At mere mention, Italy’s capital city instantly conjures images of the Colosseum, Roman ruins, and the bustling hubbub of capital cities everywhere. With a long and iconic history, Rome is one of the most travelled cities in Europe, attracting visitors from all over the world. Taking in all that Rome has to offer seems an impossible task, but here are some attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
The Colosseum is easily one of the most recognisable historical structures in the world; once the place of public spectacles, whether gladiatorial contests, re-enactments of famous battles, or dramas based on classical mythology. Today it is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions – and it is easy to see why. Attracting millions of visitors every year, the Colosseum reminds us of times long gone -sitting next to a busy road, a strange sense of nostalgia overtakes for a time that none of us will ever truly know.
The popularity of this attraction can mean extremely long queues to get inside; for this reason we recommend buying a ticket that spans across three tourist attractions – the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. This ticket can be bought from any of the three sites, with queues at Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum being a lot shorter than that at the Colosseum.
Whether you decide on the ticket spanning the three tourist attractions or not, Palatine Hill is well worth a visit. Though less famous than the Colosseum, perhaps, it is thought to be the birthplace of the Roman Empire. Ancient Roman mythology states that this was the place of upbringing for twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, by a she-wolf after they were abandoned by their mother. Growing up, they decided to be the founders of their own city – and so, Rome was born. Historically, the palaces that once stood, in all their glory, on Palatine Hill were the homes of many Roman emperors and aristocrats spanning centuries.
From the top of Palatine Hill, you can take in the view of the incredible Roman Forum. Take a stroll to the bottom and find your way through these breath-taking ruins, which were once the centre of everyday life in Rome – whether commercial, religious, or political. Cast an eye over the many temples of gods and goddesses; see the ancient government buildings where ancient Rome became as iconic and eternal as it remains to this day; even take in the Temple of Julius Caesar, the final resting place of, perhaps, the most well-known leader of the Roman Empire.
The Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous squares in Rome; with luxury boutiques, restaurants, and bars surrounding the square, and plenty of little streets to get lost in, it is no mystery why it remains a tourist favourite. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it, though, are the imposing, yet beautifully elegant, Spanish Steps. Walk to the top of the 135 step Baroque-style stairway and take in the views of the bustling piazza below. Also at the top is an impressive Roman Catholic church, Trinità dei Monti, which is free to enter for those of you who wish to see all there is to see.
Just to the right of the Spanish Steps, at the bottom, is a treat for all you literature lovers: The Keats-Shelley Memorial House. Step inside, discover the history of the English Romantic poets, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and see just why they were so spellbound by Rome. See the displays of original manuscripts, letters, and curiosities, as you get lost in a time gone-by, wandering around the house Keats called home until his unfortunate and untimely death.
A short, ten-minute walk away from the Piazza di Spagna is the Trevi Fountain. One of the most famous fountains in the world, its Baroque architecture manages to captivate its audience no matter the time of day. Take your time to truly admire every inch of this fountain from every angle, for each angle shows you more detail you may have missed previously. Throw a coin, or two, or even three, into the fountain. For legend has it that one coin means you’ll return to the Eternal City of Rome; two coins means you’ll return and fall in love; while three coins means that you’ll return, fall in love and get married. For those of you who are sceptical of the stuff of legends, or perhaps definitely do not hear wedding bells in your future, maybe it is enough to bare in mind that any coins thrown into the Trevi Fountain go towards helping Rome’s poor and homeless communities – so either way, what have you got to lose?
Though enclaved in Rome, Vatican City is technically its own state: the smallest sovereign state in the world, but a must-see during your trip to Rome. Perhaps the Holy City’s most iconic feature is Saint Peter’s Basilica, an incredible Renaissance-style feat of architecture. Its central dome dominates the skyline of Rome, able to be seen from miles around. Up close, it is even more meteoric. If you are impressed by the outside then do yourself a favour and take a look inside: a lavish interior entirely decorated with white marble, and ornate architectural sculpting and guiding awaits.
Be prepared to shield your eyes as you leave the Basilica and head out onto St. Peter’s Square: the sun reflecting off the white marble columns surrounding the square is dazzling – both beautiful and blinding. Have a wander around the square and take in every inch of this grand architectural accomplishment. Feel accomplished in yourself that you have finally seen such astonishing visions as St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.
Even if you managed to see nothing else in Vatican City, be sure to take the time to view the Sistine Chapel. With Michelangelo’s masterpiece of nine scenes from the Book of Genesis painted in the ceiling, this is not one to miss. Be aware, though, that there is a rule of silence in the Sistine Chapel, so be prepared to stare in quiet wonder and astonishment at the frescoes covering the walls and Michelangelo’s masterpiece stretching the entire length of the ceiling.
For those of you particularly interested in art, the Vatican Museums should top your list (after the Sistine Chapel, of course). View paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and more by world-renowned artists such as Bellini, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
If you’re more interested in the scandalous past, take a look around the Borgia apartments. The Borgia family have become infamous for the scandals that have marred their name throughout history, such as adultery, theft, and even murder (usually by arsenic poisoning).
All cultured-out from the artwork and historical artefacts you’ve taken in? Take a trip to Rome’s Travestere neighbourhood. A traditionally working-class area, it has continued to cling to its roots while simultaneously developing into a bustling, vibrant, bohemian district. Go for a wander around the small independent shops and flea markets; take a breather and have some food or a drink at one of its many restaurants and bars. If you fancy a Roman night-out, Travestere is the place to be, offering an exciting and vivacious nightlife scene. Outside of the centre of Rome, you can do as the Romans do, and escape the crowded tourist centre and relax; after all, when in Rome...