Home to an enormous collection of pieces of art that were collected by the Popes in the last 500 years. The very first exhibit was bought in 1506 and it was a statue called Laocoon and His Sons. It is still on display at the Vatican Museums today. The Vatican Museums include exhibits from many cultures and many periods of human history – Ancient Egypt, Etruscan civilization, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece but they also display works of Renaissance artists (e.g. Raphael) and even the modern ones (such as Picasso or Van Gogh). If you want to avoid the main wave of tourists, you should begin your visit soon in the morning. The later you come, the longer the queues. Also, be aware that the museum visit (usually connected to the visit of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica) is quite physically demanding with lots of walking involved.
The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, and most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo. During the reign of Sixtus IV, a team of Renaissance painters that included Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Roselli, created a series of frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l’oeil drapery below.
A Renaissance church located in the Vatican City and the largest church building in the world, with the interior area spreading across 15,160 m2. It is filled with masterpieces by many well-known Baroque and Renaissance artists (e.g. Bernini’s Baldacchino or Michelangelo’s statue called Pietà). The remnants of St. Peter are placed in St. Peter’s tomb under the Basilica. If you decide to go all the way up the staircase leading to the top of the dome in order to enjoy the spectacular view of the city, be prepared for many steps (320 – 551 depending on your ticket). The ascent can be very demanding especially during the summer months. Also, since it is a Christian church, adequate clothing and behaviour is expected when visiting. Bear in mind that apart from being an important sight, the Basilica is also a Christian church and therefore a holy ground.
St. Peter's Square is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. At the centre of the square is an Egyptian obelisk, erected at the current site in 1586. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the square almost 100 years later, including the massive Tuscan colonnades, four columns deep, which embrace visitors in "the maternal arms of Mother Church". A granite fountain constructed by Bernini in 1675 matches another fountain designed by Carlo Maderno in 1613.
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The Castle was once the tallest building in Rome.
Piazza Navona, the famous square in Rome, began its existence as an ancient Roman stadium. Even today, its heritage is recognizable in its stadium shape. The most prominent feature of the baroque square is definitely the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Nile, Danube, the Ganges and Río de la Plata) by Bernini. There are two more fountains situated in Piazza Navona – Fountain of Neptune and Fontana del Moro. Piazza Navona appears in Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons. Even the film adaptation was partially filmed there. There are many restaurants serving traditional Italian food situated either in the square or nearby. Also, it is the traditional location of the Christmas markets.
Campo de’ Fiori, which translates as the “Field of Flowers Square” is a beautiful square located close to Piazza Navona. It also serves as an open-air market during the morning and early afternoon. Despite its romantic name (that the square got in the Middle Ages when it was still a meadow), Campo de’ Fiori was once a place of public executions. Among those executed here was an Italian mathematician Giordano Bruno (he was executed for heresy). Nowadays, a statue of him is situated in the middle of the square. Through the morning hours, the place is buzzing with life due to the daily markets. If you wish to buy some fresh groceries, this is where you should head. In the evening, you can enjoy the local bars and cafés. It is a great place for relaxation after an exhausting day.
The 13th rione (administrative district) of Rome and a labyrinth of narrow streets. Its history dates back to the Etruscan civilisation and the ancient Rome times when Julius Caesar (among other important Romans) had his villa built here. Nowadays, it is a place of rich cultural and social life. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere (the central square) is a great place to get a cup of coffee and enjoy the view of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Another remarkable piece of architecture in the neighbourhood is the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere church. Trastevere is nowadays best known for its nightlife. There are many pubs and bars where you can head and enjoy yourself after a long day of sightseeing. If hungry, head to one of the many restaurants that are located here. The place is also known as a part of the city that attracts artists and bohemians.
The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m in length and 118 m in width and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park.
The forum used to be the centre of the Ancient Rome, surrounded by the most important government buildings, shrines and arches of which sadly only fragments are left today. Among the most important ones that survived (at least partially) till today are: Curia Julia (the seat of the Senate), Regia (the headquarters of the Roman kings) or the Arch of Titus. The route of the spectacular military parades – the triumphs – always led through the Roman Forum. Also, the main street of the Ancient Rome – Via Sacra – led through the square. According to the legend it was there where Romulus, the king of Rome, met his opponent Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, for negotiation which led to peace and dual kingship. If you wish to visit both the Roman Forum and Colosseum, you should consider buying the tickets at the Roman Forum gates rather than at the Colosseum entrance because the Colosseum queues are much longer. The Roman Forum is well-reachable by public transport. You can get there by metro (Line B, station: Colosseo), by bus (Lines 75, 81, 673, 175, 204) or by tram (Line 30).
The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. It is the etymological origin of the word palace and its cognates in other languages.
The largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire is a must-see when in Rome. The Colosseum once hosted gladiator fights, animal fights and even water battles. The building was a present from the emperor Vespasian to his people and (unlike today) the entrance used to be free. Therefore the games and the fights were very popular. Built and modified under the rule of the Flavian dynasty, the Colosseum remains an important heritage of the ancient Roman culture. Not only are there many films that feature the Colosseum (e.g. Roman Holiday or To Rome With Love), it is even one of the important locations in the famous game franchise – Assassin’s Creed. When visiting the Colosseum be prepared for the crowds of tourists and long ticket queues, often longer than an hour. To avoid the queues completely you can buy your tickets online or buy them at the Roman Forum entrance (which is very close to the Colosseum) where the queues are much shorter. The regular tickets will get you to the most important parts of the complex but if you want to get further than that (e.g. the underground) you will need to buy the guided tour tickets. Being in the centre of the city, the Colosseum is well accessible by the public transport - metro (Line B – Station: Colosseo), bus (Lines 75, 81, 673, 175, 204) or tram (Line 3).
A complex of Ancient Roman squares located close to the Roman Forum. The complex consists of: Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus, Forum of Nerva, Forum of Vespasian and the Forum of Trajan. The forums were the core places of the Ancient Roman culture. The public buildings, government buildings and cultural life of the city were all centred around the forums. The remains of the forums that we see today took damage during the construction of Via dei Fori Imperiali (built by Mussolini) and were partially buried under it. Walking down the Via dei Fori Imperiali street and admiring the Imperial Forums, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum is quite popular so the sidewalks might get crowded.
One of the most imposing squares in Rome. It is located on the Capitoline Hill in the very heart of Rome and it offers spectacular views of the city and its sights. Despite the fact that the square was designed by Michelangelo, he never saw his work completed because he died in 1564 when the square was still under construction. This square is and always was an important part of political life of Rome. You can find the Palazzo Senatorio here – once the seat of the Senate of Rome and now the city hall.
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in AD 113, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians. Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern. The structure is about 30 metres in height, 35 metres including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons, with a diameter of 3.7 metres. The 190-metre frieze winds around the shaft 23 times.
The Pantheon is not only one of the best preserved pieces of Ancient Roman architecture but it also has the largest unreinforced concrete cupola in the world. It is well-known for its oculus that lets the daylight (but also the rain) in through the top of the dome. Originally, the temple was dedicated to Roman gods, but in 608 AD it was turned into a Christian church. Most likely, the Pantheon owes its remarkable condition to this fact. Nowadays, the place is dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs and every Saturday, international masses are celebrated there. The Pantheon is one of the key locations in both Dan Brown’s book and the film based on it, both titled Angels & Demons. It was also used as a burial site. Among people buried there, you can find even the important Renaissance painter Raphael. The entrance to the Pantheon is free; only the guided tours are charged and need to be booked in advance. Usually, the place is crowded with tourists and you might spend some time queuing. There are not many public restrooms near the Pantheon. However, there are many restaurants and cafés nearby. If you decide to use public transport in order to get there, the Pantheon is best reachable by metro (Line A – Station: Barberini) or by bus (Lines – 30, 40, 62, 64, 81, 87, 492 – Station: Largo di Torre Argentina).
Not only the largest Marian church in Rome but also one of its oldest ones. It was built around the year 440 by Pope Sixtus III. Today it is one of the few Papal major basilicas in Rome. The interior includes a breathtaking mosaics dating back to the 5th century. You also should not miss the Crypt of the Nativity (which is believed to contain a wood from the crib of Jesus Christ). Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, is buried there. There is also a tomb of the Bernini family (the famous artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini is buried here as well). It is an active church so respectful behaviour is expected. Also, the basilica may be closed for public on some religious events, so you might want to consult the official website before visiting.
The museum is located in a crypt under the church Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. There are bones of nearly 4000 Capuchin friars stored in the crypt. The bones are arranged into a macabre decorations. The Capuchins have been using the church since 1631. Some of the bones used for the crypt were transported there from their previous destination. The museum introduces the visitors to the Capuchin order, its history and present day activities. The visit is not ideal for families with children since the younger children may get scared by the spooky decoration of the Capuchin crypt.
Fontana di Trevi is an absolute must while in the city. Probably the most famous fountain in the world, it was constructed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi. It also is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome with about 2,824,800 cubic feet of water circulating through the system every day. You can see hundreds of tourists throwing coins into the fountain every day, since it is said that doing this ensures your return to Rome one day. The "proper" way how to do this is to use your right hand and throw the coin over you left shoulder. Interestingly, all the money collected from the fountain are used to feed Rome's citizens in need.
The Spanish Steps are not only one of the best known staircases in Europe but also a popular meeting point for the Romans. The place is especially beautiful in spring when there are countless blooming azaleas. Originally, the staircase (consisting of 135 steps) connected the Embassy of Spain and the Trinità dei Monti church. Next to the Spanish Steps, there is a house where John Keats, a famous British poet of Romantic period, lived and died in 1821. Nowadays, the house is dedicated to his memory (and the memory of Percy Bysshe Shelley) as a museum called Keats-Shelley House. It is not surprising that such a beautiful location appeared in William Wyler’s film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn. If you plan to visit Piazza di Spagna, be prepared for crowds of tourists.
Porta Pinciana is a gate of the Aurelian Walls in Rome. The name derives from the gens Pincia, who owned the eponymous hill. In ancient times it was also called Porta Turata and Porta Salaria vetus, as the oldest Via Salaria passed under it. The gate was built under the emperor Honorius in the early 5th century, by adapting a previous smaller service entrance. The two side passages are a modern addition. The gate remained closed until the early 20th century. During the Middle Ages a legend told that the Byzantine general Belisarius, who here had defended Rome against the Ostrogoths in the siege of 537-538, had been seen here as a beggar.
A must-see for all art loving visitors of Rome. The 17th century Villa Borghese Pinciana, built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese as his suburban manor, is located in the beautiful Borghese gardens. It houses a spectacular collection of renaissance and baroque paintings and sculptures by the most famous artists. You can admire the paintings by Caravaggio (e.g. Boy with a Basket of Fruit), Raphael, Rubens or Titian or the paintings and statues by Bernini (many of which were made precisely for the spots in the villa they occupy today). The tickets must be booked online in advance due to the space limitations of the villa. The ticket booking system also ensures that there are not too many people in the gallery at a time.
The peaceful English manner gardens around the Villa Borghese are a great place where you can escape the bustle of the city. The gardens include several villas (apart from the Villa Borghese there are also Villa Giuliana or Villa Medici) and even a replica of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which was built here in 2003). Villa Borghese is definitely worth visiting as well since it is home to Galleria Borghese which includes works of Bernini, Da Vinci or Tizian. The admission to the Borghese Gardens is free but if you want to visit the villa, there is an admission fee.
In the ancient Rome era, many rich Roman families had their villas and gardens built on the Pincio Hill. Therefore the place was nicknamed the “Hill of Gardens”. The gardens you can visit today were however designed in the 19th century by Giuseppe Valadier. Nowadays, the gardens are a popular place from where you can get amazing views of Rome (e.g. of Piazza del Popolo which is located nearby). It is a quiet and calm place where you can enjoy a bit of greenery. An ideal time to visit the gardens is at the sunset when the view is most spectacular.
A neoclassical square and one of the most visited plazas in Rome. From the northern side you get there through the Porta del Popolo which was once called Porta Flaminia and it was a gate of Ancient Rome. The present-day square was designed by Giuseppe Valadier between 1811 and 1822. In the middle of the square there is an Egyptian obelisk which is one of the oldest and tallest obelisks in Rome. There are also two twin churches – Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto that were partially designed by a famous Italian Baroque sculptor and architect - Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Abbey of Saint Scholastica, also known as Subiaco Abbey, is located just outside the town of Subiaco in the Province of Rome, Region of Lazio, Italy; and is still an active Benedictine order, territorial abbey, first founded in the 6th century AD by Saint Benedict of Nursia. It was in one of the Subiaco caves that Benedict made his first hermitage. The monastery today gives its name to the Subiaco Congregation, a grouping of monasteries worldwide that makes up part of the Order of Saint Benedict. St. Scholastica's Abbey today is part of the Subiaco Congregation, a grouping of 64 male Benedictine monasteries on five continents, to which 54 female monasteries also belong, within the larger Benedictine Confederation.
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia, that was the location of the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 kilometres to the northeast. "Ostia" is a derivation of "os", the Latin word for "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport, but due to silting the site now lies 3 kilometres from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.
Lake Bracciano is a lake of volcanic origin in the Italian region of Lazio, 32 km northwest of Rome. It is the second largest lake in the region and one of the major lakes of Italy. It has a circular perimeter of approximately 32 km. Its inflow is from precipitation runoff and percolation, and from underground springs, and its outflow is the Arrone. The lake owes its origin to intense volcanic activity from 600,000 to 40,000 years before present, which created many small volcanoes in the Sabatino territory. The main magma chamber was situated under the present lake of Bracciano. Its collapse created the caldera now occupied by the lake, which is a crater lake. Some small craters are still recognisable around the lake and in the immediate vicinity.