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Top 10 Things to do in Rome

From Florence to Rome – what a contrast there is between the two cities. While both cities are old, Rome you might rather call ancient, they each evolved in their own unique way. You are in no doubt when arriving in Rome that this is Italy’s capital; the ancient history and the size of the city will tell you. In a unique city like Rome, you can walk the streets and find ancient ruins next to modern buildings, which is what I find so special about Rome. Rome is a city where you can spend days, even weeks and when departing still think “I haven’t seen it all, I need to return one day”. Therefore, as this post only covers the top 10 things to see and do in Rome, you will discover that there is an endless list of things to do for the day you return.

The Pantheon still towers strong after almost 2000 years of its erection

1. Pantheon

It is unimaginable to me, how an ancient building like the Pantheon still towers so strong and beautiful after almost 2000 years of its erection. Taking into consideration the lifespan of this building, you might even call it an architectural wonder. The construction of the Pantheon, whose original intention was to serve as a roman temple, began in 27 B.C., initiated by Marcus Agrippa. Later on, the emperor Hadrian would rebuild it around 120 A.C., giving it its present, round shape and the characteristic round dome with an oculus, being the only source of light on the inside of this vast construction. It was not until year 608 that the Pantheon would be converted into a church when the emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface 4th and from henceforth devoting it to Christianity. The technics and materials used at the time of construction are extraordinary for the time 2000 years ago. It has therefore been claimed a forerunner of all later modern places of worship and holds equally a great number of records such as being the best-preserved ancient building.

The colosseum is the iconic symbol of Rome

2. Colosseum

Standing in the colosseum and letting wash the history and the long bygone events over you, it makes you realize how far away it just seems from today’s reality. The colosseum being the iconic symbol of Rome, will give you a raw introduction of the harsh purpose to entertain Romans 2000 years ago. The colosseum was originally named the “Amphitheatrum Flavium” but due to the colossal statue of emperor Nero which was located right next to the theatre (you can still see traces of it), the name “colosseum” became its common title. It was the emperor Vespasian who initiated the construction around 70 A.D., being finalized by his son Titus in 80 A.D. Since it could accommodate 65.000 spectators, this was the place to be entertained with games and festivities such as gladiator battles and animal fights – the games were barbaric, but the history of this place is legendary.

A trip to Rome wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Forum Romanum

3. Forum Romanum & Palatine Hill

Rome is filled with history of ancient times and this is where the ‘Forum Romanum’ plays yet another important role. Despite, that today mostly ruins are left, a trip to Rome still wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the ‘Forum Romanum’. It all began with a few temples being built between the hills of Capitol and Palatine after the 7th century B.C. At the time of emperor Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.) the growth of the Roman Empire had accelerated so immensely that Rome had then become home to over 2 million people, the city flourished. At the base of Capitol Hill was THE place where people would gather at that time for public meetings, law courts and open-air markets, hence becoming the centre for political, religious and legal matters. With the fall of the empire, ‘Forum Romanum’ became the victim of plunders and earthquakes, vanishing over time.

This might be the most famous fountain in the world

4. Trevi Fountain

This might be the most famous fountain in the world – it for sure is the most famous in Rome and the most beautiful as well. The ‘Trevi Fountain’ was initially designed for pope Clemens XII by Bernini, which is a name you might come across more often as he made quite some masterpieces throughout his life. However, it wasn’t until 50 years later when a different architect, Nicola Salvi, redesigned and finished his work with a simpler and less expensive design. The construction of the fountain lasted for 30 years from the years 1732 to 1762 – for a fountain, can you imagine that? The years spent designing and building it obviously were worth all the effort though, when you enter the ‘Piazza di Trevi’ and find this 30-meter-high late Baroque masterpiece. As the centrepiece of the fountain, you will find the roman, nautical god, Neptune, throning on his chariot with his two-winged horses and tritons. A legend says, that if you toss a coin into the fountain with your right over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome one day.

Vatican City - the world’s smallest, fully independent state

5. Vatican City

Imagine to visit Rome and being able without many moves to check another state from your travel list. This is the reality if you chose to visit ‘Vatican City’, the world’s smallest, fully independent state, located within the city of Rome. ‘Vatican City’ is enclosed by old medieval and renaissance walls, shaping the small state’s boundaries. Of its six entrances, three are open to the public. However small this state is, it boasts with some of the most famous artworks you can find in Rome, housed in both the St. Peter’s Church itself, the attached Sixtine Chapel and the vast Vatican Museum. It is undoubtedly the imposing building of the St. Peter’s Church, by which you are met when entering the vast space in front of the church, which will give you an unforgettable image of the Vatican. From the top of one of the largest churches in the world, you will find the most magnificent view over Rome’s historic city centre.

Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous and equally one of the most beautiful squares in Rome

6. Piazza del Popolo

‘Piazza del Popolo’ is one of the most famous and equally one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. The square is in its oval shaped form surrounded by beautiful buildings, amongst them being two almost identical, however still asymmetrical, churches laying on the opposite site of one another while separated by ‘Via del Corso’. On the first glance they might seem to look alike; however, if you take your time to examine them more thoroughly, you will find the many dissimilarities after all. The square, together with the inconspicuous church ‘Santa Maria del Popolo’, were the spectacle scene for the ‘DaVinci Code’ movie, maybe you might recognize it? One of the most impressive sights on the square though is the centrepiece itself, a 36-metre-high Egyptian obelisk which originates from 1300 B.C. and was transported from Egypt to Rome by the emperor Augustus. After climbing the steps on the east-side to the ‘Piazza Napoleone’, you will be bid by a magnificent view of the square.

The Spanish Steps make for a beautiful backdrop

7. The Spanish Steps

In such a photogenic city like Rome, it is hard to decide which landmark to visit next. Rome, with all its piazzas, ancient ruins and art-loaded churches, the Spanish Steps make for yet another beautiful backdrop. Built in Rococo style between the years of 1723-1726, the steps connect the two piazzas, ‘Piazza di Spagna’ at the bottom and ‘Piazza Trinita dei Monti’ at the top. However functional the intention of the steps might have been, the Spanish Steps are today a popular meeting spot to leisurely dwell, eat some ice cream or have a drink in the evening while watching people passing by on the piazza below. As you climb the monumental stairway with its 135 steps and three different terraces, you will find the church ‘Trinita dei Monti’ at the top, dominating the skyline. Don’t be misled by the name ‘Spanish Steps’ though, since they originally were commissioned by the French. It is due to the fact, that the Spanish Embassy was once located on the square at the bottom of the stairs which hence giving the stairs today’s name – Spanish Stairs.

The Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore is standing splendidly on the Piazza del Esquilino

8. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Rome is home to an endless number of churches, the one more overwhelming than the other. There are the churches which you will recognize easily as such, throning high and imposing, and there are churches hidden away in old buildings, but embracing you into its wealthy inner once you enter them. The ‘Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore’ is one of the first, standing splendidly on the ‘Piazza del Esquilino’. ‘Santa Maria Maggiore’ is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, the other ones being the St. Peter’s Basilica, San Giovanni in Laterano and San Paolo Fuori Le Mura. The church was founded back in 432 under the order of Pope Liberius. According to a legend, it was on this particular site where the church was built that Virgin Mary appeared in a dream of Pope Liberius.

The second most beautiful square in Rome - Piazza Navona

9. Piazza Navona

Now, that you have been introduced to the most beautiful square in Rome, Piazza del Popolo, let me introduce you to the second most beautiful square, Piazza Navona. This square is equally one of the most beautiful and most visited squares in the centre of Rome. Its unique elongated shape derives from the original function of the square as a stadium for athletic competitions from the 1st century A.D. Organized for games, and even water-games during the hot summer months where the whole stadium would be covered in water, it hence got the name ‘Circus Agonalis’. The stadium had space for 20.000 spectators who would watch from stands where today the buildings surround the square.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, houses were built where the stands used to be, but the long athletic field maintained its original shape and eventually became ‘Piazza Navona’.

 Villa Borghese - the most popular park in Rome

10. Villa Borghese

In a bustling city like Rome, there is need for a space to retreat to. Not far from ‘Piazza del Popolo’ lays the big landscape garden, Villa Borghese, the most popular park in Rome. The name of this park derives from the wealthy Borghese family who once owned this vast space from year 1580 and onwards and for whom these gardens were developed by the architect, Flaminio Ponzio. The once former vineyards owned by the family, were turned into a park on the request of Cardinal Scipione Borghese who wanted to build the most extensive gardens in Rome, and so he succeeded. Inside the park you will find several, remarkable buildings such as the Galleria Borghese, an aviary and an orangery such as many villas. The garden as it is today is the result of a remake in the 18th century, hence giving it its English inspired style.


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