Touring Italy: First Stop Rome

Architecture. If there was one word to sum up what the capital city of Italy does best it would be architecture. Everywhere you look tall buildings loom over you, some with white marble columns, others with statues of marble or bronze. The Victor Emmanuel II monument was perhaps the most impressive. The enormous white building dominates the Piazza Venezia to commemorate the King that united all of Italy.

Another prominent feature of Rome is the fountains. From the larger ones, the most recognisable being the Trevi fountain, down to the smaller ones designed to fill up your water bottle, all are fashioned in the most ornate and beautiful way.

Where Italy differs from England most noticeably is in food. And not just the type of food they eat, but the way they eat it. Meal times aren’t just a formality – they’re a whole experience. Once you obtain a dinner table for the night that table is yours. No waiters will come and bother you, pressuring you to finish up, or hastily giving you the bill. In fact they won’t give you the bill until you ask for it meaning you can enjoy your drink and companionship in your own time. What’s also different, however, is the sheer size of them…

There are five or so courses in a traditional Italian meal: the appetizer to begin with which is often cured meats and salad, the first course which is a pasta dish (carbonara/lasagna etc.), the second dish which is a meat dish like steak and sauté potatoes followed by a dessert, of course it’s ice cream, and a coffee to finish.

In terms of sightseeing the main attractions can be done on a cheap budget. Unless you’re extremely keen to go inside, places like the Colesseum aren’t worth paying for – what’s most impressive about Rome is the exterior of the buildings, not the inside. If you plan on visiting the Vatican then brace yourself for very, very long queues in the blistering heat. However the museum and Sistine Chapel are worth a visit if you can spare the money so book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Another place worth a trip is Pincian Hill. Completely free of charge the gardens are one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Rome. Everywhere you look couples lounge around attempting to avoid the occasional street sellers pushing roses into their hands and then asking for money. The gardens overlook the Piazza del Popolo and standing on the balcony the gardens give a vast view of the city. Standing there, you would have never known that Rome had a much darker side of it…

The square that lies below which now makes a great meeting and socializing point was once one of death and horror. In fact most of Rome’s public squares were – they were places for executions. You think that’s spooky? One of Rome’s 17th century chapels is lined entirely with bones. Bones chandeliers, banks of skulls, skeletons holding bone crosses and more. And of course there are the catacombs – underground mazes that formed burial chambers for the Romans back in ancient times. Why don’t you wander through and see for yourself.

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