The Colosseum is the main symbol of Rome. It is an imposing construction that, with almost 2,000 years of history, will bring you back in time to discover the way of life in the Roman Empire.
The Colosseum remained active for over 500 years. The last recorded games in history were celebrated in the 6th century.
The Roman Colosseum is one of the Rome’s most remarkable monuments and is visited by over 6 million people every year. On 7 July 2007 the Colosseum became one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
The Roman Forum was where religious and public life in ancient Rome took place. The Forum is, along with the Colosseum, the greatest sign of the splendour of the Roman Empire that can be seen today.
After the fall of the Empire, the Roman Forum was forgotten and little by little it was buried under the earth. Although in the 16th century the existence and location of the Forum was already known, it was not until the 20th century that excavations were carried out.
Visiting Rome without walking around the Forum is like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
Trevi Fountain is the most beautiful fountain in Rome. Measuring some 20 meters in width by 26 meters in height, Trevi Fountain is also the largest fountain in the city.
The origins of the fountain go back to the year 19 B.C., in which period the fountain formed the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct. The first fountain was built during the Renaissance, under the direction of Pope Nicholas V.
Why are there always people in the fountain throwing coins into the water and taking photos of themselves? The myth, originating in 1954 with the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain,” goes like this:
- If you throw one coin: you will return to Rome.
- If you throw two coins: you will fall in love with an attractive Italian.
- If you throw three coins: you will marry the person that you met.
Defined during the fifteenth century, the Baroque-style Piazza Navona is one of the most popular squares in Rome.
The square is surrounded by restaurants and terraces giving Piazza Navona a lively and delightful atmosphere during the day. Here, visitors can enjoy performances by street artists like magicians and dancers.
The most imposing buildings which look onto the square are the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and the Palazzo Pamphilj.
The most beautiful parts of Piazza Navona are its three fountains, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno.
St. Peter’s Square
St Peter’s Square or Piazza San Pietro is probably one of the world’s most famous squares and one of the most breath-taking. Designed by Bernini during the seventeenth century, it houses over 300,000 people.
St. Peter’s Square is one of the largest squares in the world and is located in Vatican City, at the feet of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The most impressive part of the square, besides its size, are its 284 columns and 88 pilasters that flank the square in a colonnade of four rows. Above the columns there are 140 statues of saints created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini.
The most spectacular way to arrive at St. Peter’s Square is along the Via della Conciliazione, a long street that begins in the Castel Sant’Angelo.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica, located in the Vatican City, is considered one of the Catholic Church’s holiest temples and an important pilgrimage site, it is also one of the largest churches in the world.
The basilica was called St Peter’s after one of Jesus’s twelve disciples known as Saint Peter, who became one of the founders of the Catholic Church and was executed in Rome and buried where the Basilica now stands.
One of the most impressive parts of the Basilica is its incredible dome. Its design was started by Michelangelo and continued by Giacomo Della Porta. Carlo Maderno finished the dome in 1614.
This dome has served as inspiration for many other cathedrals and buildings, for example, the Capitol in Washington and St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Don’t miss out on climbing to the top of the dome, where a stunning view of St Peter’s Square, and if the day is clear of most of the city awaits you.
The Pantheon of Agrippa, also known as the Roman Pantheon, is one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian capital. It is the best preserved building from ancient Rome.
The most surprising aspect of the architecture in the Pantheon is its measurements: the circular building has exactly the same diameter as its height: 43.5 metres. The dome, which has the same diameter, is bigger than that of St. Peter’s Basilica. At its top, a 9 meter diameter opening allows natural light to illuminate the entire building.
Inside the Pantheon, the tombs of numerous Italian kings and multitude works of art are found. The best-known person who is buried in the Pantheon is the painter and Renaissance architect Raphael.
The Sistine Chapel is one of the greatest treasures of the Vatican City, of Rome and of the world in general. It is known as much for its decoration, as for being the temple in which popes are chosen and crowned. Some of the most important artists who worked in the chapel are Botticelli, Perugino, Luca and Michelangelo.
All of the frescoes of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are the work of Michelangelo, who spent four years painting the vault between 1508 and 1512.
If there is one thing that stands out from among the images on the ceiling, it is the nine stories from Genesis that occupy the central area: The scenes from the Drunkenness of Noah to the Separation of Light from Darkness are represented.
Regarded as Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) is a jaw-dropping attraction you must see at least once in your lifetime.
The Spanish Steps
The Piazza di Spagna or Square of Spain is one of Rome’s most renowned squares. The name comes from the Palazzo di Spagna, the seat of the Spanish Embassy for the Vatican located on this square since the seventeenth century.
The Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti in Italian) were built at the beginning of the eighteenth century connecting Piazza di Spagna and the Church of Trinità dei Monti.
The staircase is a hit with tourists who come to sit, relax, take photographs and take in the views of Piazza di Spagna.
Top Fact – The fountain at the bottom of the stairs is called The Fontana della Barcaccia which translates into English as The Fountain of the ugly boat.
The Catacombs of Rome are former underground burial grounds that date from the second to the fifth century and were principally used by Christians and Jews.
The Christians did not agree with the pagan custom of burning the bodies of their dead, for which reason to solve problems created from a lack of space and the high price of land they decided to create these vast underground cemeteries.
Comfortable footwear is advised as the catacombs possess a huge number of subterranean passageways that form real labyrinths that are several kilometres long.
There are more than sixty catacombs made up of hundreds of kilometres of underground passageways that hold thousands of tombs. Currently only five of them are open to the public.
Top Fact – Due to the high infant mortality at that time, you can see large spaces prepared for children, alongside some larger graves in which the whole family was buried.
With over 6 million annual visitors, the Vatican Museums are one of the most-popular attractions in Rome. Established by Pope Julius II during the sixteenth century, it houses thousands of works of art.
The origins of these museums go back to 1503, the year in which the recently named Pope Julius II donated his private collection. Since that moment private families and other popes have enlarged the collection of the museums to the point where it has become one of the largest museums in the world.
As it would take you years to study each and every object contained in the museums, we recommend you take time to see the most popular. These include Raphael’s last work right before he died the Transfiguration in the Pinacoteca, The modern art bronze sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro in the Pinecone Courtyard which is one of the most photographed objects on display and The Tapestries Hall which includes The Resurrection of Christ of which the detail and moving perspective is a work of very fancy stitching.
Basilica of St. John Lateran
The Lateran Palace was handed over by Constantine I to the Bishop of Rome, who converted the building into a temple during the fourth century. The Basilica is the oldest church in Europe.
Founded during the fourth century in honour of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, St John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the Cathedral of Rome and the most important of the four major basilicas. It is known as St John Lateran Archbasilica, as is it considered the mother church of the Roman Catholic faithful.
The two-story portico on the Basilica’s main façade was constructed during the eighteenth century, and it is where the Pope blesses the congregation on Holy Thursday. On the top part of the façade visitors will see imposing statues of the Apostles and Jesus, also dating from the eighteenth century.
The Holy Stairs (Scala Santa) are located near the Lateran Basilica. These are renowned because it is believed that Jesus Christ stepped on them during His Passion. They were relocated from Jerusalem to Rome in 326 by St Helena.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is an ancient Catholic basilica that is considered to be the largest of the churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome. It is one of the city’s four major basilicas.
The basilica displays varied architectural styles, from early Christian to Baroque. The entire building was restored and renovated during the eighteenth century, so the facade and much of the interior dates from that period.
Probably the most striking aspect of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore is the different parts belonging to such varied periods of history. As if it were made up of remnants, the church summarizes the most important stages of Christian art in Rome.
The Palatine Hill is considered to be the birthplace of the Italian capital and is believed to have been inhabited since the year 1000 B.C.
Located 40 meters above the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill is the most central of the seven hills of Rome and forms one of the oldest parts of the city.
Roman mythology talks of the cave that was inhabited by Luperca, the she-wolf that took care of Romulus and Remus, which is located in the Palatine Hill. According to the legend, when the brothers grew up they decided to form a city on the banks of the river, but when they could not come to an agreement in some points of the decision, Romulus killed Remus and founded the city of Rome.
On Palatine Hill you can see hundreds of ruins of the imposing buildings that were created for high Roman society in ancient times. Although the whole scene is impressive, these are some of the points that deserve special attention including the splendid palace Domus Flavia, House of Livia, Farnese Gardens and Palatine museum.
Trastevere is one of Rome’s most pleasant neighbourhoods.
A walk through the narrow cobbled streets of the Trastevere shows hidden treasures such as modest medieval churches, small shops with the most unusual objects, or even some scenes of everyday life seemingly taken from a forgotten age.
Trastevere is one of the best areas for dining in Rome making it very pleasant for a walk through its streets, especially as night falls. Tourists seeking traditional bars, and those who prefer more modern and innovative venues will all find the perfect spot in the Trastevere.
The great fountain in front of the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere serves as a meeting place, a resting spot, or simply somewhere to have an ice cream on a hot day.
Villa Borghese of Rome is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. The State acquired the gardens from the Borghese family in 1901 and opened them to the public on 12 July 1903.
What differentiates Villa Borghese from other large parks such as Hyde Park or Central Park is the perfect combination between nature and Roman art.
The park is also home to the Borghese Gallery, one of the most important museums in the city which houses paintings from artists such as Raphael, Titian or Caravaggio.
You’ll also find Rome Zoo known as the Bioparco. Rome Zoo contains more than 1,000 animals from 200 different species.
As well as a Zoo, world class museums and 80 hectares of green you’ll also find the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre which is an exact replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is one of the best preserved monuments from ancient Rome. Thanks to its excellent location next to the Colosseum, it is one of the most representative and photographed landmarks in the city.
Constructed from pieces of previous buildings, the Arch of Constantine is the most modern of the triumphal arches that were built in ancient Rome. It is 21 meters high, 25 meters wide and is made up of three arches.
The inscription on the upper part, originally cast in bronze letters, states the following: “To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pius, and blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and only the force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.”
Mouth of Truth
Situated in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church, the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Veritá) is a worldwide-famous enormous marble mask said to bite the hand of those who lied.
The huge legendary sculpture has a diameter of 1.75 meters and is dedicated to the God of the Sea, represented by a male bearded face with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth.
According to legend, a husband who mistrusted his wife took her to the Mouth of Truth to test her faithfulness. The woman reacted by pretending to swoon and her lover caught her in his arms. After this, the woman swore before the Mouth of Truth that she had only been in the arms of her husband and of the man that had just caught her.
Altare della Patria
Inaugurated in 1911 to pay respect to Victor Emmanuel II, Altare della Patria is an imposing building located in Piazza Venezia that provides some of the best views of Rome.
This colossal monument is 135 meters wide and 70 meters high and is comprised of scores of majestic Corinthian columns and endless stairs, all carved out of white marble.
One of the greatest attractions of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel is the panoramic view that can be seen from the terrace located at the same height as the chariots. The panoramic elevators are the only way to reach the upper part of the monument, but the amazing views make it worth the effort to climb.
The monument’s impressive dimensions and the sight of the sun reflected on its white marble make it one of the most photographed landmarks in Rome.
Staying with breath-taking views, a trip to the outskirts of Rome and to Janiculum Hill is a great way to spend the day as a couple or with children.
Janiculum Hill, considered by many locals as the eighth hill of Rome, is a peaceful and refreshing space close to the city centre. You’ll start to enjoy views of this ancient city as you walk up its pathways.
There is a festive atmosphere that is removed from the hustle and bustle of the city with lots of activities for children including puppet shows and pony rides.
History buffs should also check out the monument dedicatied to Giuseppe Garibaldi which forms part of the commemorative park recalling the events that took place on Janiculum Hill during the French army’s assault of Rome in 1849.
Housed in the Villa Borghese, a beautiful and elegant mansion, Galleria Borghese is one of the most renowned art museums in the world with pieces of art by greats such as Bernini, Antonio Canova, Tiziano, Raffaello and of course, Caravaggio.
The gallery features an important part of the collection begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V), between 1576 and 1633 who was an avid art collector of Carvaggio’s work. He was also Bernini’s first sponsor so the Galleria Borghese has an extensive collection of both artists.
The building’s gardens are also a popular attraction and the third largest park in Rome.
The museum is extremely popular, booking in advance is mandatory and only those with a pre-paid admissions ticket will be let in. Reserving a ticket can be done online or by phone. We recommend booking a few days in advance to make sure the tickets aren’t sold out.
The Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) are found in Piazza del Campidoglio. The museum was founded upon the donation of a collection of valuable bronzes by Pope Sixtus IV in 1471 to the citizens of Rome.
The Capitoline Museum is in fact made up by two imposing buildings located adjacent to each other on either side of Piazza del Campidoglio and are linked by the Galleria Lapidaria, a tunnel that takes you underground.
The museum houses a collection of paintings, sculptures, busts by renowned artists like Caravaggio, Tiziano, Rubens and Tintoretto. One of the main attractions found in the museum is the original sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf and the first sculpture of a living person also called Ritratto di Carlo I d’Angiò de Arnolfo di Cambio (1277).
In the Hall of the Philosophers visitors will find remarkable busts of Greek and Roman philosophers which had previously decorated the gardens and villas of the Roman aristocrats.
Located between the Aventino and Palatine Hill, the Circus Maximus was the largest stadium in ancient Rome built for chariot races.
The Circus Maximus, located between the Aventino and Palatine Hills, was an extended precinct with space for 300,000 spectators. The arena, which measured 600 meters in length and 225 meters in width, made the Circus Maximus the largest in Rome, ahead of the Circus of Flaminius and the Circus of Maxentius.
Currently, the ruins of what was once the Circus Maximus barely remain. There is only the enormous terrace that keeps the form that it had in its day, which often causes disappointment for tourists who visit it hoping to find at least the ruins of the precinct.
Known as Hadrian’s Tomb, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress located on the right bank of the Tiber, a short distance from the Vatican City.
Construction of the building began in the year 135 under the direction of the Emperor Hadrian, who intended to use it as mausoleum for himself and his family. It was finished in the year 139 and a short time later, it became a military building, which in the year 403 would be integrated to the Aurelian Walls.
In the year 1277 an 800 metre fortified corridor was built that connected the castle with the Vatican City so that the Pope could escape in the event that he were in danger. During the sieges that occurred in Rome during 1527, the Pope Clement VII used the fortress as a refuge.
The Castel Sant’Angelo is split into five floors which can be reached by a spiral ramp that first reaches the chamber of ashes and subsequently the cells in which a number of historical figures were incarcerated.
In the upper floor there is a large terrace where you can take amazing photographs of the city from above.
The Crypta Balbi offers its visitors a historical trip through Rome’s past thanks to the excavations carried out in 1981.
The crypt was housed within the Theatre of Balbus, a roman theatre built between 13-19BC. People would go into the crypt during the intervals of different plays. Over time, the theatre was forgotten and buried under other constructions until excavations started in the 80’s.
The upper floor of the building features objects from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages and the ground floor presents what was found during the excavation. The most surprising part of the Crypta is the archaeological remains of the Theatre of Balbus, which can be explored while walking down the damp and dark passageways.
The crypt is part of the National Museum of Rome so entry is included in one ticket that gains access to the crypt as well as the National Roman Museum, and Baths of Diocletian.
National Roman Museum
The National Roman Museum is located in four different buildings; the Baths of Diocletain, the Palazzo Altemps, the Crypta Balbi and lastly, the Palazzo Massimo. This last palace features one of the best archaeological and classical art collections in the world.
The various exhibitions of the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme are divided into different themes and organized chronologically throughout the four floors. The basement houses a collection of jewels, grave ornaments and Roman coins from different periods.
The ground and first floor feature famous Greek and Roman sculptures and statues and the second floor showcases the best preserved Roman frescoes in the world, which are considered the highlight of the museum.
Remember you can pay for 1 ticket and get access to four museums.
Baths of Diocletian
This bath complex was the largest of ancient Rome with capacity for over 3,000 people (twice as many as the Baths of Caracalla).
The baths which were completed in 306 were made of bricks, coated in marble and decorated with mosaics and sculptures. The whole complex was 120,000 square meters and included a gymnasium, a library, and cold, hot and tepid public baths.
During the construction, thousands of Christian slaves died so in 1561 Pope Pius IV ordered Michelangelo to build the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli on the remains of the baths to honour all the Christian slaves who died.
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
Erected during the fourth century AD, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura) is one of the four major basilicas of Rome, and the second largest after St. Peter’s Basilica. It was founded on the burial ground of St. Paul.
The interior of the Basilica of St. Paul is magnificent, with enormous marble columns and beautiful gold mosaics. Unfortunately, because of the fire of 1823, few parts of the Medieval basilica remain intact. However, the church still houses some mosaics from the thirteenth century, a large twelfth-century chandelier, or the marble tombstone under which the remains of St. Paul lie.
Although the Basilica isn’t in the heart of the city, we recommend visiting this unique and astonishing church in order to see its impressive mosaics, atrium and interior.