Rome in 12 Hours

If there is one city I’ll never get tired of it’s Rome.  Whether it’s your first or tenth time visiting (or in my case fourth), there is an endless amount of richness to take in that seems to get better with familiarity.  That’s why I was excited to spend a night in Rome on my way back home from a 2-week trip around Greece (more on that soon!).  While one day is not nearly enough time to experience all Rome has to offer, I prefer to look at the glass as half full, that this bonus stopover was the perfect opportunity to revisit some of my favorite spots (and eat some amazing food).  So here’s a snapshot of our whirlwind tour around Rome.

12:00pm – Colosseum
We checked into our B&B near Termini train station and immediately hit the ground running.  To save some time (and our feet, which would shortly be put to the test) we hopped on the metro to our first destination, the Colosseum.  No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I find myself just as impressed and wide-eyed as the first time I visited the Colosseum.  Filled with a mixture of awe and amazement, we continued down Via dei Fori Imperiali, passing the Roman Forum and lesser credited Forum of Augustus.  This street is dripping with so much history that you can still feel it today despite the inevitable throng of tourists and obnoxious vendors pushing selfie sticks.

1:00pm – Capitoline Hill
Next we turned left and climbed up the road behind the Forum to reach the Campidoglio.  Designed by Michelangelo, this hilltop piazza caps one of Rome’s 7 hills – Capitoline Hill – and is distinguished by its perfect symmetry and monumental statuary.  It was originally intended that visitors approach the square from the giant staircase, which leads towards the statue of Marcus Aurelius at its center.  After descending the stairs we crossed the traffic-filled roundabout of Piazza Venezia, which sits at the foot of the grandiose Victor Emmanuel II Monument.  This temple-like structure pays homage to the first king of a unified Italy, and also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with its eternal flame and round-the-clock guard.

2:00pm – Campo de’ Fiore
Continuing through Rome’s bustling streets, our next stop was Campo de’ Fiore, a square that plays hosts to a market by day and al fresco bars and restaurants by night.  Its name meaning “field of flowers” dates back to the Middle Ages when it was just that.  While many of its vendors have gone over to the tourist dark side, it’s still a fun spot to browse, or perhaps pick up some fresh fruit for a snack or spices to take home.  If you do buy any produce, at the southeast end there is a nasone water fountain where you can wash your spoils before eating them.

3:00pm – Piazza Navona
Calories don’t count when you only have one day in Rome, so we were drawn to Il Fornaio (Via Dei Baullari, 5), a bakery we discovered last time we were in the city.  We purchased an assortment of cookies and headed to the nearby Piazza Navona to complement our snack with a view.  This is one of Rome’s prettiest squares, anchored by 3 Baroque fountains including Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers at the center.  Once a stadium (notice its long oval shape), Piazza Navona is now lined with restaurants along its outer edge and dotted with artists selling their work and other entertainers at night.

4:00pm – Pantheon Neighborhood
Another one of my favorite fountains in Rome is the one in Piazza della Rotunda in front of the Pantheon.  It’s a great spot for a photo op before slipping into the well-preserved, dome-capped temple that was once dedicated to the worship of all gods (admission is free, a plus).  You’ll notice visitors stepping to the center and looking up for a glimpse of the view through the Pantheon’s giant oculus.  As we continued to make our way through Rome’s Centro Storico we also paid a visit to the Trevi Fountain to check in on the status of its restoration work.  Last December, we were able to cross a temporary bridge over the fountain for an up-close look at the statues.  It looks as if the project to restore the fountain to its original brilliance is nearly complete, and is scheduled to fully reopen later this fall.  Even throughout restoration, a temporary pool has been set up to throw in a coin to ensure a visit back to Rome.

5:00pm – Via del Coroso
Next we made our way to Via del Corso, Rome’s version of 5th Avenue since the mid-19th century.  This grand shopping boulevard is perfect for an evening passeggiata when it’s closed off to traffic.  Via del Corso is remarkable in the sense that it forms a completely straight access, connecting Piazza Venezia in the south with Piazza del Popolo in the north.  When we reached the latter, we took some time to rest our feet while taking in the sights on this square, including the 2 almost identical churches – Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto – that frame Via del Coroso.  Continuing down Via del Babuino (the street on the left if you’re facing the churches), we headed towards our last stop before heading back to the B&B for a nap and to freshen up before dinner, Piazza di Spagna.  The impressive stairs that share the same name (thanks to the nearby Spanish Embassy to the Vatican that has been located here for centuries) are a popular spot for people to gather both day and night.

8:00pm – Dinner  
We definitely worked up an appetite today so were more than ready to head out again for dinner.  Thanks to a recommendation from a trusted local friend, we had our sights set on Emma Pizzeria (Via del Monte della Farina, 28).  Our meal started off with Aperol Spritz to drink and an assortment of antipasti that included supplì (stuffed rice balls) and fiore di zucca (zucchini flowers with mozzarella) and an inslata mista (mixed green salad), followed by some of the most delicious pizza we’ve had in Rome (perhaps that’s an overstatement, but it was pretty damn amazing).  When in Rome…

11:00pm – Vatican
Following dinner we crossed the Tiber River at the bridge leading up to Castel Sant’Angelo and had one more stop to make before calling it a night.  We purposely saved the Vatican for the evening since last time we were in Rome St. Peter’s Basilica wasn’t illuminated for some reason.  But first, no trip to Rome would be complete without including in gelato.  After searching for the perfect spot for some time, our oasis was found at Lemongrass Gelato (Via Barletta, 1) just north of the Vatican.  With our 2 heaping cups of the delicious treat, we found a spot under the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square and reflected on all of Rome’s beautiful spots we saw that day.

ON THE MAP

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