Sometimes I hate when people say “oh you HAVE to do this in ____” when I tell them about my travel plans. Too much pressure!
But call me a hypocrite … here’s a list of sites you HAVE to see in Rome.
1. Vatican City – (Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica) Breathtaking … and incredibly meaningful. We were lucky and we happened to go to Rome on a weekend where the Sistine Chapel is open to the public for free on Sunday morning until 12:30. We woke up at 6:30 to get there and be in line by 8:00…and thank goodness we did! I’ve never seen such a long “queue” (as the English call it) in my life.
Michelangelo’s frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were the most astonishing artwork I’ll probably ever see. Thank goodness there’s a million pictures online of them, or else I would have been panicking trying to take it all in without taking photos. After the Sistine Chapel, the group of us 4 girls got split up for almost a half hour as soon as we entered St. Peter’s Square because we were too awestruck to pay attention to staying together.
2. The Colosseum – very worth the €12 entrance fee … you have to go in, trust me. The sophisticated architecture of the Colosseum is actually unbelievable for the time period it was built in. Our tour guide Angela told us that the 80 entrances, and many stairways and hallways were perfectly designed so that almost 100,000 people could exit the structure in less than 10 minutes. Incredible. But what really moved me were Angela’s stories about the “games” that went on in the Colosseum. It was unfathomable that we were standing where thousands of people were executed, fought each other to the death, and hunted more than a million wild animals…all for public entertainment.
3. The Roman Forum – any history buff’s heaven. It’s pretty crazy to think about the layers and layers of buildings the forum is built upon, and every year more is excavated.
4. The Capitol Building – nicknamed “the wedding cake” this breathtaking white building with the Italian flags on either side is unbelievably grand, and the steps are a great place to take a relaxing break from walking all day.
5. Trevi Fountain – warning: here you will witness some very intense public displays of affection. Honestly though, this was one of those places that PDA just didn’t bug me. I understand the romance of the beautiful fountain, so all the couples in love really tugged on the heart strings. One thing we found is that the Trevi is something you should go see at different times of the day/night. We passed it almost every time we went back to our hostel and it was really pretty in different lighting. Another warning: just in case Miss Ungermeyer mislead you too … tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain is not for making a wish. One coin means you’ll come back to Rome. Two coins, you’ll come back to Rome and fall in love. Three coins, you’ll be back to Rome, find love, and marry. So…I’m not exactly sure what the 6 coins we each threw in meant, but I’m guessing all those wishes probably aren’t coming true.
6. The Pantheon – another inconceivable piece of architecture. Built almost 2000 years ago, this temple has the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world. One thing I found interesting that I never could see in pictures of the Pantheon is that the middle of the dome has a perfectly sized hole, and on rainy days, the floor has specially placed drains inside to collect the water. Angela showed us how the light from the hole (the “oculus”) spotlights the different deities on certain calendar years at specific times.
7. The Spanish Steps – Walk up the steps and admire the view, but don’t let any sneaky men (calling you beautiful and pushing flowers in your hands) trick you into buying roses. Who would be stupid enough to actually pay €2 for a rose? pshhh…
P.S. For those of you traveling to Rome soon, we stayed in Hostel Mosaic and the location was great. The staff was helpful and friendly. Our rooms were like hotel rooms, basically. The bathrooms were clean (besides when the drunk guy on our floor puked everywhere one night). Wifi (pronounced wee-fee in Italy) everywhere. Free breakfast! Zero complaints here.
P.P.S. Any trip to Rome should be accompanied by large doses of the Lizzie McGuire “When in Rome” soundtrack and multiple Gladiator references.