Rome is definitely one of those cities you have to see before you kick the bucket…. And if it’s already on your list, I’d suggest moving it closer to the top! Rome was once considered the ‘Capitol of the World’. Powered by the Roman Empire, which reigned victoriously for almost 1500 years, it is no wonder why the city is full of amazing treasures.
This ancient city is so incredible and so incredibly large, that you could spend months here and still discover new things. For short term travelers, such as myself, I’d recommend a minimum of 3-4 days. Rome requires a lot of walking or use of public transportation, so be sure to hit the gym before arriving- or add an extra day or two and take it slow.
1. The Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. It was the largest stadium of its time, where locals could come for an entire day to watch gladiator vs gladiator and gladiator vs wildlife battle, stay for the feast of the slain animals, and escape whatever political problems were occurring just outside the walls. (These shows were put on by the government, after all.) Throughout my travels I have learned to always hire a tour guide. It is the most beneficial for your adventures and cultural understanding- plus, they usually can take you to restricted areas. In the case of the Colosseum, to the underground tunnels, and the nose bleed seats!
2. The Trevi Fountain (& underneath it!)
The Trevi Fountain was once one of the only clean water supply to the public in 19 BC. The fountain itself was not constructed until the mid 1700’s, but the water directing channel was there long before. The Trevi Fountain was famously featured in the Audrey Hepburn movie ‘Roman Holiday’. One thing most visitors don’t know is that you can go beneath the fountain to view an ancient Roman neighborhood, and the original aqueduct channel. It is just around the corner from the Basilica, at Cinema Trevi – Cineteca Nazionale.
3. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the most incredible churches you will ever visit. This structure was first erected around 25 BC! After a fire in 80 AD, it under went reconstruction, and now resembles ancient Greek architecture, but the inside is all Roman. You will find incredible fresco’s, statues, and the famous Italian painter, Raphael’s tomb. Remember that in all Roman Catholic churches you must be respectful by covering your shoulders and knees. 🙂
4. The Spanish Steps
Be sure to take the route that leads you to the top level of the stairs, so you can walk down the steps, rather than walking up them. At the bottom of the steps is the Fountain of the Barcaccia- or “Ugly Boat”. Maybe nicknamed after it’s not so grand detail? This is a great place to refill your water bottles! Roman water is excellent to drink!
5. The Vatican & Vatican Museum
The Vatican (St. Peter’s Basillica) and the Vatican Museum are located in two different sections of the city- actually it’s its own state, but we won’t get into that here. The Museum is open Monday-Saturday, and is free on the last Sunday of every month. If you chose to go on the free days, be sure to get a spot in line early! Keep an eye out for my next blog post on Touring the Vatican City!
6. Piazza Navona
There are many gorgeous fountains throughout Rome. In Piazza Navona you can find three with very different themes. Here you will also find one of the many Egyptian obelisks that were taken after conquering a rival town.
7. Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland)
Altare della Patria is a newer building to Rome. It is their largest monument, dedicated to Italy’s first King and to the World War I soldiers. This building was completed in the early 20th century, under local controversy however, since construction destroyed a section of the ancient Capitoline Hill. Today it houses a museum.
8. Palatine Hill
Throughout Rome you will find various ancient archeological ruins with large columns popping out of the streets. Unfortunately, modern day Rome was built on top of these ruins. If we were to excavate the metropolis today, you’d probably find something under every building! Palatine Hill is a grand example of that. This was an aristocratic neighborhood and also the location of the Roman Myth of Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf, Lupa, who cared for them. There’s just way too much history to share at this location- it is a great add on to your Colosseum tour!
9. Castle of Saint Angelo
Just outside of the Vatican Walls sits a 2nd century Roman Castle turned museum. This is a beautiful night time location. You may even catch the local xylophone artists playing for tips, like I did. During the day, you can tour the inner castle and museum.
10. Arch of Constantine
This monumental arch is the only extant triumphant arches of Rome. It was developed into a monument for Constantine after winning the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Ancient Romans used it as the beginning tour route where soldiers marched through the arch upon returning from battle. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was- not shockingly- modeled after this one.
Rome is an absolute treasure chest of ancient history, architecture, and art. It is an easily accessible city via bus, subway, and walking the city streets. Beyond the great adventures you can find in the city, are many day trips that can easily be added to your Roman itinerary- for example Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast. One week would be an ample amount of time to explore everything on this list, and a little more! One last thing to add to your Roman list is the best pasta you’ll ever have in your life: Oteria da Fortunata. They hand make it right in front of you, after you order it. I still dream about their pasta to this day! Be sure to make reservations!
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