Rome what to see: an incredible city, full of charm and history. The ancient monuments and treasures of the city constantly recall the great past, when the city was the center of the world and of Western civilization. The immense legacy left to posterity makes Rome a real heritage of history, art, architecture and engineering unique in the world. Let's see what are its main attractions and monuments that you shouldn't miss.
Rome what to see
Rome is the Eternal City, home to culture, art and history: it's hard not to be fascinated by it.
In the heyday of the Roman Empire, Rome was at the center of a vast domain that stretched from Spain to Asia and from England to North Africa, and was the first cosmopolitan city in history.
Rome has many faces and is capable of satisfying everyone's demands and expectations: there is the imperial Rome of the Ancient Romans, the Baroque and Renaissance, the Rome of the Church and the Vatican, that of the Dolce Vita and that which never sleeps . In fact, Rome is a stage that should not be underestimated even for its nightlife , capable of offering, in fact, a vast assortment of clubs, bars, discos where you can drink with friends, dance and attend concerts with live music.
The heritage of attractions and monuments to see in Rome is so vast that a holiday would not be enough to see them all. Here is a short list of must-see attractions.
What to see in Rome: the Colosseum
The Colosseum is the most famous monument of ancient Rome, so much so that it has become its symbol itself: since 1980 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Inaugurated by the emperor Titus in the year 80 AD with the name of the Flavian Amphitheater , it was later called the Colosseum due to the large gold-plated statue, the Colossus of Nero , located nearby and now lost.
The ancient prophecy of the venerable Bede went like this:
“As long as the Colosseum exists, Rome will exist, when the Colosseum falls Rome will fall too; when Rome falls, the world will fall too”.
The Colosseum is a large elliptical arena of about 500 meters in circumference, in which an audience of thousands of people loved to watch the fights between gladiators and wild animals or the simulations of naval battles, accommodating up to 50,000 spectators. Admission to the Colosseum was free and spectators were divided according to gender and social class in special areas: the emperor and the senators sat in the front rows, the upper rows were for priests and magistrates, while foreign diplomats sat higher up . Today around the Amphitheater you can find the "Centurioni" , friendly characters dressed as Roman soldiers who pose for tourists.
The Colosseum is open every day from 8.30 to 19.00, the full ticket costs 12 euros (reduced 7.50 euros, for citizens of the European Union between 18 and 24 years and for teachers of the European Union; Free: citizens of the European Union under 18 and over 65) and can be purchased at the Palatine ticket offices in Via di San Gregorio 30 or in Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53 , and also includes admission to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Get off at the Colosseum stop on underground line B.
Arch of Constantine
The triumphal arch of Constantine was built in 315 AD to commemorate the Battle of the Milvian Bridge: it is located behind the Colosseum and is the last of the great monuments of ancient Rome to be erected in the city.
What to see in Rome: the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forum
The Roman Forum was the beating heart of Ancient Rome, a fulcrum of Roman public life, through which all the characters who made its history passed: emperors, philosophers, generals, nobles and plebeians. The Roman Forums were built around the sixth century BC and are crossed by the ancient Via Sacra. This place, according to legend, witnessed the death of Romulus. The Roman forum, built on marshy land, located between the Palatine hills and the Campidoglio, was the center of Roman public life before it passed to the Imperial Forums. The Roman forum consisted of shops, temples, law courts and other public buildings. Among the many ruins of the ancient buildings, in the area west of the Via Sacra, are the remains of the Curia, built by Julius Caesar , the main seat of the Roman Senate, and a cylindrical rock, with some marble steps, called "urbus umbilicus ” (literally “the navel of the city”), or rather the center of Rome and of the entire Roman Empire. Once the original space of the Roman Forum was exhausted, the Imperial Forums were built.
The Imperial forums were built during the first century BC and the first century AD Here you can see the remains of Column (erected in honor of the conquest of Dacia by the emperor Trajan) and of the Basilica Ulpia (which was once the largest basilica in Rome). The Roman Forum ( Forum Magnum ) and the Imperial Forums are two distinct complexes, although they are both close: the Roman Forum is in fact of much older construction. Visit the via dei Fori Imperiali at night to not miss their romantic atmosphere accentuated by the night lighting. To reach the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forums, get off at Metro B Colosseo station.
What to see in Rome: the Pantheon
The Pantheon is a temple dedicated to all the divinities of ancient Rome, built by the emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD to replace a previous Pantheon of Marco Agrippa consecrated to Mars and Venus. Consisting of a perfectly proportioned stone dome resting on an elegant drum of columns and pediments, the Pantheon is one of the most famous Roman monuments: according to a legend, it rises on the spot where Romulus was seized and taken to heaven by a eagle. Impossible not to notice the large hemispherical dome, on the top of which there is a large circular called "oculus" (eye), from which the light enters overwhelmingly creating surprising effects. During the Middle Ages the Roman temple was converted into a Christian basilica and finally became a shrine to the kings of Italy in 1870: here are the tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I, Margherita di Savoia and Raffaello Sanzio.
The Pantheon can be reached by metro getting off at the Barberini of line A and walking to Piazza della Rotonda. Open every weekday from 9.00 to 19.30, and holidays from 9.00 to 13.00. Free entry.
What to see in Rome: the Trevi Fountain
Designed by the architect Nicolò Salvi , this imposing fountain is fed by the waters of a 2nd century BC aqueduct which crosses the entire city of Rome. The theme of the work is the sea, and the style is baroque mixed in harmony with classicism. The Trevi Fountain has become one of the best-known symbols of Rome in the 1950s, after it was immortalized by Federico Fellini in his film "La Dolce Vita" , with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni: since then the fountain has been the set film, theater of events and stage for large parties. Tradition has it that if you are in Rome and intend to return, you must throw a coin into the fountain to make your wish come true. To reach the Trevi Fountain, stop at the Spagna or Barberini station on line A of the underground and reach it on foot.
Curiosity: on the right of the Trevi Fountain there is a travertine vase, called "Asso di coppe" which, according to legend, was placed in that position by the architect to block the view from the shop of a barber who continually criticized his work .
What to see in Rome: Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Rome, the ideal place to sit at a table in a bar and admire the Baroque sculptures and architecture. The shape of the square is the legacy of an ancient oval-shaped stadium, built by the emperor Domitian in the 1st century AD to host athletic competitions, games and sports. The square was flooded in the summer to refresh the inhabitants.
In the center stands the Quatto Fiumi fountain , the main attraction of Piazza Navona, a masterpiece by Gianlorenzo Bernini from 1651. The rivers represented are the Ganges , the Danube , the Rio della Plata and the Nile , one for each continent, personified by four giants arranged on a pyramidal rock from which a Roman obelisk rises. Opposite the Quatto Fiumi fountain stands its eternal "rival", the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone , designed by Borromini. Located next to Palazzo Pamphilj , the particularity of the church is given by its concave facade, designed to emphasize the dome.
The other two fountains that embellish the square are the Fountain of Neptune or dei Calderari and the Fontana del Moro , in front of Palazzo Pamphilj.
Piazza Navona is located near Campo de' Fiori , famous both for the market that takes place every day and for the nightlife: populated by tourists by day and by young people who come here to spend their evenings at night, it is a spectacular not to be missed. In December and January, the square is filled with Christmas stalls and is well worth a visit.
What to see in Rome: the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums were born thanks to the patronage of the popes, who over the centuries collected and commissioned works of art, and are considered among the museums with one of the most beautiful art collections in the world (made up of 13 museums in all). Many tourists come to Rome exclusively to admire one of the largest art collections in the world: an average of 20,000 visitors a day , between museums and the Sistine Chapel . The museums represent a gigantic historical and artistic archive that ranges from ancient times to the Renaissance: the itinerary winds through a labyrinth of palaces, apartments and galleries, ending at the famous Sistine Chapel . Among the works of Greek and Roman antiquity we find the Lacoonte , the Apoxyomenos and the Apollo del Belvedere , together with Egyptian and Etruscan finds, such as the Mars of Todi . The Pinacoteca instead houses paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci . In the Museums we also find some frescoed rooms, among which we recall the Borgia Apartment frescoed by Pinturicchio around 1490, and the Raphael Rooms , with the famous frescoes by the homonymous painter (the "Disputation of the Sacrament" , the "School of Athens ” the “Parnassus” and the “Virtue and the Law” ).
The Sistine Chapel
The Chapel , so called because it was built at the time of Pope Sixtus IV, between 1475 and 1481, is known in particular for the frescoes by Michelangelo Buonarroti (the "Creation" on the vault and the "Last Judgment" on the wall of the altar), considered among the largest and most intense pictorial masterpieces in the history of art. Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to devote his enormous talent to the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Florentine artist worked on his work for four years, from 1508 to 1512, not without so much effort as to permanently damage his eyesight. Today, the one in the Sistine Chapel is considered the largest and most famous fresco in the world and the most visited in Italy.
To reach the Vatican Museums get off at the Ottaviano-S. Pietro on underground line A. Open from Monday to Saturday from 9.00 to 16.00. Prices: full ticket: €16, reduced €8. Free admission every last Sunday of every month. http://www.museivaticani.va/
What to see in Rome: St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is one of the most beautiful churches in the world and the center of Christianity, for centuries the destination of millions of faithful and pilgrims from every corner of the planet. The Basilica stands on the site where St. Peter was crucified and buried. In 1506, Pope Julius II commissioned Donato Bramante to design the construction of the largest church in the world (22,000 m2 in area). Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, were just some of the architects who succeeded each other in the more than one hundred years it took to complete the construction. The major artists of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque have left you masterpieces of extraordinary beauty, from Michelangelo's Pietà Chair of St. Peter , from the monument of Urban VIII and the sumptuous Baldacchino by Bernini.
The Basilica is open every day from 7.00 to 19.00. Admission is free and the ascent to the dome costs €7 by lift or €5 on foot. The closest stop is the Metro A “Ottaviano – San Pietro” stop.
What to see in Rome: Borghese Villa and Gallery
The park of Villa Borghese , wanted in 1605 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V), from a family vineyard became one of the most beautiful and extensive gardens in Rome. This large public park is still today a large garden in which there are exotic plants, fountains, classical-style statues, an artificial lake, a zoo (the Bioparco), an amphitheater and some museums, including the Borghese Gallery.
Galleria Borghese is one of the most important art museums in the city. Located in the seventeenth-century villa of the same name, it houses numerous art collections, including sculptures by Bernini ( "Rape of Proserpina", "Apollo and Daphne" ), the famous Paolina Borghese depicted by Canova and paintings by Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio and Rubens.
The park of Villa Borghese is open every day and can be accessed from its 9 entrances including Porta Pinciana, Trinità dei Monti, Piazza del Popolo and Piazzale Flaminio.
Galleria Borghese is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.30 to 19.30.
The price of the full ticket is €9, reduced €4.50 for EU citizens aged between 18 and 25, free for EU citizens aged under 18 and over 65. Surcharge of 2 euros for online booking. To reach Galleria Borghese, take the underground line A to the Spagna stop and follow along Via Veneto. Online ticket reservation for Borghese Gallery: http://www.galleriaborghese.it/prenota.htm
What to see in Rome: Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna takes its name from the Palazzo di Spagna, seat of the embassy of the Iberian state to the Holy See. It has become famous the stairway of Trinità dei Monti (1725), which, with its 135 steps, is adopted as a wonderful setting for high fashion shows and as a set for numerous films. In spring, the steps are decorated with hundreds of huge azaleas and are always very crowded with tourists who like to sit on the steps. At the foot of the staircase is the famous fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the "Barcaccia" (1627, one of the most authentic symbols of Baroque Rome and an ideal place to cool off in the summer.
What to see in Rome: the Campidoglio
The Campidoglio is the building where the Municipality of Rome . Located on one of the legendary Seven Hills, from its square you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the Forum. It is a concentration of Renaissance art: here are the AraCoeli staircase , Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio statue of Marcus Aurelius .
What to see in Rome: Altare della Patria (also called the Vittoriano)
Located in Piazza Venezia, the Altare della Patria was erected in 1878, and is dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II , the first king of Italy, and is a hymn to the triumph of the Italian Risorgimento. The monument is more properly called Vittoriano : for Altare della Patria we refer to the upper part of the entire complex, where there is the seat of the unknown soldier. In this area there are sixteen columns representing the Italian regions in the period of the unification of Italy. Furthermore there are also some statues that represent the values of the Italian homeland: Thought , Action , Sacrifice , Right , Strength and Concord .
What to see in Rome: Baths of Caracalla
Inaugurated in 216 AD under the reign of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Bassianus known as Caracalla , the Baths of Caracalla are one of the largest and best preserved thermal complexes of antiquity, defined by the Roman historian Elio Spartiano "thermas eximias et magnificentissimas" . The grandiose thermal complex stood in the southern part of the city and extended over an area of 10 hectares of land, with shops, gardens, libraries and sports facilities. What remains today of the baths gives us an idea of the grandeur and splendor of the bath complex, with structures that, in some points, reach up to 30 meters in height. The baths were abandoned later in the sixth century, after the siege of Rome by Vitige, king of the Goths.
What to see in Rome: the Appian Way
The Via Appia Antica , called "regina viarum" , was the first and most important of the great roads built by the ancient Romans. Built more than two thousand years ago, the road connects Rome to Brindisi, and along its Roman route it is bordered by monuments, such as the Circus of Maxentius , the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the catacombs , in which the first Christians of Rome. Today it can still be admired in some sections of its route, surrounded by an enchanting natural landscape.
What to see in Rome: Other attractions
the Basilica of San Clemente
Located near the Colosseum, the Basilica of San Clemente is one of the greatest witnesses of the Christian history of Rome. In its basement there are frescoes from the 9th century, which survived the destruction wrought by the Normans, while in the Chapel of Santa Caterina di Alessandria you can admire the frescoes by Masolino da Panicale, a Tuscan painter of the Renaissance.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
The great basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four great papal churches of Rome (along with San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro, San Paolo Fuori le Mura), and is also known as the Liberian Basilica as it was built by Pope Liberius, in 358 BC: today the remains of the architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini are kept in the church. To admire the mosaics of the central nave in the coffered ceiling, the Sforza Chapel, designed by Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel (not to be confused with that of the Vatican Museums).
Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
The basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano , also called Archbasilica Laterana , is the oldest basilica in the West, built in the 4th century AD by the emperor Constantine. The particularities of the basilica are: the 18th century façade designed by Alessandro Galilei, 15 large statues representing Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and the 12 apostles. Near the basilica is the Sanctuary of the Scala Santa , which houses 28 marble steps belonging to the villa of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, on which, according to Christian tradition, Christ climbed on the day he was brought before Pilate.
Built on the bank of the Tiber and used as an imperial mausoleum until the time of the emperor Caracalla, Castel Sant'Angelo was transformed into a fortress during the Middle Ages and was connected to the Vatican via a secret underground passage, used by the popes as an escape route : it was used during the sack of Rome by the Lanzichenecchi in 1527. From 1500 up to the present day it was the papal residence, prison, barracks and finally a museum. From the upper terraces of Castel Sant'Angelo it is possible to admire the splendid panorama of the city of Rome. It can be reached by underground, Ottaviano and San Pietro stations.
Catacombs of Domitilla
The catacombs of Domitilla (wife of a Roman consul, segregated on the island of Ponza for her faith) are among the oldest catacombs in Rome. Access is from the church of Santi Nereo e Achilleo where you can admire a fresco from the 2nd century depicting the Last Supper.
Catacombs of San Callisto
The catacombs of San Callisto , with 30km of underground tunnels, are the largest and most extensive in Rome. Nine popes and thousands of Christian martyrs were buried here, and the complex became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. Address: Via Appia Antica 78
The Circus Maximus was a large arena with an imposing structure surrounded by bleachers on the sides, used for sporting events and competitions: the flat, grassy base of the track and the inclined walls, remnants of the ancient grandstands, are still visible today. The last matches were called by the emperor Totilla of the Goths in 549 AD
Villa Adriana is located in Tivoli, a few kilometers from Rome, and was built by the emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. It is one of the largest and most beautiful villas built in ancient Rome, a UNESCO heritage site since 1999. Hadrian filled the area of the Villa with theatres, baths, temples and marvelous gardens with fountains, of which we can still admire the remains today .
Open every day from 9.00 to 18.30. Internal ticket 8 Euros, reduced 4 Euros.
National Etruscan Museum
In this museum you can discover the history of the Etruscan civilization, one of the oldest and still little-known peoples in Italy.
Numerous sarcophagi, bronze sculptures, vases and jewels are kept in the museum. Address: Piazzale Villa Giulia 9 For information and timetables: http://www.villagiulia.beniculturali.it/
Palazzo del Quirinale
Today the official residence of the President of the Republic, the Palazzo del Quirinale was once the royal residence of the Savoys and the papal residence. Around the palace there are many testimonies of ancient Rome, such as the statues of the Dioscuri in the fountain of the square and the Egyptian obelisk of the Mausoleum of Augustus. Inside the palace, the visit continues with important artistic collections of tapestries, paintings, statues, porcelain and furnishings. Do not miss a visit to the "Scuderie del Quirinale" (also called "Scuderie Papali"): originally they housed the Pope's horses, while today they house an art gallery for temporary exhibitions. It is also worth visiting the Quirinale gardens located in an elevated position overlooking Rome. To reach the Quirinale, get off at the Barberini metro station.
Not to be missed in Rome
The Mouth of Truth : one of the symbols of Rome, made famous by the film "Roman Holiday" . It is an ancient mask, probably an ancient manhole cover, with the appearance of a male face, and with eyes, nose and mouth pierced to let the water flow out. Tradition has it that the mouth can bite the hand of those who don't tell the truth. Address: Via della Greca 4.
Gianicolo : one of the hills of Rome from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city of Rome. There is also a cannon here which fires at 12.00 every day
Tiber : the river that crosses Rome. Ideal for a romantic walk along its banks and passing through the Tiber Island. Boat cruises on the Tiber are also organised.