Perfect for spring or summer breaks, the capital city of Italy is a must-see city for most people. A busy, vibrant and cosmopolitan place, Rome is brimming with art, culture, great food and extraordinary history. Walking along the streets of Rome is like walking into an open-air museum and a place where modern views blend together to create a unique and surprising atmosphere. When visiting Rome, most people want to tick off all the important historic attractions. To help you with your stay, and from my years spent living in this wonderful city, I’ve put together a brief Rome guide of all the best historic attractions to visit…
The Colosseo (Coliseum)
The Coliseum is probably the most iconic monument in Rome, it is the symbol of the city all over the world. Its real name is Flavian Amphitheatre, but everyone knows it as the Coliseum. Built in 72 A.D. by Emperor Vespasian, but it was finished eight years later by his son Titus. The Coliseum was the stadium of Roman times holding up to 80,000, just like our football stadium or our concerts. Gladiators and wild beasts fought here offering cruel and barbaric shows to a baying crowd. The history of the place inspired the Ridley Scott’s big budget film ‘Gladiator’ starring Russell Crowe.
Probably the most famous fountain in the city, the fountain was made famous by the movie “La dolce vita” (“The sweet life”) by Federico Fellini where Anita Ekberg swam in its artistic waters followed by Marcello Mastroianni. It was designed by the architect Salvi in 1735 and its many sculptures are the representation of the discovery of the source of water. Every year thousands of people visit the square and throw a coin to ensure being able to return to Rome a second time.
Visiting the Imperial Forums is really like walking in ancient Rome. There are the Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus, Forum of Peace, Forum of Nerva and Trajan’s Forum (seen above). The archaeological area is one of the richest in the world and here you’ll feel like you’re stepping into the past. You’ll sense the thrill of walking on stones once trod by ancient celebrities such as Caesar and Trajan.
The Roman Forum is the point where the social life of ancient Rome mainly took place. For the Roman civilization, it was one of the best meeting points in the city, once housing a market, the court and the most important religious buildings. Among the most important buildings are the imposing Arch of Titus, built around 70 AD, the Basilica of Maxentius, the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Via Sacra, which goes up to Capitol Hill.
Formerly the Stadium of Domitian, the square retains precisely the elliptical shape of the ancient stadium. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful and famous squares of Rome and here are inimitable masterpieces by masters such as Bernini, Borromini and Giacomo della Porta. In the square there are also three fountains: Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini, Fountain of the Moor and the Fountain of Calderoni, designed by Giacomo della Porta. Local artists flock here and tourists and Romans spend relaxing evenings in the bars enjoying good wine and soaking up the atmosphere.
This square is located at the base of the Capitol and is worth a visit especially for the monumental “Altare della Patria.” This is a gigantic building entirely built in marble, adorned with bronze statues and numerous bas-reliefs. Some don’t appreciate this monument and many compare it to a giant inkwell or wedding cake devoid of elegance and not in harmony with its surroundings. Whatever you may think the Altar of the Nation, it’s now part of Rome and represents the more recent past of this city.
The Capitol is the meeting point for many aspects of life in Rome. Today it houses the municipality the City of Rome, following an ancient tradition that saw it first as a sacred place and later the seat of the Senate of Rome. The square in which it is located has unique features: a trapezoidal shape, a statue of Marcus Aurelius and gorgeous palaces adorned with statues and fountains. The square was partly designed by Michelangelo.
St. Peter’s Basilica
No Top 10 Rome list would be complete without mentioning St Peter’s. The Basilica of San Pietro is located in Vatican City, which has been the residence of Popes since 1377. St. Peter’s is famous throughout the world and is the seat of the highest authority of the Catholic religion. The beauty of the square suggests the importance of its role. The most outstanding architects and artists including Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Giacomo della Port and Domenico Fontana have helped to create St.Peter’s. The dome of the basilica is clearly visible from many areas of the city and dominates the landscape.
Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna means the grand steps of Trinità dei Monti (otherwise known as the Spanish Steps). These steps were made internationally famous in the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck film, Roman Holiday. Endless other images have also been linked to this staircase and they have even seen fashion shows of top fashion designers. Check out the square and surrounding streets for designer shops such as Armani, Versace, Valentino and many others.
The Pantheon is a huge monument, built in Roman times (around 80AD) and unusually well preserved. The building is both imposing and photogenic with a huge dome open at the top. The light that enters the temple from the opening creates an almost surreal atmosphere, the open top also makes a great spectacle when it rains! Inside there are also graves of important people such as Raphael.
Our tips for travelling to Rome
- To find the cheapest flight from the UK we always use Skyscanner as they search hundreds of other travel sites at once to find the information you need to decide on flights.
- We prebooked our transfer from the aiport to our hotel with www.booktaxirome.com which saved queuing and getting ripped off when we arrived in Rome (which can be a very busy airport)!
- We always want to stay somewhere unique when we travel so we wrote a guide to our Top 10 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Rome.