10 Places You Should Visit During Your Italy Vacation in Rome
Rome is without doubt a paradise for any tourist. A city of history, beauty and mystique, Rome has become a must destination for millions of tourists who come from around the world to admire the treasures and masterpieces of Roman art and architecture. Only while on a Rome tour you will realize that there, history lurks everywhere. A vibrant and lively city with reminders of its past everywhere, Rome has a lot of places to see. Whether your emphasis is ancient history, Renaissance art or modern shopping, you would love to visit Italy’s capital Rome. Today’s Rome is undoubtedly one the most beautiful cities in the world; But a trip to the Eternal City can be eternally confusing for first-time visitors. Here are the ten most important places you should visit during your Italy vacation in Rome.
1. The Coliseum
The Coliseum is a monument of epic proportions. Stories of gory battles between gladiators, slaves, prisoners and wild animals have emerged from this Flavian amphitheatre, which dates from AD 72. A vast arena of entertainment, with a seating capacity of over 50,000 people, it could fill up in 10 minutes. Nowhere in the world was there a larger or more glorious setting for mass slaughter. Today, the only gladiators that you will see are the ones parked outside for the tourist shutterbugs. But this is a necessary pilgrimage for history buffs, and the ideal starting point from which to take in the Roman remains of the city: the jaw-dropping Forum, the Domus Aurea and the Pantheon.
2. The Pantheon
Along with the Coliseum, the Pantheon is one of Rome’s iconic sights. A striking 2000-year-old temple (now a church), it is the city’s best-preserved ancient monument and one of the most influential buildings in the Western world. The graying, pock-marked exterior might look its age, but inside it’s a different story and it’s an exhilarating experience to pass through its towering bronze doors and have your vision directed upwards to the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
3. Trevi Fountain
This fountain almost fills an entire piazza, and is Rome’s most famous fountain, its iconic status sealed when Anita Ekberg splashed here in La Dolce Vita. The flamboyant baroque ensemble was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and depicts Neptune’s chariot being led by Tritons with sea horses – one wild, one docile – representing the moods of the sea. The water comes from the aqua virgo, a 1st-century-BC underground aqueduct, and the name Trevi refers to the tre vie (three roads) that converge at the fountain. It’s traditional to throw a coin into the fountain to ensure your return to the Eternal City. It’s usually very busy around the fountain during the day, so it’s worth trying to visit later in the evening when you can appreciate its foaming majesty without the hordes.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica
In Vatican City, a city of astounding churches, St Peter’s Basilica out dazzles them all. Awe-inspiring, huge, rich and spectacular, it’s a monument to centuries of artistic genius. On a busy day, around 20,000 visitors pass through here. If you want to be one of them, remember to dress appropriately – no shorts, miniskirts or bare shoulders. For St. Peter’s Basilica interior nave, Michelangelo ensured that the basilica’s interior, the largest in the world, would be a soaring, well-lit space in spite of its gigantic, overwhelming proportions.
5. Vatican Museums
Visiting the Vatican Museums is an unforgettable experience that requires strength, stamina and patience. You’ll need to be on top of your game to endure the inevitable queues – if not for a ticket then for the security checks – and enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the world’s great museum complexes.
Founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century and enlarged by successive pontiffs, the museums are housed in what is known collectively as the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. This massive 5.5-hectare complex consists of two palaces – the Vatican palace nearest St Peter’s and the Belvedere Palace – joined by two long galleries. On the inside are three courtyards: the Cortile della Pigna, the Cortile della Biblioteca, and, to the south, the Cortile del Belvedere.
You’ll never manage to explore the whole complex in one go – you’d need several hours just for the highlights – so it pays to be selective. There are several suggested itineraries, or you can go it alone and make up your own route.
6. The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) provide a perfect auditorium for people-watching, and have been a magnet for visitors since the 18th century. The Piazza di Spagna was named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, and consequently the steps were so-named, although they were designed by the Italian Francesco de Sanctis and built in 1725 with a legacy from the French. They lead to the French Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti, which was commissioned by King Louis XII of France and consecrated in 1585. In addition to the great views from outside, it boasts some wonderful frescoes by Daniele da Volterra. His Deposizione (Deposition), in the second chapel on the left, is regarded as a masterpiece of mannerist painting. If you don’t fancy climbing the steep steps, there’s a lift up from Spagna metro station.
At the foot of the steps, the Barcaccia (the ‘sinking boat’ fountain) is believed to be by Pietro Bernini, father of the famous Gian Lorenzo.
7. Roman Forum
Today an impressive, if rather confusing, sprawl of ruins, the Roman Forum was once a gleaming complex of marble-clad temples, proud basilicas and vibrant public spaces: the gleaming heart of an ancient city.
Originally an Etruscan burial ground, it was first developed in the 7th century BC and expanded over subsequent centuries. Its importance declined after the 4th century until eventually it was used as pasture land. In the Middle Ages it was known as the Campo Vaccino (literally ‘Cow Field’) and extensively plundered for its stone and marble. The area was systematically excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries, and excavations continue to this day.
8. Castel Sant’Angelo
With its chunky round keep, this castle is an instantly recognisable landmark. Built as a mausoleum for the emperor Hadrian, it was converted into a papal fortress in the 6th century and named after an angelic vision that Pope Gregory the Great had in 590. Thanks to a secret 13th-century passageway to the Vatican palaces, the Passetta di Borgo, it provided sanctuary to many popes in times of danger, including Clemente VI, who holed up here during the 1527 sack of Rome.
Its upper floors are filled with lavishly decorated Renaissance interiors, including, on the 4th floor, the beautifully frescoed Sala Paolina. Two stories further up, the terrace, immortalised by Puccini in his opera Tosca, offers great views over Rome.
9. Villa Medici
This striking Renaissance palace has been home to the French Academy since the early 19th century. It was built for Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano in 1540, but Ferdinando dei Medici bought it in 1576 and it remained in Medici hands until Napoleon acquired it in 1801 and gave it to the French Academy. Its most famous resident was Galileo, who was imprisoned here between 1630 and 1633 during his trial for heresy, though Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg also hung out here, dropping acid in the 1960s.
These days, the only way to get inside is to visit one of the regular art exhibitions or take a guided tour of the finely landscaped gardens.
10. Piazza del Campidoglio
This elegant piazza, designed by Michelangelo in 1538, is the centrepiece of the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), one of the seven hills on which Rome was founded. In ancient times, Rome’s two most important temples stood here: one dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus and the other (which housed Rome’s mint) to Juno Moneta. More than 2000 years on, the hill is still a political powerhouse as the seat of Rome’s municipal government.
You can reach the piazza from the Roman Forum, but the most dramatic approach is via the Cordonata, the graceful staircase that leads up from Piazza d’Ara Coeli. At the top, the piazza is bordered by three palazzi: Palazzo Nuovo to the left, Palazzo Senatorio straight ahead, and Palazzo dei Conservatori on the right. Together, Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori house the Capitoline Museums, while Palazzo Senatorio is home to Rome’s city council.
In the centre, the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is a copy. The original, which dates from the 2nd century AD, is in the Capitoline Museums.