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Two Days in Rome: The Real Italian Stallion

All roads lead to Rome, which makes it an extremely hard place to write about considering the thousands of articles already out there. As far as I know, no one has tried to name drop (in a natural way) every Sylvester Stallone movie into an article about Rome, and that was my original intention until I flicked through his filmography and saw titles such as The Party at Kitty and Stud’s, The Lords of Flatbush and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. There’s really no way to get those titles into an article about Rome (I tried), so I did the best I could. See how many you can spot!

This article should also be useful if you’re planning on spending two days in Rome — it’s a big city with so much to do but you can see a surprising amount in two days.

There was no place to hide from the insistent selfie stick salesmen, no shade from the hard sale. Rome needs a Judge Dredd style police force to rid the streets of these hustlers, because after a few hours of walking the streets, a bullet to the head seemed like a decent alternative to saying no to yet another sales pitch. Is that a little over the top? Maybe… but it makes enjoying Rome more difficult. I had to try that little bit harder than pretty much everywhere else I’ve been to in Europe, but it was inevitable that I’d eventually come to love Rome, just like it’s inevitable that John Rambo will always win out in the end.

Two days in Rome -- a colourful square

Here are some of the attractions you need to see in Rome, and some that you could probably skip (we’ll call those the expendables). If you only have two days in Rome you can easily see all of the below attractions, although you’ll get very hot and tired if you’re visiting during summer (try winter for thinner crowds and surprisingly warm weather).

Trajan’s Column

With so many sites to see in Rome, it’s important to make the most of the daylight hours and get going early. It was tough to choose what to start with, but first blood eventually went to Trajan’s Column, and the rich historical area that surrounds it. The column depicts Emperor Trajan’s great victory over the Dacians in the 2nd century AD, but you’d need 20/20 vision to see it, so luckily there’s a huge display nearby with photos of the carvings.

Two days in Rome -- Trajan's Column

The Coliseum

You’ve got to feel sorry for those ancient gladiators; most of them were killed for the pleasure of the decadent Roman upper class. It’s hard to imagine that kind of suffering, when a successful day meant staying alive. It puts your troubles into perspective, considering the most pain I’ve probably gone though in the last few years is when I ate too many bananas before a flight to Sri Lanka. The Coliseum is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome, and it’s worth the high price tag to get in. It’s an amazing structure which will probably stand for another 2000 years, assuming a rogue demolition man doesn’t bring it all crashing down. There are some indoor displays, but we spent most of our time just taking in the scale of the place – the atmosphere back then must have been electric.

Two days in Rome -- The Coliseum from above

Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum

You can get a combined ticket to visit Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Coliseum, but save some time and buy the ticket at the forum instead of the Coliseum (the lines are shorter). The Roman Forum is a crumbling mess of temples and columns, if you love history you’ll basically be walking down paradise alley, but if not you might find it all a bit boring. You’ll get great views of the coliseum from Palatine Hill and there are plenty of ruins to walk around (bring good shoes though because the terrain is rocky), you could spend hours in this area, so if you want to see the rest of Rome you’ll need an escape plan.

Two days in Rome -- Roman Forum ruins

The Pantheon

We visited the Pantheon in Rome, and the other day we got the chance to see the French version, in Paris. Choosing a winner in this grudge match is actually pretty easy – the Pantheon in Rome is far older – as in nearly 2000 years older, and we all know that the original version is almost always better.

Two days in Rome -- The Pantheon

Vatican City

Angels and Demons was definitely a page turner, but I thought the movie was really boring. Tom Hanks won’t be getting an Oscar any time soon if he keeps giving these kinds of wooden performances – maybe if Mr Rocky Balboa himself was cast that movie might have been better. The book was my first introduction to the finer details of life in Vatican City. More recently, an episode of the TV show Archer was also set there – a group of assassins were trying to kill the Pope. In reality, the Vatican is just a church and a big museum. St Peter’s Basilica is one of the better cathedrals in Europe, and the museum is full of stolen (I’m assuming) antiquities and lavishly painted rooms, the most famous being the Sistine Chapel. Taking photos of Michelangelo’s masterpiece (and talking) is strictly forbidden in the Sistine Chapel, but we wanted one anyway. Gia reached into her pocket, grabbed her phone, and amid a chorus of hushed voices and shushing guards, took the forbidden photo. The Vatican isn’t exactly cop land (they have their own police force, the Swiss Guard, but we didn’t see any of them), so we felt like we wouldn’t get in too much trouble. How did it turn out? Did we get caught? That’s a story for another day, sorry to leave you on a cliffhanger like that!

Two days in Rome -- The Vatican CityTwo days in Rome -- The Vatican City Museums

The Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps

My opinion of two of the most popular sites in Rome is based on the small fact that I couldn’t see them – repair work completely ruined them for me. I’m sure a lot of tourists have been driven mad by repairs to iconic landmarks, but the fact is that there will always be something covered in scaffolding. The actual steps were still there (and we walked on them) but we couldn’t see whatever was supposed to be at the top of them, making them just another set of concrete steps. The Trevi Fountain was worse, repairmen were all over it like a cobra on a mongoose (or a mongoose on a cobra, apparently the eat each other). I’m sure these attractions are good when you can see them. If you’re planning on spending just two days in Rome you should do some research and see what sights are currently under repair — it’ll save you some valuable time!

Two days in Rome -- The Trevi Fountain under repair

Two Days in Rome: Things You Should Know

I’ve heard Rome is full of pickpockets, but we didn’t have any problems (I’m pretty much the specialist at keeping my things safe though – I just put them in Gia’s bag). Make sure to lock up your things and don’t put your wallet in your back pocket and you should be fine. It’s no more dangerous than any other big city in Europe, but it is pretty expensive. We struggled to find a double room for under £30 and the pizza was both more expensive and a lot less tasty than in Naples. We didn’t do a lot at night time in Rome, but I’ve heard they have some great bars and clubs – so if you want to tango and cash is no object, you’ll have a lot of fun. All in all we had a great two days in Rome — we saw heaps of historical sights and it gave me the chance to write a piece about Sylvester Stallone, which was always one of my lifelong dreams.

Two days in Rome -- Capitol Hill

Have you been to Italy? How would you suggest people spend two days in Rome? How many Stallone movies did you spot? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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