The Eternal City
Rome gave the very name to Romance and the ‘Eternal City’ still sparkles with the age-old magic that has enchanted and enthralled generations of fun seeking visitors.
All Roads Lead to Rome
Travel to Rome of the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita, the Vatican and Three Coins in the Fountain – Rome has something for every traveller. Voted the favourite travel destination in Europe, this sparkling cosmopolitan city offers something for every traveller. Visit Italy and turn the clock back to ancient Rome – the timeless home of emperors and dictators, gladiators and lovers, popes and poets is alive and waiting just for you. It is often said that “All roads lead to Rome” – so why wait, book your tour today?
The capital and largest city of modern Italy, Rome lies near the west coast of the central Lazio region. The famed city of the ancient Roman Empire is the most celebrated archaeological site in Europe and is the true home of Western civilisation. No tour of Europe is complete without a stop at the Eternal City – it is an experience of a lifetime. A visit to Rome is a tourist’s dream, for the facilities are great, the food is wonderful and getting to all the exciting places is easy and cheap.
A millennium-long centre of power, culture and religion, Rome has exerted a huge influence over the world in its 2500 years of existence. The city is charged with an exciting cosmopolitan atmosphere, with excellent restaurants, opera, fashion and a great night life and it is absolutely loaded with grand romantic vistas. There are multitudes of historical heritage sites, centuries-old temples, palaces, churches and basilicas for the visitor to explore. Take a leisurely stroll through the winding streets and expect the experience of a lifetime, for just around the next corner Ancient Rome awaits you.
Visit the Colosseum of Rome
The Colosseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is truly the iconic trademark of ancientRome. It was built between 72 AD and 80 AD by Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty. It is arguably the most impressive structure of the entire Roman Empire, as well as being the largest building project of the era.
.The huge arena was erected on the site of an artificial lake, part of Nero’s huge park in the center ofRome, which also included the Domus Aruea and the nearby Colossus statue. The giant statue of Nero gave the building its current name. The Colosseum could hold up to 50 000 spectators, a monumental number for the time.
The Colosseum was used by emperors to entertain the public with free gladiatorial games. The games were a symbol of prestige and power, and were used as a way for an emperor to increase his popularity. This fascination with bloody spectacles on a grand scale is a characteristic of Roman life that can be very difficult for the modern mind to grasp, but it is likely that the emperors simply saw it as a safety valve to divert the urban mob from unrest and rioting.
Free bread, doled out to the entire populace of the city as a regular issue was another means of maintaining peaceful behaviour. These early forms of state socialism gave birth to the latin expression “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) – which has come to us as a cynical metaphor for appeasement by distraction. However, the rulers must have thought these measures as both important and entirely necessary, to put up with such an expensive drain on the imperial purse. For instance, hundred-day games were held by Titus, Vespasian’s successor, to mark the inauguration of the building in 80 AD.
Visit the Roman Forum
A short walk from the Colosseum, the ancient Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) is located in the valley between Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill. The Forum was the centre of political and social activity as it was the business district as well as the civic centre. It was expanded to include temples, a senate house, and law courts. The Forum is a huge complex of ruined temples, basilicas, and arches. However, when theRoman Empire fell its majesty was forgotten and it was used as a cattle pasture during the Middle Ages.
Although much of the Forum has been destroyed and many of the stone blocks have been removed and used to build nearby churches and palaces, the arch of Titus and the arch of Septimius Severus still stand in good shape. Titus was the emperor who sacked the great Jewish temple inJerusalem, and so the arch was built in his honour. Sculptures on this arch show the treasure of the Jews being taken through the streets ofRome. On the inside of the left leg of the arch is the famous sculpture of the Romans carrying away a Jewish menorah.
The arch of Septimius Severus depicts his victories in Iraq and Iran during the 3rd century. It was also built in honour of his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, who fought with him in the war. There was a period of time during which the Forum was buried; half the arch stood above the ground and was used to house a barbershop.
You can also visit the temple of Saturn, Basilica of Maxentius, the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and the Curia (senate house) in the Roman Forum. The consul Titus Larcius erected the temple of Saturn in 17 B.C. which had an underground chamber to store treasure. It was also used as the public treasury and repository for the decrees of the senate. After a massive fire in the fourth century the temple was enlarged and rebuilt in 42 B.C. Only eight columns of this temple remain, the right three belong to the temple of Vespasian and the rest to the left commemorate the emperor Phocas’s donation of the Pantheon to the Pope of Rome.
The Basilica of Maxentius is also known as the Basilica of Constantine and was built in the fourth century. It was the last structure built in the city that displays the magnificence of ancientRome. The Basilica is an enormous structure that was begun by Maxentius and completed byConstantine. It was used asRome’s public law courts. Modern basilicas derive their name from this structure.
The temple of Antonius and Faustina is the most well preserved building in the Forum. The emperor Antonius Pius built the temple in 141 AD in honour of his wife Faustina after her death. During the Middle Ages, the temple was temporarily changed into the church of San Lorenzain Miranda.
The Curia was the Roman Senate building and it is believed to have been constructed by Tullus Hostilius. It is the largest brick building in the Forum that still boasts a roof, as well as the original marble floor made out of Egyptian marble. The Curia was a church until 1937 when the fascist government decided to remove it in order to expose its original interior.
Visit the Roman Pantheon
The Roman Pantheon is the most well preserved and influential building of ancientRome. It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of paganRome. The brick stamps on the side of the building reveal that it was built between 118 and 125 A.D.
The Pantheon was built by the emperor Hadrian to replace the Pantheon of Augustus’s friend, Commander Marcus Agrippa, which burnt to the ground in 80 A.D. Hadrian built many temples during his reign, but only inscribed his name on the temple of his father Trajan. The Pantheon is still inscribed in Latin with the original dedication to Marcus Agrippa, rather than the name of Hadrian.
The original use of the Pantheon is unknown, except that it was classified as a temple. However, its structure is still radically different to other traditional Roman temples such as in the Roman Forum. It remains in such good condition because the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface the VII in 608 A.D and it has been used as a church ever since.
Visit the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian were the largest public baths or thermae inRome, covering 32 acres. The baths were used from 306 AD for more than 200 years and accommodated up to 3000 bathers. Besides the richly decorated baths and pools, there were two libraries, a garden, and an exedra, all made of marble. The exedra was probably used as a theatre and was in the place where Piazza della Repubblica is today.
The baths were built by Maxentius who named them after Diocletian, an emperor who had first been cast in a bad light by religious historians for his persecution of Christians, but who was actually a very fair and capable ruler. The baths were reduced to ruins after the invasion of the Goths in the fourth century. The remains of the thermae were later used for new buildings and churches in order to make way for the expanding city. The complex became part of theNationalRomanMuseum, which helped to preserve bits of the original structure, although much has been destroyed.
Visit Ancient Ostia
The ancient port of Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, is an incredibly well restored archaeological site that must be visited. It is a huge site and most of the ancient town has been restored. It truly gives a sense of what urban life would have been like in Roman times. Villas, public baths, warehouses, shops, taverns, tenements, temples, public buildings, tombs and a magnificent theatre are just a few of the things that are there to view.
Ostia is only a few kilometers from the city of Rome and is best reached by rail on the rapid transport system. You can use the normal BIT city ticket and the cost is only about € 3 return. It only takes about 30 minutes from the city center.
Take the Metro from Termini Station to Pyramide station and then walk across to the adjoining Porta San Paolo station on the commuting Ostia Lido line. Be sure to get off at Stazione Ostia Antica which is the last stop before the modern town of Ostia. It is then only a short walk to the entrance to the site. The area is huge and to see it all you will need to be prepared to do spend a full day and do a fair bit of walking – there is a restaurant on the site and plenty of welcome benches under shady trees if you prefer to take a picnic. Sometimes there are stage productions held at the well preserved ancient Roman theatre – what an experience!
Accommodation in Rome
Rome can be a relatively expensive city for accommodation, and hotels are often heavily booked. If you want a good choice of hotels and prices, it is best to book in advance. Although there are plenty of cheap and budget hotels in Rome, be aware that you tend to get what you pay for. The average price for a standard double room in a central three star hotel starts at around €120 per night, and a four star between €160 and €300. In Rome, price is often a better indication of quality rather than star rating. If you are looking for a budget B&B or rented rooms, you can find a double room for about €80 per night . Staying outside Rome’s central area is the cheapest option, obviously less convenient, but public transport is good and cheap. There are also many camp sites just outside the City.
Travel & Transport
If you are traveling within Europe, you can either travel to Rome by bus, train or by air. Italy has several major international airports, and a fairly good coverage of smaller airports, often served by budget airlines.
There are car-rental offices at airports and other strategic points in Rome; however, it is best to book in advance. Italy has a fairly comprehensive public transport system, and it is possible to tour without a car. Once you’re in the centre ofRome, you are best off on foot. Using public transport isn’t always straightforward, and you’ll need to do some advance research and plan around timetables if you want to avoid getting lost. A good map and guide book is essential
Rome on the Cheap
You can spend a week in Rome for very little, if you are canny and your timing is flexible. If you are not tied to a fixed schedule, Google one of the budget airlines and be prepared to snap up an incredible offer. I flew on Ryan air return from Stanstead airport, for the cost of the airport taxes – incredibly the flight itself was free! Aware that all baggage and any other extras would be charged out, I took only one small bag as hand luggage.
Rome’s second airport Ciampino is only about 30 minutes by shuttle bus to Rome’s central Termini station (cost E4), close to many budget hotels and youth hostels. I stayed at a youth hostel for under E25 per day, sharing a dorm with five lively youngsters and nobody seemed to mind, although put it politely, I do have the odd grey hair. Unexpectedly the hostel included a modest breakfast and even a plate of basic pasta at suppertime.
The sights of Ancient Rome are easily visited on foot from any of the hostels in the Termini area , which actually sprawls across the low hill of the Esquiline, one of the seven hills of ancient Rome. The underground metro is very cheap and you can get day passes and four day passes which are the most sensible. You can buy good food (and beer or wine) at the supermarkets for a fraction of the cost of a set meal and eat beside a bubbling public street fountain or on a park bench – although you might want to spoil yourself with a relaxed meal at one of the delightful sidewalk restaurants from time to time.
or a a leisurely hour or two spent at a pavement restaurant.
Most famous historical sites in Rome cost just a few euros to visit, and many are free (all churches) and you can also buy combo day passes and 3 day passes that are very cost effective, but to find yourself around so many interesting sites can be both time consuming and exhausting. If you have not planned your day trips in a sensible sequence, with the aid of a good guide book, Rome can be a very overwhelming place.
Tourist guides are expensive, but if your budget can stand it, there is no better way to get a stress free and enjoyable experience than to put yourself in the hands of a reputable guide. Hotels keep lists of recommended tour guides as do the many information bureaus – beware of the cousin of your taxi driver – he probably has less historical knowledge than your dustman back home.