Friday, 7 April 2017


Welcome to Part 2 of my Roman journey where I want to share some of my favourite places to visit.  First I must start by saying my top tip for visiting any city is to take a hop on, hop off bus tour and get your bearings, spot some of the places you absolutely must go back to and some places you might not even have thought of visiting.  It is not an expensive way to see a city and you get a good overall feel, particularly if you do the full circuit in one sitting. 
On the steps in the Garden of the Palazzo Barberini

Rome is exceptional for art lovers whether you are visiting the Vatican's picture gallery, The Borghese Gallery, or as we did the Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica. Contained in this magnificent palazzo in the centre of Rome are over 500 works of art spread over 34 rooms featuring artists such as Caravaggio and Raphael.  

There were so many works that I found it rather a slog after a while, but I never tired of seeing the ceiling frescos that were just magnificent!

And I was particularly thrilled to see the Caravaggios, notably the Narcissus painting which was completed in the 16th century. 

A favourite from a previous visit is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj on the Via del Corso with its beautiful renaissance arched courtyard.   It managed to combine splendid apartments with the history of the previous occupants and a gallery housing the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj's private collection.  I felt this was a more intimate experience and more to my taste.


With more than 200 churches and 19 Basilicas within the ancient city alone, there is always a gem to be found even before venturing to the Vatican City.  Just turn a corner and you will likely spy a magnificent church,  venture in and prepare to be awe-inspired by what you find.   

One such find for us was the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on Via della Maddalena, the magnificent vault of which was decorated by Michelangelo Cerruti between 1730-32 and portrays the Episodes in the life of St Mary Magdalene. 

The gilded elements, vibrant paintings with antique-yellow marble panelling give the most sumptuous finish. 

One other church I would particularly like to visit on my next visit is located in the Piazza della Repubblica and is the unusual Santa Maria degli Angeli which was dedicated to all the Christians who died constructing the Baths of Diocletian - the remains from which the church has been built within.  


I have never visited the Vatican Museums or the Sistine Chapel as I am not particularly keen on religious inspired art en-masse, which I am pretty sure is my loss and something I should rectify, but I do think I still have a lot of impressive churches to visit before I venture further into the Vatican.  I do however love to visit St. Peter's Square to feast my eyes on St Peter's Basilica the greatest church in Christendom.  

I have visited the Vatican City in the daytime before and it is so busy that it is hard to take in the beauty of St Peters Square and Basilica.  But go in the evening as we did and the square is all but deserted.  You can walk right up to the steps and see the Swiss Guards on duty in all their magnificent finery.


We decided to book ourselves a Viator half day trip to see the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill and it proved a really good decision.  Our guide, Marco, was an archaeologist and therefore incredibly knowledgeable.  The tour takes around 3 hours and was not rushed in any way, even though there were 25 of us in the group, nor was it arduous.  You can skip the queues so you maximise your time in the various locations and can ask as many questions as you want.  

Enjoying a Cornetto before venturing into the Colosseum
I was really surprised to find out that the Colosseum had originally been the venue for naval battle re-enactments and they flooded the arena in the days before gladiatorial contests.  Being March it was not too busy so you could view the underground chambers in the Colosseum where gladiators grouped and the animals were housed before being winched to the arena floor.   
Underground chambers at the Colosseum Exploring the Roman Forum, seeing the House of the Vestal Virgins and being led by such a knowledgeable guide is well worth doing. Completed by a visit to the Palatine Hill to take in the remains of the Imperial Palace and wonder at the sheer scale of such an edifice built centuries ago.
The Arch of Constantine 
Walking back from the Palatine towards the Colosseum security was noticeable, as it is  throughout Rome, but then that is the norm in most European cities now. 


No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Spanish Steps, taking in the Trevi fountain on the way.  Make sure to pop into one of the many glove shops such as Sermoneta  where you can get the most incredible cashmere lined leather gloves in every colour of the rainbow.  Look out for some of the independent boutiques on the back streets as there are some fabulous finds to be made.
Spanish Steps

Try to get to the Trevi fountain earlier in the day so that you are not fighting hoards of people to have your picture taken or indeed throw coins into the fountain. 

Trevi Fountain

PANTHEON, Piazza della Rotonda  

Really this should be included under churches, but I think it deserves it's own stand alone billing, not least because it features what is still the worlds largest unsupported dome which was built nearly 2000 years ago - a staggering achievement before you even start thinking about the 16 columns that support the portico, weighing 60 tons each and literally manhandled from a quarry in Eygpt to Rome. 

Portico of the Pantheon 
The building is in superb condition and is the best preserved ancient building in Rome even retaining the original marble floor. And what a testament to the Romans it is.  The sheer beauty, scale and ingenuity of the engineering is amazing.  We had seen that they host concerts inside occasionally but unfortunately we had missed this, I would love to stand and listen to singers in what I am sure is an unbeatable acoustic environment.

Part of the magnificent Pantheon Dome
View from the portico into the Piazza della Rotonda

I can't recommend a trip to Rome enough.  It is such an easy city to walk and there is so much to see and do.  Whether you love history, art, shopping, fine dining .... it is there in abundance. I am already drawing up a list of places I still want to visit including the Catacombs - any other suggestions gratefully received.

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