Ancient Rome in a Day

Today’s Itinerary

By Jacob Aldridge

Welcome to the first day of our Every Daydream. Over the rest of infinite time we will travel together to all of the world’s best holiday spots, travel off the beaten track, and most of all let locals be our guides. Every day we will pursue a real experience – and it’s actually possible to follow the Every Daydream around the globe in real time because every flight, every destination, every recommendation is genuine and connected.

On this Wednesday, we awake in Rome, ‘the eternal city’ being an appropriate starting point for our endless holiday. Already we can hear the bustle of the Via del Corso outside our hotel window – a key reason why we booked ahead at the Hotel Regno. After breakfast we’re supposed to meet Gianluca, who lives just outside of Rome – but he’s sent a text to say that his train is running late. First rule of travelling through Italy by train – Trenitalia timetables are a guide, at best!

The Colosseum Exterior

Built between 70AD and 80AD, Gladiators have been replaced by a papal ‘Stations of the Cross’

Gianluca’s plan was to make today about “Ancient Rome”, so he’s sending us ahead. He tells us to make the 15 minute walk south along the Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum. We could join the queue, but for only a few extra euros he suggests we look for one of the many guides touting their services for group tours of the Colosseum and the nearby Palatine Hill.

We grab one who feels reliable – and also buy the before-and-after book that they’re selling (on sale, of course!). Moments later, we skip past the queue and into this nineteen-hundred-year-old monument. Originally built to host gladiatorial fights (including mock sea battles – the stage, partially rebuilt in 2001 could be flooded without impacting the gladiator and animal enclosures still visible underneath), it’s remarkable that just a few hundred years later the entire population of the defunct Imperial city could have fit inside.

Both here and as we walk through the ruins on the nearby Palatine hill, home to Emperors and the wealthiest of Rome’s families and the finest of the city’s seven hills, there is clear evidence of the decline in fortunes after the city was sacked, and the Empire lost. Not even the Colosseum was spared as desperate locals took apart ancient structures to use the stone and marble in the construction of their homes.

Inside the Colosseum

The partially rebuilt stage sits above the rooms and corridors where Gladiators waited

The Vittorio Emanuele Monument

The Vittorio Emanuele Monument, also known as ‘The Typewriter’

Gianluca is there when we exit the ruins. He points to the nearby Vittorio Emanuele Monument, a palace built to honour the king who united Italy again in 1861. He calls the white behemoth ‘the typewriter’, and walks us up the stairs. “This is the best view in Rome,” he extols. “It’s the only place where you the typewriter doesn’t get in the way of the view!”

Time for gelati, so we are whisked past the Trevi fountain (“too crowded, we’ll come back later”) to the Spanish Steps. Named for the Spanish Ambassador’s residence, a gelati and a rest stop here (if you can find space – Europe’s widest staircase is always crowded!) is on every list of things to do in Rome.

Looking up the Spanish Steps

If you find a seat, grab it – and enjoy your gelati as shoppers and tourists go by

We could spend a few hours in this area among the best shopping in Rome, but Gianluca has two secret spots he prefers to show off. The first is a nondescript ruin on in Torre Argentina square (where via Florida meets the trams of via Arenula) – full of cats thanks to a local charity, this is the actual floor on which Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44BC. (Shakespeare moved the location to the Senate steps, because he had set design to consider.)

Nearby, across a field and close to the Tiber river, is the small church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Tomorrow is a day for churches – today we come to put our hand inside the mouth of the Bocca della Veritá. Made famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on their Roman Holiday, the actual origin of this lie-eating piece of stone is confused at best.

Gianluca leaves us here with clear directions to cross the nearby bridge to the Trastevere district for dinner at any of the restaurants along via di San Francesco. He also points out that the Trevi fountain is less than 100 metres from our hotel, for when we return from dinner.

Bridges over the Tiber River

Bridges over the Tiber River to the Trastavere district are beautiful – but beware of pickpockets on narrow footpaths

Trevi Fountain

Tourists throw coins into the Trevi Fountain – one to return, two to find love, three to find marriage

And sure enough, by 10pm the fountain is almost deserted. We turn our backs, take our photo, and each toss a coin into the fountain. This assures us that we will return to Rome.

Of course, we’ll be back here again tomorrow.

Want to Go? Need to Know…

  • A combined Colosseum and Palatine Hill ticket costs €12 – if that’s all you want, buy it from the Palatine Hill entrance and skip the Colosseum queue
  • Most of the tours we’ve heard of cost €18-20 – normally, touts are to be avoided but we’ve experienced good value in this instance
  • Blue Ice is a decent chain-gelati store you will encounter, but feel free to try as many local places as you can
  • The Bocca della Verita closes as early as 4pm in the winter – Audrey Hepburn fans are advised to prioritise this stop!
  • Take extra care when crossing the river – Bridges are hotspots for pickpockets
  • Trevi fountain coins are collected by the charity Caritas
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 What are your Rome tips? Be sure to share this page or add your comments below.

4 Responses to “Ancient Rome in a Day”

  1. Nicholas Ching

    Nice work Dominic.

    My hot tip if your on a short and brief holiday in Rome.

    -Hire Bicycles

    A preferably more exciting and less time consuming way to the see the ancient city is on a bicycle, especially during summer. Without a bicycle trotting along the cobblestone pavements and roads with two million other tourists can be quite exhausting…….Now cycling whilst or after it has rained is extremely dangerous. I was racing through the thick crowds in front of the Spanish Stairs on Via Condotti and attempted to turn a corner, my front wheel turned and slide straight across the cobblestone leading me at full pace towards a very high class line of retail shoppers queuing to enter the Louis Vuitton store. The bicycle and myself smashed into some temporary crowd controlling barriers, miraculously no one was injured except for myself with a very bruised elbow, a small child had erupted into tears due to the loss of his gelati that had been knocked from his hands by my shear body weight crashing into him. All and all a quick get away was the only option left for me, as I tried to escape the embarrassing commotion I leapt up back onto the bicycle and attempted to peddle away, the chain had fallen off I was left to walk the boulevard in shame and return the bicycle fifteen minutes late which ultimately cost me a additional ten euros.

    This is just one hilarious story of many that has occurred during my adventures around the world exploring city’s on one of the the most efficient forms of transport.

    Cycling enthusiast – Nicholas Ching

    • everydaydream

      What a great story Nick – hopefully all that was dented was your pride!

      We agree that bikes are a great way of getting around on vacation; one of our favourite times cycling was around Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. MyNorthAfrica

    I just like the writing personality you put through in this post. I shall bookmark your blog and visit once more. Great Post!

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