Is it possible to explore Rome in 12 hours? Okay maybe not, the city is pretty good, but I took a whack at it and I was impressed with how much ground I covered in an afternoon.
I took the train from Florence to Rome, it took 1 hour and 20 minutes and only cost around €15. I arrived in Roma Termini Train Station and was somewhat apprehensive about taking the Metro but I was up for the challenge. The hotel I was staying in, the Grand Hotel Palace Rome, was less than a 10-minute walk from Barberini Station, all I had to do was figure out how to navigate myself there. It was easier than I thought, the hardest bit was actually finding the Metro itself at the station (you have to go downstairs!). I bought myself a 24 hour ticket, this was absolutely perfect because it meant I could use it the next morning to get to the train station too, you can’t do that in London and it only cost €7 – bargain!
Anyhow, I made it in relative ease, the trains are regular and the stations are mostly easy to navigate, if you get lost the ticket machines have an English option and the staff mostly speak English too. I headed straight for the hotel as I head a huge bag that I could not wait to get off my back. The hotel was easy to find, next to the Hard Rock Cafe, and I was impressed by the doorman who clocked me with my bags and came to help me immediately.
Checking in was simple and lucky for me my room had been upgraded and it was already ready for me (yay!). I was shown to my room, which was huge by the way, AND had pink stripy walls that matched my outfit, I looked like I had purposefully gone in camouflage. The Grand Palace Hotel is an 87 room luxury hotel in the heart of the city, location was the most important aspect to me seeing as I had such a short amount of time to explore, but the luxury was definitely a welcomed bonus. The building was designed by architect Marcello Piacentini and is decorated in an opulent Italian style.
For those staying a little longer than me, there is a small but beautiful spa at the hotel, with a dimmed pool area, sauna and relaxing area, it would be a lovely peaceful way to spend the afternoon. The spa also boasts a Jacuzzi salt water system, fitness centre and a centre of well-being, where a selection of Asian-inspired hair, body and massage treatments are available. For those travelling in a couple, there is also a double treatment cabin.
After I had freshened up and put my things away, I headed out to see the sights! I wasn’t sure at first what was close by but the lovely ladies at reception gave me a map and circled all the places of interest.
My first stop was the Spanish Steps, a set of stairs joining the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti and the top. The stairway was designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi and is comprised of 174 steps built with money bequeathed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier. The stairs were constructed between 1723-25 and are one of the city’s most recognisable tourist attractions, I was actually shocked at how busy they were even in October, turns out I travelled during British half term, oops. At the base of the stairs are a collection of designer shops and also a great piazza for people watching!
I then walked through the winding streets towards the Trevi Fountain, my recommendation is to check how to get to places using the maps on your phone, but actually always walk along the streets next to the one the map is recommending because then they are quieter! The Trevi Fountain was heaving, this was by far the busiest of all the tourist traps I visited, however it was lined by barriers, which yes can be annoying to some, but it means you can actually admire the fountain itself easier with the crowd held back (you just need to throw your pennies harder to reach the water!). The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and is also one of the most famous in the world. If you want a bit of luck you need to throw a coin over your left shoulder, with your right hand, it is thought €3000 makes it into the fountain each day. With over €1.4 million thrown in in 2016, the money is used to subsidise a supermarket for the city’s homeless.
I then walked around 10 minutes up to Piazza Navona (passing by the Pantheon), a square built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in the 1st century AD, and still follows the form of the original open space. It started to be described as an open space in the 15th century when the city market was moved here, it was then transformed into a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture. Today the square was full of street sellers, mainly selling art (and roses!), as well as buskers, and is surrounded with cafes and restaurants. This is a great place to stop for lunch if you have time, or simply to enjoy a drink in the sun.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang around too long, time was of the essence and I wanted to end up at the Colosseum! Next for me was the Roman Forum which was around 25 minutes away. In usual style I didn’t walk along the main roads, I meandered my way around various streets, ended up in a flower market followed by a very pretty orange street, and then popping out into more smaller, much quieter residential areas. I did have to backtrack at one point though, back to the flower market, and then onto the Forum (through some more lovely narrow walkways and even past some ancient ruins!).
The Forum for me is one of the most fascinating places in the world, but if you know me, you know I am obsessed with history. This is not a place for those who tire hearing about a time before they were born, this is quite literally thousands of years of dramatic history standing right in front of you. The ruins you see here were once grand public buildings and the centre of the city, there was also a large market space and was simply known as the Forum.
This incredible place was once the epicentre of Roman life, it saw public elections, debates, speeches, criminal prosecutions and even gladiatorial matches. Statues and monuments would have been dotted left, right and centre and I imagine those who walked through here every day had absolutely no inclination that 2000 years later people would fly from all corners of the world just to come and look at it.
The Forum is now shadowed by the Colosseum, possibly Romes most recognisable and popular attraction. Some people will look at this place, snap a photo and leave, but I had to stand and stare for a while, take it all in and could literally feel the ancient power oozing from the walls. The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world and has been standing, fully completed, since 80 AD. It could once hold 50-80,000 spectators, this is just 10,000 less than Wembley Stadium! The average audience at an event was 65,000, this audience came to see many gladiatorial matches, as well as mock sea battles… yes they actually would flood the entire arena from time to time and bring the boats in for battle! Some poor sods were even publicly executed here… talk about lack of dignity hey! Many people wonder why the amphitheatre has a chunk missing, this is from two centuries of earthquakes alongside stone robbers, yes there are people who once stole parts of the actual structure!
I had walked around 25,000 steps by the time I had finished wandering around the Colosseum and I won’t lie, whilst feeling fulfilled with all that I saw, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel! Luckily there was a metro station right at the Colosseum and I made it back to the hotel within 15-20 minutes, door to door! I slept well that night, in a big comfy bed after an amazing shower with the fluffiest of towels. The next morning I woke up, scoffed my (delicious) breakfast, and unfortunately had to check out and head for the airport.
For anyone looking to visit Rome, I would highly recommend the Grand Hotel Palace Rome, with prices starting from around £177 per night. It’s not the cheapest but the location is convenient and everyone deserves a bit of luxury in life!
Click here to book.