Things to Do in Rome - page 2
The first modern civic square in Rome, Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo in 1536. Perched at the top of the Capitoline Hill overlooking the Roman Forum, the space is lined by the monumental Cordonata staircase and three Renaissance palaces, now home to city hall and the Capitoline Museums.
Long-ago travelers from the north once got their first glimpse of Rome from Piazza del Popolo, and the square’s scenic overlook offers a dramatic view of the city today. Art enthusiasts come to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, home to works by Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio.
Don’t be fooled by the name—Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo was built as a tomb, not a castle. Commissioned by emperor Hadrian in AD 139, this imposing cylindrical mausoleum held the ashes of Hadrian and subsequent Roman emperors until becoming a fortress in AD 401. In the 14th century, a fortified corridor between the castle and St. Peter’s Basilica was built, and it became a papal residence. Today, it’s home to the Castel Sant'Angelo National Museum Castel Sant'Angelo National Museum (Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo) and its collection of art, archaeological finds, and weaponry.
Though this ancient open-air theater resembles a mini-Colosseum, it was built nearly 100 years earlier during the final years of the Roman Republic. Named by the Emperor Augustus in 11 BC after his deceased nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the theater may be the oldest surviving of its kind in the world.
One of the most handsome public squares in Rome, Piazza Farnese is home to the majestic Palazzo Farnese, today the French Embassy. Also on the square are the Chiesa di Santa Brigida and two stately fountains made from marble basins pilfered from the ancient Roman baths of Caracalla.
A small and relatively unknown archaeological site of ancient Rome, the Largo di Torre Argentina is a square set around the sunken Area Sacra. The remains of four temples built between the 2nd and 4th centuries BC are some of the oldest ruins in the city. What’s left of the Republican-era structures was only just discovered in the 1920s due to construction in the area. The remains of the Theater of Pompey were also found here, said to be the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination.
The four temples are distinguished by letters A, B, C, and D, with temple D being the oldest (it is estimated the columns date back to the 2nd century BC.) They’re off limits to humans — however, the piazza has become somewhat of a cat sanctuary. There are nearly 300 stray cats that stay there, lounging on ancient platforms and strolling among history. The area is maintained by volunteers. Sidewalks surrounding the ruins lead to viewing platforms where visitors are welcome to interact with the cats.
The Portico of Octavia (Portico di Ottavia) was a large courtyard with many columns originally built in the 2nd century BC. It was rebuilt about 100 years later by Emperor Augustus and dedicated to his sister, Octavia. It once covered an area of almost 445 feet long and almost 380 feet wide, larger than a football field, and it had
more than 300 Corinthian columns. The Temple of Juno Regina and the Temple of Jupiter Stator stood in the middle. Today not much remains of the structure compared to what it once was. Visitors can still see five columns and the ruins of the entrance gate.
In the Middle Ages, the ruins of the Portico of Octavia became the site of a fish market. A stone to the right of the portico's great arch still marks the location. Nearby you can find the Teatro Marcello, the Tiber River and Tiber Island, the Temple of Apollo Sosiano, and it's not far from the Roman Forum.
Home to luxe residences, splendid villas, and two famous UNESCO World Heritage sites—the Renaissance palace of Villa d'Este and the ruins of Hadrian's Villa (Villa Adriana)—the town of Tivoli offers respite from nearby Rome. Highlights include extravagant gardens, refreshing water fountains, and ancient architectural styles.
Located at the western end of Rome’s prettiest bridge, the Ponte Sisto, the Piazza Trilussa is in bohemian Trastevere, the city’s hard-drinking, clubbing district that comes alive at night when the backstreet bars are packed out. Named after a Roman poet from the 19th century, the cobbled square is home to a monument in his honor as well as the stately Acqua Paola water fountain, carved with the heads of dragons and lions. This travertine fountain was commissioned by Pope Paolo V, a member of the all-powerful Borghese family, and constructed in 1613 by Dutch architect and garden designer Giovanni Vasanzio (Jan van Santen in Dutch); it bears the Borghese family crest. Originally it was located on Via Giulia on the east side of the River Tiber but was reconstructed in its present home in 1898. Recent renovation work on the Acqua Paola have seen the restoration of the gardens behind it and the building of steps leading up to the fountain; these have now become are one of the most popular meeting places for the youth of Rome, and summer nights see the piazza crammed with crowds pouring out of the neighboring clubs and bars.
The exact borders of theHistoric Center of Rome (Centro Storico di Roma) is the subject of much debate among Romans and visitors. Officially, however, it’s the area inside the ancient Aurelian Walls plus Vatican City, and it encompasses some of the city’s most famous sights.
More Things to Do in Rome
Among the many masterpieces inside St. Peter's Basilica, Michelangelo's majestic and movingLa Pietà is perhaps the crown jewel. This remarkable life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ blends classical ideals of beauty with startling naturalism and is among the world’s most important works of art.
The Tiber River has run through Italy's capital city since ancient Roman times, and Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) has a history that’s just as long. Once the site of the ancient temple of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, the island is where Romans have sought healing for centuries.
The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), known as the Thermae Antoninianae in Roman times, are one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal complexes in the world. Visit the impressive remains of the ground floor to get an idea of the vast complex, which housed the most sumptuous baths of its time.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore)—among the first churches in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary—sits on the summit of Esquiline Hill. An extraterritorial property of the Vatican, it is one of the city’s four major basilicas and has one of the best preserved Byzantine interiors in Rome.
One of Rome’s seven legendary hills, Caelian Hill (Celio) was a wealthy residential district under the Roman Republic. Today, this is home to the ancient Basilica of Saints John and Paul, the circular Church of Santo Stefano Rotondo, and the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. Travelers can tour Caelian Hill on foot, or by bike, scooter, or bus.
The Vittoriano monument, among the most famous landmarks in Rome, is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Vittoriano Museum Complex (Complesso del Museo Vittoriano). This is where some of the city’s most important art exhibitions are held each year, so it’s a particularly interesting for art enthusiasts.
TheBasilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is Rome’s only Gothic church, but it’s a Michelangelo sculpture and a stunning interior—not its architectural design—that attracts travelers from across the globe.
Visitors will find colorful frescos inside the 13th-century church, as well as the tomb of Pope Pual IV and the famed Michelangelo sculpture,Christ Bearing the Cross. Travelers call Santa Maria Sopra Minerva the greatest place you’ve never heard of, thanks to its impressive basilica and a vast collection of artwork that's unmatched in its quiet and reflective setting.
Combine your visit to S. Maria Sopra Minerva with a skip-the-line ticket to the Pantheon on an informative guided tour.
The hauntingly beautiful chapels beneath Rome’s church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini served as the burial chambers for Capuchin friars for centuries. As there were more bodies than space, older graves were dug up, and bones of the dead were used to create intricate designs decorating the chapel walls and ceilings.
This monumental fountain sits at the top of Rome’s Janiculum Hill, one of the tallest in the city. Dating from 1612, the ornate terminus of the Acqua Paola aqueduct brought water to Vatican City and Trastevere for the first time. Today, you can admire both the fountain and the view, one of the best in Rome.
Sitting atop Rome’s Quirinal Hill, Piazza Barberini is home to two 17th-century fountains designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini: the ornately sculpted Triton Fountain near the entrance to Palazzo Barberini and the small yet delightful Fountain of Bees. A stop at this bustling square is a must for lovers of baroque art.
By far the most famous attraction in this square set between the Forum Boarium and the Tiber River is the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità), located beneath the portico of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Featured in the 1953 filmRoman Holiday, this massive ancient marble mask is one of Rome’s top attractions.
The Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the most important of the four major papal basilicas in Rome and is seat of the bishop of Rome: the Pope. One of the most important Catholic churches in the world, the archbasilica is decorated with rich mosaics, Cosmatesque floors, and 12 baroque statues of the apostles.
One of the most elegant public spaces in Rome, Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio) is the site of Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo in 1536. This piazza overlooking the Roman Forum includes an open square, three Renaissance palace museums—Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Senatorio, and Palazzo Nuovo—and Cordonata, a monumental staircase. The square’s three palazzi house the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini), considered the world’s first public museum. The vast collections include classical sculpture, Renaissance paintings, and archaeological finds.
As the cradle of Christianity, Rome is home to some of the oldest churches in the world. Among the most important is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere (Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere), with a facade and interior covered in golden mosaics from the 12th and 13th centuries.
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