Magnificent palaces, impressive Roman monuments, old churches and basilicas, and elegant fountains and lavish statues – all make the Eternal City of Rome a great destination for travelers who want to immerse in the glory of its past.
A trip to Europe can’t be complete without spending a few days in Rome. Rome gives you a chance to peek at the past. It is the cradle of an ancient civilization. Its rich history and culture leave you in awe and these are all tangible in the entire city. Picture the gladiators as they battle for their lives amidst deafening cheers from the bleachers of the marvelous Colosseum. Envision Pantheon’s breathtaking magnificence that Michelangelo said is, “… the work of angels, not humans!” Rome lets you experience St Peter’s Basilica. It is not just for the Catholics or religious; it is also for history and culture buffs, artists. It is a jewel in human artistry and a tribute to human devotion.
Where to Go
Making a decision where to go or what to do is not easy when you are in Rome. Lee Marshall, a destination expert who writes for the Guardian offers a few practical tips, “The challenge is deciding what not to do: there are so many churches, archaeological sites, piazzas and paintings to see that a lifetime is hardly enough. Don’t try to cram too much in: Rome moves at a slower pace than many northern cities, and to enjoy it you should take time out in pavement cafés as well as shuffle round the Sistine Chapel.”
In his post “Rome Attractions” for The Guardian – Destinations Section, he offers 19 attractions that you can start with. This can still be a long list for those staying for but a day or two. The first 10 on the list are:
- Borghese Gallery: It houses some of the world’s greatest art collections – Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, Caravaggios and Bernini’s sculpture Apollo and Daphne, and Canova’s statue of Pauline Bonaparte.
- Colosseum: You can’t miss this “half circus-half sports arena.” It is among Rome’s most renowned classical ruin. The massive structure seating 50,000 people was officially called the “Amphiteatrum Flavium.” Its inauguration in 80AD was, in the modern world’s standards, a gory event killing some 5,000 wild animals decimating the beast population of North Africa.
- Domus Romane: This is a newly excavated home of an affluent Roman that is both huge and impressively full of frescoes, and elaborate interiors. Get a treat when you go to nearby Enoteca Provincia Romana for a sample of excellent cheese, fine wines, cheeses and other artisan products made around Rome.
- Doria Pamphilj Gallery: Both the collections and the palazzo that houses the collections are truly impressive. The artistic highlights include a portrait of the Pamphili pontiff Innocent X by Velázquez and masterpieces by Titian, Caravaggio, Breughel the Elder, Raphael, Bernini and Hans Memling.
- MAXXI: This Museum for the 21st Century Arts offers good exhibitions of architectural themes as well as its modern interiors with lounges and café tables. At the back of the building is Neve di Latte, a contemporary ice-cream shop.
- Vatican Museums: There’s much to enjoy here. Two of the major draws are Michelangelo’s frescoes painted in the ceiling and altar wall of the Sistine Chapel and Pieta in the St. Peter’s Basilica, and the masterpieces of Raphael. Vatican City is one place that you may not even complete in a visit. Aside from Vatican Museums, St Peter’s Basilica and Square, Sistine Chapel, and Raphael Rooms, you can’t miss Castel Sant’Angelo, Gardens of Vatican City, Apostolic Palace and Vatican Necropolis.
- Appian Way & Catacombs: Appian Way used to provide Romans a speedy system of moving troops and supplies. Beneath are catacombs for Christians including San Callisto, the final resting place for dozens of martyrs and nine popes.
- Ara Pacis: This is a monument for Emperor Augustus that doubles as a venue for exhibits. Adjacent is another magnificent attraction, the fine Baroque Church of San Rocco.
- Baths of Caracalla: This was a massive thermal bath built in AD 537 that can host up to 1,500 people. Aside from the thermal baths, there are also two huge gyms, gardens and sculptures. In summer, this venue is used for open-air opera.
- Capitoline Museums: These consist of two palazzi: Palazzo dei Conservatori and palazzo Nuovo. The former houses colossal statues – a bronze Etruscan twins Remus and Romulus, Bernini’s statue of Pope Urban VIII, statue of Marcus Aurelius, and a gallery with paintings by Titian, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, etc. The latter is home to an excellent collection of ancient sculptures.
Other Roman Charms
The other recommended attractions include Centrale Montemartini, Crypta Balbi, Museum and Crypt of the Capuchins, Ostia Antica, Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Roman Forum and Palatine, Villa Farnesina, and Villa Giulia.
Marshall also suggested Ostia Antica for a real taste of Roman lifestyle and Ninfa Garden built by the Anglo-Italian Caetani family. He recommends shopping in privately owned stores for authentic Roman crafts and in markets; if looking for good at knock-down prices, try Testaccio Market located in via Galvani and via Volta. Foodies will have a blast here too – Volpetti (via Marmorata 47). The food market in Campo de’ Fiori is charming – but prices can be tourist traps.
More Gustatory Attractions
For more savory bites of Rome’s amazing gustatory delights, options are numerous, but Italian foods are best – Pasta cacio e pepe, Fiori di Zucca, Pizza alla Romana, Crostata di ricotta served in pizzerias, family run trattorias and fancy restaurants. Be adventurous, head to centro storico; Via Cola di Rienzo is just a stone throw away from the Vatican. Seek Franchi (No 204), Castroni (No 196), a gastronomic treasure trove.
Fashionistas will not be frustrated with fashion creations by names such as Luciana Iannace. If fashion is a passion, take time out and head to Via del Governo Vecchio and in the streets at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You will definite need more time to get the chance of seeing all these and more. Be comforted by the thought that you can always come back some other time. If you’re a believer, head off to the Trevi Fountain and throw one coin so destiny will bring you back to Rome.