Rome. What an incredible city. I spent 5 days there at the end of May going into June. It was a perfect time to visit; the weather was fabulous and it was bustling without feeling too crowded.
We flew from London Gatwick with British Airways into Rome Fiumicino airport. I always choose BA if I can and if you play with dates and times it's often as cheap as one of the low cost airlines like EasyJet. They are not as restrictive on the hand luggage allowance and you get free snacks! Plus, if you book an all-inclusive package with hotel you can often pick up a real bargain. I didn't do that on this occasion, I booked my hotel separately via booking.com, one of my go-to travel resources.
Ottaviano Guest House was ideally located just 10 minutes’ walk away from St Peter’s Square and the Vatican. It was a modest place to stay, but it had everything we needed and the staff couldn’t have been more friendly. There was also a very nice health food shop next door where I picked up some supplies each day either for the downtime in our room or to take around with me in case I got peckish.
Two key principles for me when I visit a city are: 1) stay on foot as much as possible as it’s the best way to get to know a place; 2) don’t fall into the tourist trap. By that I mean I don’t feel compelled to go to the ‘must-see’ attractions. As such, I didn’t go inside the Colosseum nor did I join the conveyor belt of people heading to the Sistine Chapel. Now that’s out of the way, here’s some of the things I enjoyed most about Rome.
People. More specifically, the variety of people from touts and street artists, to nuns, police and military as well as the many tourists from all corners of the globe. It really is an eclectic mix. On the whole I found those I encountered to be very friendly, which only added to the positive experience.
Architecture. There’s no denying the abundance of stunning architecture in Rome. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and no surprise there, not even close. It has taken centuries to develop the magnificent cityscape we see today that combines so many different styles from the early Classical and Imperial Roman designs, to the later Neoclassical and Fascist architecture, with Renaissance and Baroque influences in the middle of it all.
An easy escape for the day. We took a trip out by train to Lago di Bracciano, one of the major lakes of Italy and the second largest in the Lazio region. It is a strikingly beautiful fresh water lake of volcanic origins and is a popular retreat for the Romans. Situated in the historic town of Bracciano it offers tranquillity and the slow pace you would expect from such an unspoilt place of natural beauty.
Modern day Rome. In the Flaminio quartiere of Rome is the MAXXI museum of contemporary art. The building itself was designed by renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, who sadly passed away earlier this year. In complete contrast to the many ancient wonders of Rome, this striking structure comprises a number of spaces that can host performances and educational activities as well as permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Finding the best view of the city. One thing I always love to do is find the highest points I can so I can enjoy a holistic view of the city, over roof tops and for miles beyond. The Vittoriano Monument with its panoramic terraces was able to satisfy that requirement very nicely. It’s a grandiose white marble structure that dominates the city, but is well worth a visit and for those who don’t like the idea of having to climb hundreds of steps, do not fear, there is a lift that takes you straight to the top.
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