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11 places to Explore in Rome

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Rome, Italy

Rome is one of the ancient and significant cities in the world. It ruled the ancient world and served as center of politics, culture, art and cuisine for centuries. Walking on the Rome streets feels like you are in the open air museum. There is so much beautiful architecture, sculpture, fountains and squares. The city has its own harmony, and nothing couldn’t disturb it. At first I recommend to take the city walk calmly, without a hurry, and enjoy it. And only then to start visiting museums, galleries and whatever you like. Remember Rome is not a 1-2 days story. It’s better to spend about a week in Rome. So, let’s see what are the best places to explore in Rome at the first visit:

Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Arch of Constantine

All these places are located near each other, that’s why I put them all together.

Colosseum is an ancient amphitheater and the largest ancient theater in the world. It was completed in 80 AD under the reign of emperor Titus. Originally the Colosseum was used for games, gladiator fights, and entertainment mostly. But over the ages it’s purpose changed. In medieval times Colosseum served as burial site, and some of it’s vaults and chambers were used as workshops. In 13th century it became a fortified castle for Frangipani family. Colosseum witnessed rise and falls of so many reigns.

The Roman Forum as the Colosseum is an ancient location too. Forum was the center of citizens’ life in Rome. There were important occasions such as triumphal processions, elections, public speeches, and commercial affairs. Also here were situated important government buildings and baths. Baths used not only as leisure, but making commercial deals. Nowadays almost all of the Roman Forum buildings are ruined, but the remains are still gorgeous and keep a lot o secrets. Highly recommend to hire a guided tour.

Book a ticket ahead to Colosseum and Roman forum here.

Arch Constantine is a triumphal arch near Colosseum, dedicated to emperor Constantine the Great. The arch is a memorial to the victory of Constantine over Maxentius in the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. It was built in 315 AD, beautiful and ancient. Don’t miss a chance to see it or maybe draw it while you are near the Colosseum.

St Peter’s Square

The Vatican is an independent small country that is located in Rome. It sounds strange, but it is what it is. St Peter’s Square square is the main and the only square in the Vatican. It is located in front of  St Peter’s Basilica.

St Peter’s Basilica is very significant and holy to the catholic followers. The Basilica is very beautiful from the front facade, you can see the statues of Jesus and Apostles. Inside the architecture and décor are amazing and worth a visit.

Also you must visit Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum is a treasure of those who love classic art and history. You can find here masterpieces of Raphael, Caravaggio and other artists. The museums hold about 7000+ art pieces. So if you love art, museums and history you will enjoy it.

Sistine Chapel is part of Vatican Museum, so you can buy a ticket combining the both. The Chapel known for its decor full of details and fresco by Michelangelo “Last Judgment”. These astonishing artworks are very important to religious history.

Recommend you to take a guided tour to St Peters Basilica, Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. It will be more informative and interesting than just visiting by your own. Tickets sold out very fast, so I advice you to book your ticket month ahead, don’t wait for the last minute.

The Pantheon

Pantheon is not just another famous tourist attraction, Pantheon is one of the most ancient buildings in the world that is saved pretty well to our days. Pantheon was built in 118 AD during the reign of emperor Hadrian. Third niche inside Pantheon dedicated to the great artist Raphael, there you can see his sarcophagus. Pantheon is located in Della Rotonda Square and it is one of the places you must visit in Rome. Especially if it is your first visit. Unfortunately entry to Pantheon not free anymore. Recommend you to book ticket to Pantheon ahead to avoid queues.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain was built in the 18th century and designed by Nicola Salvi. Its architectural style is Baroque and it is the  biggest fountain in Rome. Fountain was built in honor of Oceanus, the God Romans. You can follow the tradition to throw a coin into the water over your shoulder for good luck. Trevi Fountain is usually a busy place, so I recommend you come here early in the morning or late evening.

Navona Square

Navona Square stands on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. It was built in 1 AD and follows the form of open space stadium. In ancient Rome people used to see games here, and it is also known as a competition arena. The current Navona square was built in the 15th century. The name of the square was actually “In avone” then changed to “Navona”. The word “Avone” in Hebrew means sin or agony. As originally this place was used to celebrate a festival called Agonia or Agonium Martiale in honor of Mars, the god of war.

Now In the square you can find 2 fountains: Del Moro and Neptune decorated with amazing sculptures. Around the square you can see Palazzo Braschi, Palazzo Pamphilj and Saint Agnes church.

Castel Saint Angelo

Castel Sant’angelo is the tallest ancient building in Rome. It has a round shape and a sculpture of an Angel on the top. Founded in 129 AD, it used to be a Mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. Later Castel Sant’Angelo became a part of the Vatican and was used by popes as a fortress. Today it’s a history museum with great exhibition.

Book ticket to Saint Angelo Castle with tour in advance.

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini near Barberini Square. In the 17th century Capuchin monks arrived to the church with the remains of the monks that passed away. The remains were put in the crypt by the order of monks. According to Capuchin monks there are 3,700 skeletons in the crypt. The crypt opened to the public in 1851, it has 6 rooms that looks like small chapels. The bones in the crypt are decorated, as a reminder for us of memento mori. Booking your ticket to Capuchin Crypt with a guided tour is a must, otherwise it’s just one more crypt with bones.

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza Del Popolo translates as People’s Square. From the terrace Pincio opened a wonderful view to the square and the city for the photos and sketches. In the center of Piazza Del Popolo stands an obelisk that was brought from Egypt.The square is surrounded by historical buildings like: Chiesa Santa Maria dei  Miracoli and Basilica Parrocchiale. On the square are located 2 fountains: Neptun and Dea Roma. Dea Roma stand at the foot of the terrace Pincio.

Altar of the Fatherland

In the heart of Rome in Piazza Venezia is located a huge monument. It is dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy in Rome.The monument was built by an architect Giuseppe Sacconi in Neoclassical style with eclectic elements.The construction began in 1885 and completed only in 1935. Altar of the fatherland is a symbol of national unity and liberation from foreign domination.

Borghese Gallery

Borghese Gallery is an art gallery that is situated in Villa Borghese. It houses a collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Here you can find artworks by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens. Also you can visit Borghese Gardens, but it’s a separate attraction. Book ticket to Borghese Gallery ahead.

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest and the most significant Basilica of Rome. It Major papal basilica, and one of the pilgrims’ churches. The Basilica’s architect was Ferdinando Fuga. Its architectural style combined Baroque and  Romanesque (tower) styles. Inside you can observe astonishing gold decorations, frescoes, paintings and sculptures. The entry to Basilica is free, but if you want to climb on the top of Cupola or a Giotto tower you need to buy a ticket. If you want to learn more about Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, guided tour could help you.

As you see there is a lot of things to do and explore in Rome. These were some of the main attractions of Rome. If it is your first visit, highly recommend you visit all of them.

Small tip, every 1st Sunday of the month the state museums of Rome like,- Colosseum, Roman Forum, Villa Borghese and Castle Saint Angel has free entry. Also on the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican Museums has free a entry too. But as you understand the lines will be longer than in the usual day. Have a great vacation!

Looking what to do in Rome at New Year Eve? Read my post about celebrating New Year eve in Rome.

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