24 hours in Rome…
Given that I arrived at night @ the Termini and left in the morning from Fiumicino two days later – technically I had just one full day to run through the eternal city on this trip (and yeah, right, plus the Vatican).
So, I think you wouldn’t disagree if I use “Run!” twice in the title – it was indeed a “Run! Run! Roma” experience. After all, not everyone had seven days to spend a vacation in one place (although Rome definitely needs that much time). It is just to share my own experience and point of view here, as I believe there are always a time travelers had only a day or two in a place for business or transit and want to do the impossible, and wonder if they would go back in the future.
Is it absolutely undoable? As the historic Roman city is not big, I managed to go through the essentials on foot in 1 day – at least, that’s what I did…
Turning the mission impossible to possible – the key is all about the planning, and no queues. The following is my crazy itinerary in case the same “one-day” situation dawn on you one day. 😛
Piazza Barberini > Spanish Steps > Piazza del Popolo > Vatican Museum Guided tour (plus Sistine Chapel @ 10:30am)> Vatican Post Office > Saint Peter’s Square > Lunch
Saint Peter’s Basilica > Castel Sant’ Angelo (outside) > Ponte Sant’ Angelo > Piazza Navona > Pantheon > Trevi Fountain > Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II > Roman Forum > Colosseum (outside)
I started off @ 8 am from the train station (Termini) and took the metro to the Piazza Barberini. There I saw three famous locations – the Triton Fountain, the Barberini Palace and the Fountain of Bees. Since two of them were fountains and they were rather close, I admired the beauty of the art, took a few fabulous group shots (and selfies) and wasted no time heading north along the Via Sistina to the Trinità dei Monti – the church located on top of the Spanish steps.
I looked down the Spanish steps and there was a great sight of Rome’s old city, and I reckoned I was rather lucky because the place was quiet and deserted at ~ 9 am. After I ran the steps and took some pictures, I continued my walking tour up north along Via del Babuino and arrived @ Santa Maria del Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto at the end of the road – they are always referred as the ‘twin’ churches with some subtle differences.
I loved this plaza. Piazza del Popolo as it has a great open space, the morning sunlight just felt comfortable. The other side of the plaza stood the Basilica Parrocchiale Santa Maria del Popolo. If you are a fan of the book “Angels and Demons” (I am), you would remember the Chigi Chapel in the church, exactly where the sculpture of Habakkuk and the angel was, and pointing out the path of Illuminati.
Anyway, I walked fast (it was run run) and luckily I had some time to spare. There was a viewpoint up the hill right behind the Fountain (Fontana della Dea di Roma, the viale Gabriele DÁnnunzio). It took around 10-15 minutes to walk up there but I saw a GREAT panoramic view of the Roman skyline all the way to the Giant Dome of Saint Peter’s Cathedral. – not to miss.
Coming back down in amazement, I took the metro at the Flaminio station and headed to the Ottaviano station. I said I was on a schedule; because I had an appointment with the Vatican. 🙂 Back then I had to use facsimile for a guided tour reservation, but now, you could do it online. So, don’t miss the fortunate opportunity of using the modern digital technology. The queue could be so long that you might end up queuing for hours.
I had to say for all the art museums I visited, the Vatican Museum (Musei Vaticani) was still the most core-shakingly impressive to me. Thankfully (Thank you Thank you Thank you) I made the decision and booked a guided tour. Paying a little bit more paid-off well as the tour guide was definitely knowledgeable (and cool, not as bubbly), and she made the walk through much easier and more pleasant.
The museums housed the work of many greatest Renaissance artists from Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio, Correggio to Titian. What a list of great names. Many of the artworks are Frescos (kind of like wall paintings) and I would never forget how I gasped the second I entered the Gallery of Maps. How insanely beautiful as EVERY corner of the corridor is painted, and my eyes just didn’t know which way to go.
The tour was around 2 hours; and after it ended, visitors may go back in the museum. I only had a day, so sadly (huh, next time!) I had to move on to the Sistine Chapel, where I saw the Michelangelo’s frescoes (I thought everyone knows?) The creation of Adam. The chapel was packed, but the painting was huge. Visitors were not allowed to take pictures, not to ruin the paintings, and once I went out of the exit, I found myself @ the Saint Peter’s Square already.
Check out more about my favorite cathedrals at My Top 12 Cathedral in Europe (2)!
After mailing postcards in the Vatican post office (you will see it from the way out of Sistine Chapel, Vatican is small after all), taking sneak photos of the Swiss Guards and their flamboyant uniforms, and having a quick lunch @ the food cart nearby the square. It’s about time to head inside the giant architecture – the Saint Peter’s Basilica. I have never seen anything that’s quite big (Of course, Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest cathedral in the world, and it’s 4 times larger than the second-largest cathedral in the world in terms of volume) and trust me: it was impressive, jaw-dropping, wowing. I had to gasp in awe as I enter because it was just so… huge. Every corner there is a sculpture, and every corner there is an art. My heading was spinning at all angles I was worried that I broke my neck. Of course, there were thousands of artworks that worth admirations, and I would probably go back to Rome (you will know how later) to appreciate them one by one. After the breathtaking experience in the Basilica, my Run! Run! Experience continued in Rome.
If you have a few more days in the city, I would definitely recommend you to purchase a Roma Pass. It gives you free access to many local museums and it saves you time looking for queues and lining in it. Leaving the Saint Peter’s Basilica, I saw the Castel Sant’ Angelo – again, the final stage of the book Angels and Demons. I just took a few pictures of the exterior and walked through the Ponte Sant’ Angelo across the Tevere River. Piazza Navona is only 15 minutes away. In the centre of the Piazza was the Fountain of the four Rivers with Egyptian obelisk (yet another key location of the story Angels and Demons), and I enjoyed some snacks and a cup of coffee in the nearby cafes and walked around the shops.
Exiting the Piazza Navona and I continued my walk to the Pantheon – world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. It looks different with the rest of the Roman churches as it’s much older in the Roman Empire’s era. It’s one of the most ancient religious worship place back in the 7th century.
Entry is free, and take a tour around the structure and I headed to the Trevi Fountain – My hotel was quite near to the fountain and so I had time to say goodbye to Rome the next morning @ the fountain – only me was there. However, in the afternoon the fountain was so crowded I had to squeeze myself just to get to the edge of the pool. Legend has it, throw a coin into the fountain over your shoulder will guarantee your return to Rome. I did, and I did. 🙂
It was a run! run! Roma, so I knew I had no chance going into the Colosseum (that day! But looking at it outside, still drop your jaws); Walk through the Roman Forum is a free entry (future note: heard that not anymore since 2014 after I went! Shocked!). I didn’t waste any sunlight and headed south from the Trevi Fountain afterwards. On the way to the Colosseum before getting to the Via del Fori Imperiali, I saw the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, at the Piazza Venezia. It is a monument, a museum, and a viewing terrace, but it’s beautiful and famous (and convenient) – you gotta look at it.
So I supposed at 6:30 PM (Roman Forum closes) it’s time to end the 10-hour craziness and look for a cutesy, sweet place for dinner and rest your legs.
Check out more about my pick of the world’s top 10 art galleries!
Of the utmost importance – The Vatican Museum Guided tour: 32 Euro (Trust me, it will worth it) http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/z-Info/MV_Info_Servizi_Visite.html
Walking in the narrow and maze alleys and of the old city could be both exciting and confusing; Just headed the correct direction, followed the signs, and relax – you will get to the places.
I suggest booking a hotel near the train station for the shortest distance dragging your heavy luggage around on the cobbled road to Rome.
Trevi Fountain / Spanish Steps are deserted in the early morning, and it has better light for pictures. It’s like a zoo in the afternoon – your choice.
Download podcast of Rome (actually all Itlay) travel guide – it’s free! Listen to it when you are actually on site.
Customize the route as you please – first, you need a map and make hard decisions. Be realistic, you know you cannot go inside every museum.
If you do have time, get a Roma pass, it covers most of the entrance fees to famous museums in Rome (including the Colosseum, Castel Sant’ Angelo, etc)