1. The Appian Way (Via Appia)
The Appian Way, one of the earliest strategic roads of the ancient world, enabled Rome to strengthen its grip on the ancient Mediterranean world. It is also the site for many historic events, such as the crucifixion of Spartacus and his army.
Why visit? This spot is ideal for people who enjoy the outdoors with a historic twist. This path is off the grid and is a good alternative to the better-known attractions such as the Forum or Colosseum. Make no mistake—this is going to be an enjoyable walk without all of the distractions.
ANN’s tip: You can take bus 118 (from San Giovanni) or bus 218 (from outside of the Pirámides Metro) to get there. Expect to spend at least an hour walking around, so be sure to bring plenty of water and comfy shoes. While this place is beautiful and safe, make sure to go during daylight hours, as it can become a little sketchy the darker it becomes.
Good eats: After your walk, stop and grab some pizza at Pizzeria La Rustica or some prosciutto and cheese at Vinosofia Enoteca Bistrot. Their prices are really affordable and the scenery is authentic Italia!
2. Colosseum (Colosseo)
Cost: YES – 12 Euros or a little over $15 USD (as of 2013)
Known to many as the site of bloody gladiator fights and other Roman rituals, this architectural and engineering wonder of the world held about 50,000 spectators at the peak of the Roman Empire’s influence. It’s impossible to explore the full history of rome without considering the enormous role that the Colosseum played in the history of the Romans. Of course, there are so many other areas of the city that have huge historical significance, such as the Jewish ghettos, for example.
Why visit? The Colosseum is one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It provides insight into the strength and genius of ancient Romans and their determination to dominate and display. I really loved visiting this site because it shows how awesome ancient engineers were to build something of this magnitude without modern day conveniences like a crane or even building codes! It’s amazing what human beings can do when they put their minds to it, right?!
ANN’s tips: (1) Hop on the bus that says “Colosseum;” it will take you right in front of the ticket booth…nuff said, and (2)The lines are ridiculous, all the time! If you’re like me and you hate to wait, buy your tickets at the Roman Forum, which allows you entrance into both attractions and allows for line-jumping (woohoo)!
Good eats: For you folks looking for a close food option with decent prices, Naumachia is the place for you. Their menu options range from pizza (of course) to sliced meats and delectable tiramisu (I’ve had it and it’s to DIE for).
3. Roman Forum (Foro Romano)
Cost: YES – 12 Euros or a little over $15 USD (as of 2013)
Referred to by many as the center of Roman public life, the Forum was the site of elections, gladiator matches, and public speeches. Some of the greatest historical temples and shrines located in the ruins of this once grand architectural achievement include the complex of the Vestal Virgins, the Temple of Saturn (497 BC), and the Temple of Castor and Pollux (484 BC).
Why visit? As with everything else in the Eternal City, the Roman Forum is a shining example of past greatness. When you visit, you will stand where Roman generals and soldiers returned from battle, referred to as Triumphs, and peer into rubble that once was the site of many infamous trials (held by the Senate).
Question – What could be better than that?
ANN’s tip (answer): A SHORTER LINE! This attraction, much like the Colosseum, is a staple on the tourist attraction list. Expect to spend about an hour or two perusing around. So, be sure to buy the line-jumping passes and run to the front (ignore the dirty looks). And, if you find yourself overwhelmed by the magnitude of rubble, invest in the audio or guided tour. It will be a tad more expensive, but worth the moolah if you’re able to grasp the real sense of history connected with this amazing piece of history.
Good eats: The Forum is close to Via Veneto, which is a shopping center with a large selection of food choices from pasta to gelato parlors to guess…PIZZA! Think of this as an American food court. If you don’t find anything appealing, a more pricey choice would be Gavius. I am obsessed with their Danish beef filet with green beans and a side order of crispy potatoes with bacon.
4. Vatican Museums
Cost: YES – not sure what the 2013 prices are
Housing some of the important pieces from the Renaissance and other periods of Italian history, the Vatican Museums have something for everyone. The Museums opened in the 16th century as Pope Julius II began collecting original pieces of artwork and displaying them as a way to share religious and cultural perspectives with fellow Catholics.
Why visit? You should visit the Vatican Museums because they hold pieces of art from amazingly talented artists over the span of several centuries. Artists and works like Leonardo da Vinci‘s portrait of St. Jerome in the Wilderness and Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s (simply known as Raphael) The School of Athens, as well as the beautiful Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by fellow Renaissance painter Michelangelo and wall paintings by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Perugino are on display.
ANN’s tip: Pay a little extra cash and opt for an audio tour. There is an option for a guided tour, but that is extremely expensive! And, for those of you looking to take pictures…THINK AGAIN! Apparently, appreciating some of history’s most talented artists requires some rules—such as no photos (understandable), no whispering (I’m not kidding!), and a dress code that prohibits short skirts, shorts, or bare shoulders (again, I’m not kidding)…so basically all they want to see are your eye balls! Despite being expected to dress like it’s winter in Minnesota all year round, all the rules are worth a glimpse of the works inside.
Good eats: Ristorante dei Musei Vaticani is located within view of the Vatican Museums and has pretty tasty food. It has all the traditional Italian cuisines at affordable prices…making this a good option before you make the trip over to St. Peter’s Basilica. There is another self-serve option, but it is essentially an over-priced buffet place and not worth the trip.
5. Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)
The Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and the most photo-worthy, is one of the more remarkable fountains in the world. Another testament to Roman engineering, this fountain provided water to millions of Romans beginning in 19 BC and continued to do so for over 400 years.
Why visit? It’s gorgeous and you can look at it for FREE! There’s not a lot to do at the fountain, but be sure to toss a coin in to help Rome’s poor. They collect those coins to assist with housing and feeding those less fortunate. To make you feel better about tossing in that coin, they say if you do…you will return to Rome. Not so bad for tossing in a quarter, right? I hope ya’ll didn’t think I would say a penny.
ANN’s tip: Definitely use 1 to 2 hours taking in the sights. I would suggest keeping your money and any valuables within your grasp because pickpockets reign supreme here for some reason. A good friend of mine had $300 stolen right from under her nose, so stay vigilant.
I hope you find these tips helpful in your journey around the Eternal City!