Best 10 (+1) Attractions to Visit in Rome

November 20, 2014
Enrico Catani

With over 2,500 years of history, Rome preserves an historic and artistic heritage that has no equal in the world: ruins from the ancient Roman Empire, hundreds of basilicas, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, plenty of museums, masterpieces of art by the greatest artists of all times.
Also known as the “Eternal City” since ancient times, Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations: walking through its picturesque historic centre you might have the feeling of traveling back in time, as you admire monuments and sceneries from different historical periods, harmoniously mixed at every corner.
Choosing the best attractions in Rome is not an easy task as there is so much to round out. However, ItalyXP has tried to make a list of the 10 (+1) essential places you cannot miss if is your first time visiting this amazing city.

1. Colosseum

Considered one the “Seven wonders of the world”, the Colosseum is one of the most glorious man-made buildings ever made.
Completed in 80AD, this magnificent amphitheatre could house over fifty thousand spectators! It was built using the most sophisticated engineering techniques of that time, including an elevator system and the possibility to flood the stage for mock naval battles.
Designed as a place to entertain Ancient Romans in brutal and bloody games, such as the gladiators’ mortal fights, the Colosseum still preserves its magical atmosphere from the past. Through a guided tour you can visit its interior, and the complex underground set of rooms and passageways: an essential eXPerience if you visit Rome for the first time!

2. Vatican City

Located in the very centre of Rome, this independent sovereign state is one of the most fascinating and visited places in the world.
Despite its small size, the Vatican City boasts and artistic and historical heritage that has no equal:  the main points of interest include the Saint Peter’s Basilica, one of the greatest places of worship; the Vatican Museums, the largest museum complex in the world with over 1400 rooms and sheer size that stretches over 9 miles; and the Sistine Chapel, the 15th Century Pope's private chapel, with the ceiling frescoes beautifully painted by Michelangelo. 
Let’s just say that a guided tour of the Vatican is almost a prerequisite if you are in Rome…

3. Trevi Fountain

Considered one of the greatest Baroque masterpieces in the world, this universally-famous fountain is definitely one of Rome’s most beloved free attractions.
Designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi in 1732, the Trevi Fountain dominates the small homonymous square with its imposing structure. In the shiny-white marble façade is depicted a mythological composition of Oceanus, divine personification of all water, flanked by two Tritons and two sea-horses.
The Trevi Fountain was immortalized because it was a location for the legendary scene in Fellini’s movie masterpiece La Dolce Vita, where Anita Ekberg glides through the fountain’s water in a long black dress. Obviously, walking in the fountain as the actress did in the movie is prohibited, but you can always take part in the ritual coin toss, as the legend says that doing so it will assured you a return trip to the Rome.

4. Pantheon

This impressive monument, with its huge columns, dominates the Piazza della Rotonda, which is a lovely square in the heart of the historic centre, full of picturesque bars and restaurants.
The Pantheon was built in 25BC by the general Marcus Agrippa as a temple for all pagan gods, but in 609AD it was converted into a Roman Catholic Church. At present days, it is one of the better preserved monuments in the city.
Apart from its imposing exterior, the most interesting part of the Pantheon is its interior, characterized by a strikingly innovative structure at the time: the forty-three meter high dome with a wide central oculus, which lets into the building enough sun-light not to need artificial lighting.
The Pantheon’s dome is one of the largest domes in the world, and undoubtedly a must-see for anyone visiting Rome.

5. Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in the historic centre. It is easily recognizable because of its unique elongated oval shape: the square in fact, was built in the 15th century on the ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, and it still maintains its original layout.
It is dominated by the Fountain of the Four Rivers, one of the greatest sculptures designed by Bernini, which depicts four muscular figures that represent the four major rivers of the four continents known at the time.
In front of this splendid fountain is the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony, while at either edges of Piazza Navona are two more splendid fountains: the Fountain of the Moor and the Fountain of Neptune.

6. Roman Forum

Located nearby the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, as it provides a unique source of information about so many aspects of social, economic and political life of the ancient Rome.
In fact, the Roman Forum has been for centuries the centre of political and commercial, and the entire area was covered by temples, basilicas and important monuments of which there are still clear evidences.
Today this vast archaeological complex attracts thousands of tourists who want to explore its ruins and feel the eXPerience of traveling back in time: a guided tour of the Roman Forum is indispensable for anyone who wants to dig into the origins of Rome.

7. The Spanish Steps

Known as the “Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti” in Italian, the Spanish Steps is a magnificent stairway with 138 steps, structured in a harmonious mix of ramps, curves and terraces: a masterpiece of Roman Baroque architectural style.
Built in the 18th century, the Spanish Steps lead to the beautiful Church of Trinità dei Monti, while at its base is the Piazza di Spagna with the Baroque masterpiece known as the “Barcaccia”, which is one of the greatest fountains in Rome.
This majestic urban monument has been a popular meeting hub for artists, painters and poets who were inspired by its harmonic splendor: a unique place to enjoy the magical atmosphere of Rome, as you admire the breathtaking view from atop the staircase.

8. Castel Sant’Angelo

Located in the heart of Rome, between the banks of the Tiber River and the Vatican City, the Castel Sant’Angelo has a long and intriguing history, like many other monuments of the city.
It was originally built, between 135 and 139AD, as the mausoleum of Hadrian. In 401AD, however, Castel Sant’Angelo was incorporated in the Aurelian Walls and then, during medieval times, the Popes started touse it a fortress to protect themselves in time of danger, as testified by the underground corridor that connects the building to the Vatican Palace.
Today, the Castel Sant'Angelo houses in its interior a museum that retraces its history: from ruins of the Hadrian’s tomb to remains of the fortified castle, the original prison cells and the papal apartments.

9. The Villa Borghese Pinciana

The Villa Borghese is the third largest park in the city, spread over three different districts. The estate was owned by the Borghese family since 1580, but in 1901 it was purchased by the Italian State and after a couple of years it was open to the public permanently until today.
The enchanting park is not only trees and wide open green space, but it houses several buildings, sculptures, museums, fountains, ponds, formal gardens, a theater, academies and cultural institutions renowned around the world.
The main building of the villa is the Borghese Gallery, one of the most important museums of the city as it hosts the works of Bernini and Antonio Canova, as well as paintings by TizianoRaffaello and Caravaggio. The gallery is best to be visited through a guided tour with skip-the-line tickets… An eXPerience not be missed! 
Among the various possible activities, we suggest a romantic boat ride on the lake or to stop at the Terrazza del Pincio for a breathtakingview of Rome and terrific picture opportunities at sunset.

Borghese Gallery from the outside

10. Campo de’ Fiori square

Dominated by the statue of a cloaked Giordano Bruno, the Campo de’ Fiori (which means “field of flowers”) was a place of public executions between the 16th and the 17th centuries.
Despite its gory past, today it has become a lovely square: one of the places where visitors can breathe the enchanting atmosphere of Rome, as well as its flavors and fragrances.
Since 1869, from the early morning Campo de’ Fiori is used as an open-air marketplace: with its counters of flowers, fresh vegetables and lots of local delicacies, this lively place is a great opportunity to discover the true taste of Roman products.
During the evening, after the vendors have packed up their stands and the square has been cleaned, Campo de’ Fiori becomes a lively nightlife hub, with restaurants, wine bars, cafes, cinemas and theaters.

(+1). Ara Pacis

The Ara Pacis Augustae (in Latin, "Altar of Augustan Peace") is an altar in Rome dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace.
The monument was commissioned by the Roman Senate on July 4, 13 BC to honor the return of Emperor Augustus to Rome after three years in Hispania and Gaul, and consecrated on January 30, 9BC. 
The altar reflects the Augustan vision of Roman civil religion, as it consists of a traditional open-air altar at its center surrounded by precinct walls which are pierced on the eastern and western ends by openings.
The Ara Pacis is perhaps best known for the decoration on the exterior of the precinct walls composed of two tiers of friezes: on the north and south, the upper register depicts the procession of members of the Imperial household and the larger regime, while on the east and west, panels depict allegorical themes of peace and Roman civic ritual. The lower register of the frieze depicts vegetal work meant to communicate the abundance and prosperity of the Peace.

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