It is difficult to talk about Rome in a few words, just as it is difficult to believe that this wonderful city was born from a small settlement of shepherds on the Palatine Hill and from a she-wolf who nursed two children as if they were her cubs.
Perhaps it is of this mystery that millions of tourists go in search of Rome every day of the year, non-stop. This makes the modernity of Rome less romantic than one would expect, with a non-stop bustle of cars, people and things. Despite this, the capital of Italy remains a destination as beautiful as few cities in the world. It’s not even easy to enclose the things to visit in Rome in just 10 points. So here we list the 10 things to see absolutely in Rome, but if you have a little more time, take advantage of it and discover also 10 other things not to miss.
1. Colosseum Rome
If it is true that when the Colosseum will fall, Rome will fall and the whole world will fall with it, we hope very much that the construction will last a long time. Inaugurated as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was called Colosseum only later, probably because of the huge statue known as “Colossus of the Sun God”, located nearby, and which had the appearance of Nero. Undoubtedly it is one of the first, if not the first-ever, among the things to see in Rome.
The Romans dabbled here, watching gladiator fights and ferocious animals or simulated naval battles. The construction of the Colosseum was wanted and started by Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty, and continued in the years to come. Titus, Vespasian’s successor son, added two orders of seats to the structure wanted by his father and to celebrate the work (80 A.D.), he called a hundred days of games. The Colosseum is still today one of the most important and representative monuments of Rome, imposing its majestic presence in the center of the city. In the surroundings of the Amphitheater, it is easy to find the “Centurioni”, nice characters dressed in the typical clothing of Roman fighters who, between a joke in Romanesque and a photograph, have also become part of the tradition. Even without knowing their history and architecture, everyone is fascinated by the monument for which Rome is known throughout the world. Observing it at night with all the lights on, it is truly indescribable!
2. Fontana di Trevi
If you are in Rome and intend to return, then do not hesitate to flip a coin in the famous Trevi Fountain to make your wish come true. Designed by architect Nicolò Salvi, the Fountain has been receiving the waters of the Virgin Aqueduct since the time of Augustus.
The central theme of the work is the sea and baroque meets classicism in perfect harmony. The Trevi Fountain was a film set, a theater of events and a stage for great festivities. One thing is clear: only Anita Ekberg in “La dolce vita” can afford to bathe in the fountain. If you try, you’ll have to deal with the police, who, we guarantee, won’t take it too well. The beauty of the building really takes your breath away because of its grandeur, and few people notice a detail that, it is said, was made simply out of spite. On the right of the Trevi Fountain, there is a travertine vase, called “Ace of cups”, which according to legend was put there by Salvi to cover the view from a barber’s shop who was constantly criticizing the architect’s work.
3. The Pantheon of Rome
With its dome and colonnaded pronaos, the Pantheon is one of the most famous Roman monuments. According to a legend, it stands on the spot where Romulus, upon his death, was grabbed and carried to heaven by an eagle. Temple dedicated to all the gods (Pan- all Theon- divinities), it was built by the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D. to replace an earlier temple of Marcus Agrippa consecrated to Mars and Venus.
In 609, the Roman temple was converted into a Christian basilica under the name of Santa Maria ad Martyres. In 1870 it became the shrine of the kings of Italy. Inside are the tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia, as well as that of the great Raffaello Sanzio. What characterizes more than anything else the building is the large hemispherical dome with a diameter of 43.3 m equal to the height from the floor, on the top of which there is a large – and unique – opening (9 m.), the oculus (eye). Light comes from this hole, but when it rains, water also falls, which, however, flows quickly thanks to the central and lateral holes in the floor that prevent the formation of puddles. Therefore, it is not true that rain does not enter the Pantheon. While it is true that when it rains, the opening creates a “chimney effect”, i.e. an upward draught of air that leads to the shattering of water drops. So, even when the rain outside is pouring, the feeling is that it is raining less inside.
4.Piazza Navona Rome
It is one of the most beloved squares for Romans and tourists, the ideal place to entertain yourself while sitting comfortably at a bar table among sculptures and baroque architecture.
Piazza Navona stands on the site of the ancient stadium of Domitian (hence its oval shape), wanted by the emperor to host athletics competitions (agones). Until the 19th century, the square was the venue for recreational and sporting events. In August, the square was flooded by closing the drains from the fountains in order to offer the Romans some coolness. The main attraction of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1651). The rivers are the Ganges, the Danube, the Rio della Plata and the Nile represented by four giants arranged on a pyramidal rock from which a Roman obelisk rises. In front of the magnificent fountain stands the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone with its concave façade, designed by Borromini to highlight the dome. The square is adorned by two other fountains, namely, the Fountain of Neptune or of the Calderari, at the northern end, and the Fountain of the Moor facing Palazzo Pamphilj (south of the square), designed by Giacomo della Porta. Populated during the day by tourists and at night by young people who come here to spend their evenings, it is a sight not to be missed, especially during the Christmas period when it fills up with characteristic stalls and during the night between 5 and 6 January on the occasion of the Feast of the Befana.
6. St Peter’s Basilica Rome
With its Michelangelo’s dome and monumental façade, St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the scenic colonnaded portico of St. Peter’s Square, an architectural masterpiece by Bernini.
Heart of the Catholic Church, the Basilica rises were in 324 Constantine had a sanctuary built in honor of the First Apostle who was crucified and buried there. In 1506, Pope Julius II commissioned Donato Bramante to plan the construction of what would have been the largest church in the world (22,000 square meters). Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, were just some of the architects who succeeded one another in the “St. Peter’s factory” in the more than one hundred years employed to complete the grandiose work. The greatest artists of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque, have left you masterpieces of extraordinary beauty, just think of the wonderful Pietà by Michelangelo, the Chair of St. Peter, the monument of Urban VIII and the sumptuous Baldacchino by Bernini. A must for pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
7. Villa and Borghese Gallery in Rome
The park of Villa Borghese is the green “heart” of Rome. Designed in 1605 for the hedonistic Cardinal Scipione Borghese (the favorite nephew of Pope Paul V), remodeled over the centuries by his successors and purchased by the State at the beginning of the 20th century, this large public park is still today an authentic garden of delights. The park encloses within its 6 km of circumference, neoclassical statues, exotic buildings, an artificial lake, an aviary, numerous fountains, gardens and thickets, a galloparium, a zoo (the Biopark), an amphitheatre (Piazza di Siena) and some museums.The most famous is the Borghese Museum and Gallery, one of the most important art museums in the city, housed in the 17th-century villa of the same name (known as Casino Borghese) designed to house the magnificent Borghese private collection, initially consisting of Scipione, to whom we owe the most important nucleus of the same. The villa is divided into two sections: the sculpture collection (Museum) on the ground floor, among which you can admire some masterpieces by Bernini (“Rape of Proserpine”, Apollo and Daphne”) and the famous Paolina Borghese depicted by Canova; and the picture gallery (Gallery) on the first floor, which includes works by great masters of painting such as Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens.
8. Piazza di Spagna Rome
You can’t go to Rome and not see Piazza di Spagna with its Spanish Steps of Trinità dei Monti, which with its 135 steps seems to climb towards the sky. Wonderful scenery for high fashion shows and famous protagonists of many movies, Piazza di Spagna is known and loved all over the world.
Many historical figures have passed through here, such as Giuseppe Balsamo, known as Cagliostro, a well-known alchemist and esoterist, who stayed in one of the inns adjacent to the square. It is said that his arrest took place right in the square and that his wife’s ghost is still wandering around this area because it was she who denounced her husband to the Holy Office, the Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition. Today the atmosphere is more reassuring, with thousands of tourists sitting on the stairs (but you couldn’t) or around the “Barcaccia”, the not very beautiful fountain in the center of the square, ideal for cooling off in summer.
9. What to eat in Rome
Roman cuisine is genuine, popular, simple but substantial, and has remained unchanged over the centuries. The tradition includes rigatoni with pajata (beef or veal entrails, cooked in a very tasty soffritto) and bucatini all’amatriciana (tomato, guanciale and pecorino cheese), cacio and pepe, all high-calorie dishes par excellence, but it is worth making an exception to the diet. The original recipe was born in Amatrice, a town in Lazio where spaghettoni with guanciale and pecorino cheese were the typical dish of the shepherds and mountain people of the central Apennines. It then spread throughout Italy. Don’t miss the other great dishes of the Roman tradition, such as spaghetti alla carbonara, which, it is said, were made with the food rations of the Allies during the Second World War, or the cacio e pepe. The Capitoline cuisine is not only based on first courses: in one of the excellent trattorias in the city, you can taste typical dishes such as abbacchio alla romana, coda alla vaccinara, mixed fried meat, porchetta from nearby Ariccia, accompanied by the famous artichokes alla giudia, chicory or puntarelle. If you’re still standing, close your lunch with a nice creamy husband!
10. Where to stay in Rome
Pope’s hearings, international events, concerts, school parties and millions of tourists make the search for a cheap bed a compelling challenge, but Rome has an exceptional tourist capacity.Of course, by booking in advance, you save a lot of money and/or find a better accommodation, but a place is always found, even during the high season. Obviously, staying in the historic center requires a high expense or, spending little, a capacity to adapt to small hotels, without breakfast or service. Many more possibilities come from hotels just outside the center in the most peripheral districts. The average price of a 3-star hotel for a night starts from 80 €.