One of the most storied cities in the world, and home to an empire that helped shaped western civilisation. In many respects, Rome is without comparison. I spent the best part of a week in the Italian capital (and you can read about it in detail here, and my trip to the Vatican, which is not a part of the list, here) and it was one of the most absorbing weeks of my life. The history is unparalleled, the culture fascinating, and the food indescribable (my favourite pizza place was here, not in Naples or New York). I could list at least 10 things in Rome that I absolutely loved, but, with some creative accounting, here are 5 of my favourites.
5. Walking through Trastevere
Located on the 'other' side of the Tiber river, Trastevere is famed for its ancient buildings, narrow passageways, and lively nightlife. It's also home to a lot of Rome's contemporary art scene.
The thing I really enjoyed about walking through the Trastevere neighbourhood was not knowing what was behind any given corner. The narrow paths with buildings bearing almost upon you means you can't see too far in the distance, which in turn means every corner can lead to a potential surprise, whether it's beautiful architecture, a small square, artists, or musicians.
In fact, you may turn the corner to see the magnificent Santa Maria in Trastevere church. The original building was constructed in 340 AD, and the facade of the church seems incredibly old. I arrived while there was a Mass service going on so I observed it for 20 minutes. The church was absolutely packed full of worshipers. The interior is decorated beautifully, again a lot of gold on the ceilings and walls.
The area is also home to one one of the best pizzerias I have ever been to. If you have read my lists on Naples and New York, you'll know I visited some incredible pizza places, but Dar Poeta may rank the highest. The pizza had a beautiful crispy base (I'm not a fan of the rubbery ones) and the toppings were in just the right quantity to ensure the taste was rich, but the base wasn't compromised. Honestly, if you go to Trastavere, make sure you don't miss this beauty!
4. The keyhole view
I've cheated a little here, the picture above is one I took at Campo de Fiori, a square containing a beautiful market, with a stunning statue of Giordano Bruno, a 16th century mathematician who was executed by the church for his views on the Earth's place in the universe (he had some crazy idea that stars were distant suns and the Earth wasn't in the centre).
I've put that picture up because; (1) Campo de Fiori is a beautiful part of Rome, and definitely worth visiting, and (2) because no matter how hard I tried, my camera wasn't powerful enough to take a photo of the keyhole view, and I only post photos that I take myself.
But trust me, you are going to want to see the keyhole view. Located on the southernmost of Rome's famous seven hills, the Aventine, the keyhole view can be found in a small, unassuming church called Santa Maria del Priorato. The keyhole to the door of the church has a magnificent view of St. Peter's Basilica, perfectly framed by green vines and a garden. It's definitely something that has stuck with me, almost etched into my brain like a flashbulb memory, so it easily makes the list.
The church isn't particularly large or signposted (at all), so if you can't find it straight away, keep trying, it's worth the effort.
3. The view from Palatine Hill
The hills of Rome provide for some incredible views, but none more so than Palatine Hill, perched directly over the Roman Forum.
A short walk up the hill and through a small staircase takes you to a rooftop with an incredible view over the forum and the Colosseum in the distance - it may have been my favourite view of Rome and is definitely worth seeing. If Rome is an immersive museum, then this is definitely the place to take it all in.
2. People watching on Via dei Coronari
People watching in Rome is a good way to relax and pass time and there are no shortage of options with outdoor restaurants and cafes throughout the city. My favourite place to do this was Via dei Coronari, one of the most picturesque streets in Rome.
The buildings on the narrow street date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and at half a kilometre long, there is a lot of historical architecture to see. The road itself has pre-Roman heritage, and in the daytime, tourists and locals explore the many passageways that extend from the street, including the S. Triphone, the narrowest lane in Rome.
I preferred it at night, when lights tied across the buildings made the street look like a long glittering jewel. The artisan shops, bakeries, restaurants and cafes add to the charm, and I could have easily spent a day watching the world go by, in the most typical of Roman streets.
1. Time travelling in the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, or the majority of the city
I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again, Rome is one big open air museum. You are not only surrounded by history, but as you walk through places such as the Roman Forum, you feel as though you are walking through history. Structures in the forum date back to the very beginnings of Rome, in fact one of the largest standing structures in the area is the Temple of Saturn that was constructed in the 5th century BC. The forum contains the administrative centre of ancient Rome and therefore also houses the Senate, various basilicas and marketplaces and other civil and religious buildings.
Then you have the magnificent Colosseum. a first century stadium capable of holding up to 80,000 spectators and one of the largest structures of its time. The stadium is breathtaking, both from the outside, and the inside. It's mind boggling to think something so old still exists in such a form, but for longevity the Pantheon is even more impressive.
Built in 125 AD, the building has been in almost continuous use since its construction, first as a Roman Temple, and then as a Christian Church and the large domed building is still in an almost perfect state. It speaks volumes about the civilisation that built it.
Truth is, these are just a couple of examples, but almost every area of central Rome has a story to tell. Whether it's the Roman ruins from 2000 years ago, or the Renaissance era Spanish Steps, or Trevi Fountain, all the way to the 20th century's 'Altar of the Fatherland'. If you like history and culture, you will love Rome.
It's one of my favourite cities that I have been to, and keeping this list to just 5 was tough. Italy has a growing Sikh population, although you won't find too many in the centre of Rome, but there was absolutely no issues for me as a Sikh traveller.
However as much as I loved Rome, if I had to pick, Naples would be my favourite (and you can read about my trip here, and my top 5 favourite places in Naples here).
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.