The Italian capital of Rome is one of the world’s premiere tourist destinations for good reason: it’s full of ancient ruins, baroque treasure and a world-renowned brand of cuisine that will satisfy even the most discerning of tastes. It’s not called the Eternal City for nothing, too. Rome offers the perfect blend of Western civilization’s storied past and the modern world’s celebrated comforts.
With everything there is to do in this city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and use up all your vacation time without getting a taste of everything Rome has to offer. We’re here to help you set your Italian touring priorities right and with our list of the 10 things you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Rome. Here we go:
1. The Coliseum This ancient structure is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Coliseum was built over a 10-year period from 70-80 AD under the rule of the emperors Vespasian and Titus. It remains the largest amphitheatre in the world. At the height of the Roman empire’s power, the Coliseum could hold 55,000 spectators who came to watch gladiators battle both wild animals and each other. There were also simulated sea battles to add variety. Today, you can explore the vast network of underground tunnels in the hypogeum, stand where the gladiators fought, then see the very top levels where the spectators cheered them on.
2. Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museums are located within the sovereign city state of Vatican City. The museums were created by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century and expanded over the centuries to their current size of numerous galleries covering over 12 acres. There is a staggering amount of artwork on display here. It is said that if you stood at each work of art for only one minute, it would take you four years to see everything. The highlights include the Borgia Apartments, the Rafael Rooms, The Gallery of Maps and of course the sublime Sistine Chapel.
3. The Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountains water flows from an ancient source known as the Acqua Vergine that comes from the nearby Alban hills. The largest Baroque fountain in Rome was designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci from white carrara marble and travertine. Make sure you throw three coins over your shoulder to ensure your return to the Eternal city.
4. Galleria Borghese. The Galleria Borghese is a manageable gem of an art museum. Set inside the tranquil Villa Borghese park, its collections are housed in a magnificent 17th-century villa that was once the home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The twenty rooms hold sculptures by Bernini and Canova. The paintings are works of Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio.
5. San Luigi dei Francesi church. Find the Contarelli Chapel deep inside the church of San Luigi dei Francesi for three of Baroque bad boy artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s finest works. The tryptic cycle of The Calling of Saint Mathew, The Inspiration of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew are remarkable examples of Caravaggio’s dark drama.
6. Campo de’Fiori. This bustling square, ringed by cafes and medieval buildings has many personalities depending on the time of day. In the early morning, umbrella shaded market stalls are set up selling fresh produce and kitchen necessities. Bright buckets of the flowers are found over on the via Pellegrino end. In the late afternoon the market is swept away and as the sun sets, teenagers gather under the brooding statue of Giordiano Bruno while the cafes and restaurants fill with lively patrons.
7. Gianicolo Hill. Climb up the hill that gently rises above the neighborhood of Trastevere for one of the best views over the city of Rome. Go just before noon to hear the daily cannon shot or wait until sunset and gaze out at the panoramic scene spotting terra-cotta roofs, countless church domes and other monuments from the Vatican, the top of the Spanish Steps and the edges of the Coliseum. On clear winter days, you can see as far as the snowcapped mountains outside the city.
8. Pantheon. This colossal ancient structure in the center of Rome was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 27AD and rebuilt after a devastating fire by Hadrian in 126AD. Once a Roman temple dedicated to all gods, it is now a functioning Catholic church. The construction of the Pantheon is an incredible architectural feat. The enormous concrete dome opens to the sky with the oculus. If you have a rainy day (or even better a snowy day) in Rome, head to the pantheon to see the drops falling down straight into the middle of the building.
9. Piazza del Campidoglio. Stand at what was once the center of the ancient Roman Empire in the Piazza del Campidoglio. The English word Capitol comes from the word Campidoglio and this piazza sits on one of Rome’s famous seven hills; the Capitoline hill. In the middle ages Michelangelo designed the elegant piazza with the dramatic statue of Marcus Aurelius that you see now. Go around the corner and find the iconic Roman she-wolf statue set high up on a marble column.
10. Pizza al Taglio and Gelato. Snack like a Roman with slices of hot piazza bianca, white pizza slicked with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cold scoops of creamy gelato. When ordering gelato, you can try two flavors with even the smallest size. There are so many flavors to try . We love the combination of straciatella, studded with chunks of dark chocolate and pistachio.
There you have it, our 10-can’t miss things for visitors to Rome. Be sure to book lots of time when you come to Italy for a vacation because every day just presents so many opportunities for sightseeing, dining and culture-soaking adventures. Take the time to experience each item in this list and we guarantee you the trip of a lifetime. Ciao!