How to Spend Your Layover in Rome [Italy]

posted in: Europe, Italy, Southern Europe | 0

I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there is no way out of Bari unless I spend like a whole day in an connecting airport. So, at that moment I said “looks like we’re going to Rome”.

And that’s just what I did!

Honestly, Rome has been on my radar only a couple of times – the fact that it is usually crowded by tourists made this place quite unappealing to me. Since COVID-19 managed to scare off some people, I heard from friends that the city is really empty. I knew that Italy opened its borders to non-essential travelers outside of EU so I was still hoping to catch a pretty empty Rome. This being said I was right to finally go to Rome as the city was not crowded, however the tourists were all gathered at the most iconic places. I gathered my courage and bought a ticket and I landed in Rome Fiumicino airport at 8am and I went straight to the train station where I boarded the Leonardo Express train and in 15 minutes I was in the city.

Being that I have never been in Rome and my orientation has been less than helpful these last days, I was certain that I will get lost quite soon. Funnily enough this did not happen. Actually Rome is quite easy to navigate by foot and even if you manage to get lost in the narrow streets you will still end up in a boulevard.

From Rome Termini I took a left, then a right, then a left and I ended up in front of the Colosseum. I saw so many pictures of this place but somehow I never really comprehended how big the Colosseum is. It took me a while to walk around it and catch it from different perspectives. It is sad to see the state of this iconic building (I was hoping that it would be preserved in a better way) but knowing that the Colosseum had survived lootings, changes of empires, dictatorships and regimes, earthquakes and so many wars, it’s actually not surprising the building looks as it does.

From here, only five minutes away I stumbled into the Roman Forum, where the religious and public life was happening in the Roman Empire. This place reminded me of my dreams of being an archeologist when I was a child. I couldn’t believe that the Forum was excavated only in the 20th century. When you walk by it you can still see below work being carried out by specialists trying to uncover some new treasure.

From the Roman Forum I had to stop by Traian’s Column. Although some people will not stop to see it, for me this place has a nice significance. When I was in school and I was learning the history of the Romanian people, more precisely about the wars carried out between the Romans (led by Traian) and the Dacians (led by Decebal), we were always told that this tiny part of history is displayed on the column – so, I had to stop and check it out. If you want to have a look at the column’s detail’s please click here.

Right next to the column I found Piazza Venezia and from then on I started walking the tiny streets until I found the Pantheon, the best preserved building from the ancient Rome.

After stopping here for a quick gelato I walked again the streets until I reached Piazza Navona. Back in the ancient Rome times, this place was also a stadium but in time it became what we see today. The place is really charming with its three fountains creating an inviting atmosphere for lunch.

After a much needed break, I took a right instead of a left and I ended up on the banks of the Tiber River. I was planning to take a walk later in the day but, since I was there already, I made an adjustment and I enjoyed the shadow provided by the maple trees instead of sweating on the streets on Rome. It was also nice to see in the distance the Castel Sant’Angelo and a nice panoramic view of the Vatican.

Making a last effort, I reached Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps and here I found some more tourists. The neighborhood surrounding the Piazza is extremely charming: with lots of Baroque architecture and villas built in the 17th and 18th century. I was able to see the buzz in the market from a distance but once I decided to leave the buzz behind and go up the stairs I ended up having the loveliest view over the city.

And with the last resources I reached La Fontana di Trevi where a crowd of people was waiting for me. The fountain is considered to be one of the (if not the) most beautiful fountains in the world and there are a lot of legends about it too. It was a bit difficult to enjoy the place with all the people around me – but this place is definitely worth checking out first thing in the morning.

And with that I found the nearest metro station and I went back to the train station, in order to get back to Fiumicino and to go back into an airplane.

As introductions go – this was a pleasant one. The fears that I had in the beginning were well founded but I think that with a bit of planning and luck I will come back here one day. My feet were killing me at the end of the day but I am very happy that I chose to walk instead of taking a bus tour – I found out that I am obsesses with the muddy red color (and shades) of the Roman houses. Cannot wait to go back!

Until then… arrivederci!

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