Rome and Tivoli

An immaculate and rapid Italo train brought me from Venice to Rome in a little over three hours, and after dropping my stuff at a cosy b+b between the station and the Colosseum, I headed out to begin a 48 hour culture-a-thon.

I’ve never been to Rome before, and there’s a fair bit to see! For my first afternoon and evening I concentrated on the city centre, starting with climbing the Spanish steps, back down to Piazza Navona for a spritz and a snack, past the Pantheon and finally to the Trevi Fountain. I’d covered a lot of ground so after a drink outside a wine bar near my b+b (still warm enough to sit outside in a t-shirt at 10pm – bliss) I got an early night.

If I thought that was a bit tiring on the old feet, the next day, if the Health app on my phone is to be believed, I walked 16 miles and climbed 606 flights of stairs! I started at The Colosseum (helpful tip – go to the Palatine Hill ticket desk and get a ticket for that and the Colosseum there, the queues are much shorter), which is just incredible. Looking down on an incredible piece of architecture and history was a real privilege.

I climbed Palatine Hill, with great views of the Colosseum and then as you walk further, the Forum below. Walking around the ruins I had to take a moment to marvel at the sheer size of the place, and how much still remains from centuries ago.

From there it was onto the Vatican, firstly to the museum where the art was breathtaking, with the piéce de resistance being the Sistine Chapel at the end of the tour. You’re not supposed to take photos in the chapel but I sneaked a couple. I’d worry about being struck down for such a transgression in a holy place, but fortunately I’m an atheist.

From there it’s into St. Peter’s Basilica (helpful hint two – there’s an entrance for tour groups directly from the Sistine chapel into the basilica without needing to go outside and queue – just tack onto a nearby tour group and save loads of time). Like so many places I visited in this amazing city, I had to pinch myself to realise I was actually there seeing such beauty.

After an exhausting day I managed to drag myself out in the evening, catching a tram to Trastavere, an area which I’d read good things about and turned out to be a lot of fun. It was slightly hipster, a little run down and fantastic for people watching. Lots of gesticulation and animation from the patrons sitting outside the many cafes and bars, and it definitely had a more local than touristy feel.

On my final day I decided on a more tranquil experience, catching the train an hour or so to the town of Tivoli, in the mountains above Rome. I wanted to see Villa D’Este, a house with stunning gardens, known for its many and varied fountains. It’s beautifully designed and well-kept, with water spraying everywhere from fountains big and small. The main garden is a row of fishponds leading to the striking Fountain of Neptune.

Less well-known is Parco Villa Gregoriana, with equally striking fountains but natural and wild, as opposed to the man-made beauty of Villa d’Este. My feet were put to the test again as the rocky path descended down from the top to the bottom of the valley next to the cascades, and back up again to the villa at the top. Tiring, but so worthwhile.

From there it was back to the city and after a pizza and a pint it was time for the next adventure, the sleeper train to Sicily …

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