Rome. The city and the legend. This city, with a history of thousands of years, is considered one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. A visit to Rome, the capital of Italy, is like a stroll through an open museum, one that presents its visitors with ancient archaeological findings, special buildings, spectacularly beautiful works of art, and a vibrant, colorful, and very special culture. You should spend at least 4-5 days in Rome (more is also recommended) if only to be impressed by all the abundance it offers. It has a lot of beautiful museums and galleries, it has important historical sites and points worth stopping at, it has charming parks and gardens and markets, which offer fresh and good local produce as you can only find in Rome.
Historical Sites and Heritage Sites in the City
As befits a city with a very rich historical past, a city that was founded in the middle of the eighth century BC, Rome offers its visitors countless historical sites and heritage sites, which tell its long-standing story. Some of them are considered prominent and well-known on the travelers’ map, and some are less so. Some are next to each other, and actually form part of a cluster of several tourist sites, and some are scattered in different areas throughout the city. Either way, everyone is recommended to come and visit them is an opportunity to learn a lot about the special and beautiful city.
The Colosseum is considered one of the most prominent attractions in the city and also among the most photographed. A visit to Rome must also include a stop at the Colosseum, an ancient amphitheater located in the center of the city itself. The Colosseum was started to be built as early as 70 AD and its construction was completed about a decade later. It is known as the largest of its kind and a spectacular Roman architectural work. It is estimated that the amphitheater, even in those years, could have accommodated between 40 and 70 thousand people, a huge number by all accounts. These, came to him to watch gladiatorial contests as well as battles of various types and spectacular historical battle reenactments. The Colosseum is now recognized as a world heritage site and even as one of the new wonders of the world. Every year, crowds of visitors come to it and it is, without a doubt, a must-stop.
Forum Romanum (Roman Forum)
This is another well-known tourist attraction in Rome, which is not far from the Colosseum. In its glorious past, the Roman Forum was part of the center of ancient Rome and received its name, the Great Forum, due to its great importance in the Roman Empire. It was between Capitoline Hill and the Palatine Hill and was used for assemblies, gladiator fights, religious ceremonies, and as a space from which shops and markets operated. On the site itself, there are the remains of several important buildings, including temples, gates, and basilicas. There are descriptions of the ancient findings that still exist there from the eighth century AD as well as in the paintings of various artists from the 15th and 16th centuries. The forum and its various buildings were discovered in archaeological excavations that began in the 18th century, which aroused great interest throughout the world. Today it is a pilgrimage site for many tourists, including history and archeology buffs, interested in the great Roman Empire.
Like other architectural buildings in Rome, the Pantheon in the city is also impressive and spectacular in its beauty. It has existed since the time of ancient Rome in the city and was used, as can be understood from its name, as a place to worship all the gods. The Pantheon was built between 27 BC and 14 AD, and was rebuilt between 80-100 AD. In addition to being of great religious importance, the building served as a meeting place for the members of the Roman Senate and after a while, the Pantheon was converted into a church. The front of the Pantheon is beautiful and welcomes the crowds of tourists who flock to it. The impressive facade is supported by eight columns and creates a sort of cylinder-shaped space. The concrete dome above is the largest of its kind in the world and has an opening in the center, through which natural light enters the space of the building, which adds uniqueness and beauty.
Basilica of Saint Peter (Basilica Sancti Petri)
It is hard not to be impressed by this magnificent basilica, which decorates the skyline of beautiful Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the Vatican City and is one of the well-known symbols of the city. It is also the largest Christian architectural structure in the world and can accommodate up to sixty thousand people. Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (the most senior among them), was buried in this basilica, which led to the burial of many of the popes in the same place. The basilica is known, among other things, as a pilgrimage site of great importance and is part of the history of Christianity. Its construction began at the beginning of the 16th century, when Michelangelo, who was in charge of the construction works, also took part in it. The magnificent dome of the basilica is considered a creation of splendor and over the years many buildings have tried to imitate it, including the US Congress building. It received the title of “UNESCO World Heritage Site” and for good reason and it attracts crowds of visitors throughout the year.
Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)
There are quite a few fountains in Rome, which are part of the urban cityscape. They fit in with the existing buildings and are a focal point of attraction for locals, as well as for many tourists. One of the well-known fountains in the city, and perhaps also among the most beautiful, is the Trevi Fountain, an ancient fountain from the Italian Baroque period. In the very distant past, the Italians used to build fountains, where the aqueducts ended, which were responsible for transporting water to the city. Indeed, the fountain was built in 1730 where there was a pool, construction that continued until 1762, after the death of the architect who was entrusted with its design – Selvi. This fountain is decorated with many magnificent sculptures, including Neptune to the sea, which is in the center. The legend promises that anyone who throws a coin into the fountain with his right hand and over his left shoulder will get married (or divorced). Originally it was believed that whoever did this would guarantee his return to the city itself.
The Sistine Chapel (La Cappella Sistina)
Those who have studied art or are interested in the history of art have heard a lot about it and it is considered one of the most spectacular sites in Rome, a site that is many years old and brings with it beauty and power. The Sistine Chapel is located in the Vatican City within the grounds of the Pope’s Palace and is where one of the most important ceremonies in the Christian world, the ceremony of electing the Pope, was held. The chapel is known, among other things, for the beautiful decorations that decorate it, decorations for which well-known Italian artists are responsible, such as Michelangelo, who painted his important work on its ceiling – “Judgment Day”, a work from the 16th century with many details. The scenes painted on the ceiling of the chapel are breathtaking and this is also the reason why upon entering it is difficult not to notice all the visitors, who are in the interior space, with their heads directed upwards.
This is one of the most important squares in Rome and also among the most visited. Piazza Navona is right in the heart of the city, and it was designed by one of the greatest and most prominent architects of Rome – Bernini, for the family of the then Pope, Innocent X. The square is designed in the Baroque style and in an elliptical shape with the Four Rivers Fountain in the center. It is not a large square, but both due to its location and connection with alleys and main streets and due to its beauty, it attracts crowds of tourists.
The Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti)
It is impossible to mention the attractions in Rome without mentioning the very famous Spanish Steps and perhaps one of the most photographed stopping points in the city. The story of these stairs (136 in number) begins at the beginning of the 18th century when the purpose of their construction was to link the Vatican with the Spanish Embassy (hence the name: the Spanish Steps). They were designed by two architects: Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specci and were built between 1723 and 1725 and financed by Stephane Goupier, a French diplomat. Today they connect Spain Square (Piazza di Spagna – Piazza di Spagna) to Piazza Trinita di Monti and the church of the same name. These ranks can be seen in many films, in which they star, various international films that found it a perfect location for romantic or other scenes. It is very worthwhile to climb the entire flight of stairs if only to enjoy a beautiful view of Rome itself and from there continue walking to the nearby Villa Borghese gardens.
Piazza del Popolo (Piazza del Popolo)
This large piazza, named, it is speculated, after the poplar tree (Populis) that grew where it was built, is also among the well-known piazzas of Rome and a very prominent tourist spot in the city. The square is located in the inner part of the gate that led to ancient Rome, the Flaminius gate, from which the road left led straight to the city of Rimini, a very important and central port city in the north. The square was built between the years 1811-1822 and the architect Giuseppe Valadir is responsible for its planning and design, he combined design elements with features from neoclassical architecture. In the center of the square, there is an Egyptian obelisk, which rises to a height of 24 meters, and in its southern part, you can see three roads, leaving it and crossing the center of Rome. From the same exit point, two identical churches are right next to them. The square also has colorful fountains and statues, which decorate and add to its overall design. In the past, the square was also open to vehicles and now it is open to pedestrians only.
Museums in the City
Rome’s museums tell quite a bit about the city, its culture and its history, and you can combine several during one day trip, but it is recommended to devote several hours to all the most important ones if only to get an impression of all the different works and findings they present. A large part of Rome’s museums are dedicated to the works of famous and important artists, some emphasize the historical and cultural side of this rich city. You should wear comfortable shoes, order entrance tickets to some of them in advance, and stop by them for a visit during your vacation in the city.
The Vatican Museum (Musei Vaticani)
Even if you are less interested in art or history, the Vatican Museum in Rome is a must-stop. This museum is a well-known, old, and very popular complex in Rome, consisting of several art and archeology museums, located right inside the Vatican. These, offer their visitors special collections of different and diverse works belonging to the Catholic Church, such that tell, in part, about the culture, the place, and the religion. The museum first opened in 1771 and was founded by Pope Julius II. In this museum is also the famous Sistine Chapel with its decorated walls and the four Raphael rooms, which are decorated with the spectacular works of both Raphael and his students, works from the 16th century. Among the famous works, which can be seen in the museum complex, are the works of Caravaggio, the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the works of Giotto, the aforementioned Raphael, and other works that grace the place.
The Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini)
On Capitoline Hill in Rome are located a number of museums known as the “Capitoline Museums”, which are advanced in art and archaeology. They are all centered in the square, designed in the early 16th century by Michelangelo and they offer impressive collections, donated, in part, by Pope Sixtus IV. Among the works of art, which you will see in the museums, are some of the works of well-known Italian artists, such as the “Capitoline Wolf” statue, the head of Medusa, the Marcus Aurelius statue, and more. These museums are open to the public and are operated by the Municipality of Rome.
The National Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI)
Alongside ancient works of art by well-known artists from years gone by, you can also find works of art in Rome that bring innovation and the new century to the fore. The National Museum of 21st Century Art is located in the Flaminio neighborhood and was first opened to the public in 2010, after ten years of construction. In practice, it includes, in fact, two museums where one focuses on art and the other on architecture. The museum is surrounded by a large courtyard, where impressive and very special works of art are scattered, which also contribute to the atmosphere of the place.
Palazzo Barberini Museum
Here is a wonderful example of a charming combination of architecture and stylish works of art. The Barbini Museum is located inside the Barberini Palace, which belonged to a wealthy noble family during the Middle Ages, who ruled Rome after arriving from distant Florence. While wandering around the palace you can learn a lot about the life of the family and the lives of the noble families in the city during the Renaissance. Beyond the special structure of the palace, it is also possible to find many works, including the “divine allegory” that adorns the roof of the palace’s central hall, and the roof of the lounge. It is a one-of-a-kind baroque masterpiece, starring Pope Barberini, surrounded by angels.
Children’s Museum (Explora – Il Museo dei Bambini di Roma)
As befits any large and highly touristic city, Rome also boasts an impressive children’s museum, which attracts many families with children of all ages. This is a museum that is mainly intended for the little ones in the group (for children up to the age of 12) and it offers different sessions and activities, which allow for experience as well as learning.
Parks and Gardens
Along with ancient monuments, which tell the rich story of beautiful Rome, you can also find quite a few beautiful parks and gardens in the city that contribute to its atmosphere and decorate it with many colors. If you’ve arrived in Rome and the weather is pleasant, don’t miss a visit to some of them, if only to enjoy their spectacular beauty and a real break from the noise and bustle of the busy and crowded city (and especially in June, July, and August, when crowds of tourists flock to it).
Villa Borghese Gardens
They are considered the second largest in the city and among the most beautiful and impressive gardens in the world. The gardens of Villa Borghese look like something out of a postcard and combine, in a perfect way, the ancient architecture typical of the city, and beautiful green nature. The story of these gardens begins at the beginning of the 17th century, in 1605, when the famous Italian sculptor Bernini wanted to turn the vineyard he owned into a luxurious and elaborate garden, which includes colorful elements, designed in a formal French style. A few centuries later, in 1903, these gardens, which until then were in private hands, became public spaces, including the buildings that were in them. Today, the gardens attract crowds of tourists throughout the year and in any weather. In the center of the gardens, you can see the beautiful Villa Borghese Pinchana and another villa, Villa Giulia, which serves as a museum. The gardens also have the National Gallery of Modern Art, other magnificent and elaborate villas, a special Gothic sculpture garden, an English pavilion, a zoo, a zoological museum, and, of course, a language of green grass surfaces and gorgeous vegetation. Other well-known works of art, are also displayed in the palace: “La Fornarina” by the painter Raphael, “David and Saul”, “Narcissus” by Caravaggio, and more.
Villa Doria Pamphili (Villa Doria Pamphili)
It is located in the Monteverde neighborhood in Rome and is the largest landscaped park in the city. Similar to other parks in Rome, it too was initially used as a garden, adjacent to a suburban villa that belonged to the well-known aristocratic Pamphili family. The main attraction of the garden is the magnificent 17th-century villa of Casino del Belspiro, which includes beautiful gardens, adjacent to it. The large park was divided in two with the construction of a track for the Olympic Games held in Rome in 1960, which pedestrians can cross thanks to an elevated road built in 2000.
The Vatican Gardens (Vatican Gardens)
This is one of Rome’s hidden secrets and the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the crowds. It is thought that these beautiful and elaborate gardens were established in 1279 when Pope Nicholas III moved the papal residence from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican. In the gardens, you can see designed terraces, charming fountains, and colorful sculptures that decorate them. They are open to visitors in the months of June, July, and August, the peak tourist season in Rome itself. A view from above of the Vatican gardens and markets is not to be missed.
The markets in Rome are an excellent opportunity to get closer to the locals and absorb the atmosphere that is so characteristic of the city. They are lively, they are colorful and they attract both the residents of Rome and the surrounding area and crowds of tourists. You don’t have to leave them with bags full of products, but it’s definitely worth dedicating a few hours to them during your vacation.
Borghetto Flaminio Market
This charming flea market is held on a weekly basis and is a must-see attraction for reality lovers. It is located near Piazza del Popolo and is open every Sunday, from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. You will find rare antiques, designer clothes, and surprisingly excellent quality goods. This is a market that is a real treasure with Armani sunglasses, Gucci bags, and even fur coats.
Porta Portese Market
It is considered to be the largest and most famous of the city’s markets and includes a multitude of stalls adjacent to them along a kilometer and a half. The Forte Forteza market offers a wide variety of bargains and the cheapest. It has beautiful antiques, carpets, clothes, shoes, and various surprises. It is open every Sunday from 5:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and is an excellent opportunity to absorb lively, colorful, and very special air. Wonderful authentic Italian atmosphere.
Fontanella Borghese Market
Lovers of literature and art will find this market a real paradise. Fontella Borghese Market takes you on a journey through time and offers countless great bargains and charming collections. It has old books, antique prints, and artworks of various kinds. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and is visited by both locals and tourists. This is the perfect place to find unique gifts, far from the expensive souvenir shops for tourists. The merchants who are familiar with it will be happy to tell you about the items they offer for sale and the history behind them and will welcome you with open arms. Antique maps, vintage posters, used cameras, old magazines, and newspapers are just some of the treasures you can find at the market.