Rome, the eternal city, has seen empires rise, empires fall, and new faiths born. It is a city like no other, and could take years to properly explore. The city is massive and split between several different wards that were built up during different periods. Colosseo and Old Rome make up the older parts.
The Colosseo ward includes the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill. These monuments could take several hours to explore and can be pretty expensive. For 30€ one can buy the Roma Pass which gives you access to any two sights in Rome plus all public transportation. The Colosseo ward is technically all just one sight, even though they are charged separately. This make the Roma Pass a super deal, since after the Colosseo, you have already made up for the costs. Plus you always get to skip the line!
Across from the Colosseum is an ancient palace, but as of March 2012 it undergoing major restoration. The area’s park is still open and offers great views at night of the Colosseum when no one is around anyways.
The Capitoline Museums are above the Forum on the way to the overly gaudy Il Vittoriano, which was built on top of an ancient medieval neighborhood. For a hefty fee, one can take a glass elevator up Il Vittoriano to see all of Rome. The Capitoline Museums are often regarded as top notch and can take the second “sight” from your Roma Pass. Although the museum is rich in artifacts, it really can not compare to the Vatican’s immense hoard of ancient Roman artifacts (The Vatican is not included in the Roma Pass).
This region is more medieval and renaissance. Old Rome is less ancient and more neoclassical. Here you can find the Pantheon, keep in mind that as open as it is, the Pantheon is open only for limited hours usually closing by 6PM. This ancient building was once a Roman temple, but is used as a church and tourist site today.
Several churches line this area, and its worth exploring by foot. The Trevi Fountain is a must see. This massive fountain is always crowded with visitors. Legend says that if a vistor throws a coin, they will surely return to Rome. It is a short walk from the Metro by the same name.
Piazza Navona is also a gem, built on top of an old games circuit. Remaining true to its shape, the plaza is home to the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Four Rivers. Also there is a church to St Agnese of Agone.
The Spanish Steps (at the metro with the same name) are an interesting number of steps going up to a church. One can skip the steps and take the elevator to the top, but wouldn’t that ruin all the fun? At the bottom of the steps is a “sinking” ship fountain which is pretty cool. Keep in mind, these steps get super crowded in the heavy tourist season.
New Rome really isn’t that new, but here is the train station if you happen to come in by train. It is a short walk to the Colosseum, but there are other things to find here as well. The Trevi Fountain borders here and there are plenty of hotels and cafes around. The cheaper hotels can be found in New Rome, which is a pretty good starting spot.
San Pietro Metro is your best bet to get to the Vatican. Follow the signs (or the tourists) and you should be on your way. St. Peter’s Basilica makes a great first stop if you are there early in the morning. The line will be somewhat long, but it usually moves pretty fast. Expect stringent security and then finally you are in. From there you have four options.
The Basilica is free and one simply can walk in and take as many pictures as the heart desires. Inside the Basilica is there is the “treasury” where you must pay extra to check out some of the Vatican’s “treasures”. It is basically a small museum where you must cough out 5-10 euros.
Another option is the Vatican’s crypts, free but a long line. Here you can go underground and check out what lies beneath the Vatican. Essentially there are a lot of graves and tombs under there. Don’t expect the Dan Brown tour though, the crypts shown are past popes and figures. If you are hoping to see an ancient lost temple or something, you better know someone at the Vatican who can take you deeper.
The last option is to climb to the top of the St. Peter’s Basilica. You can pay extra to take an elevator half way, or walk the entire way. It is a long and difficult “hike” to the top, and unless you are fit and willing to go through incredibly small corridors (if you are a bit overweight you might have problems walking inside the dome, it is very cramped at certain points) maybe you should stick to the other options. At the top of the dome you are given gorgeous views of the city. It is definitely worth checking out.
For the must see Vatican Museums you will have to exit the Vatican walls and follow them along the side. Here you will also find an incredibly long line, but it is well worth the wait. The Museums are quite large and will take you a bit of time to explore. One Sunday a month it is free to enter, but why bother when it is at peak occupancy. The Museums are “museums”, but other parts are actually rooms inside the Vatican. You also get to check out the Sistine Chapel which is serenaded with constant yells from the guards “no photos!”. Pretty much everywhere else, photos are permitted.
Across from St. Peter’s Basilica is Castel St’Angelo where Emperor Hadrian is buried, Angels and Demons takes place, and where Pope’s hid their “families”. Roma Pass can be used here. It is a giant castle and you can’t miss it from any point of the city. If you don’t want to go in, you can still walk right up to it and check it out up close.
Besides the things one must see in Rome there are other worthy places to stroll. Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome. It isn’t the church that makes this place spectacular, rather its neighborhood is superb. Far from the tourist hold outs and across Tiber Island, this neighborhood has everything to offer one who wants a true Roman experience. Small alleys lined with restaurants, chilling music, and relaxing atmosphere build this neighborhood.
Janiculum Hill is a short walk uphill from Trastevere. Here are amazing views of Rome as well as the location of where St. Peter was crucified. It is worth the walk, although there is a rumor there may be a bus up the hill too. Could not find it though.
Rome has a lot to see, sometimes it is worth exploring rather than finding anything in particular. Maybe it is better for it to just find you.