Digital Editor Alex McDonald shares his top tips and an inclusive travel guide for a short break in ancient city of Rome
Ah, Rome. The City of Love. The Eternal City. The City of Seven Hills. Or that city that looks absolutely beautiful in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. If it’s not on your travel bucket list, it should be. There’s nowhere quite like it. But it can be a very intimidating place to visit if you’re unprepared for it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re going to need about three if you’re going to do it justice. Planning is essential. If you go to Rome without a plan you will be wandering around aimlessly and will waste most of your time, and if you want to save some money, time is not something you can waste. But luckily for you, you’ve found your way here, to an article written by someone who has not only been to Rome very recently, but also someone who has 100% completed Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood: You’re in safe hands with me!
Before You Travel
Like any holiday, there are a few things that you’ll need to sort out before you go. First and foremost, you’ll need to find a place to stay. Ignoring a proper hotel and looking for a little B&B will always be your best option; it saves you paying for any breakfast and the owners will be able to point you towards any nice restaurants in the local area. One thing I would stress is staying someone close to the Metro A Line, which gives you cheap and easy access to any tourist spots you want.
One thing that not many think to do, but could save you a fortune if this is your schtick, is download podcasts for all the sites you want to see. Tour guides are not only expensive but often also inefficient; trying to crane your neck to hear what they have to say over a crowd of twenty others won’t be how you want to spend your day at the Colosseum. You need to take it all in at your own pace. If you download a podcast tour, you have a front row seat to all the history you can devour that you can pause to take photos. Which brings me to my last recommendation:
On your first full day, you’re going to want to cover a lot of ground before your legs get too tired, but not too much that you’re knackered for Day Two and Three. Like every day, you’re going to want to get up early and head out as soon as you’re able. You should start your day by jumping on the Metro to Flaminio station and head straight up to the Terraza del Pincio which overlooks the Piazza del Popolo. From there, have a quick stroll down to the Spanish Steps and do your best to avoid anyone trying to sell you flowers or cheap trinkets.
Your next stop is the Trevi Fountain which will always be a full our tourists trying to get the perfect picture, so you may have to hang around for a while to get yours. But don’t worry, it will take some time to drink in the majesty of where you’re standing. And it’s definitely worth going back at night for a second viewing. A short walk away you’ll find the Pantheon, or perhaps more accurately it will sneak up on you. One moment you’ll be wandering through a thin street with immensely tall buildings and then next it appears as if from nowhere. And finally an even shorter walk than that and you’ll come across the beautiful Piazza Navona, which again is worth sampling at night and is the perfect spot for an evening meal.
The second day is dedicated to all the history buffs out there. It’s the biggest detour you’ll take from the Metro line but it’s worth the walk. Get off at Vittorio Emanuele station and head straight for the Colosseum. Queues here can be a nightmare, so booking your tickets in advance is definitely your best option. Let your podcast tour do the rest from there as you visit one of the most unique places on Earth. From there head over the road to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which I would say is the most essential place to have a podcast for. People who have seen Gladiator will get the gist of the Colosseum, but go to the Forum without a guide and you’ll be staring at nothing but rubble all morning.
With your Ancient History itch well and truly scratched, walk along the Circo Massimo towards the Boca della Verità; there’s not much to it, but it’s a cute little photo op. Then make the trek up the hill towards the Altar of the Fatherland, which was the biggest surprise for me when I visited Rome. It may look like a lot of steps, but it’s worth the climb for the gorgeous sprawling views of the city. And if you head round to the back, it’s worth the change in your pocket to head up to the top on the lift. It’s simply breath-taking.
Your third and, sadly, the final day will take you to the other side of the River Tiber and over to the Vatican City. Long queues and massive crowds have been a running theme in this guide, and the Vatican is no exception. Jump on the Metro to Ottaviano station and it’s a straight walk right into St Peter’s Square. You’re going to want to jump in the queue that circles the entire Square (which is really an oval), you can take your pictures on your way around. If you feel up to the challenge, take the precarious climb up to the top of the Basilica for more breath-taking views; but in all honesty, the walk up will leave you breathless and full of vertigo. After that, peruse the inside of the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel to your leisure.
Some guides will tell you to head down to the Terrazza de Gianicolo for its views, but you’ll have more than enough panoramic photos to fill a lifetime, so it’s not worth the long walk. Instead, head straight over to the Castel Sant’Angelo and make your way around this gorgeous fortress. And surprise, surprise, if you put the effort in and climb to the top you’ll find another great view which seems to situate you slap bang in the middle of Rome. Plus, there’s a cute little café with windows that look straight across to the Vatican. And with that, all your bases are covered.
While this is no means a complete guide to all there is to see in Rome, these are certainly the sites you cannot afford to miss. If you follow my instructions, you’ll have more than enough to do and still plenty of time to rest and eat gelato. So what are you waiting for? Book your flights and experience it for yourself! Or just get a second hand copy of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, it would be a lot cheaper.