With less than 2 days to visit, we had a whirlwind visit to Rome. This part of our trip report focuses on Ancient Rome and the other popular sights in Rome.
To see OUR 28 HOUR ROME Itinerary, click our post Rome Wasn't Built in a Day here.
This itinerary was ONLY possible by having a great travel agent (in our case Matteo at Fuoritinerario) manage the logistics, providing private guides with skip the line access and drivers who dropped us door to door, eliminating travel time on foot or public transit. When not with our drivers or guides, we were maximizing our time on our own using Rick Steve's Pocket Rome guide book.
Campo di Fiore Market
We hit Campo di Fiore market right around the corner, for snacks and souvenirs, and enjoyed the fact that in early October, we were able to find a few locals among the tourists! Although, it really has become a "tourist" market, there are still a few butchers, veggie stands and and cheese mongers that look like they serve locals. The pre packed spice packs, cheap leather handbags and other geegaws look like they are targeted to the tourists. We particularly enjoyed the "entertainment"...this fellow held the attention of a huge crowd, and sold more than a few of these including one to yours truly!
After refueling we met our guide in our hotel lobby for a private tour of the Vatican, including the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel) and St Peter's Basilica. See our post about the Vatican here)
After the Vatican tour we returned to hotel for pizza lunch at the shop around the corner and rest at the hotel.
We had arranged for tickets to the Borghese Gallery for a timed entrance from 5-7 PM. This scheduling allows for relaxed and statue safe touring of the galleries. Visitors are strictly limited, so get timed tickets well ahead of time during the busy seasons. Although cameras are allowed, absolutely all bags, strollers, and selfies sticks must be checked at the basement (level -1) bag check station before heading into the gallery (levels 0 and 1).
We followed Rick Steve's Pocket Rome excellent Borghese Gallery Tour to maximize our time there. As we shuffled along quietly with other guests, we found ourselves chuckling out loud at his humorous descriptions of the art.
The galleries are in the former villa of the Cardinal Borghese filled with art commissioned and collected during a time when the religious heads of the Church were known as the "princes" of the Church and were the political power brokers in the early 17th century. Today, the the complex is a huge public garden and the villa has been re-purposed as a museum to showcase some of the best baroque art of the period, much of it paintings by Michelangelo Caravaggio and sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The sculpture is truly magnificent. It's hard to fathom someone creating such life like forms from a block of stone...but there it is, looking so real, that you can feel the emotion and see the movement of the people and their very skimpy "Greek revival" clothing. (Jeff chose to process these sculptures as black and white images in order to better communicate the sculptures without the distraction of color.
Click on any image below to expand, detail from Bernini- Rape of Proserpine, David. and Raphael Desposition
Heart of Rome Rick Steve's walk
We did the reverse of Rick Steve's 1 mile "Heart of Rome" Walk. We had just enough time to do this walk as an evening walk, which Rick recommends this and it was beautiful to see Rome beautifully lit at night. We walked from the Borghese Gallery through the beautiful park that surrounds the villa, to the Spanish Steps.
We were certainly not alone enjoying the "romantic" Spanish Steps. One couple was there for their wedding photos and selfie stick toting visitors were nearly knocking them in the head as they tried to find a clean background for photos on the steps with the iconic church towers. Here's is how you make everyone disappear:
TA DA!! A tiny bit of patience and get low, low, low, and you too can make your picture of the Spanish Steps look like no one else was there!
We continued along the streets of Rome to the Trevi Fountain.
We tossed in our penny, thus assuring our return to Rome and headed towards the Piazza Colonna, seeking the Giolitti's, the gelato shop detour mentioned in Steve's book.
Back on Rick Steve's tour after our "gelato dinner" we entered the Piazzo Rotunda to get a view of the Pantheon, which was closed, but beautifully lit.
After exploring the piazza and the Pantheon, we made our way towards the Piazza Navona. Where we found another Bernini fountain, the 4 Rivers Fountain.
Rick's walk begins (or in our case, ENDS) in Campo di Fiore, which has a lively nightclub scene in the evening, by this hour, the market was cleared out and people were enjoying the outdoor cafes and area nightclubs.
Ancient Rome Walking Tour
We started our day, meeting our guide and driver at our hotel for a ride to the Colesseum. Our guide arranged for skip the line entry to the Colesseum, and she took us through the ancient structure, providing context for this huge entertainment complex that was the center of ancient Rome.
After touring the Colosseum, we walked through the rest of the preserved ancient Roman ruins.
Arch of Constantine
View of Rome from Capotoline Hill
With a very short time to visit Rome, we maximized our time in Ancient Rome by depending on a great travel agent to plan our itinerary, and who engage good guides who could skip the lines and put what we were seeing in context. But we also went with the budget plan using Rick Steve's tour. We were able to have an enjoyable, humorously narrated visit to the Borghese gallery and enjoy the art and architecture in the "Heart of Rome" . What we learned is that there are options for every budget, but the most important part is careful planning for a short visit!
For more on Rome, see our Vatican Trip Report