Guest Post: Walking in Italy
Two Hours on the Streets of Rome
written by Thomas Dowson
Two hours in Rome … am I serious? Yes, very! When sightseeing in Rome most visitors head straight to the obvious attractions, and with good reason.
Of course you should not miss the Colosseum. Not only is this the iconic symbol of Rome, both past and present, it is probably one of the most recognisable archaeological sites in the World. Besides, the preservation of this spectacular monument is extraordinary.
And there are many other equally amazing monuments from Rome’s classical and eary Medieval past that are on most lists of must-see sites to visit. The Pantheon, Hadrian’s Mausoleum, the Roman Forum, the Baths of Caracalla – the list goes on. Then of course do not forget the churches and museums, and there are lots of those.
Instead of rushing from one site to another, one museum to the next, because lets face it, you will not see them all (unless you really do have unlimited time), why not stay on the streets for a few hours.
There are ancient remains all over the city, even in MacDonald’s at the central station.
Rome really is one big archaeological site, and there are all manner of remnants from the city’s glorious past on almost every street corner. A two-hour stroll, exploring these less publicised remains, can be as rewarding as heading to the more obvious choices scattered about the city.
There are ancient remains all over the city, even in MacDonald’s at the central station. Obviously some areas have more concentrations than others. So choosing almost any route could be fun, and made all the more interesting with a decent guidebook with user-friendly maps (the best, in my opinion, is the Rome Oxford Archaeological Guide by Amanda Claridge).
But, if you are looking for a suggestion, I can recommend an essentially circular walk starting at the Colosseum, going round the the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Hill and the Palatine Hill, ending at the Circus Maximus with options at the end.
Get yourself to the Colosseum Metro station and then walk along the Via dei Fora Imperiali away from the Colosseum, towards the great, big white Vittorio Emanuele Monument, sometimes called the ‘wedding cake’. At that point, turn left and follow the Via del Teatro di Marcello down to the River.
At the ancient theatre the road becomes Via Luigi Petroselli. At the park with the round temple, turn right onto one of the roads leading to the Circus Maximus. Walk up the length of the circus, and at the top you can either turn left into Via di San Gregorio (which lead back up to the Colosseum), or head straight along the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla to visit the Baths of Caracalla. Or, get on the metro in front of the UN offices and head out to Ostia Antica.
The following photographs are just some of the remains you will encounter on this route.
Leaving the Colosseum, the first substantial building, on your left, is the back of the so-called New Basilica – all that remains are the 25 m hugh, barrel vaults of the northern aisle. To go into the basilica you will have to visit the Roman Forum.
Further down the road you are surrounded by archaeological remains of Rome’s ancient forums. The Roman Forum on your left, and the Imperial Forum on your right. There is no more historic place in Rome than here, even for the ancient Romans this area was something of a monument to their past.
Across from the Vittorio Emanuele Monument is the famous Trajan’s column. This 38 metre high column celebrates Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars.
Tucked away in the shadow of the great white monument are these surprisingly well preserved frescoes, open to the elements and vehicle pollution. They are all that remains of a church dedicated to Saint Rita. The fresco depicts Christ descending from the cross between the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Apostle.
This theatre was initially planned by Julius Caesar, but completed later by Marcellus. From the eleventh century on it was increasingly incorporated into various town houses by rich Roman families. Today the palazzo is divided several smaller apartments.
The picturesque but obviously named ‘Round Temple’ was dedicated to an unknown god, hence its generic name. To the right of this temple is the Temple of Portunus, one of the most intact of the ancient temples in Rome.
The Roman track of the Circus Maximus is a few metres under the current ground level, but you still get a good idea of the size and scale of this ancient sports arena. To the right at the bottom end of the track is a small cafe that serves the best hot chocolate I have ever had. The pastries are not that bad either!
Heading up the road from the Circus towards the Colosseum you will pass under the remains of the aqueduct that supplied water to the enormous baths on the Palatine Hill.
There are so many more ruins and remains on this circular walk. There really is nothing wrong with just following the route and enjoying the many and varied sights. But I do recommend getting a good guidebook. Not only are there very few information boards posted along the way, what might at first look like a pile of old stones turns out to be the remains of the arcades of an important triumphal way. Knowing this, I think adds to the enjoyment of these ruins.
Can’t get to Rome, have a look at the sites on the following Google map.
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