Rome in a Day, Pt. 1

Rome

Travel isn’t always about immersing yourself in a foreign culture and absorbing the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that make a place special. Unfortunately, sometimes travel is simply about whipping out the camera and city map and being a tourist, especially when traveling on a tight time frame. This past weekend, that’s exactly what me and my partner-in-travel did.

This weekend consisted of a brief tour of Italy– Rome and Florence specifically. The first stop was Rome, and with only one full day to see the city, our plates were full (with both lasagna and things to do). Let’s get this out of the way first: Rome is epic. It’s a pretty big city with absolutely tons of awesome stuff to see. Stunning ancient landmarks are so common that it’s disorienting when your eyes aren’t looking at something amazing.

Rome

Doing Rome in one day isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it’s certainly doable. For us, it required a bit more than 12 straight hours of walking (not an ideal scenario for my worn-out Vans). Obviously, you won’t be able to do/see everything you’d like to in just a day, but you can definitely get damn close. I’ll guide you through the process. First up: The Colosseum.

Colosseum

To actually see this thing in person feels like a dream. Built in 80 AD, the Colosseum still stands today largely intact. It is without a doubt one of the most impressive works of architecture in Rome, and it certainly has the most interesting history. Everyone knows about the bloody chaos that went on in these walls for the sake of spectators’ entertainment. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to catch a gladiator battle, but the Colosseum itself is enough of a spectacle.

Colosseum

Inner Wall

Colosseum

Outer Wall

Just a stone’s throw away from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. Although we didn’t have a chance to get inside the archaeological center, a great deal of the Forum is still visible from the surrounding streets and pathways. Once a busy public square in ancient times, the Forum remains a popular sight today, with some monuments still intact. If you have the time, definitely pay to get in, but if not, it’s an impressive sight nonetheless.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

A bit north of the Forum is another major monument, the Victor Emmanuel II monument. Dedicated to the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, this monument is made of a striking white marble, making it one of the easiest buildings to spot in Rome. Located at the Piazza Venezia, the monument is also home to Rome’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Victor Emmanuel II monument

Victor Emmanuel II monument

Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia

Next on our list was the famous Trevi Fountain, but not with a quick pitstop for some Italian lunch. All this walking demands fuel (in the form of carb-overload, of course).

Lasagna

Bread

With delicious, meaty lasagna in our bellies, we continued to make our way towards the fountain. Upon our arrival at Trevi Fountain, we found ourselves both impressed and infuriated at the same time. The movies will have you believe that Trevi Fountain is a place of beauty and romance, but this is far from the truth. I would instead describe it as a chaotic clusterf***.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Don’t get me wrong; the fountain is beautiful– stunning, really, but at the same time, it is absolutely swarming with tourists. It is a tourist attraction, after all, but this was something else. On a nice day, Trevi Fountain is so packed that it’s hard to breathe. You really have to push and squeeze your way through hoards of visitors and tourist trappers to get a decent look at the fountain up-close. The experience is stressful (a shame considering how awe-inspiring the fountain really is), but if you can get past all that, it’s more than worth it to see the amazing Trevi Fountain. Just don’t expect it to be too relaxing.

Trevi Fountain

Next, we made our way west towards the Pantheon. By far one of the most impressive architectural works in the city, the Pantheon as it stands today was built in 126 AD. How it stands so perfectly intact today is beyond me, but I sure as hell ain’t complaining.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Used today as a Roman Catholic church, the Pantheon’s design consists of a portico with large granite columns leading into the massive rotunda, which features a large dome ceiling with an oculus to let light in. The light from the oculus and the front door are the only sources of light for the massive building, creating a pretty cool lighting effect. The light shining from the oculus moves around the room in an circle as the sun rises and sets.

Ceiling and oculus in Pantheon

Ceiling and oculus in the Pantheon

Pantheon interior

Interior of the Pantheon

The Pantheon is definitely one of Rome’s top sights. It’s one of the most unique buildings I’ve visited, and it’s a truly special piece of ancient history. But there’s still much more to see in Rome in a day.

Rome

Stick around for Rome in a Day, Pt. 2 for the rest: Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Vatican City, and more!

Royal Mile

Royal Mile

In Edinburgh, things are given simple names. The Royal Mile, for example, runs one Scots mile long and ends on each side at a royal landmark (Edinburgh Castle on the west side and Holyrood Abbey at the east). If you’re a visitor to Edinburgh, you’ll probably be spending quite a bit of time here. Typical Scottish gift shops, whisky shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, etc. can be found on this series of streets that comprise the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, as well as several notable city landmarks.

Telephone Booths

St. Giles' Cathedral

St. Giles’ Cathedral, High Kirk (Church) of Edinburgh

Royal Mile

There’s one easy way to spot a tourist on the Royal Mile, and no, it’s not simply the “I ♥ Edinburgh” t-shirts (why anybody would wear a t-shirt in Scotland is beyond me anyway). Located outside of St. Giles’ Cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian. What was once the location of the Old Tolbooth, where public executions took place, is now the location of… a lot of spit. That’s right, the Heart of Midlothian (pictured below) symbolizes the heart that marked the doorway to the Old Tolbooth Prison in the 15-18th centuries. The public would spit on the heart to show their disgust towards criminals. Keeping the tradition alive today, locals spit on the heart, which is now engraved into the sidewalk, for good luck; tourists walk right through it. I chose to partake in the former option. There’s something oddly rewarding about watching tourists walk through your own saliva. I proudly left my mark in Edinburgh.

Heart of Midlothian

Heart of Midlothian

There’s a lot going on in Edinburgh’s Old Town, and the Royal Mile is at the heart of it all. Bagpipes and harps fill the air with delightful Scottish sounds, complementing the hustle and bustle of the busy street(s). A stroll along the Royal Mile is well worth your time, but be sure to make your way off the beaten path as well. There’s much more to Edinburgh than meets the eye, and there’s certainly more to Edinburgh than the Royal Mile.

Bagpipe

Royal mileRoyal Mile

Royal Mile

Trinity College

Trinity College

Talk about a beautiful campus. It’s not too often that a university is one of a capital city’s top attractions, but in the case of Dublin’s Trinity College, it makes perfect sense. Located right in the center of Dublin, Ireland’s oldest university remains a prestigious academic institution to this day, and it’s got eye candy to boot. Remarkable works of architecture comprise the campus grounds as beautiful buildings (new and old) surround alluring courtyards, statues, trees, etc.

Trinity College

Trinity College

Notable Trinity alumni include the likes of Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and Jonathan Swift, to name a few. University staff members wander the campus wearing cloaks, the style of which depends on their position. It’s almost haunting. Regardless, the big attraction at Trinity College is the Book of Kells, located in the Old Library. If your not a student of the college, it’ll cost you to get in, but it’s worth checking out (you can’t actually “check it out” of the library, obviously) the Book of Kells as well as other impressive, ancient collections in the beautiful library. Fun Fact: the Old Library was digitally recreated inch-for-inch in Attack of the Clones (The university wouldn’t let George Lucas actually film inside).

Old Library

The Old Library, home to the Book of Kells

Trinity College Arts Building

The Arts building, supposedly designed to resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Uh...

Trinity CollegeTrinity College

Trinity College Exam Hall

Every student's least favorite building: The Exam Hall

Late-Night Stroll Through the Montmarte

Montmarte

Though some may argue that it doesn’t retain the same charm it used to, the Montmarte district of Paris remains to this day a very special place. The neighborhood is a showcase of all the things that make Paris such a charming, beautiful, and lively place. Quiet, narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lead the way up the Montmarte hill, lined with terrace cafés, restaurants, bars, cabarets, and former brothels (though the prostitution remains). Oh, and it’s absolutely beautiful. In other words, it’s an artist’s paradise, or so thought artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso, all of whom at some point lived and/or worked in the Montmarte. It’s easy to see why so many artists were drawn to the neighborhood; the sights, the sounds, and the overall bohemian culture and atmosphere are unlike anything else. Though that exact vibe is no longer present, you can still get a good feel for it, especially at night; when the sun goes down, so do the tourists traps. To top it off (literally), at the peak of the hill stands the Sacré-Cœur, another beautiful, iconic Paris landmark. From there, you will get the absolute best view of Paris, rivaled only by the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Montmarte

Lapin Agile

Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) cabaret. To make a living, Picasso used to paint for the owner in exchange for meals.

Montmarte

Bohemian Cat

Bohemian cat

Montmarte

View from the hill

Moulin Rouge

At the bottom of the hill is the famous Moulin Rouge

Sacré-Cœur

And at the top, La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Sacré-Cœur

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe l'Étoile

Another iconic landmark of Paris: The Arc de Triomphe l’Étoile. Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the massive Arc de Triomphe stands as a monument to those who fought in France’s many wars (both Revolutionary and Napoleonic), and also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s an epic monument that honors a time of epic importance in French and Parisian history. The Arc is also the location of Place de l’Étoile, a 12-lane roundabout where insurance doesn’t matter and an accident occurs every half-hour, according to my walking tour guide. Regardless, the Arc de Triomphe is a beauty, and its grand size and scale really must be seen in person to truly understand. For a small fee, visitors can access the top of the Arc (while going through a small museum on the way), and treat themselves to more amazing views of Paris.

Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

statue

On the way up...

Paris

View from the top

Paris

arc de triomphe

Crazy in Louvre

LouvreMark my words: If you were in Paris for a week, you could literally spend every second of it at the Musée du Louvre, and the trip would still be amazing. Not only that, but you wouldn’t even get close to seeing all of the museum’s massive collection. The Louvre is overwhelming in all aspects, whether it’s the beautiful palace that houses it, the ridiculously large collection of masterpieces and brilliant art, or the overall size of the museum in general. It’s the world’s most popular art museum for a reason.

Even if you don’t feel like coughing up the well-spent €10 for entrance, the exterior of the Louvre is a fascinating work of art in itself. The Louvre Palace has a long history, originally built in the 13th century as a castle fortress (parts of which can still be seen inside). In the 16th century, it was rebuilt as the Louvre Palace as we (somewhat) know it now. The palace exterior hosts truly remarkable architecture and some pleasant courtyards. But of course, the real treasures lie inside.

Louvre Palace

Louvre Invisible Pyramid

Ok, so you’re in the Louvre. Obviously, if you’re a first-time visitor, you’re not leaving without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Don’t worry; as enormous as the museum may be, there are signs at practically every corner directing visitors towards the Mona Lisa. But don’t be surprised if you can’t get a great look at the small painting as it is usually surrounded by hoards of camera-wielding tourists. Regardless, once you cross the Mona Lisa off your list, prepare to get lost (literally) amongst one of the largest and most astonishing art collections in the world.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

Aphrodite, known as the "Venus de Milo"

Aphrodite, known as the "Venus de Milo"

Michelangelo's "The Rebellious Slave"

Michelangelo's "The Rebellious Slave"

As great as the Louvre may be, I have to admit that I was frustrated and exhausted (both mentally and physically) by the end of my short visit. Keep in mind, when I say “short,” I mean a few hours, and that is precisely the problem. The Louvre has such an insanely large collection of art that a few hours is nowhere near enough time to appreciate the greatness of it. If you have a few specific pieces you want to check out, chances are that they are spread around the museum, and you will get lost and distracted on the way, which can be stressful. Instead of forcing yourself to see specific works, I recommend setting aside a nice, big chunk of time to visit the museum, and simply roam around and get “lost” in the good way, by absorbing the phenomenal art around you. This way, you can see your favorite pieces while also appreciating plenty of new things. It is said that if you spend 30 seconds looking at each piece of art in the Louvre, it will take you 3 months of time to see everything. The collection is that huge, and the quality of art is simply incredible. The Louvre is an absolute must for Paris and by far one of the city’s top attractions.

The Wedding Feast at Cana

The Wedding Feast at Cana

One of the "Four Captives"

Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People

The Louvre

La Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower)

Eiffel TowerI don’t care how long you’re in Paris for; be it a day or a decade, you will not be able to see everything. Regardless, it’s safe to say that you definitely will see the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel TowerEiffel Tower

Designed by Gustave Eiffel (and others) for the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower was the tallest building in the world at 320 meters, and stayed as such for 41 years (until the Chrysler Building in New York was built in 1930). Originally, the Eiffel Tower was hated by many Parisians, including French writer Guy de Maupassant, who famously claimed he ate lunch at the Eiffel Tower every day because it was the only spot in the city where he didn’t have to look at it. Today, the tower is cherished, and stands as an iconic symbol not only for Paris, but for France as a whole. The Eiffel Tower is undoubtedly a beautiful sight to behold, and it’s arguably the most famous and recognizable building in the world. But is all the hype worth it? I say yes.

Eiffel Tower

Also worth it is the €14 elevator ride to the top. The panoramic views of Paris will leave you in awe. It’s the best way to see the “City of Light.”

ParisParisParis