Sightseeing in Rome

A heady mix of haunting ruins, awe-inspiring art and vibrant street life, Italy’s sizzling capital is one of the world’s most romantic and inspiring cities.   If time allows, there a number of fantastic ‘must sees’.

The Colosseum is the biggest amphitheatre ever built and the ultimate symbol of imperial Rome.  It’s every tourist’s rite of passage to stroll through the crumbling stadium, once sheethed in marble, and imagine the gladiatorial combats, the lions that once prowled the stadium, the roar of the crowd.   Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir Titus as a gift to the Roman People.  Without doubt it was not only an amphitheatre but also a symbol of the power and majesty of the emperor, Rome and Roman society.

The Pantheon is a former temple which became a church in 609 AD.  Its all granite Corinthian columns, colured marble and bronze doors are a sight to behold and the centrepiece is the coffered concrete dome, with an oculus (circular opening) in the middle, where the light streams in.   The word ‘Pantheon’ is a Greek adjective meaning ‘honor all Gods’.  The Pantheon is the only structure of its age and size that has successfully survived the ravages of time and gravity intact with all its splendour and beauty.  Although there were earlier versions destroyed by natural causes, today’s Pantheon was constructed in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian, who was passionate about architecture.  He ultimately beheaded his architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, because of an argument about the design!

The Trevi Fountain is the world’s most famous fountain, a Baroque explosion of tritons, winged horses and drinking snakes, gleams bright as the teeth of the Cheshire Cat.  The water glitters with thousands of coins that tourists have tossed in.  It racks up to €2000 each week, money which is collected to fund a supermarket for the poor.  Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi, with your back to the fountain from your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome.  The Trevi is located at one end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus.  The central figure of the fountain, standing in a large niceh, is Neptune, god of the sea.  The fountain took 30 years to construction and was completed in 1762.  It is mostly built of travertine stone, a word which is derived from the Latin adjective ‘tiburtinus, which means from Tibur.

Roman Forum were once the most important meeting places in the world – where temples rubbed alongside brothels; streets tremored with triumphal processions and heaving markets; and squares thronged with spectators of fervid political debate and criminal trials.  The remains of the Roman Forum were discovered in 1803 by archaeologist, Carlo Fea, but the excavations were not fully completed until the 20th Century.

Palatine Hill is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills, and has played an important role in the city’s history, starting from the days of its foundation. It was the legendary first home of Romulus and Remus, and was later chosen by emperors and aristocrats for their luxurious villas. Towering over the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus, the Palatine offers spectacular views of Rome, and a chance to learn about the fascinating myths and history of Ancient Rome.

Vatican City—The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned its construction on the foundations of the original Capella Magna in 1477.  The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites.  Set within the Vatican City and Museums, it welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry.   Michelangelo began his work on the ceiling in 1508, work he undertook without enthusiasm, as his main artistic interest was in sculpture.  He hated the job so much that in 1509 he wrote a poem to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia lamenting how he’d ‘grown a goitre from this torture’ due to the physical strain of the work!

Vatican Museums all 54 of them – contain the world’s largest collection of ar,t with 9 miles of pieces, which could wrap four and a half times round the Vatican walls!  The Museums comprise 1,400 rooms, chapels and galleries and constitute the former wings of the Vatican Palace. The Vatican City itself is easily the most history-laden religious city in the world.  Not even Jerusalem can come close to what the city has in terms of religious history.  The holy city is an enclave within the capital of Italy and thus combines the history of the church and that of the Roman Empire.  Within all this history, some facilities outrank all the others – the Vatican Museums being one.  They were founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th Century. 

Vatican City—St Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches ever built.  It is an Italian Renaissance beauty—all papal tombs, neoclassical sculptures and frenziedly detailed reliefs.  Those with the energy can climb the 871 steps to the top of the Basilica’s dome for 360-degree views of Vatican City.  The first cornerstone for this sanctified structure was laid on 18th april 1506.  It contains 100+ tombs including 91 popes, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and Swedish Queen Christina, who abdicated the throne to convert to Catholicism.

Vatican City—St. Peter’s Square or Piazza San Pietro, located at the feet of St. Peter’s Basilica, is  probably one of the world’s most famous squares and one of the most breath-taking.  Designed by Bernini during the 17th Century, it is 320 m long and 240 wide and can hold up to 300,000 people.  In the centre of the square is the obelisk and the two fountains, one by Bernini and the other by Maderno.  The obelisk is 25 m high and was carried to Rome from Egypt in 1586.