Visitors from all over the world come to Rome, the eternal city. For many it's a once in a lifetime visit, for others it's a pilgrimage to the center of Catholicism. Whatever your reason for coming to Rome, it's sure to be an amazing experience.
To be honest, Rome has hundreds of things to see and do. But the reality for most of us is that a visit to Rome is most likely part of a vacation, and as such will have a beginning and an all to short end. There are numerous amazing sites across Rome that are deserving of a visit, for now we'll look at ten of my favorites geared for the first time visitor.
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to what is possibly its most famous attraction, the Roman Colosseum . The largest amphitheater ever built in the Roman Empire; it is considered a marvel of Roman architecture and engineering. Built to hold a capacity of 50,000 spectators the Colosseum was used for gladiator contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, battle re-enactments and dramas based on classical mythology.
Damaged over the centuries by fire, earthquakes and looters, the structure today remains in a partially ruined state which only adds to its appeal. Visitors can tour the Roman Colosseum on their own or take advantage of a tour guide service offered through the Colosseum.
Another option is to utilize a private tour guide and have them take you through some of Rome’s other sites as well as the Colosseum. The area under the Colosseum where the animals were held and where Gladiators prepped for their contests is now open to visitors and is worth a visit.
Located adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. This site contains some of the most ancient and important structures of ancient Rome. For centuries the Forum was a marketplace and the center of public life for ancient Romans.
Today visitors can stroll through the Forum area and marvel at the structures that have withstood time and the elements. Entry into the Forum will take you under the Arch of Titus which today stands guard to the Roman Forum, just as it did when it was constructed in 82 A.D.
Having a good map or utilizing a tour guide will be of great assistance as you walk through the Forum; otherwise it is virtually impossible to know the history and significance of every structure
Many visitors to Rome come primarily to see Vatican City and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Pope. This self-contained State has so much to see that it is a destination in and of itself.
Without a doubt the Vatican Museum has one of the world's finest collections of artwork. Plan on at least a few hours to stroll through the museum, possibly more if you are a true art lover. Upon exiting the museum you will come to the Sistine Chapel, another one of the great treasures of Vatican City and not to be missed.
Also not to be missed is a visit to the amazing St. Peters Basilica. The first time you enter this amazing church you will be awestruck at it's enormity. It really is amazing. Don't miss Michelangelo's Pieta and the massive Bernini Baldacchino that rises above the ancient tomb of St. Peter.
For an in-depth look at things to do and see in Vatican City please refer to my Hub, Top 10 Things to Do in Vatican City. Visiting Vatican City is certainly one of the highlights of a visit to Rome and should not be missed.
If you have the time, plan on allocating at least a day or two, if not longer, to see St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum and everything else that this self contained State has to offer.
One of the oldest and best preserved buildings in all of Rome, the Pantheon stands today almost two thousand years after it was first built. The dome of the Pantheon remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus (large opening at the peak of the dome) and the diameter of the interior circle are identical at 142 feet.
The interior of the Pantheon holds numerous paintings, sculptures, altars and apses. The tomb of the great artist Raphael and several Italian Kings are also located within the Pantheon. Today the Pantheon is still an active church and is a very popular place for weddings.
This famous stairway containing 138 steps connects the Piazza di Spagna, or Spanish square at the bottom, with a French church, the Trinità dei Monti with it's twin domes at top of the hill. The steps and piazza are famous as a meeting place for locals and visitors alike to come and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Photographers are drawn here for the picturesque church, the beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia at the bottom, and of course the famous steps themselves. Grab a gelato, stake a claim to a few feet of the steps and soak in all that Rome has to offer.
One of the most famous fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in all of Rome. This popular tourist destination was completed in 1762, and attracts visitors from all over the world who come to throw coins into the fountain.
The tradition holds that throwing a coin into the fountain ensures ones return to Rome, and the fountain collects about 3,000 euro daily. The money is used to fund a supermarket for Rome’s needy and underprivileged, certainly a worthy cause.
One of the largest and certainly it’s most famous square in Rome, Piazza Navona contains a unique collection of artists, street vendors and local shops. The three main fountains of the square are well known and have appeared in numerous films including “Angels and Demons”, which was the prequel to the “The Da Vinci Code”.
In the center of the square stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651. This is a great place to grab a gelato or a panini, shop, or just relax for a few moments.
This somewhat overlooked attraction is certainly worthy of a visit while in Rome. The imposing structure, which was at one time the tallest building in Rome will certainly grab your attention as the towering cylindrical castle dominates the Rome skyline.
Originally commissioned in 135 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, Castel Sant'Angelo is today a museum that contains a unique collection of sculptures, armaments and paintings. The history of Castel Sant’Angelo also involves the Vatican, which used the structure as both a fortress and castle. The circular walkway to the top reveals one of the most spectacular views of Rome, St. Peter's Square and the Basilica.
The Capitoline Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome. It is located between the Forum and the Campus Martius and is considered Rome's most sacred hill. Today, Capitoline Hill is home to the Capitoline Museum with a world-class collection of Roman artifacts.
Also located on the hill is the Michelangelo designed, perfectly proportioned square, Piazza del Campidoglio. In the center of the square, perfectly positioned by Michelangelo is a copy of the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. You can see the original in the museum; a copy was placed on the original pedestal in 1997.
Walking Rome at Night
There is nothing like taking a stroll through ancient Rome after the sun goes down. There is just something about the way that they illuminate the ruins in and around the Colosseum, the Forum, and for that matter the entire city. Pictures do very little justice to the beauty of Rome at night. It is the perfect setting for an after dinner walk and will reveal a unique perspective on the Eternal City.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look at ten of Rome's most treasured sites. Rome is certainly one of the most fascinating cities not just in Italy but throughout the world, and is certainly a must see on any visit to Italy. Enjoy your visit to eternal Rome.
Ciao for now.