Fifteen years ago I tossed a coin in the Trevi fountain. The saying has it that whoever does that will return to
Rome. It was one of my first journeys abroad, and at the time I couldn’t imagine going back to Italy. While I was away, my newborn sister was just learning to walk, so when I got back from the trip she was making her first steps.
Omnes Viae Romam ducunt
After all the twists and turns of life, there I was again, at the same place, observing my now sixteen-year-old sister, who has grown taller than me, toss her own coin in Trevi. Time has passed so fast, and yet, the fountain stood there in its very same splendor, mesmerizing the crowds of tourists fighting to take a photo. As if the figures carved in the stone couldn’t care less about human fate! I was particularly lucky to find a seat on the nearby ramp as the family sitting there got sick with the bustle and decided to flee. I wish I could sit peacefully in contemplation of Salvi’s beautiful sculptures, but I could hardly hear my own thoughts amidst the hundreds of people and the roaring water. I remembered watching a documentary about the fountain on Discovery Channel. Every week they stop the water to collect the coins, and the accumulated sum is then spent by the government to help the homeless. A noble cause, I thought. After a few more minutes we were ready to go – after all, we’ve been walking about 20 kilometers daily to visit every landmark.
Sightseeing in Rome
In case you are not sure what is a must-see in Rome, neither you have the time to read about it online before you go just walk in the nearest travel agency in your town and ask for their tours. They have pretty decent summaries of all the highlights. From there on, it’s up to you what to include on your to-do list. During my first visit all those years ago, I didn’t enter the San Angelo Castle – absolute mistake! As I walked up the tunnels and the corridors, I felt like I’m passing through different ages. Some older parts of the fortress feel like Tomb Raider. By the time I reached the top, I’ve discovered the most beautiful views of the city and the best photo spots.
Basically, every cathedral and every square in Rome are pieces of art, so wherever you go, you will find something noteworthy. As I am not the museum type of tourist, I prefer some less popular spots, such as the Non-Catholic Cemetery. My romantic heart drives me to pay a visit to the resting places of my favorite poets, so I just had to go. Besides, it is a few stops away from Colosseo by tram. You will know where to drop off when you see the top of the small Egyptian pyramid at Porta San Paolo. I honored the memory of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and Goethe’s son, and I had a walk around to find some other famous sculptures, such as the Angel of Grief. Talking about Romanticism and literature, yes, I did spend 7 Euro on coffee at Caffe El Greco, just because of its history, and it was worth it!
Some practical advice
OK, if you have already decided to visit Rome, you probably made your research on what to see and how much time to plan. I won’t go over this again because there’s plenty of information on the Internet. Here are some things I wish I knew beforehand:
- Buy all tickets online. Luckily, my travel agent has done that for me, so I found myself walking past the long queues to the Colosseum+Roman Forum+Palatino (one ticket, two queues) and the Vatican Museum. If you rely on buying the tickets on the spot, you will spend far more time and get too tired.
- The Vatican City – no matter what ticket you have, you have to go through the security check to enter St. Peter’s, where the queue is. It does go slow! If you want to make it to the Dome, be there at noon. Once you get past the security, there’s another queue to the lift. The timetable says the Dome works until 17:00, but at 17:00 it has already been closed and the last people who got in were getting out, which made me think I wouldn’t make it even if I was there at 16:30.
- Don’t buy water. Just bring along a plastic bottle – there are street fountains on every other corner. I was skeptical about its quality at first, but after observing several locals filling in bottles and drinking, I was ensured it was safe.
- Have fun! Rome is awesome!
To discover more about Rome and around, check out my guide about Tivoli.