Story and photos by Meridith Roy
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome and is beautifully illuminated at night.
Step one: breathe in deeply. Once you exit Stazione Termini, Rome’s main train station, you’ll find yourself surrounded by noise, crowds, and cars. Step two: exhale and get ready to fall in love with a quintessentially Italian city.
If you are the type of traveler who likes to see everything, stay a week in Rome. If you are a broke college student making a day trip from Florence, you can still make the most of your time by seeing both major attractions and some off the beaten path.
An absolute must see is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City—admission is free. Though Rome is a city of opulent design, St. Peter’s Basilica wears the crown when it comes to extravagance. The line to enter can be long, so grab a gelato from one of the nearby carts. Upon entering the basilica, you will be wowed by the gilded ceilings and marble. To the right is Michelangelo’s Pietà, a marble rendering of the Virgin Mary.
Be sure to spend the five euro to climb into the basilica’s dome. It allows for close contact with mosaic cherubs and incredible photo angles from above. You can also continue on to the dome’s cupola, which offers an unreal 360-degree-view of the city. The climb to the top is nearly as good as the view, but forget it if you are claustrophobic.
Vatican City, from the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Close to Vatican City is Castel Sant’Angelo. This fortress is connected underground to the Vatican and was used by previous popes. It is closely linked to Pope Alexander VI, who had a mistress and two children. Castel Sant’Angelo overlooks the Tiber River and there is a skating rink in front of the fortress in the winter. Admission to the fortress is about seven euro.
Piazza del Popolo is another sight that should be a priority. At its center is an Egyptian obelisk that was transplanted from Heliopolis by the order of Augustus. It once stood at the Circus Maximus, but its majestic presence now overtakes the piazza.
As for ancient Rome, be warned! The Coliseum is overpriced, over crowded, and overrated. Although impressive on the outside, its interior is a bit of a let down for the 11 euro admission price. It lacks textual explanations of the space and you will be charged an additional four euro to use an audio guide. Staying outside and enjoying the ruins may be your best option.
By now, the sun is probably setting over the horizon. You can grab an inexpensive panini almost anywhere and stand at the top of Via del Corso, which overlooks the Spanish Steps, and watch as the sun sits lower and lower while the city lights compensate. Rome is worth a visit for any lover of history, lover of food, and lover in love. Bottom line: go to Rome—even if you only have one day. Hopefully you’ll get the chance to visit the Trevi Fountain. As the myth says: Throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain and you shall return to Rome. Don’t forget to throw yours.