Rome, the Italian City filled with intrigue for centuries will always have a place in my heart but, maybe not for the reasons you might think.
Of the many beautiful places on my list to visit in Italy, Rome was close to the top. The City itself is indeed beautiful but, like any other City it also has it’s rough edges and homelessness and pick pockets appears to be as rife as you’d see in any other cities around the world. However, this shouldn’t stop you visiting these beautiful cities. If anything, that boost to economy that us tourists bring will/should contribute to it’s society, politics aside.
My partner and I came to Rome during our birthday week (we are literally 4 days apart!) and this was our joint birthday present to each other. Clearly unbeknownst to us at the time we booked it what was to come a year later, that being COVID. This post itself is not about the pandemic per se but that of our time here during it.
We had booked a nice little apartment through Airbnb about a five minute walk from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. The location itself was quite central to everything we wanted to see and everything was within walking distance. Everything in the news about COVID up until this point in the UK didn’t appear to be taking it as serious as Italy were during our time here. Everywhere was very quiet by normal city standards. In some ways, selfishly, it was great to get round all the attractions we wanted to see with few tourists in the photos. The ‘tourist’ littered photos of the Spanish Steps felt like a thing of the past as we walked up them numerous times free of stepping on anyone’s feet. The famous Colosseum free of ‘selfie’s’ pointing at the stunning arena and the empty street leading up to St Peter’s Basilica.
Italy and it's lockdown
It became evident about half way through our time in Rome how serious the Italian government were taking it. Social distancing and cues outside the local supermarkets became a popular site and even a curfew at night! We had the basic language understanding of a few keys words but certainly not enough to understand the local news channel. The curfew only became apparent to us when we went to visit the Trevi Fountain at night (because i thought it would be a great photo lit up) and we were shouted at by the Police to go back to our apartment!
The following day Italy had changed overnight. The streets were unbelievably quiet. St. Peter’s Basilica had news teams outside stopping people to ask about their thoughts and were they stranded in Italy. This caught our interest as at this point we were unaware that Italy was about to lockdown it’s country. We then found out that our tour operator advertised their last flight out of the country was for the following day (a day earlier than scheduled). Our trip suddenly lost it’s sparkle while we tried in vain to get in touch with our tour operator to make sure we were on the last flight to the UK. Luckily, after my partner’s suggestion, we tried their online chat to secured the last couple of seats home.
Rome is without doubt a beautiful city. If you like Architecture, Museums and History then our Rome travel guide has it all. We literally visited everywhere with ease and in some cases visited some places more than once. The footprint of the main attractions is small. We hike a lot in general so to us it was easy enough to get around with ease and without rushing. However, there were many taxi’s, buses/trams available should you wish to hop on and off to save your feet a little pounding.
We also stopped many a time to admire the views either with a coffee or aperol spritz! The food is to die for so certainly took advantage of some true Italian dishes along with our new found love for Pecorino Toscana…cheese! Which we have since discovered is hard to come by in the UK and only found in Fenwicks Food Hall or Italian week at Lidl!
Must See Places to Visit in Rome
Rome is a beautiful city with so many things to see and do. I’ve listed below the key places we visited during our short time in Rome along with a few hidden gems at the bottom of this post. Our Rome travel guide will help you see the best if you are only here for the weekend.
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple and since the year 609 a Catholic church, in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It was rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated c. 126 AD.
Located on the East side of the River Tiber not far from the Trevi Fountain. As you approach it’s 16 towering columns you start to feel like are a Lilliputian with the height of these monoliths! And, none more so than when you enter through the grand door to reveal the open dome above your head. It can be quite overwhelming when you enter, it just makes you feel so tiny.
There was a ‘roped’ type system which is meant to guide the flow of people around inside. Not sure if this was because of COVID or just in general but not many people followed it. The inside is steeped in history. Plenty to read and see but the best part and, probably the main reason for everyone’s visit, is to see the dome.
Inside the Pantheon?
The height of the Dome is the same as it’s width so creating this ‘balance’. It’s hard to describe other than everything feels aesthetically pleasing. It was certainly a challenge from a photography point of view. Trying to get an image of the Dome with the light entering the centre opening without the sky blown out is/was very tricky. As with most churches/temples in Rome and other countries for the matter, tripods are not allowed making the composure a little more tricky.
How to get there?
Staying within the City of Rome makes all attractions accessible. Everything is within walking distance. One minute you are visiting the Spanish Steps and the next you are at Trevi Fountain.
CLICK HERE for directions from the airport show you wish to travel in to the city.
CLICK HERE to search for your stay with AirBnB.
Or, if you would prefer a hotel then CLICK HERE for booking.com.
Heading Towards the Vatican
Ponte Sant’Angelo, originally the Aelian Bridge, is one of the many bridges in Rome that cross the River Tiber. This is the main bridge we crossed many a time to head over towards Vatican City. It is solely for pedestrians and provides a perfectly aligned view of Castel Sant’Angelo.
It has a great composition with the leading lines of each side of the bridge and, the paving footpath, all leading towards the Castel Sant’Angelo.
When you cross over this bridge you need to turn left to head towards St Peter’s Basilica but before you…turn right. That is if you love coffee! There is a very quaint place called the ‘Bibliobar’ and they serve great coffee within a tree lined avenue.
You can find a picture of this quaint little coffee shop at the bottom of our Rome travel guide. Once you’ve had your coffee fix just head back to the Castel Sant’Angelo. From there you can see St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance so you really can’t get lost. As you can see from the photos below it was really quiet for us while we were there. Sadly, and understandably, St. Peter’s Basilica was closed to visitor’s. Of all the photographs i had in mind to take whilst in Rome the Bramante Staircase was the one i was after. Sadly, the Vatican Museums were all closed as well.
However, all was not lost though. Just walking the streets and admiring the history and architecture around the Vatican City was definitely one of my highlights of Rome even though it felt like a ghost town. From a composition point of view it was a little tricky to capture the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica with all the barrier’s placed everywhere. The bottom left photo would have looked better slightly to the left where i could have captured the peak of the Basilica but, that side was littered with stacked barriers. You can see from the bottom right image how quiet the streets were. I imagine during it’s peak season prior to COVID you would have struggled to move!
How to get there?
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, or simply Saint Peter’s Basilica, is located in Vatican City.
If you are staying within the City then click on the google map to your right and get directions. Unfortunately for us, due to the imminent lockdown, we never got to go inside the Basilica. However, the walk leading up to it is stunning.
CLICK HERE for information on St Peter’s Basilica. It’s history and opening times and prices.
A Rome travel guide wouldn’t be a travel guide without a visit to the famous Colosseum.
The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, just east of the Roman Forum. It is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and is still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world today, despite its age.
The Colosseum was within walking distance from our apartment and thus very close to other attractions such as the Trevi Fountain etc. As a result, we probably visited this area around 3-4 times during our time in Rome and every time we just fell in love with the awe of the Colosseum. Again, due to COVID we didn’t actually get to go inside – even though we’d recently purchased tickets. Had we used the tickets on the day of purchase we would have made it inside. As mentioned earlier, the country was starting to lock down it’s country and each day before our departure everywhere was slowly closing their doors to the public. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our time wandering around the outside the ancient gladiatorial arena.
I’m not sure whether the all the barriers were for normal cueing or for COVID purposes to stop people getting too close so it changed the composition of some images. I focused more on the top half as i loved the arches lit with the sun throughout varies times of the day and, more so in black and white. The shot to the far right below was a cheeking ‘poke lens through barrier’ shot. You can just make out the centre of the Colosseum through the arches. Made me think back to the movie ‘Gladiator’ walking into the arena to meet their fate.
There is so much more to see around the Colosseum including the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum, is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum.
The Roman Forum itself is also only a 4 minute walk to the famous Capitoline Museums so you can easily spend a full day here surrounded by the historical ruins of Rome.
How to get there?
The Colosseum is perfectly situated within the grounds of the Roman Forum. You can buy combined tickets to see the Colosseum with the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
CLICK HERE for more information about those tickets and opening times etc.
If you just want to visit the Colosseum then CLICK HERE. You will find opening times, prices etc.
Piazza Navona is a public open space in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in the 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans went there to watch the agones, and hence it was known as “Circus Agonalis”.
This is a great place to sit down and relax and let time fly by whilst you admire the scenery. The statues at each end are stunning. The detail is incredible. And, for an interesting photo, you can shoot through one of the statues to capture the colourful building’s similar to the one top left at the start of this post.
Navona square is located in the centre of Rome in the district of Campus Martius and is only 300 metres from the Pantheon. That’s the one thing we loved about Rome, everything is so close together and easily accessible by foot. We were told by a local that pre-COVID this square is very lively with numerous cafes, terraces and street performers. During our visit most of the cafes were closed, no street performers to be seen and very, very quiet. We’d love to come back after things get back to normal to experience this square to it’s full.
The square has three famous fountains. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro and Fontana di Nettuno. The square has also featured in the film Angels and Demons with Tom Hanks running through the square.
The church in the photo above is of Sant’Agnese in Agone which sits opposite the fountain Fontane dei Quattro Fiumi. Apparently you can go all the way to the top to get a panoramic view of the square and most of the cities surroundings. Again, due to the start of the pandemic this was closed to visitors. If we come back again then I’ll be definitely up there to take in the views.
How to get here?
Piazza Navona serves some of the best food that Rome has to offer. So popular for restaurants that you can see it on the Google Maps image! *Hint* It’s the street littered with cutlery icons!
It’s a very popular place for locals and tourists. Great place to stop for lunch after you’ve visited the Trevi fountain.
To find it, just click on the google map image and put in directions from wherever you are. As mentioned previously, if you enjoy walking then everywhere is within walking distance.
Inside the Churches of Rome
I have reached my favourite section. There are many things to be in awe at within Rome but none more than inside their Churches. The intricate detail of the ceilings of every Church we visited in Rome is simply stunning. Even if you don’t have a ‘thing’ for ceilings within your photographic genre you still can’t help but admire their photogenic ability.
As with other Churches around the world it’s hard to wander in with a huge tripod without being questioned. So, armed with this knowledge i just used my 10-24mm wide angle lens that luckily had some stabilisation built in. Most of the Churches we visited in Rome had signs that said no photography yet every one around you was just stood taking pictures! I found this a little confusing as most in the UK are okay but without a flash. No-one appeared to be stopping these people so I used the opportunity to capture a few images.
I’ve lost count with how many Churches we popped into just to look at their ceilings! Each one had something different and can give you a great collection of images if you appreciate them as much as i do. The middle image above is the ceiling within the Sant’lgnazio Church. What’s different about this you might ask? Well this photo is actually a reflection of the ceiling in a purposefully placed mirror! For those that want to admire the ceiling without the neck strain then this is the Church to visit. Plus it also has a slight magnifying affect so you can see the intricate details really well. The only trick here was to position the camera to take a photo of the ceiling without catching your own image in the mirror at the same time.
To find the Sant ‘Ignazio Church then follow this link to Google Maps. It will make it a lot quicker to find from wherever you decided to stay.
Fontana di Trevi
Save the best to last? Our Rome travel guide wouldn’t be complete without The Trevi Fountain. A stunning fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini and several others. Standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.
The Trevi Fountain was literally a five minute walk from our apartment and we used every opportunity to pass it on our way to another location. As you can imagine this place is really busy. Even during our time there at the start of the pandemic it was one of the most busiest places at anytime.
Hence why i came back one evening to miss the tourists to only be ordered by to our apartment by the police! So it is a difficult place to capture a tourist free photograph. My only advice would be come just before sunrise to maybe capture an almost tourist free image.
If you have a zoom lens you can capture some unique angles by cropping in close to the statues and make it look like you were there on your own. Most people want to capture it from the top steps but you can actually get right to the front with no-one else in front of you other than the water.
An interesting fact about the Trevi Fountain is that it’s one of the oldest water sources in Rome. The fountain dates back to ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C. that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome.
From the Trevi Fountain you can head to the Pantheon via the Bartolucci Store and sit with Pinocchio. The store is filled with hand made wooden toys and items with a particular reference to Pinocchio. Although the original location of Pinocchio’s story is Tuscany you can’t help but feel part of it in the middle of Rome. If you are quick you can get your friend to capture a quick snap of you sat next to him!
How to get here?
Trevi fountain is simply stunning and literally a stone’s throw away from the Spanish Steps. It is well policed. Not sure if this was due to the start of the pandemic or, simply there as a deterrent to stop people going into the fountain.
As with all the fabulous places to see within the City of Rome expect it to be busy. From a photography point of view I’d get there for sunrise.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the history of Trevi Fountain.
CLICK HERE for a Google Map link from the Spanish Steps to Trevi Fountain. Less than a ten minute walk!