Museums of Rome

Roman sculptures, Palazzo Massimo
Roman sculptures, Palazzo Massimo

We bought the Roma Pass for 25 euros from the Palazzo Massimo, one of the National Museums of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano in Italian). The pass is valid for 3 days and included entry to 2 museums or archaeological sites and 3 days of transport on trains and buses within the city plus discounts at other attractions. The Palazzo Massimo is near Termini Station and it is one of three different museums housing the collection of the National Museum: the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Massimo, and the Palazzo Altemps and all three count as one museum so you can use the pass at another site without having to pay for entry. We used the pass again to bypass the long queues at the Colosseum, a guide touting for business tried to tell us that we still needed to join a guided tour to eat the queues but I had read my travel guides for Rome and we ignored his ‘advice’. Entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill is included with entry to the Colosseum so technically, you can visit all 6 sites mentioned with the one pass but it is alot to squeeze into 3 days especially if you have other attractions you want to see.

Detail of Roman sarcophagus, Palazzo Massimo
Detail of Roman sarcophagus, Palazzo Massimo
Mosaic, Palazzo Massimo
Mosaic, Palazzo Massimo
The Colosseum
The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre

The two other museums we visited during our stay in Rome were the Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums. We decided to do a guided tour of the Vatican Museums because we wanted to understand what we were looking at, it was a good idea however I think we would choose an early morning private tour next time, they cost alot more but you enter the museums before they actually open. The crowds in the Vatican Museums made it almost unbearable at times, yet it didn’t take anything away from the beauty of the Raphael rooms and Sistine Chapel.

The School of Athens, artist Raphael, Vatican Museum
The School of Athens, artist Raphael, Vatican Museum
Hall of maps, Vatican Museum
Hall of maps, Vatican Museum
Legacy of a Pope, Vatican Museum courtyard
Legacy of a Pope, Vatican Museum courtyard
Red porphry bowl, Vatican Museum
Red porphry bowl, Vatican Museum

The Capitoline Museum was less busy, almost empty in comparison and on a hot day it was one of the best places to be, cool and comfortable, away from the mad rush outside. I explored this museum by myself, my husband was a tad over the museum/church thing by then and I wasn’t leaving Rome without seeing the colossal feet or statue of the wolf feeding baby Romulus and Remus. From memory it was 11 euros to enter the museum, average price for a tourist attraction in Rome and by now my Roma Pass had expired. The sculptures and mosaics contained within are a must-see for any art lover or history buff, I had only seen these pieces were in art books or text books at school and here I could almost touch them.

Piazza del Campidoglio, Capitoline Hill
Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo
Wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, Capitoline Museum
Wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, Capitoline Museum
Colossus foot, Capitoline Museum
Colossus foot, Capitoline Museum

One Spring day in Rome

The Spanish Steps at dusk
The Spanish Steps at dusk
Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain in the evening

After Easter things get pretty busy in Italy, especially in the capital and ancient city of Rome. The guidebooks and travel websites tell you that there isn’t a quiet time to visit Rome and the once shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn are almost as popular as the Summer, still we decided that Spring was the best time for us and spending the last few days of our trip in Rome would be the perfect way to end the trip.

Rome is a city of concrete, marble and cobblestones, great for reflecting the heat of the sun back onto unsuspecting tourists. Coming from Queensland we didn’t think that the heat would be a problem, how hot could it get? The temperature moved between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius which is something that we’re quite used to, however we didn’t count on the impact of walking all day surrounded by concrete and other reflective surfaces which bounced the heat back at us. It didn’t take us long to realise that we needed to factor in more breaks and make better use of public transport, it is easy to see the sense in having a siesta or long lunch to escape the heat. Although we didn’t indulge in an afternoon nap or long lunch we had our methods for avoiding heat exhaustion:

  • Picnic on the grass around the Colosseum;
  • Catching a bus from Piazza Navona to Vatican City;
  • Standing in the centre of the Pantheon absorbing the cool air;
  • and sitting on a park bench near the Borghese Gallery listening to a jazz musician/busker.
Potted colour at the Spanish Steps
Potted colour at the Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps in Spring
The Spanish Steps in Spring

In Spring the Spanish steps are decorated with large pots of brightly coloured flowers, sometimes azaleas but during our visit the geraniums were in bloom and the sight is spectacular even with the hundreds of people milling around and jostling for a seat on the steps. At the Victor Emmanuel monument there are no flowers and there no sitting on the steps, the monument is situated on Capitoline Hill and was built in honour of the first King of a unified Italy, it is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and eternal flame. Should you dare sit on the steps then you will be reprimanded by one of the many security people on site, they loudly blow their whistles and make hand gestures so you know exactly what they’re asking of you.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Road to the Palatine Hill
Road linking Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Roman Forum and Colosseum
Roman Forum and Colosseum as seen from Palatine Hill
House of the Vestal Virgins - Statues
House of the Vestal Virgins – Statues

Wandering around the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill was made a little challenging for me, we experienced and extended spring shower and occasional downpour making it difficult to juggle my camera and an umbrella. Still, it didn’t stop us from exploring the ruins and although we were a little cold and damp, our enthusiasm and awe did not wane. One of the more beautiful areas of the Roman Forum, even when it is raining, is the House and Temple of the Vestal Virgins. The courtyard contains rose gardens and statues of the priestesses who guarded the the sacred, eternal flame which was considered to be the symbol of the eternal life of Rome. The priestesses served for 30 years and had to remain virgins for the entire time, to do otherwise resulted in death.

House of the Vestal Virgins - Courtyard
The Courtyard of the House of the Vestal Virgins, Roman Forum

A number of special exhibits were set up throughout the forum, the focus was on the Roman Emperor Nero, more famous for his bad behaviour and murderous, corrupt ways than anything else. The exhibits are part of a trail of Roman locations that can be directly connected to Nero. The former palace of Nero, the Domus Aurea is closed to the general public as a result of buildings collapsing and a concern for safety. We followed the path that connected the forum to Palatine Hill where more of Nero’s story could be found. Much of the Palatine Hill is in such a state that you need to use your imagination or a guidebook to be able to identify the buildings, our aim was to head towards the Imperial Palace complex that overlooked the Circus Maximus. Looking at Circus Maximus now you would think that it was just a normal park suited for walking the dog or holding concerts but it was once home to chariot and horse races, events that attracted tens of thousands of spectators.