If you have just one day in Rome, what should you do? There are so many choices of things to do in Rome, but if you are going to be there for such a short time, get out to see the sites, and try to be as Italian as you can possibly be.
First experience: Have cappuccino for breakfast. The Italians consider it a breakfast drink, and with it they will have a cornetto, which is actually a croissant. That’s it. If you are an eggs and bacon and cereal and juice and coffee breakfast mama or papa, let it go. It’s just one day. Also, eat breakfast standing. It’s not only Italian, it’s practical too, as you may be asked to pay a cover fee if you get a table.
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After breakfast, visit the one place that Rome is known for – St. Peter’s Basilica. This is considered to be the holiest site for Roman Catholics, and it is believed that St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, is buried underneath the altar. The Catholics consider St. Peter to be the first Pope, and 85% of the people in Rome are Catholic. The Basilica is an amazing work of architecture which was constructed over many years, and a large part of its architecture was a contribution of Michaelangelo. Of course, the latter is most widely known for his art, and his most famous piece of Catholic sculpture, the Pieta, is here. Catholic countries the world over have made variations of this dramatic sculpture of Mary (whom Catholics venerate) holding the dead body of her son Jesus on her knee.
Another place to visit is the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, which is considered to be among the most widely renowned museums in the world. From Genesis to the Last Judgment, artwork is seen in the Chapel’s ceiling. There are also frescoes of Moses, Jesus, and some of the Popes of the Catholic church. The ceiling is the work of Michaelangelo, where he painted more than 300 figures. The frescoes were by the greatest artists of the Renaissance like Botticelli, Raphael, and of course Michaelangelo. The art is breathtaking and dramatic.
For lunch, there are two dishes that are known the world over and associated with Italy – pasta and pizza. Upon the liberation of Naples in the 1800s, Garibaldi once said that macaroni will unite Italy.
So you may as well get a taste of Rome’s street food. Try Panificio Firenze, located just of Via Nationale at 51-52 Firenze. It is famous for its mini pizzas, which the Italians like to fold over then eat. At Panificio Firenze you can also make your own sandwich, if that is what you would prefer. Just get a number on the slot, and wait till the number lights up on the counter. Then you will be able to choose among the fresh meats and cheeses on display. You also have a wide selection of breads to choose among. Sandwich! For desert you may want to get a pastry or two.
Because there is always a fantastic gladiator movie made in Hollywood every decade or so (the last one I believe starring Russell Crowe), one may as well take a look over at the Coliseum. That way, the next time a gladiator movie is made, you can tell your friend, “I was there.” But aside from that, the Coliseum was the entertainment section of the ancient Romans. It was their movie theatre, basketball court, et al rolled into one. The Coliseum is over 2000 years old and the people did love their entertainment. Some 50,000 could be seated there at one time. It was in its time one of Rome’s greatest feats of architecture and engineering. It is also a Catholic place of significance in that the Pope annually leads the “Way of the Cross” starting at this place.
More on movies, even teen movies are made around the Trevi Fountain where coins are tossed for good luck. There is of course the oldie, “Three Coins in The Fountain,” but I believe even the Olsen sisters did a movie around this fountain at one time. Before a remake of “High School Musical in Rome” is made, make sure you are able to say you tossed some coins there.
Now it may be dinner time. You have tasted the street food of Rome, now you may want to try its expensive food. If you have the money to spare, some good restaurants in Rome are Alvaro al Circo Massimo which is homey and serves great food. Another choice is Dal Bolognese which is frequented by politicians and celebrities. A third choice would be La Pergola which is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. If this is going to be your only day in Rome in your life, and you can afford it, splurge on some good food and wine. But if you are on a budget, we would suggest that when you go to Panificio Firenze (for lunch), whatever you get, order twice as much and save the rest for dinner.
Maria Freeman writes for Briefcases Direct. She is a freelance writer and self-appointed world traveler who left San Francisco to travel the world, starting in Asia and made her way through Western Europe in 3 months. Maria is based in Manila, Philippines and spends more than half of every year seeking out new adventures, great food and the best bargain shopping in the world.