Well they say that “All Roads Lead To Rome”. Certainly, we found that our route to the historic Italian capital was a rather easy one for a change! Here’s how to visit Rome in a campervan like the Campervan Castaways!
Finding a motorhome Sosta on the cobbled Roman Road of Appia Antica proved just perfect. Who’d have thought there’d be a safe and convenient place to park within a 30 minute walk of the Colosseum itself?!
The grassy parking is just that. There’s a dump and fresh water, which does state that it’s not drinking water. Although, fine for filling up the tanks, for washing ourselves and all that stuff!
Strangely enough, I’m not actually sure what the Sosta was called! However, here’s a picture of the sign at the entrance and another clue, it did car repairs! A barrier entrance and gates which were locked at night added to security. At just 20 Euro a night it was a perfect low cost option for our visit.
A small side gate remained unlocked for those returning late at night on foot! Ideal for us, when we strolled in at 12.30am!
Not to waste any time, we set out on foot although we could have taken a bus from outside the Sosta gates. It was hard to think that this very same route was the funeral procession of Emperor Augustus in 78 BC.
From our motorhome Sosta parking, we were able to navigate across the city on foot. However, this may be too much for some, so the alternative bus route would possibly be more ideal.
It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Terme complex of Caracalla and probably about 40 minutes to the Colosseum. It’s hard to judge exactly, as there is a lot en-route that took our attention.
The most amazing historical artefacts and ruins soon came into view. Firstly the vast Caracalla Terme and we couldn’t resist paying the 12 Euro each entry fee to see what it was all about.
During the construction, 9000 workers were on site each day! This colossal bathing complex was beautiful in it’s heyday. Statues, mosaics, pools of varying temperatures along with a gym and library dominated the interior.
A fascinating underground road system of tunnels serviced the whole gigantic complex. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. A small section is open to the public. This now houses some artefacts from the ruins, where steps lead us into the darkness. Remarkably, everything seems so well preserved here.
It’s hard to imagine the busy goings on in the dark tunnels. From horse and carts passing through, as they took supplies across the complex. To the huge operation of keeping the pools hot throughout the day.
We were now getting into the Roman theme, so when in Rome…..of course, there’s one big attraction that we had to see, yes, The Colosseum.
This huge amphitheater, at its peak, could hold around 55,000 people. It’s massive and so were the queues to get in!! After about 45 minutes we eventually got our tickets.
Firstly, we had to find the start of the queue, signs were confusing! Despite trying previously to book online, all that kept cropping up was a “server error”. This we were told at the ticket office, happens when they sell out for the day! It would have saved us some time, if it had just said that. So be warned!
Rome is one of those cities, where we soon discovered that queueing was the norm! In the heat, it’s rather draining but being British, we love a good queue and despair when other’s try and push in! Which, of course, many do!
The Colosseum itself is not the nicest amphitheater we’ve been to. However, it’s certainly the largest and most famous and completely amazing in it’s sheer magnitude. Probably, no visit to Rome should be without walking in the footsteps of those Roman spectators, around the huge arena.
Typically, we set about seeing everything that Rome has to offer, on foot and it’s hard work! Although there is a bus and metro through the city, we preferred to walk as much as possible between districts.
Taking in the incredible sights by night of the big name monuments and ruins was actually rather lovely. Everything is well illuminated, giving a rather soft tone to the already magnificent ruins.
The atmosphere was rather romantic too. Proposals of marriage at the Trevi Fountain seemed to be every few minutes! The glistening marble of the Spanish Steps, shining under the moonlight looked like a Hollywood movie set. There’s two famous sights are relatively close to each other.
Street sellers are everywhere and we got bombarded with those trying to sell selfie sticks and roses!! Fortunately, there’s a really good police presence. So we felt really safe, with no sign of any trouble.
A few rules do stringently apply though. For example, there’s no sitting on the edge of the Trevi Fountain or on the Marble steps of the Spanish Steps! The police on guard, blow their whistles to inform the offender to stand up!
Opposite the Colosseum is the vast area of Roman ruins which include The Palatine and Roman Forum, basically the hub of Ancient Rome.
Entrance fees are included with the tickets for the Colosseum and it gives you up to the following day to use it. This area is massive and leads on to Trajan’s Forum’s and markets. The scale of it all is vast.
We spent a few hours strolling through this vast area of Ancient Rome. For those avid enthusiasts, you could be there for days! Within the grounds, a vast mix of ruins remain.
The only thing missing, in our opinion, was a few more information boards. For us novices in the historic elements of Roman Ruins, we weren’t always sure what we were looking at!
This is sightseeing paradise, as we were soon reminded. Crossing the river and walking past the old Castle of Sant Angelo, the first glimpses of the The Vatican came into view.
St.Peter’s basilica is just phenomenal and again, Michelangelo’s design is the big attraction. The dome that he didn’t get to see finished, is 448 ft high! Below the basilica is the area where all the Pope’s are buried, this closes earlier, fortunately, we were the last few people through at 4pm, so be aware.
The Vatican Musuems are further along and it’s a huge complex. On our visit, it was packed with tour groups, so much so that it was rather spoiling the experience.
The one big attraction within the Vatican Museums is The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s masterpiece fresco, which took him 7 years to complete, was crammed full with people.
The guards move you on quickly, but we managed to find a standing spot in the centre. Shoulder to shoulder with others we took our time to admire the work of this genius.
Entry to the Basilica is free. The Vatican Museums are 17 Euro per person. We queued at both for about 40 minutes. On our visit there were no tickets available to climb up to the dome of the Basilica itself.
Back in the centre of Rome, The Pantheon is the most intact Roman building actually in Rome.
Experts believe it to have been built by Emperor Hadrian. The huge columns at the entrance are just incredible. The scale of construction and amazing skill involved is hard to comprehend.
It’s free to enter and the surrounding square and streets are full of life.
We didn’t go into the Capitoline Musuems, but we did admire the fabulous building from the outside. It’s just awesome!
This building is huge and the Michelangelo influences are there for all to see. It’s the epitome of elegance, opulence and grandeur, dominating the elevated position above the centre of capital.
Unfortunately, we were exhausted after so much sightseeing so decided to give the museum itself a miss!
One suprise find was located just along the road from where we were based. On the old Roman road of Appia Anitca.
Here, the Catacombs are located and they are unbelievable! This underground burial system covers miles of underground cemeteries dating from the 1st Century.
You can only do a guided tour here. At a very reasonable, 8 Euro each, it lasts around 40 minutes. It takes you on a very small, but fascinating route underground. Along, the dark passageways which are lined floor to ceiling with tombs and graves.
It all sounds rather morbid, but it’s actually fascinating and very well preserved as a factual, historical monument.
There’s some really good bars and restaurants off the large square of Piazza Navona. Here, we relaxed with wine and nibbles. It’s the hub of the city and the streets leading off here are where we found an array various lively eateries and small individual shops.
We chose to walk back to the van from here one evening, taking us about an hour!
We’d say it’s a little rough around the edges but from experiences of Italy, this seems to be the case everywhere!
Considering it’s such an international icon, we expected it to have less of the litter, better tourist signs and neater areas in general.
The city is sprawling, there are ruins at every corner and it’s hard to imagine the power that this empire once had.
We had 3 days in the Italian Capital. Expect queues for most of the big sights. We couldn’t book online due to the systems not having availability for advance bookings. We, therefore, had to stick it out in the queues, which can be lengthy and often without shade.
The ruins of Ancient Rome are just amazing but we love history, so it was just up our street!
Using the bus service and metro was reasonable at 7 Euro each for a 24 hour unlimited ticket. We bought this at a bike hire shop a few doors down from our Motorhome parking.
We used it to get the bus to the metro station and from there a train to The Vatican. We’d walked to there the previous day, but being far across the city from us, we felt it too much to walk again.
It all went a bit wrong though when we decided to take the last bus back. Not realising, that it didn’t do the full loop of the route for the last run of the night!!
When the driver stopped on the opposite side of the city. Outside a deserted Rome football stadium at midnight, we could have cried! He put the bus lights out and parked up, saying he didn’t speak English!!
This left us with no choice to walk back to some lively hub of the city, which took us about 30 minutes and get a taxi back to base from there, for 20 euro!
Luckily, Rome is actually a city that we felt safe in, there’s a really good police presence, we really thought it would be the opposite.
For us, our feet could take no more, so we were off to our next destination, and some relaxation!
We had 3 days exploring the capital in September, enough for our aching legs to cope with!
Feel welcome to read our other blogs on other parts of Italy too! Remember, this is all our own personnel findings and your own preferences and experiences may differ to ours!!