on a street looking at the impressive Roman building all lit up. A quick bus journey took us back to the apartment, sad to think that tomorrow would be our last day. 

We woke up and knew today was all about hitting the sights we hadn’t really explored yet and finding some little hidden gems. We walked through the market at Campo D’fiori, marvelling at the fresh pastas and produce  

Our next stop took us to piazza venezia where the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II can’t be missed. Built in 1925, this huge building dominates the piazza. You can walk up to a couple of huge viewpoints for free or visit the museum for a few Euro, but we wanted to get to the top. You find the elevator which takes you up round the back of the building on the highest floor you can get to outside. 

Once up you basically have views over the whole of Rome, you can see the Vatican, Colosseum and Roman Forum from here. We tried to spot all 7 of the famous hills that Rome is built on, but couldn’t quite figure it out. 

If you love views over the top of cities it’s definitely worthwhile and you can spend as much time as you like up there, the whole building is so grand with huge statues and gold everywhere. I loved seeing the mountains in the distance. 

Once back at ground level we got a gelato and re-hydrated, it was super hot today and we sat in the courtyard of the capitoline museum. Built on capitol hill where central government traditionally sat, it’s the oldest national museum in the world, dating from 1417. 

In the centre of the piazza is Marc Anthony on horseback, you can find the original inside along with remains of giant statues, sculptures of medusa and the she wolf who sucked Romulus and Remus. There are hundreds of sculptures depicting various creatures and heroes from the mythical age. Upstairs are some religious paintings but thry didn’t really grab us. 

Underground however you can walk through a tunnel connecting the two buildings on either side of Michelangelo’s piazza. If you turn off in the tunnel you are rewarded with incredible views over the Roman Forum, almost gasp-inducing! It almost makes the 15 or so Euro to get in worth it. Though I think it is included in the Omnia Card we were a day late to use it. 

From here we walked down towards a quick fun thing to do in Rome. The Bocca della Verita is based in a small church, it means mask of truth and you’re supposed to put your hand in it and be asked a question that you’ll supposedly answer correctly. 

It’s fun to do and get a picture, just a little donation is asked for. You then get ushered into the church and asked to pay to go down into the crypt. I think it’s clever marketing but it was funny to do and creepy down there. 

Our alternative tour of Rome now took us near the Circo Maximus and up a street towards the garden of oranges. A hidden paradise filled with orange trees, cool and shady with a terrace overlooking Rome. It was so calm and peaceful and a lovely place to relax for a bit. 

There is an impressive church up here and also the knights of Malta keyhole. Where you look through said keyhole and get a perfect view of St Peter’s Basilica. It’s an incredible view but there was a queue so we couldn’t quite get a perfect picture of it! 

By this point we were starving so back towards our apartment I found a place near campo d’fiori that did THE best Arancini and they also did Cannoli, huge stuffed sweet Cannoli.

Satisfied we went back and planned our evening, deciding that heading North was much better than South, we got dressed and wandered up to enjoy the piazza navona at night. 

We found a little pizza place that had a pizza+beer+dessert deal and took full advantage! The pizza was yummy and the tiramisu amazing, all for 12E. 

Carrying on our wandering we made it to the Trevi fountain, it was still busy but not as bad as it had been, so we got to sit and relax a bit more than in the day. It was also nice to see it lit up at night, we managed to get a few cheesy photos in too! 

We were up early the next day to catch out flight so we wandered back, passing the pantheon a reminiscing on an amazing week in Rome. It truly is a top destination in my eyes, and I always think it’s great when you can imagine living somewhere.

Our bus to the airport was nice and easy, leaving from just by Termini the main station in Rome. Sad to say goodbye to Rome, but thinking of the next adventure! 

Roaming Roman Ruins in Rome. 

Today was the day I had really been looking forward to, exploring ancient Rome. Caesars, gladiators, opulence, political intrigue, the Romans had it all, including achieving amazing architectural feats and having a civilisation that was more advanced than anything for the next few hundred years after it’s demise in Europe.  

Our first stop was the Colosseum one of the must see sights of Rome, our plan was to get up early (check) and walk over to the Colosseum via the Circo Maximo. Free to see as there’s not much left of it, here was where the great chariot races and other games were held. It’s thought it could accommodate over 150,000 spectators which would make it one of the biggest arenas even today. 

You can only really see the basic outline of it these days which is a shame. 

Just up from here though was the main event, as we turned a corner we spotted it and the excitement grew. Our Omnia Pass got us in for free and queue jump which we took full advantage of, although we stopped to take a few pictures from outside first. There’s a cool arch nearby too. 

As we entered we climbed the steps up before emerging out into the spectators area looking out over the arena where gladiator battles, exotic animal hunts, executions and even sea battles took place. You could almost hear the roar of the crowd! We did a full lap of the stands, reading information on the history of the place from signs and our lonely planet guide. 

Once we had walked round the ground level, we were ready to leave.  I loved the Colosseum it’s such an amazing thing to see! 

We walked up a nearby road to get some more good views of the Colosseum then grabbed an ice cold drink and chilled out for a bit before we hit the next historical site, the Roman Forum. The political centre of Roman times, there are an abundance of archaeological sites peppered all over a small area. 

We wandered past huge columns and remnants of grand buildings including the Senate and the temple of saturn, used as the state treasury. It’s crazy how the Romans built all this while the rest of Europe We’re living in huts. The place where Julius Caesar himself was buried is here. 

We found the temple of the vestal virgins where 6 girls were chosen to keep Vesta’s sacred flame alight at all times. This was the symbolic ‘Emperor’s fire’ where anyome could take fire from for household use. 

From here we passed through the arch of Titus depicting the spoils from the sacking of Jerusalem and up into Palatine hill. This next area is included with the Roman Forum and is one of the most ancient sites in Rome. 

Sitting atop the hill that Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome who were nursed by a wolf, Palatine hill dates back thousands of years.  

Up here were great views of the Forum and the Circus Maximus, the palace of Augustus and his own private sports arena! It’s lovely up there with gardens and fields surrounded by ground zero buildings of the Roman Empire.  We spent a while walking around here before exiting near the Colosseum.  

I had read about a place in the historic quarter that did great sandwiches, so we walked through Rome enjoying the general sights, sounds and smells of the City. We found baguetteria del fico and were welcomed in by a very friendly Italian. It was a cool little place and even better when the chef was freshly slicing the meat for the sandwiches.  They were tasty but the bread was very crunchy! 

Refueled it was time to tackle St Peter’s Basilica, so we walked over, spent 10 minutes figuring out the entrance, breezed past the crowds thanks to the omnia card and entered. To give you some background, St Peter’s was finished in 1626, around 100 years after building began.  It’s the largest church in the world, and thought to be built over the burial site of St Peter, the original pope.  

The splendour of the place is crazy as you walk in under the balcony where the pope delivers his blessing at Christmas and Easter. When you walk in to the right is Pieta, sculpted by Michelangelo when he was 25. The only work he actually signed. From here you see the monument to Queen Christina of Sweden, who had a lot of gossip follow her about regarding dalliances with members of both sexes. 

There’s a tomb holding Pope John Paul II, Bernini’s 29m high baldachin, a ceremonial canopy sitting over the papal altar and above this is Michelangelo’s done at 119m high! You can enter the Vatican grottoes from here for free and visit the tomb of St Peter himself for an extra 13E. 

We decided to go up instead, 7E to head to the top of the Dome, arriving at the base of the Dome we had views down into the church before ascending up steep and narrow spiral staircases to emerge looking out onto St Peter’s Square. The views are definitely worth the cost and the climb up. A 360 degree lookout point for the whole of Rome.

We spent around 10-15 minutes here before walking back down, stopping briefly on one of the rooftops of the church. Now we headed back to the apartment to rest before going out. 

My Italian friend had suggested we try the Trastevere area of Rome to eat. So we crossed over the river, Trastevere means ‘beyond the river’ and we loved this area, there were people everywhere sat chatting, drinking, eating and enjoying the warm evening.

We stopped at a busy restaurant and ordered some wine and bruschetta, which was lovely. Our pasta mains weren’t great though, they tasted like something you’d get in a chain Italian back in the UK. This was a shame but undeterred we wandered around the small streets filled with bars and restaurants, finding piazzas with throngs of people having fun. 

It’s a nice vibe in the area and we stopped for a couple of drinks to people watch and enjoy the last of the evening. Tomorrow we were up early again to visit the old Roman road and catacombs. 

Rome and the Country within a City. 

Today we were up early to beat the queues to Vatican City, luckily we were only a 15 minute walk from the City-state located in the heart of Rome. Developed from the papal states in 1929 due to the treaty of latern, Vatican City is an independent state ruled by the Pope. 

It is also home to some of the most famous pieces of art and sculpture in the world. It’s a must do while in Rome even for the non-believer such as me. 

We had purchased the Omnia Pass which gets you fast track and entrance into a number of sights around Rome.  We had hoped to see St Peter’s Basilica, also in Vatican City but didn’t realise you have to pre book your time slots for both. 

We arrived at St Peter’s Square, a masterpiece of architecture by Bernini. It includes huge colonnades which wrap around the square, Signifying the warm embrace of Catholicism. 

We grabbed our passes and joined the tour group, walking round to the Vatican we passed the huge queues and headed inside. Here we could wander at our leisure without following a guide. We headed straight for the famous Sistine chapel, with it’s ceiling frescoe painted by Michelangelo. On the way through to the chapel we passed through several rooms, my favourite was the map room with various paintings of italian provinces along the walls. 

The ceilings were so grand in some of these rooms I thought we had made it to the Sistine already! 

After passing through these rooms we came to a crowded doorway and knew this must be it. Walking in the frescoes are incredible, even without being religious I could appreciate them. The main ceiling points are based off stories from the book of genesis and the main wall is based on the last day of judgement, with Christ judging which dead can ascend to heaven, or descend to hell. 

We got a little lost from here, but ended up wandering around finding masterpieces by famous sculptors and painters around every bend. It’s well signposted to the different areas, but a must is to go out on the terrace and take in the wonderful gardens. I’ve heard you can get a tour of these since I came back but haven’t investigated. 

Gardens of The Vatican 

Sculpture representing the Nile 

A real life mummy! 

Once we had exhausted the museums we headed out, no one mentions the beautiful staircase exit!

It’s magnificent and a great way to end the visit! We left around lunchtime and as we walked out we noticed there was hardly any queue, not sure if this was a one off but a good tip to beat the crowds if it’s all the time. 

We grabbed a nice salad away from the main tourist restaurants and walked past a lovely roundabout. Seriously.  

Checking the map we made a plan to incorporate a few of Rome’s many sights in one, long, walk. First up was the Castel Sant’Angelo, commissioned by Hadrian to be his mausoleum it sits next to the river tigre. You can go inside and up to the rooftop but we walked around it, finding a statue of Hadrian himself. There is an underground walkway between here and the Vatican. Apparently the Pope used it in a siege to gain better protection in the Castel rather than the Vatican.  

From here we walked along the river, checking out the barges before crossing over towards the piazza del popolo and Rome’s central park, the villa borgese. There’s a terrace overlooking the piazza that leads to the park so we walked up to it and took in the stunning view over Rome. A street band were playing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to heaven’ which was a cool backdrop to it. There was even a popup tennis court in the piazza.  

We continued on and enjoyed the greenery and peacefulness of the park.  It started to rain a little so we stopped for a glass of wine while it passed. Our plan from here was to meander over to the Spanish Steps and on to the Trevi fountain. 

Unfortunately we got a little lost, found ourselves on a dodgy footpath along a busy road and then next to a spooky abandoned metro stop. Luckily we managed to figure out where we were and eventually made it to the top of the Spanish Steps. 

Built in 1725 it is said that artists and writers hung out there, which attracted beautiful women to find fame as models, this attracted richer Romans, which gave the steps their popularity as a meeting spot. On the right hand side as you walk up the steps is the house where the famous poet Keats died. At the bottom of the steps is a fountain said to be inspired by a story of a boat that was swept to this exact spot by a flood in the 16th century. 

A short walk from here was the Trevi fountain, up there with the Colosseum for top sights in Rome. Still being fed by underwater aquaducts 100s of years later, it’s a momento of the splendour of Rome down the years. Around 3000E are thought to be thrown over the shoulders of jovial tourists into the pool which is collected daily. It’s the largest baroque fountain in the City and was finished in 1762 and can be seen in the famous film ‘La Dolce Vita’

We got ourselves a great big gelato each, I chose tartufo favour and it was incredible! We stood to admire the architecture while we ate our ice creams until we spotted a clearing on the wall of the pool. Nipping in we made a wish as we chucked our euros into the fountain and took a few obligatory selfies. 

Once we were done here we wandered down towards the hotel to rest up for a couple of hours.  

Through our aimless wanderings we had spotted a cute little local restaurant with a huge pizza oven nearby the hotel.  So we took the short walk over and sat down, we ordered two Peroni and looked over the menu which was all in Italian. Peter was a bit panicked about what to order – he’s only recently started eating pizza! I recommended one with sausage and fennel and I ordered a Diavolo. All of this was too much for Peter as he knocked by beer over the table and over me. 

Soggy but finding it all too funny our pizzas soon arrived, and they were incredible! So so tasty, thin crispy base, and out of this world flavours. Peter found his a bit too oily so I polished his off too! 

We spent the rest of the evening sat inside a bar on Campo d’fiori as it had started raining again then headed back to the hotel, ready to explore ancient Rome tomorrow! 

Buon Giorno, Roma!

The latest adventure took Peter and I to Rome, Italy. We couldn’t wait to explore the home of the Romans with sights that are recognised all around the world. I had booked cheap flights through Ryanair and accommodation through Booking.com, we had almost 6 full days there and I had got some advice from an Italian colleague who is from Rome.

We arrived at the airport and through security with plenty of time to spare so we grabbed breakfast and I got the obligatory pint as we waited for the flight. It’s an easy 2 hour 45 minute flight from Manchester to Ciampino airport which is situated just outside of Rome centre. It’s really easy to get a bus just outside the main airport exit, we saw people queuing for them and hopped on, buying a return ticket for 9E each. It takes around 40 minutes to get to Termini, the main bus/train station in Rome, with some ruins to see out of the window on the way.

Our apartment was about a half hour walk or a short bus journey, as we were in Rome we decided to walk to soak up the atmosphere. We were greeted with amazing architecture, plants hanging down over the roads and buildings and the sun was gorgeous. 

Our walk took us through Piazza Venezia where the Il Vittoriano dominates the skyline, past Largo Di Torre Argentina an archaeological site near to where Julius Caesar was killed and down to the river. Our apartment was located just off Via Giulia, a street in the historic centre of Rome, we arrived and although we had tried to call the apartment company we had no reply, so we wandered around the beautiful little streets and found a small restaurant to stop and have some lunch. 

The food was incredible, freshly baked thin crusty bread, sliced cured meat and big lumps of mozzarella cheese. All washed down with a 5E carafe of wine! We were sat in another piazza, I think we lost count of the amount of piazzas we wandered through by the end of the 6 days. 

As we were eating we realised we had been messaging the wrong number! Ooops, I got the right number and they replied immediately, so we walked round and met them before being shown into our lovely little home for the week.The location was great, just across the river from the lively Trastevere area, 10 minute walk from the Pantheon, 15 minute walk to Vatican City and about 30 minutes walk to the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

We quickly unpacked our things and Peter worked out how to get to the Piazza Navona, one of the more famous piazzas, it follows the form of an old Roman stadium – Domitian from 1st century AD. It was paved over in the 15th century and contains designs from the famous architects Bernini and Borromini.

The streets surrounding the piazza are beautiful and filled with little idiosyncrasies and full of foliage, small restaurants and gelato shops. We grabbed some gelato on the way, it was delicious! after getting a little lost we passed the hotel Raphael with it’s facade covered in plants and made it to the sprawling piazza. It’s a lovely wide open space, with two fountains in the centre, one of which (Fiumi) has the personifications of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Plate and Danube – my favourite river.  The huge Palazzo Pamphilj commands one side of the piazza, it was built for Pope Innocent X in 1650.

From the piazza it’s easy to wind through some more little streets over to the Pantheon, we were super excited about this due to it being built in the 2nd century AD and still standing. A lot of it’s marble exterior was removed to use on other buildings in Rome but the inside has remained largely intact. The bronze from the portico was melted down and used at the Castel St Angelo nearby too, it’s crazy how these incredible buildings from the Roman empire were torn down or used in other buildings around the City.

The building itself is huge and the inside was beautiful, I couldn’t believe there was a huge hole in the centre of the ceiling. You definitely couldn’t get away with that in the Manchester weather! I loved how the light shone through though, so we walked around and saw Raphael, the famous architect and painter’s burial place.

From here we walked back along to the Largo Di Torre Argentina,  a square with the ruins of old roman temples  in the centre of it that you look down on. It also hosts the Rome cat sanctuary, these cats get to live in amongst Roman ruins, I was jealous! 

It’s really cute that the cats live there and they even have a little place you can visit to read about the sanctuary. From here we decided to check out the Jewish quarter or ghetto as it’s known in Rome. The streets were nice to walk around but the best part of this area were the old Roman ruins, Teatro Marcello was the most impressive building, resembling the architecture of the Coliseum and the pillars of the Porticus Octaviae were cool too. There was an old guy playing accordion which added to the atmosphere of the place. 

Our last stop of the day was Campo D’Fiori, another square with a slightly sinister statue in the centre dedicated to the philosopher Giordano Bruno. This guy was hung naked upside down before being burnt to death in the square in 1600 for his heretical views! No wonder the statue looks a bit gloomy… other than that it’s a nice square with restaurants and bars lining it and some lovely markets in the day time selling all sorts.

It was time for a little nap and rest before we headed out for dinner, I had found a top rated restaurant to try near Piazza Navona but when we got there it was full with loads of people milling about waiting for a table. The hostess gave us a small plastic glass of prosecco but after standing there for ten minutes we decided we were too hungry to wait. Walking further away from the piazza we found a little place where we Peter got a ragu type sauce on pasta and I got an amazing carbonara.

The pasta was on a different level taste wise,  the colour and texture was nothing like what we get in our supermarkets. We had a lovely Lazio red wine with the meal and I finished the night off with Tiramisu. I knew it was a good restaurant as after we paid our bill we got limoncello which was so good and refeshing after the meal.

We finished the night off by enjoying the walk around the historic centre with all the old buildings lit up. So far Rome is a very agreeable city, the buildings and layout are all beautiful and it feels like there’s something new or interesting to see around every corner.