When an opportunity for a 24-hour layover in Rome presented itself, I jumped on it without hesitation.
This was the city where I, years ago on a solo backpacking trip, spent splendid weeks immersed in all the beauty and chaos Rome had to offer. It was a rite of passage in many ways. Rome taught me that good things take time, and that beauty should stand the test of time. Everywhere I went, I was mesmerized by the omnipresent art and history. By the end of it I even grew to appreciate the angry traffic and passion that imbued every spoken word. This is how life should be: fiery, imperfect, but beautiful.
I have missed Rome.
With exactly 23.5 hours to play with, I kept the itinerary minimal. I would slow down and revisit a few favorite spots.
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
Not far from my Airbnb apartment was Santa Maria della Vittoria, a small, unassuming church that houses one of Bernini’s masterpieces, Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Drama and sensuality exude from this statue (do you see Teresa in the sweet pain of … becoming one with God?). It is unmistakably Bernini, whose High Roman Baroque style adorns much of the city.
Trastevere and Janiculum Hill
It was a clear day, so I decided to hike up to Trastevere’s Janiculum Hill for sunset viewing. It was a hot day too. In the sweltering August heat, I abandoned plan to walk when I found a bus route that seemed to be a promising alternative. Five minutes, ten minutes, and forty minutes went by at the bus stop… Bus 870 never showed up. According a fellow passenger by the name Jesús (a bit hilarious that his name coincided with our proximity to the Vatican City), this was hardly surprising because “the whole town has gone on holiday.” Jesús was right. Only then did I notice that half the stores were closed. So my walk resumed.
A sweaty climb later, I was rewarded with a sweeping view of the eternal city.
Gelato and Evening Stroll
Dots of lights slowly took over the darkening landscape. The sun disappeared, and it was time for dinner. Which was followed by gelato. In my book, a day in Rome needs to be punctuated with multiple gelato breaks. This time was no exception.
For digestion (and frankly, room for more gelato), I took a stroll from Trastevere back to the city center. I did a quick round of Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, and continued onto Pantheon, my favorite architecture in all of Italy.
When I emerged out of the narrow streets and met the Pantheon face-to-face again for the first time, I could not look away. The temple’s interior was closed at that late hour though. So I contended with lingering under the portico, and thinking about the wonder that hid behind the door—the dome that inspired later domes, including Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s Basilica and Brunelleschi’s Duomo.
Just before midnight, I made it to the Trevi Fountain. This grand, bubbly spot was as crowded as ever. I managed to snag a seat, sat back with hundreds of strangers that filled the space while devouring my third gelato of the day.
And I skipped the coin toss because I know I will be back. Even if just for another 24 hours.
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