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Top Attractions in Rome: What to see and do when in Rome

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Date: 2014-03-20 11:27:58


Author: Samuel Heenan

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Legend has it that ‘Rome was not built in a day’. This proverb which has become so popular all over the world, literally spells out the epic past of this ancient city. So you will guess that there is actually quite a lot to see for the curious traveler. Here is a list of attractions to visit while in the Eternal city:

St Peter' s Basilica


St. Peter's Basilica (Italian: San Pietro in Vaticano) is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter's was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter's is not a cathedral - that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.

St. Peter's Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter - the apostle who is considered the first pope - was crucified and buried. St. Peter's tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.


Vatican Museums


The Vatican Museums boast one of the world's greatest art collections. They're a gigantic repository of treasures from antiquity and the Renaissance, all housed in a labyrinthine series of lavishly adorned palaces, apartments, and galleries leading you to the real gem: the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums occupy a part of the papal palaces built from the 1200s onward. From the former papal private apartments, the museums were created over a period of time to display the vast treasure-trove of art acquired by the Vatican.


La Cupola


At the entrance to St Peter’s look for a sign saying “cupola” directing you to the far right. This will take you to where you need to go to locate a kiosk near the elevator which goes up to the dome.
Thers is a spiral staircase to cupola at St Peter's Vatican City, for seven euros you can ride the elevator as far as you can, and then you start walking the 320 steps to the dome or you can walk the lot for 6 euros if you choose to walk rather than ride the elevator for the first part of this ascent.  As you get off the elevator you will find yourself on an inner balcony which is actually at the base of the dome. You can spend as much time as you please here and you are able to take photos looking up to the top of the dome, as well as all the way down into St Peter’s. The steps upto the top of the Cupola are very narrow and steep but once your at the top it is all so worth it as the views of Piazza San Pietro and all of Rome are nothing short of spectacular. Now this is the photo opportunity you have been anticipating and you can remain at the top to take it all in just as long as you like.


The Colosseum


The Roman Colosseum is one of the most beautiful amphitheatres of the Roman world. Originally named Amphitheatrum Flavium it was constructed on the site of the artificial lake in which Nero had built his Villa, Domus Aurea. Construction began in AD 72, by Emperor Vespasian's but was completed however, by his son Titus, who became his successor. The Colosseum is one of the most imposing and magnificent structures still standing today. It is one of the most famous landmarks and tourist attractions. This amazing structure remains standing almost 2,000 years after it was originally constructed. 

The Roman Colosseum is one of the most recognizable and impressive structures in the world. Originally named Amphitheatrum Flavium, or the Flavian Amphitheater, it was given the name The Colosseum during the Middle Ages due to the colossal statue that stood near it. Located in Italy, this amazing structure remains standing almost 2,000 years after it was originally constructed. One of the reasons behind the Colosseum's appeal is its architectural design, which was both advanced and complex. The brutal and bloody history of the structure and its use to control the populace is another fascinating if not morbid part of the interest in the structure. - See more at:


Roman Forum


The Roman Forum was the centre of the civic and economic life of Rome in the Republican era and kept its prominent role even in the Imperial age. The monumental complex lies between the Capitol, the Imperial Forums, the Colosseum and the Palatine.

Palatine Hill


The Palatine Hill was where Rome began as a tiny Latin village (supposedly founded by Romulus) in the 8th century BC. Later it was covered with the palaces of patrician families and the early emperors. Today it's an overgrown, tree-shaded hilltop of pretty gardens and fragments of ancient villas. it can make for a romantic, scenic escape from the crowds, a place where you can wander across the grassy floors of ancient Imperial palaces and peer down the gated passageways that were once the homes of Rome's rich and famous.

Circus Maximus


The Circus Maximus (Latin for great or large circus, in Italian Circo Massimo) is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest Chariot Racing Stadium in ancient Rome. The site is now a public park and retains little evidence of its former use. The Circus could hold over 1/4 of the city's population, over 250,000 people, allowing for this Circus to be a popular viewing place by the Romans. Nowadays its a favourite spot for runners and often used for events and concerts.


Spanish Steps


The perfect spot for a bit of people watching, the Spanish Steps lead from the Piazza di Spagna up to the Trinita Church. The staircase was constructed between 1723 and 1725 in Baroque style. The design is an elegant series of ramps with 138 steps in a fan or butterfly wing shape. In the spring you will fine the steps fully decorated with flowers. At the foot of the steps burbles the beloved Barcaccia ("Ugly Boat") fountain sculpted by Bernini. You will get a great view from the top of the steps and the position is right in the city centre facing the famous shopping street of Via dei Condotti.




Built more than 1800 years ago, the magnificent Pantheon still stands as a reminder of the great Roman Empire. The name Pantheon refers to the building's original function as a temple for all the gods.
With its thick brick walls and large marble columns, the Pantheon makes an immediate impression on visitors. But the most remarkable part of the building is the more than forty-three meter high dome. It was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed. At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which was the only source of light.


Trevi Fountain


Rome's most famous fountain and also the set for the famous Fellini movie "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!


Piazza Navona


Built over the ruins of the 1st-century Stadio di Domiziano (Domitian’s Stadium), it is centred on Bernini’s stylish Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), representing the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate. Piazza Navona is one of the Roman's most treasured piazzas; here, in centuries past, acrobats and jugglers performed and even today, it's still lively with painters and street performers that put on their shows for tourists and passersby and is filled with bars and cafés to sit and watch the world pass by.


Campo di Fiori


A celebrated and picturesque market by day, Camp dè Fiori quickly turns into a hub for nightlifers in the evening. The piazza, in the morning is heaving with people bustling among the fruit and vegetable stands, at night sees its restaurants and bars open for business. For centuries Camp dè Fiori was the stage for public executions. Here in 1600 the Dominican Friar, Philosopher, Mathematician and Astronomer Bruno Giordano was burnt alive. A domineering statue stands in the middle the piazza marking the exact spot of his death.


Castel Sant Angelo


This Fortress was built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (AD130-139), but it has also been a prison and a papal residence. It was used by former Popes who absconded there for protection in times of danger. There has been a covered passageway which still connects Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican. Today it is visited by tourists from all over the world and is home to the National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo.


Villa Borghese & Pincio


Villa Borghese Gardens is a large park in the city, which includes a lake, lush green grasses, museums and several other attractions. A great way to get out of the hustle and bustel of the capital. You can reach the park from Piazza del Popolo or a short walk from the top of the spanish steps. Do not forget to check out the view from Pincio where you can see Rome from above with a view of St Peters and if you can make it there for sunset even better!


Piazza Venezia


Being the geographical center of Rome, the Piazza Venezia is one of the busiest places of the city! You will find the huge Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. Its a symbol for the Italian unification which offers a free museum inside. The square boasts Palazzo Venezia a museum with decorative arts, tapestry, paintings, ceramics, suits of armour and sculptures. Also you will find Palazzo Bonaparte after Letizia Bonaparte, mother of Emperor Napoleon I who lived there in the 17th century.


Piazza della Repubblica


Piazza della Repubblica, once called piazza dell'Esedra (a name still in use by many elderly people), is one of Rome's busiest spots, a wide crossing located very close to Rome's central train station, former site of the huge Baths of Diocletian, whose surviving exedra gave the place its old name. In the middle of the square is a large fountain named after the figures of the four Naiads, or water nymphs, which decorate its sides.To the back you will find Santa Maria Degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a basilica is dedicated to the Christian martyrs.


Santa Maria Maggiore


It lies on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is a papal basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The basilica is also know as Santa Maria della Neve (Our Lady of the Snow) after a miracle associated with it; and as Santa Maria ad Praesepem after the relic of the crib (presepio), which it holds. The name of this church is confusing to many, but it simply means that this is Rome's major or principal church dedicated to St Mary.




Trastevere maintains its character thanks to its narrow cobbled streets lined by medieval houses. At night, natives and tourists alike flock to its many pubs and restaurants, but much of the original character of Trastevere remains. In the main piazza you will find Santa Maria in Trastevere which was originally one of the tituli, the parish churches of palaeochristian Rome. It was, according to tradition, the first church in Rome where Mass was celebrated openly.


Porta Portese Market


On Sundays from 6:30am to 2pm, every peddler from Trastevere and the surrounding Castelli Romani sets up shop at the sprawling Porta Portese open-air flea market. There are more than 2 thousand stalls at Porta Portese and you can buy anything from the smallest household articles to big pieces of (more or less) antique furniture. You will find old antique goods as well as news. Haggling is a must, especially for foreigners.


Borghese Gallery


Rome's Borghese Gallery is packed with amazing works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. Most of the collection was once a private one, acquired by the villa's original owner, Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The gallery is located inside Villa Borghese and is one of the smaller museums in the city, however and you will need to prebook your tickets to get into this one and select your time of visit.


Palazzo delle Esposizioni


Located halfway down Via Nazionale the Palazzo is an exhibition centre and museum. Designed by Pio Piacentini, it opened in 1883. It offers a 139 seat cinema, auditorium and restuarant. You will find some excellent exhibitions with regular displays from National Geographic.




The Palazzo Quirinal, official home of the President of the Republic, overlooks the city from atop the hill for which it is named.  Palazzo del Quirinale, and home to the Palazzo della Consulta, where Italy's Constitutional Court sits. The open side of the piazza has an impressive vista of the rooftops and domes of central Rome and St. Peter's.


San Giovanni in Laterano


The cathedral where the pope officiates as bishop of Rome, the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) is the oldest of the four major basilicas in the city. Commissioned by the Emperor Constantine and consecrated in AD 324, it was the first Christian basilica built in the city and, until the late 14th century, was the pope’s main place of worship.


Bocca della Verita


A round piece of marble that was once part of an ancient fountain, or possibly an ancient manhole cover, the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) is one of Rome's most popular curiosities. Legend has it that if you put your hand in the carved mouth and tell a lie, it will bite your hand off. It stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, at the piazza della Bocca della Verità, the site of the ancient Forum Boarium.


Teatro Marcello


Just across the road from the Capitoline Hill, Teatro Marcello (Theater of Marcellus) is the only ancient theater left in Rome. The idea for this theater was originally by Julius Caesar and later on built by Augustus, honoring Marcello, son of his sister Octavia who died at the age of 20. It was of huge proportions and its original structure could accommodate up to 20.000 spectators.  




Designed by Michelangelo, Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline hill is often considered one the most beautiful square in Rome. The middle of the square is marked by a copy of the only ancient Roman bronze equestrian statue to have survived the middle ages, a statue of the great 2nd century emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. You will find Palazzo Senatorio Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo where the Capitoline Museum is housed.


Isola Tiberina


The Tiber Island, a peaceful place in the middle of the river in the shape of a ship. Cross onto the island via Ponte Fabricio, constructed in 62 BC, Rome's oldest remaining bridge. The island is home to the hospital of Fatebenefratelli (literally, "Do good, brothers") and in the summer months between July and August you will find an outdoor cinema lots of bars and stalls set up for the summer festivities.




The summit of Gianicolo, which also goes by Janiculum Hill, can be reached by climbing Trastevere's Via Garibaldi. Gianicolo is not counted as one of Rome's 7 Hills however it is still close enough to the historical centre. Here you will find the most breathtaking view of the city. At the top in the piazza also is the huge monument dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi and the unification of Italy.


Ponte Castel Sant Angelo


Ponte Sant’Angelo spanning the Tiber and leading you to the Castel is one of the eight stone bridges the Romans are known to have built over the Tiber between 200 B.C. and A.D. 260, is the most celebrated. On this pedestrian-only bridge you will find the ten statues of angels which line it. These were commissioned by Pope Clement IX in 1669.


Via dei Condotti


If you are a fashionista, then your first stop should be Via dei Condotti, Rome’s version of the Fifth Avenue. Housing some of the patrons of fashion, here you will find the names that dominate Italian fashion: Prada, Gucci, Bulgari, Armani and many more!


The Aventine Keyhole


A peek-a-boo view of St. Peter's dome through the keyhole on the gate to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta on Rome's Aventine Hill. Take a look through this keyhole on a piazza designed by Piranesi in 1765, and you will see a garden path that ends with bushes perfectly framing the dome of St. Peter's in the distance.


Villa Farnesina and Botanic Gardens


Built in the early 16th century for Agostino Chigi, the rich Sienese banker and patron, the Villa Farnesina in Rome is one of the noblest and most harmonious creations of the Italian Renaissance. Here you can also find the Botanic Gardens with around 8000 species, including some of Europe’s rarest plants. You'll find a Japanese garden and some impressive bamboo, and a collection of cacti in a glasshouse along with a range of medicinal plants.

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