Rome weekend breaks
Going to Rome for a weekend off? Here are some suggestions to make your stay an experience to remember, rather than a bewildered endless walk from one sightseeing spot to another.
Rome is full of ruins from its distant and not so distant past. Ask yourself what part of this past you are interested in, and set up a few really interesting places to visit. There is no need to spend a day among the ruins of the Forum Romanum if you don’t know anything and don’t want to know anything about the really ancient Rome! Rome is also full of museums, huge ones and tiny ones. Pick one of the lot, and enjoy a thorough visit with plenty of time – if you don’t have to speed through four or five of them, chances are you will remember what you see. Of course, if you choose the Vatican museums, you could spend a lifetime and still miss out on half of the content, so a large museum may need a second choice. Visit one or two departments, and pass through the rest…it is permitted, you know.
So here are a few ideas:
You are on your first weekend visit, and you want to smell, feel and taste the essence of the city, with a little culture and history thrown in. Can you stand passing up the complicated remains of the ancient political and economical hub, the Forum Romanum? If you know some ancient history, it may actually be nice to walk where Caesar and Cicero once trod, and you could do that without identifying every last bit of brick wall, column drum and pavement.
If on the other hand you want only a quick glimpse of life in ancient Rome, go to the Colosseum! This amphitheater from the first century AD is truly spectacular, and you can readily imagine the wild animals being hauled up in cages from under the floor, the gladiators attacking them and each other on the bloodied sand and the throngs of people screaming their support from the stands.
After this you might need something quieter, so I would suggest a visit to the church of San Clemente, where you can walk through a Rome gone by, from antiquity to the middle ages. The church is like a layer cake: deep down underground you find a Mithaeum, a shrine to the god Mithras who was popular among soldiers in the first century AD. Here they met to their secret and sacred rites, and you can still see an altar and dining couches where the members of the cult reclined. On top of this sanctuary is a very early Christian church from the 4th century AD, and on top of this again is the church you see today, from around 1100. In the apse behind the altar there is a lovely mosaic with Christ in the middle, on a cross grown into a tree of life.
Consider this culture enough? Well, then get yourself to Piazza Navona to relax among lots of artists selling their work, performers swallowing fire, and a choice of nice cafés along the perimeter. Enjoy a cappuccino or espresso, and look out over the bustling piazza. You might even notice that it keeps the form of the ancient racetrack (horse racing and chariot racing was popular in the time of the Roman emperors).
For dinner, walk among the small alleys connecting the Via del Corso, the Via di Ripetta and the Via del Babuino – the three shop-lined streets radiating out from the circle of the Piazza del Popolo. Here you will find a choice of small restaurants in picturesque surroundings. Wanting something more down to earth and every-day-Roman, you can try the Piazzale Flaminio, the traffic hub adjacent to the dignified Piazza del Popolo, but take care not to get overrun by cars, mopeds and busy streams of people getting home from work! The small market outside the railway station might also interest you…
Now you have had a glimpse of ancient Rome, got a feeling for its long and continuous history, seen the energy of its modern city life and hopefully eaten some good things. If there still is some time before you have to catch your flight home I would suggest you be adventurous and take a bus or tram just about anywhere, and go for a stroll in ordinary Roman surroundings. Make sure to remember the stop where you get off, so you find it again when it’s time to get back! Spend your time visiting the local cafés, the local grocery or flower market, buy a pice of pizza to eat as you go, light a candle in the neighborhood church and sit a while on a bench in the sun, letting Rome seep into your soul…