24 Hours in Rome

December 27, 2011| Italy | Rome| Cities

Finding yourself in Rome for 24 hours can be frustratingly all-too-short or be seized as the chance to sample a taster of this wonderful city – it’s all about your state of mind.

Rome is a large city with several distinct areas, so it’s better to do one area well and really savour every moment rather than trying to cover every highlight and failing miserably. The Vatican City is a city state in its own right. If you want to climb the dome on St Peter’s Basilica, marvel at the Sistine Chapel, stroll around St Peter’s Square and lose yourself in some of the 1400 rooms which make up the Vatican Museums, then this is the place for you to spend the whole day.

Those interested in Ancient Rome or are on a first visit to this unique and historic city should head for Capitoline Hill and the Colosseum, between which lies the civic centre of the Eternal City.

Start at the top of Capitoline Hill at Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campigdoglio with ita magnificent views. Admire the two elegant palaces on either side of the piazza which house the Musei Capitolini. The colossal statue of Emperor Constantine is part of this important collection of sculptures and treasures. An underground passage takes visitors to the Palazzo Nuovo collection and if you are in need of refreshments, there is a delightful museum café with an outdoor terrace in a stunning location. Stick to drinks and snacks here and move on, as the food is nothing special. Still on the hill, the Santa Maria in Aracoeli is a jewel of a church with a stunning interior, approached via a long staircase.

The next stop is the Roman Forum, reached down the street to the left of the Palazzo Senatorio. Once the political and civic centre of Ancient Rome, the majestic architectural remains still dominate Rome’s centre.  Tickets are required to enter the Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill and the Colosseum. Enter this magnificent former city along the Via Sacra and prepare to be amazed. To the right of the entrance is the Basilica Aemilia, a 2nd century BC meeting hall for traders. The Curia Giula was the Senate House and the current structure was built by Emperor Diocletian in 283AD. The huge bronze doors can now be seen gracing the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano.

Ahead is the Arch of Septimus Severus, a triumphal triple arch which marked the victory over the Persians with carved scenes of the battle still evident on the stonework. Opposite the Arch is theRostra, or Speaker’s Platform, used for public announcements. You can almost see the Roman official, toga flapping as he unrolled his parchment edict.

The massive Ionic columns are all that remain of the Temple of Saturn, once used as the Treasury and the most important temple in the Forum. The flat area with column bases was the Basilica Giulia which housed the civil courts. If you look carefully you can still see the games of marbles inscribed on the steps 2,000 years ago. Nearby are the remains of the Temple to Castor and Pollux and the Temple of Caesar.

More magnificent buildings await as you walk back along the Via Sacra. The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was converted into a Baroque Church in the 12th century and beyond it the Temple of Romulus is hard to miss with its magnificent bronze doors, circa 309AD. Opposite is the path to the House of Vestal Virgins, who kept the sacred flame of Rome burning within the circular temple. Just up the hill, look up at the three arches dominating the skyline. These are the massive brick remains of the Basilica Maxentius and Constantine.  Finally, pay tribute to the triumphal Arch of Titus before entering Palatine Hill, the oldest inhabited part of Rome. This pleasant green space was the favourite place for Roman leaders to live and there are still numerous palaces to be enjoyed. Stroll the Farnese Gardens before taking the underground passageway to the House of Livia, one of the best preserved houses in this area.

South of the gardens, explore the Domus Flavia and, if time permits, visit the Museo Palatino which has artifacts from ongoing excavations, before looking around for somewhere to eat. Generally restaurants are a little pricey in the Forum area, but the Enteca Cavour 313 is recommended on Via Cavour. Their hot crostini makes a great starter with a glass of wine while you peruse the seasonal menu.

One final expedition must be to the Colosseum which is open until 7.15 pm in the summer. It is particularly attractive when lit up after dark and is the perfect place to end your day in Rome.