There were plenty of planned tours to purchase onboard the ship, however, we made the decision to explore Rome on our own which involved a coach taking us on the 90 minute journey to the city and leaving us to our own devices for several hours.
The coach dropped us a mere five-minute walk from the Colosseum and armed with just a basic map of the city and a rough idea of what we wanted to see we headed off in search of history.
It was the Arch of Constantine that came into view first which is sat between Palatine Hill and the Colosseum and is the largest Roman triumphal arch and is an impressive sight in itself.
We thought Pompeii had been busy the day before, but nothing prepared us for how busy the Colosseum was, with queues of an 90 minutes just to get inside. Thankfully we happened upon a tour group outside that was offering a guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine and Roman Forum for €30 each (just the entry charge of €18 for under 18’s) and guaranteed immediate entry.
We had all come prepared with bottles of water to get us through the day but sadly these, and other liquids, were not allowed inside so we all had to pour our water away – keep hold of your bottles though as there are plenty of free fountains to refill them around the city. We also saw sunscreens and deodorants all confiscated too, so it is worth bearing this in mind if you plan to visit.
The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre built of concrete and sand and is the largest amphitheatre ever built. Our guide was hugely knowledgable about the Colosseum and pointed out things we never would have noticed had we gone in unaccompanied and explained how it was partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers.
Our guide was with us inside the Colosseum for around half an hour before leaving us to explore and take photo’s. I could not get over the scale of the building which could once hold between 50,000 – 80,000 people to watch gladiators fight, re-enactments and even animal hunts.
They are partially rebuilt the stage to help show how big it would have been and under the stage you can still see all the corridors, changing rooms etc that the gladiators would have used.
Once finished we met a second guide outside who was to give us a tour of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Palatine Hill s the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city standing 40 metres above the Roman Forum.
Our guide was brilliant, full of fun and facts, telling us all about the legend of Romulus and Remus who were found by the she-wolf Lupa who kept them alive. I remember studying this in school and always thought it was a silly story, until now, apparently Lupa is also another name for a ‘Lady of the Night’.
There are a lot of steps to climb and you can climb to the top of Palatine Hill if you choose, but we decided to concentrate on the Roman Forum. It is a spectacular view looking down over the ruins of several important ancient government buildings.
Much of the site was built over and has since been excavated to expose more of the ancient buildings.
You can see how far they have dug down by the height of a front door that seems suspended in mid-air.
From the Roman Forum we then headed into the more modern part of the city, past the Altare della Patria building known affectionately as the Wedding Cake.
Our next stop was to be a short lunch break before continuing our exploits with a visit to the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), the largest and most beautiful Baroque fountain in Rome.
It is stunningly beautiful but an extremely popular tourist attraction and we found it a challenge to get close to. Legend tells that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome, so we made sure we did just that.
A short walk from the Trevi Fountain are the Spanish Steps which we had been hoping to climb, but sadly they were closed off for some work. We did appreciate the clear barriers so we could still see them though.
Rome is famous for its fountains and it is worth remembering that the water coming from the fountains is not only free, but clean, cold and drinkable.
So when you’re in Rome be sure to take a sip from the waters of the Eternal City!
Last but not least was the Roman Pantheon, the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome, but sadly we didn’t have time to go inside as it was time to head back to the coach.
Our final sight of the day was the Town’s Circus where they held their Chariot races in ancient times.
Just outside here was the most amazing Gelato shop, Gelateria Ai Cerchi who made ice cream where we had a much needed ice cream to cool down as it was extremely hot.
A day in Rome is not long enough to see all the sights but I have fallen in love with Italy and we hope to go back very soon to visit the Vatican, Catacombs and the Sistine Chapel.
Have you visited Rome?