Visiting four European hotspots in only four days sounds more like the typical travel itinerary of any Asian visitor to Continental Europe, but indeed, as horrifying and stressful this may sound to some of you, it has been an intense, exhilarating and up-lifting experience overall. And something that I would not want to miss once in a while.
It helps you focus on what is most important for you to see and experience within the available time (that ain´t much!!!), and it definitely eliminates boredom while on the road. If you should get bored, you absolutely do something wrong.
So come along on this journey, that shows you in high-speed, how hideously beautiful just a few hours in these amazing cities can be. Getting a fabulous cardio workout at the same time!
The only things that you will need are will and discipline!
Day 1: Rome, Italy
My European adventure begins in Bella Italia, in the city of love: Roma. Rome is peppered with so many sights and places worth seeing, that even a week may not be enough to check out all of them. Nevertheless, eight hours will leave you with colorful and unique impressions of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I am staying at the Crowne Plaza St. Peter´s in the Aurelio District, about 45 walking minutes west (or 3.7 kilometers) of Vatican City. To save some time in the morning, I always carry instant coffee, dry muesli and oatmeal with me when traveling. That surely is no Haute Cuisine, but delivers prompt and lasting energy for the start into the day.
Otherwise, the Pasticceria Fratelli Maurizi serves some of the best Italian cornetti (with vanilla creme filled croissants) in this area and is only 10 minutes from the hotel. Best thing: You can buy them already the night before, warm out of the oven. Absolutely to die for!!!
The walk into downtown is long, but not difficult. Click here for the routing or check out the bus schedules here.
When you reach the Vatican, a stand on Piazza San Pietro is a must. For some splendid panoramic views, it is absolutely recommendable to circle Viale Vaticano, the street which orbits the Vatican. If you are short on time, like we are today, spare this for your next visit.
Castel Sant´Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) comes up next. The view from here onto the river Tiber, St. Peter´s Dome and the beautiful bridges is fantastic. At some spots, you can descend very close to the water. If the sun is shining, this is a very popular spot for young Romans to soak up the warmth, if only for a moment.
Ponte Sant´Angelo leads to two of my favourite districts in Rome, Ponte and Pigna. Stroll through the small back- and side streets of these beautifully appointed neighbourhoods. There are lots of art galleries, bars and restaurants available.
Piazza Navona is a great place to watch people. I love the Farmer´s Market, that takes place there on Saturdays. Although there are tons of outdoor cafés, I rather have my cappuccino a little further on Piazza della Rotonda. The fountain there is beautiful and you can enjoy the view onto the Pantheon.
The next stop is Piazza Venezia. A photo of the most impressive Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) is a must! If you can´t leave Rome without having seen the Colosseum, you can do the 15 minutes walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali, which leads straight to the extraordinary monument.
Otherwise, it is time to pay visit to the world-famous Fontana di Trevi. As of April 2015, the fountain is pretty much scaffolded and panoramic photos may not be possible at the moment. Yet it is worth passing by and enjoying the beauty of this part of town.
Not too far away, and another must see, lie the Spanish Stairs. Climb up these historic steps and enjoy a gorgeous view from the top.
As time comes slowly to an end, lets head back to Ponte for a proper Italian meal. I have made great experiences during earlier visits at Trattoria da Luigi, I Sofà at the Indigo Hotel (fantastic rooftop terrace) and Osteria 140.
Re-energized and full of extraordinary impressions, it is time to return to the hotel. As another exciting city is on the list, let us close the chapter on Rome for this time. Having left so many blank spaces on the map, one thing is absolutely clear to me while I am on my way to the airport: A day in Rome is like a trip back in time.
And that is why I always enjoy to come back…
Stay tuned for the next amazing stop: Lisbon, Portugal.