Roman Colosseum

Rome in a Day

If you had only one day to visit Rome, what would you do for that day? The question seems almost silly. After all, who would choose to spend only one day in this most famous of cities? The phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is not arbitrary. There’s a lot there, and a lot to see. So why would you try to see it all in just one day?

Turns out that we had such an occasion to visit Rome for just one day, and you may have already guessed that the circumstances arose because we were on a cruise that passed nearby, and had only one day to get off the boat and do our best to take it all in.

Normally, when you’re visiting a country that’s relatively safe for touring like Italy, we might suggest that you just get off the boat and enjoy yourself, but visiting Rome from a cruise ship posed some interesting and unique challenges. First, the distance from the coast is substantial. Cruise ships typically dock in the port town of Civitavecchia, which is over an hour away by bus or car. It’s closer to two hours actually. Second, the traffic is as unpredictable as any other large city and its surrounding area. While we say it’s an hour to Rome from the port, we mean that it’s more than an hour, and could easily be two hours if traffic in the area is having a bad day. Our trip took two hours the day we went. That’s a really important thing to remember for the trip back to the boat. If you misjudge the traffic, or if something happens that’s completely out of your control, you’ll miss your boat! Really. The ship will leave without you.We’ve seen it happen on nearly every cruise we’ve been on.

Our solution in this situation was to use a cruise ship sanctioned tour of the city. After all, we weren’t going to sail all the way across the Atlantic and dock only an hour away from Rome and not see the city. And, by using a cruise line sanctioned tour, the boat would actually wait for us if we were late getting back. Turns out that on this tour we were indeed about 40 minutes late getting back to the dock, and sure enough, the ship was still there. Everyone else was on board and they hauled up the gangplank and cast off the lines literally the minute the last of us were on the ship. Money well spent for us!

Inside the Colosseum

Beneath the floor of the Colosseum was a series of rooms, stalls, hallways, and trap doors. Image by Bonnie Fink

The Colosseum –

Back to the original idea of this article of what exactly would you see if you had only one day to see Rome? Our first stop was the Colosseum and Senate. Before you read further, though, you might want to take a look at the image here of the Colosseum, click on it to see its full size version, and just ponder what it must have taken to build this structure back in 70 AD when construction first began. It took over a decade to complete, and of course underwent various stages of construction and remodelling for the next few hundred years.It was used for all fashion of entertainment from gladiator battles, animal hunts and battle re-creations. It’s even rumored that the floor was flooded and mock sea battles took place from time to time, but that fact is in question by some historians. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that christians were executed there, although executions did take place.

With all the facts aside, just consider the accomplishment of building, maintaining and even attending events in a colosseum that could host somewhere between 50,000 and 87,000 spectators, depending on which account you choose to believe. To fail to see this engineering marvel, social and political center point, and example of the capabilities of the Roman Empire would simply be unacceptable. If you saw only one thing in Rome, it would certainly have to be this.

Roman Forum and Senate

Near the Colosseum is the area known as the Forum, which contained the Senate, among other relics of the early Roman civilization. Image by Donald Fink

The Senate and Forum –

Of course, while you’re at the Colosseum, it’s a short walk to the site of the Senate and Forum. This area seems diminished after viewing the Colosseum, but is nevertheless significant in the history of early Rome. The day we visited it was raining heavily so our cameras were safely tucked inside our rain jackets. Our images are therefore lacking. Sorry. We promised ourselves a return trip one day in the not-too-distant future for a re-shoot.

The Roman Forum is a Plaza located near the Colosseum that contains several important ruins that represent the government of the Roman Empire. It’s the location of the Senate and other important structures and statues including the Temple of Ceasar, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Forum Main Square, and many others. The image at the right is from Wikipedia (remember, it was raining heavily the day we were there).

Trevi Fountain

The original Trevi Fountain was a terminal point for one of the Roman Aqueducts that brought water to the city. Image by Donald Fink

Trevi Fountain –

The original Trevi Fountain was constructed in 19 B.C. as a terminal point to one of the aqueducts that supplied ancient Rome. It was later renovated over several hundred years into its present form. It’s said that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. To qualify, you must throw with your right hand over your left shoulder. It’s estimated that about 3,000 Euros a day go into the fountain from this tradition. The coins are collected each night and go to a charity that provides food for Rome’s needy.

The Vatican –

We debated on whether to place the Vatican at the top of our list ahead of the Colosseum. While the Colosseum won out by a slim margin, we don’t mean to diminish the importance of seeing the Vatican in any way. And no, you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the significance of this place.

The Vatican is a complete country all on its own, and is of course the heart of the Catholic Church, which is clearly the largest Christian church on earth. Vatican City, like the Colosseum, could probably take an entire day, or several days to see, but probably the important points if time is short are St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. The history, like the rest of Rome, runs deep and long. Much of the core of western civilization has been influenced by people who have lived and worked in this famous place.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy. Image by Donald Fink

Vatican City is extremely popular, meaning that you could end up spending a considerable amount of time in line just to get in. One of the huge advantages of being on an official tour from the cruise ship is that we were able to skip the lines and get right in. We also moved right along to get into St. Peter’s Basilica.

What you should know before you go –

Our cruise line and all the tourist guides we read warned us about the high instance of pick pocketing in Italy, and Rome in particular. We came prepared, meaning that I did not carry a wallet in my back pocket, and Bonnie carried a purse that was “box cutter resistant”. We carried only the necessities and kept our cameras in close. Most of all, it’s our practice whenever we’re anywhere to pay attention to our surroundings and the people around us. We had no trouble, probably because there were easier targets out there for the pick pockets to exploit. But do be careful when in Italy, and keep your eyes open.

We don’t suggest that you drive in Rome. There’s no point since there doesn’t appear to be any parking. If you rented a car and drove into the city, you would end up spending your day looking for parking before standing in line to see the sights.

We didn’t spend much time eating at Rome’s restaurants because we were, well, sightseeing. But, we saw many good looking restaurants and believe it or not, lots of pizza. We thought that the idea of pizza in Italy was an American tourist stereotype, but it appears that the Italians in Rome do indeed eat lots of pizza. There were just too many restaurants for them to all be for the tourists. Plus, they appeared to be filled with locals. And the pizza looked really good! We’ll definitely try some next time we’re there and have more time.

Finally –

When we went to Rome for a day on a cruise ship tour, we had no idea that we would be impressed at the level we were. We have spent large amounts of time touring America including the great southwest, the east and west coasts, and even up into much of Canada. We’ve studied the history of our great country and our neighbor to the north, but nowhere have we been as impressed as we were on the one day we saw Rome, and saw history on a different level. This is the place that much of our early history began, or at least was influenced. Was it worth the day out of our lives? You bet it was! If we learned one thing only from our visit, it was that we need to go back one day soon, and spend more time. How much Time? We’ll see. You could easily spend years looking the city over, and while we won’t quite do that (too many other places to go after all), a good week or two might be about right.

We’ve added a few more of our images here

1 comment

rome shore excursions

One day is never enough to visit such a wonderful place on earth.

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