What to see
The Colosseum (Colosseo) is one of Rome’s most well-known buildings – in fact, it’s among the world’s most famous structures too. The Emperor Vespasian ordered its construction in 72 AD, and construction was finished by his son Titus. It has also been repaired over various subsequent periods. While the arena was used most famously for gladiatorial combat, it was also used for other public entertainment like animal-baiting, executions, reenactments of famous battles, and theatrical performances based on classical mythology. It was also used at various times as a refuge, markets, military warehouse, barracks and as a quarry. The Colosseum is always bustling with tourists and is one of Rome’s top tourist attractions, so be aware that you may have to get in line for a while before you’re able to get in. Outside the Colosseum you can have your photo taken with people dressed as gladiators and Roman soldiers for a small fee. But remember, it also looks pretty spectacular when it’s lit up at night.
The Vatican Museums
Built by the Roman Catholic Church during the Renaissance, the church and collections were first started in the 1500s. Your journey begins with the Laocoön group sculpture, which is one of the world’s most important sculptures. The lines to enter the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are infamous, but don’t worry, the collections inside will exceed all you’re expectations and are worth the wait. If you don’t want to wait in line, you can buy your ticket online. There are items from many different periods on display in the museums. Some of the most important include the Classical Works Museum, the Ancient Egyptian Museum, the Etruscan Museum, the Profonda Lateran Museum, carpets, ceramics, ethnography, maps and inscriptions galleries, the Sobieski Room, the religious art gallery and the contemporary art gallery. But the most important room in the museums is the Sistine Chapel from 1473. Be prepared for huge crowds when you enter this chapel, as like you, they’ll be there to gaze in wonder at the ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
The Borghese collection was started by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and contains works from antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the modern period. You’ll see the wealth of the collection all over the museum. Some of the amazing works include 154 statues sold to Duke Camillo Borghese in 1807 by Napoleon, 160 busts, 170 engravings, 30 vases and columns. An Antonio Canova sculpture of Pauline, Napoleon’s sister, from 1808 has also been on display at the museum since 1838. Some of the greatest works in the museum are by artists such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Correggio, and Rubens.
Campo de’ Fiori
The piazzas of Rome are among the city’s most attractive features. The Campo de’ Fiori is comparatively small, but one of the most lively, colorful and most famous of the city’s squares. Standing in the middle of this always-bustling square you’ll find a statue of the monk Giordana Bruno, burnt at the steak in 1600 for his radical ideas. Now a favorite with locals and visitors alike, this quaint little square has been the stage for a whole host of events throughout history – from executions to races. Today, the square is home to some wonderful cafés and restaurants, and a traditional daily market (except for Sundays).
There are three buildings that make up the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini), all situated on the Capitoline Hill. The museums house statues, mosaics, coins, busts, glass and terracotta works from Antiquity (Ancient Egypt, Greek, Rome and the Etruscan era), the medieval period and the Renaissance. The original statue of Marcus Aurelius on his horse is on display. Caravaggio’s Fortune Teller (1595) and John the Baptist (1603), and Peter Paul Rubens’ Romulus and Remus (1612) are some of the most incredible, and most famous works in the museums. Other fantastic pieces include a 4th-century BC Venus, Bernini’s Medusa, the bronze sculptures donated by Pop Sixtus IV, and a 5th-century BC she-wolf sculpture.
Castle of the Holy Angel
The incredible architecture of the Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Sant’Angelo) is actually the result of the Emperor Hadrian’s wish to build a mausoleum for himself in 130 AD. It was only afterwards that the popes began to use it. A secret passage between St. Peter’s Basilica and the castle was established as a route by which popes could take refuge in times of trouble. In the year 590 AD, Pope Gregorio Mango invited the people of Rome to a prayer walk to beg for God to heal the town from the plague. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared at the top of the castle with a sword in hand and brought an end to the plague. Since then, it’s been known as the Castel of the Holy Angel. The final scene in Puccini’s opera Tosca takes place here as well. After sightseeing around the castle, take the chance to relax in the café before moving on to the next stop on your visit.
According to Roman mythology, brothers Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf before being found and raised by the shepherd Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia. Remus wanted to found a city on the nearby Aventine Hill and Romulus the Palatine (Palatino). Romulus won and the Palatine became the foundation of the city. The Roman Forum was built here, the commercial, religious, culture and social center of Ancient Rome. At the same time, the archaeological remains of many imperial palaces, Roman houses and temples dedicated to various gods are at the Palatine. Among the incredible things you’ll see are the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Vesta and St. Luke and St. Martin’s church. The Palatine is one of the places any visitor to Rome absolutely has to see before they leave.
National Museum of Palazzo Venezia
Built in 1455, this palace has since been enlarged and in 1564 was used as the papal summer palace of the Venetian Republic, after which it served as the Venetian Embassy in Rome and was called the Palazzo Venezia. In 1921 the Austrian embassy set it up as a museum. Today the National Museum of Palazzo Venezia’s (Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia) collection includes paintings, sculptures, furniture, ceramics, porcelain, and weapons.
The Pantheon comes from the ancient Greek for “all” (pan) and “the gods” (theon), and was commissioned by Agrippa during the reign of Augustus to commemorate the Battle of Actium. After it was destroyed in a fire, the Emperor Hadrian had it rebuilt in 118 AD. Its dome has a diameter of 43 meters, with a hole in the center – the only source of light. It’s truly a marvel of Roman architectural ability. As a result, in 608 the Byzantine Emperor Phocas donated the building to Pope Boniface IV and the temple was then converted to a church called Santa Maria ad Martyres. From Rome’s tiny medieval streets you arrive upon the majestic Pantheon square, and what a wonderful surprise this impressive structure is.
Piazza del Popolo
The Flaminio Obelisk in the middle of the square stands out as a 13th-century BC artifact from Ancient Egypt. There are 13 Egyptian obelisks decorating Roman piazzas, with the Flaminio Obelisk 36 meters in height. Also in the square are the “twin churches” of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto, so-called because they look similar, as well as the Santa Maria Basilica. While all three churches feature stunning interiors, the Santa Maria Basilica is particularly famous as it houses works by Bernini, Raphael and Caravaggio.
What to eat
Pizza isn’t just a Roman dish, it’s one of the staples of Italian cuisine. It began in Naples as food for the poor – just tomato sauce on top of bread. In Rome, you can find pizzerias all over the place. Even if you don’t want to sit down, some places sell pizza by the kilo or by the slice, so you can pick some up and keep on wandering around. It’s a relatively cheap way to eat as well.
There is no specific recipe for minestrone, though certainly it almost always contains beats, onions, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Family recipes can have different ideas on what goes in it, and seasonal freshness is important too. The soup can be vegetarian, meaty or watery though it always uses plenty of seasonal vegetables.
Handmade, fresh pasta is at its most delicious in Italy, so be sure to eat in its capital. With egg, spinach, tomatoes, or whatever you’d like, each type of pasta is cooked slightly differently. Always “al dente,” pasta is usually served with olive oil. Sauces feature fresh ingredients with a variety of Italian cheeses for an unforgettable Roman feast. It’s so famous that colorful pastas have become some the best-selling souvenirs in the city, so take some back with you and share the authentic taste of Rome with your loved ones.
While walking the streets of Rome, you’ll come across the appealing smell of freshly roasted coffee all day. Italians in general and Romans in particular begin their days with a shot of espresso. Weather permitting, one of Rome’s most prominent images is a square packed with people sipping coffee around a fountain. When you want a break from walking around, take a break in a café with a view and get the coffee you want. Your coffee break will become one of the most memorable experiences of your trip. Typically you pay an extra fee for sitting down at cafés, so it’s cheaper to drink standing up.
This dish originated in northern Italy and is made using a variety of ingredients. Every restaurant in Rome and the rest of Italy will have risotto dishes on the menu, some with meat, some with fish or vegetables. It can be served warm or cold, and as a side or an entrée. Risotto in the Milanese style uses saffron, but there are lots of types to try.