Roma was built to be seen on foot, not through a car window. If you are hopping in an overpriced cab and jumping between each historical sight, you are missing the rhythm and tempo of life on the city streets of Rome. To put it in perspective, the Vatican Museums are a mere 5km (3.1 miles) from the Colosseum. Start your day off right. Schedule an audio or guided-tour at the Vatican’s main website. Get there early, the doors open at nine, and enjoy one of the world’s finest art collections. If you are a history and art enthusiast, you could spend days there, but for the average person it takes about 4 hours to experience the highlights.
Afterwards, head outside to a beautiful Roman day. Congratulate yourself; you’ve just visited a country within another country. Yes, the Vatican City is in fact its own nation. Now, cross the River Tiber. Grab a caffè and a pastry. Do not let the word “bar” intimidate you. A ”bar” is a cafe. Choose any establishment; you cannot go wrong. Once you’ve found your spot, sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Gaze upon buildings like the Castel Sant’ Angelo. 1500-year-old structures have a way of transporting you back in time.
Visiting ancient cities, such as Rome, offer the traveler an opportunity to look back at the majesty of previous centuries. As you sip your drink and rest your feet, take notice of life around you. Cars and Vespas maneuver down streets once flowing with chariots and Roman parades. Wide-eyed tourists, well-dressed Italians, and ordained priests all intermingle together on the walkways, once trafficked by the artists, architects and politicians of the Roman Empire. Take it all in. Many come and go, but few fully experience all this great city has to offer.
When your caffeine buzz and sugar high hit their peak, you are ready to take on the walk to the Colosseum. Don’t worry; there are plenty of stops along the way. Walk just a few short blocks and you have made it to the Piazza Navana. Take a couple selfies with the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro and Fontana di Nettuno. Grab another caffè if you would like, this is Italy, and as the saying goes, “When in Rome do as the Roman’s do.” Enjoy yourself; there is no rush.
When your Instagram is full of new photos, it is time to saunter over to the Pantheon, a brief 400 meters (1/4-mile). It is free to enter and the wait time is minimal. Once you have made your way in, gaze up at the magnificent dome structure. Notice the exposed oculus letting in the natural light. There is no glass above to disrupt the weather from entering the dome. Thus, when it rains in Rome, it rains in the Pantheon. Stay awhile, find a seat along the pews, and lose yourself in this awe-inspiring 1,800-year-old building.
Now walk 800 meters (1/2-mile) to the Altare della Patria. If you are hungry, stop anytime. Restaurants are plentiful around the Pantheon, though you will most certainly pay for the view. However, this journey is not about taking the easy road. Challenge yourself. Go down small side streets in search of a place to eat. Find a restaurant that is aesthetically appealing to you. Let the smells of the kitchen seduce you.
After finishing your midday meal, continue your walk to the memorial. Listen to the sounds of Rome. Live music is heard playing from the apartments above. Italians are passionate people, and it shows in their voices. Whether it be friends greeting one another, a lover’s quarrel, or a family eating together, they all have one volume – loud!
Once you arrive at the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), make your way up the commanding marble staircase of this striking national monument. When the staircase ends, there is a lift to the top of the building to experience Rome in 360 degrees. The view costs 7 euros, and it is one of the best in the city. Look southeast and you will be able to see the Colosseum, your last stop of the day. You are almost there. Head back down and continue your walk along the Via Dei Fori Imperiali.
The Colosseum stands tall, just as it did centuries ago. On your walk to the Amphitheater, take note of the excavated Roman sights along the way. As you approach the giant structure, there will be incessant hawkers attempting to sell you a bracelet or some other trinket. Do not let that stop you. You have come this far; finish what you started. If you make it to the Ancient Stadium before closing, and your feet can handle it, take a tour. If not, no problem, save it for another day. Walk the perimeter and do make sure to check out the Arch of Constantine.
As the sun sets on this ancient city, enjoy your accomplishments. In one day, you saw and experienced what many only dream of doing. You navigated the maze-like streets of Rome. You may have found a restaurant or gelato stand that you will recommend to family and friends. Know that no one can take this away from you. You saw Roma the way it was meant to be experienced – on foot!