Roman history is visible everywhere you turn: fountains, piazzas, temples, churches and museums filled with priceless art and artefacts. Admire the best of Roman art and architecture, from the iconic Colosseum and Pantheon, to the Dome of St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. There is just so much to see and do in the ‘eternal city’.
One of Rome’s largest ancient monuments is the Colosseum which was built as a gift for the citizens of Rome by the Flavian emperors over 1500 years ago and its structure still stands. This magnificent amphitheatre once held bloodthirsty gladiator and animal fights, with up to 50,000 spectators. Right in the centre of Rome, the Colosseum is easily accessible by local transport systems.
The Roman Forum is within the vicinity of the Colosseum and was the economic, political and religious centre of ancient Rome. As you walk around, you will see many remains of shrines, altars, temples and what was the Imperial Senate House but later converted into a church in 630 AD.
Not too far from the Roman Forum is Palatine Hill, which is the central and first settled hill of the 7 hills of Rome. Here you will see the temples of Apollo, Victory and the Great Mother of the Gods, as well as the residence of past emperors. It is recommended you purchase a ticket which permits entry to all three sites: Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
The Pantheon is the best preserved Ancient building in Italy. It was initially a pagan temple and was later converted into a church as Christianity spread. The Pantheon is in front of a piazza. Surrounded by restaurants, cafes, gelaterias and shops, makes it an ideal place for a day or evening visit.
Arch of Constantine
Just outside the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine. It was built in 315 AD to celebrate the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at Pons Milvius. The decorations on the arch show Constantine’s army driving those of Maxentius into the Tiber River. The Arch is, therefore, a symbol of the most pivotal point in the development of Italian culture and identity.
Capitoline Hill is where the first and holiest of ancient Rome’s temples stood; the Capitoline Triad – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva and a temple solely to Jupiter. However, now it is home to two museums in Piazza del Campidoglio (which was designed by Michelangelo): the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazza Nuovo. The museums contain an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, frescos and mosaics.
Piazza Navona, a trendy hang out filled with artists, beautiful fountains and cafes. Originally built as a stadium to house athletic contests and chariot races during the first century, the modern-day piazza attracts locals, tourists and especially artists - in the evenings, where you can be painted, sketched or even caricaturized. Piazza Navona has a sociable and relaxing atmosphere, especially in the evening when you can sit by the Fontana Dei Fiumi, or Fontana del Moro and let the sounds of flowing waters sooth you.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. Although built with the French, it obtained its name due to its location, beside the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. In the past, the most beautiful men and women would sit on the steps hoping to be chosen to model for an artist. However, this no longer happens; now it is more of a gathering spot. The steps lead to the French church Trinità dei Monti and “Keats-Shelly Memorial House”.
Altare della Patria
The monument dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy is in Piazza Venezia. Beneath it is the tomb of an unknown soldier which bears an eternal flame, for all the unknown soldiers who lost their lives during WW1. The square got its name from the Palazzo Venezia just opposite the monument, which was once a papal residence and later the headquarters of Mussolini. It features a collection of historic decorative arts such as tapestry, early Renaissance paintings, ceramics, suits of armour and sculptures.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain, where many come to make their life long wishes by throwing a coin with their right hand over their left shoulder, praying they may be granted by Neptune – the god of the sea, the centrepiece of this fountain. Enjoy the atmosphere of hope and excitement the Trevi creates. Being right in the centre of town, make your wish and explore the surrounding piazzas.
Castel Sant' Angelo
Castel Sant' Angelo was built to house Emperor Hadrian and his successors’ tombs, but has since then been used as the home of noble families, a papal fortress and residence, a prison and is now the National Museum of Castel Sant’ Angelo. The museum traces its history and has various exhibits and consists of five floors: the floor of prisons, military floor, papal floor and the top floor dominated by the famous Archangel, where you can see a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome.
Ponte Sant’ Angelo
Just behind the Castel Sant’ Angelo is Ponte Sant’ Angelo, also known as the Angel Bridge. Emperor Hadrian built this bridge to span over the Tiber, from the city centre to lead to his mausoleum; which is now Castel Sant’ Angelo. This bridge is one of Rome’s finest, having never been damaged by river floods and beautifully decorated by Bernini’s angels during the 17th century. It is also a crossroad of time: Hadrian’s mausoleum in front, medieval Rome of piazzas behind, St Peter’s Dome to the left and to the right is Ponte Umberto I and the Palace of Justice symbols, modern Rome.
St Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the largest Roman Catholic building in the world and can hold up to 60,000 people. In Catholic tradition, it is the site of which Saint Peter is buried – hence its name. The basilica designed by Michelangelo also houses many of his works. Complimenting a visit to the basilica, a walk away is the Vatican Museums. They are the largest museum complex in the world, housing artwork from over 3000 years, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and his frescoes.
The city of Rome harbours the most obelisks in the world; eight are ancient Egyptian and five are ancient Roman. The tallest and largest standing obelisk in Rome is Lateranense in Piazza di San Giovanni, brought from the temple of Amun in Karnak, Egypt. The tallest ancient Roman obelisk is in Piazza Navona, called Agonalis. There are 13 obelisks dotted around Rome; you’ll stumble across them as you explore this magnificent city.
The Talking statues of Rome
The Talking Statues of Rome were a platform for the people to express their views and retain anonymity. The sculptures were built around 3rd century B.C. but their controversy began during the 16th century A.D. People began posting notes, of poetry and sayings but then this gradually developed into criticisms of the local political and religious leaders. They were usually posted at night to maintain anonymity to avoid any repercussions.
A particular popular statue was Pasquino, which can be found behind Piazza Navona in the now called Piazza Pasquino. It is the remnants of a male statue thought to be an ancient Greek hero or king. Note-leavers were referred to as Pasquinites, one of the well-known posts was: What the Barbarians did not do, has been done by the Barberini. Papal authorities did not tolerate this Pasquinite and ordered guards to stand watch, those caught adhered severe punishments. However, none were caught. Let the Pasquinites inspire you to speak your mind while you’re in this timeless city.