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Arrivederci Roma

Jonathan van Bilsen



October 9, 2023

Arrivederci Roma

Without a doubt, one of my favourite cities in the world is the Italian capitol of Rome. I have been several times, and each visit brings new and exciting sights to explore. If you have a few days in the eternal city, you may want to discover it on foot, taking advantage of all the charm and atmosphere, usually missed in a car or bus. Visiting the sights listed below, took me about 5 hours of walking, without stops, so spread over three or four days made for a perfect holiday.

I always recommend starting a Roman tour in the centre of the city, at the Obelisk of Dogali, a captivating monument that draws visitors from around the world. This impressive granite obelisk, reaching a height of 33 metres has a history dating back to ancient Egypt.

Not far from the square is the Trevi Fountain, which is an absolute must for anyone traveling to the Eternal City. Tourists from all over the world gather around the Trevi Fountain, each eagerly awaiting their turn to toss a coin over their shoulder into the fountain's clear blue waters. Tradition holds that by doing so, you ensure your return to Rome.

A few minutes walk from the fountain are the Spanish Steps, which are not only an architectural marvel but also hold great historical and cultural significance. These iconic steps have become a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Completed in 1725, the name ‘Spanish’ is derived from the nearby Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The monumental staircase consists of 135 steps and is often bustling with people who come to admire the magnificent view from the top. Sitting on the steps is forbidden, as they are classified as a monument, but people do it anyway. The area is also known for its luxury brand boutiques, which line the adjacent streets, making it a hub for high-end shopping.

This is one of the few Rome neighbourhoods where you can have ‘a room with a view’, if you select the only hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Hassler. The hotels at the bottom of the Spanish Steps are in Rome's shopping zone, and while convenient, they don't offer views.

I continued on to the Borghese Gallery and Museum, located in the heart of Rome. It  is a renowned institution that houses a vast collection of art and artifacts, with a history dating back to the early 17th century. If you have the time, the beautiful park and gardens are also home to a zoo, as well as monuments, ponds and fantastic foliage.

I headed to the trendy neighbourhoods of Trastevere and Monti, and enjoyed a refreshing Aperol Spritz and a traditional Negroni while snacking on complimentary finger foods. Indulging in a delicious Italian dinner at a traditional trattoria and sampling authentic Roman dishes like carbonara, cacio e pepe, or saltimbocca alla Romana are feasts in their own rights.

If you are not tired after dinner, explore the vibrant district of Testaccio, known for its lively nightlife scene. Visit a local music venue like Akab or L'Alibi for live performances by Italian bands and musicians.

No trip to Rome is complete without gelato. Wrap up your night by stopping at one of the many gelaterias for a sweet treat before heading back to your accommodation.

I left Rome for the Vatican. It is actually a city within Rome, so I did not have to go far. Visiting the Vatican is a dream for many travellers. This unique city-state is home to some of the world's most famous monuments, art collections, and religious sites. Steeped in history, spirituality, and breathtaking beauty, a visit to the Vatican offers an experience like no other.

As one walks toward Vatican City, the sight of St. Peter's Square suddenly comes into view. The square is often filled with people from all corners of the globe, eagerly awaiting entry into St. Peter's Basilica.

Stepping inside is truly an awe-inspiring moment. This magnificent church stands as the centerpiece of the Vatican, and is considered one of the holiest sites in Christianity. The interior is adorned with numerous statues, intricate mosaics, and works of art, created by some of history's greatest artists, such as Michelangelo and Bernini. The highlight for many visitors is the breathtaking Michelangelo's Pieta, a sculpture that depicts the sorrowful Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus.

The highlight of the Vatican museums is undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel, famously adorned with Michelangelo's masterpiece, the ceiling frescoes depicting scenes from the book of Genesis.

I left the Vatican for my next stop. Whether you are a history enthusiast or a lover of ancient architecture, visiting the Pantheon in Rome is an absolute delight. It dates back to the 2nd century CE, and showcases the genius of the Roman engineers, and their innovative use of concrete.

One of the highlights of visiting Rome, was exploring the iconic Roman Forum. Stepping into this historical site felt like taking a step back in time, as I could almost imagine the bustling crowds and vibrant activities that once filled this ancient marketplace.

I love history and Rome has no shortage of it. One of the most captivating landmarks I had the opportunity to explore was the legendary Colosseum, with its towering walls. Exploring the various levels, I marveled at the intricate details and design. From the underground tunnels where gladiators prepared for their battles, to the many seating tiers that accommodated up to 70 thousand spectators.

A fitting end to my Roman holiday, was one of the most intriguing and haunting experiences I have ever had. I descended into the Roman catacombs, where the temperature dropped and a faint musty smell filled the air. The narrow passageways, lined with endless rows of tombs, created a labyrinth-like atmosphere. As I ventured further, the flickering light from my lantern cast eerie shadows on the ancient walls, which were adorned with fading frescoes and inscriptions.

There are numerous additional sights to see, and doing them on foot makes you appreciate the hundreds of small shops and boutiques around every corner. If you visit Europe, particularly Italy, leave enough time to see the Eternal City.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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