The city where hope springs eternal. It is a city that is proud of its ancient glorious heritage, a city that once expanded its empire throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Rome is a city drenched in history and Christianity.
First-time visitors may be easily overwhelmed by all this magnificent city has to offer. After all, one can find history and art on almost every street corner.
That’s why visitors may want to do their homework to narrow down what they want to see and do before they get on a plane or train bound for the Italian capital.
Rome is divided into several districts with its center, the Colosseo district, containing the most ancient attractions like the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill and the Roman Forum.
The Colosseum is another of Rome’s major tourist attractions. Its construction was started by emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD.
The elliptical amphitheater could hold up to 50,000 people who turned out to watch gladiators do battle, people be publicly executed and enjoy other forms of entertainment.
This stone and concrete structure, built in the first century, was the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the Romans’ greatest architectural and engineering feats.
One of the best preserved Roman buildings, The Pantheon was built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods.
The temple has served as a Roman Catholic Church since the 7th century. Eight graceful granite Corinthian columns extend across the front of this circular building, with lesser columns in back.
Though it is 2,000 years old, the Pantheon’s famous dome remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
It is believed Marcus Agrippa built the Pantheon to be his private temple. The current building was reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian in the second century.
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3. Trevi Fountain
Completed in 1762 to a design by Nicola Salvi, this world famous Baroque fountain features a mythological sculptural composition of Neptune, god of the sea, flanked by two Tritons.
The location of the Trevi fountain marks the terminus of the ancient Aqua Virgo aqueduct and is so named on account of its position at the junction of three roads (tre vie).
The fountain was the setting for an iconic scene in Fellini’s film Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni.
Since than, it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome. The legend says that one who throws a coin in the fountain shall one day return to Rome.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica
The center of the Catholic world and a major tourist attraction, the Basilica of St. Peter is a huge church: with an interior height of 120 meter (400 feet), the space shuttle, together with its booster rockets, could fit inside, as could the Statue of Liberty.
The basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried. Construction on the current building began in 1506 and was completed in 1615.
Many famous artists worked on the complex and its surroundings: Michelangelo designed the dome while Bernini designed the great St. Peter’s Square.
5. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums began in the 16th century with a collection of sculptures by Pope Julius II. Today, they encompass several museums inside the Vatican City and include some of the world’s most important relics.
Attractions of the museums include the spiral staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512.
Today the ceiling, and especially The Last Judgment, are widely believed to be Michelangelo’s crowning achievements in painting.
To keep the massive crowds under control, the museums have 4 itineraries that range from one and a half hours to more than 5 hours. All itineraries end in the Sistine Chapel.
6. Spanish Steps
A truly monumental stairway of 135 steps, the Spanish Steps were built with French funds between 1721‑1725 in order to link the Bourbon Spanish embassy to the Holy See with the French church, Trinità dei Monti.
The steps are usually very crowded attracting tourists as well as locals who use it as a gathering place. Each year in May the steps are decorated with pink azaleas.
At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish square) and the Fontana della Barcaccia, a sober fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
7. Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo was built to be a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his family. Built in 123 BC, it later was turned into a fortress and castle by the popes. It was once Rome’s tallest building.
The ashes of other emperors were buried there, but scattered when the Visigoths invaded in 410. It also served as a prison, but today the castel is a museum.
Among the most well known sights in Rome, film buffs will recognize it as a setting from “Angels and Demons”.
8. Roman Forum
Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills.
The Roman Forum (or Forum Romanum in Latin) was for centuries the teeming heart of ancient Rome, the site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches, and nucleus of commercial affairs.
The Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and includes the Arches of Septimius Severus and Titus, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina and the Temple of Saturn.
9. Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is a rectangular square south of Piazza Navona used as a marketplace during the day, and party central for college students and tourists at night.
The name means “field of flowers” and was first given during the Middle Ages when the area was actually a meadow.
Today the market is a lively place, especially when the daily vegetable market is held here (every morning except Sundays).
Visitors can buy fresh produce at the market, as well as fish, meat, flowers and spices. The square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, making it a good place to eat after shopping or just wile away the afternoon.
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One of the most famous of Rome’s many squares, Piazza Navona was established towards the end of the 15th century, and preserves the shape of the Stadium of Domitian that once stood here.
Built by Emperor Domitian in 86 AD, the stadium, which had a larger arena than the Colosseum was mainly used for festivals and sporting events. The buildings surrounding the square stand where the spectators once sat.
Today, the square features no less than three magnificent fountains and is an immensely popular place to sip a cappuccino, shop, and watch street performers.