Built between 72 AD and 80 AD under the watchful eyes of the Flavian dynasty; the Colosseum was an attempt to return some of the precious public utilities to the Romans and to restore the damage done by the cruel reign of the infamous king Nero. The biggest amphitheatre in the world the Colosseum can easily swallow a giant soccer ground inside and has 80 entrances. Gladiator battles, animal combats and public executions are just some of the events that used to happen in the Colosseum in ancient Rome.
This was the medieval cultural hotspot of the Romans and there were even attempts to use it as a fortress, quarry and chapel. Its segregated seating is a study in the Roman social hierarchy while its gigantic structure without a deep foundation is an ancient engineering marvel. The insides of the Colosseum have much to offer but don’t miss important sights around like the large gilded sun God statue “Base of Colossus”, Baths of Titus and Trajan and the Ludus Magnus along with the Arch of Constantine.
The barracks of the gladiators, underground maze of tunnels and compartments and the upper floors with their secret corners and compartments all have thousands of stories to tell. The Colosseum is best viewed with plenty of time on hand with a proper guided tour.
Right now important public exhibitions in the fields of architecture, ancient history and arts are held in the Colosseum. Even the basic ticket comes with an entry to Colosseum, Palatino and Roman Forum so be prepared for a day of Roman archaeological wonders.
An easy way to find various options for entry and tours of the Colosseum (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online is by visiting this Viator site.
Probably Rome’s most loved monument and one of the most admired constructs of the World the Pantheon dates back to antiquity… its antecedents can be traced back to 27 AD. One time a pagan temple converted into a Christian church by the tumultuous demands of history… the Pantheon has universal appeal. Architects will love its structural beauty and the marvellous Oculus that’s the only source of its light. Engineers will marvel at the brilliance of the massive dome that stands proudly upright without a single iron rod support.
Historians will love the way the whole place; the columns, the façade and the countless tombs inside that all tell their own stories. Admirers of Raphael can pay homage at his tomb in the 3rd niche inside, wander through the rotunda and admire the profusion of colours and brilliant works of art. Look up at the Cupola and its multitude of encrypts. Stare at the artistic fountain and its quaint obelisk. This is an attraction with many facets and a bagful of lores.
It’s interesting to take the free audio tour. You can note interesting trivia like Pope Urban vii Barberini declared the melting of Pantheon’s bronze ceiling and since then his deed is referred as “What the Barbarians did not do Barberini did”.
The Pantheon stands on the Piazza della Rotonda in between the Piazza Navona and Fontana di Trevi; a central location in historic Rome. It’s easy to access via Barberini Line A and easy to go off to various attractions nearby including 3 of Rome’s best Piazzas, the iconic Trevi fountain and an exotic sanctuary of Roman cats.
You can find various options for entry and tours of Pantheon (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
Thousands of years ago the citizens of Rome used to gaze at their kings (who dwelt on a hill called Palatine) and their Gods (who dwelt on a hill called Capitoline) and thought of the power plays that will shape their future. Most of these power plays, strategic alliances, political meets and administrative decisions took place in a huge area between these two hills…an area still revered as the Roman Forum.
Walking through the Forum with an expert guide or an audio guide will probably be the most important historical lesson of your life…each monument has its own story of power, betrayal and glory. Right from the Castor and Pollux temple to the Saturn Temple to the Arch of Titus to Septimius Severus Arch; the Roman Forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
And right now the Roman Forum has become even more exciting with the addition of two brand new sites; the Romulus temple and the Santa Maria Antiqua. The tickets of the Roman Forum now come combined with Colosseum and the Palatine Hill and you can visit all 3 archaeological sites in a logical flow.
You can find various options for entry and tours of Roman Forum (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
Basilica Di Santa Maggiore
Once upon a time in the 5th century on August 5 a blanket of snow miraculously fell on top of Esquiline Hill creating a miracle that is hailed for many centuries since. History says that on the night of August 4th mother Mary simultaneously appeared in the dreams of Giovanni (a wealthy roman) and pope Liberius asking for the creation of a chapel for her at the spot where snow would fall the next day. The rest is a tribute to art, piety and fantastic conjunction of the old and new faiths and the basilica Maggiore is still hailed for remaining faithful (architecturally as well as spiritually) to its old Christian roots.
The antique exterior has 13th-century mosaics screened by Ferdinand Fuga’s baroque loggia. The interiors are uniformly dazzling with 5th-century mosaics demonstrating the Old Testament embedded in the Triumphal arch. The apse has Jacopo Torriti created central images that show the coronation of the Virgin Mary and the baldachin has exquisite gilt cherubs.
One of the most intriguing features of the basilica is the crypt containing remnants of the holy crystal… you will find a kneeling lifelike statue of Pope Pius IX in front of it. Though the Cappella Sistina and the Capella are the twin stars of the basilica there are other amazing sections like the upper loggia and the hall of popes that are accessible only by guided tours. This free to visit sumptuous Basilica also has a treasury museum, a gift shop and a traditional choir that performs every Sunday at 10 a.m.
The basilica is the final resting place of many great souls including the architect Bernini and many popes. Don’t miss the 75m tall bell tower with its 5 bells including ‘The lost one’ that chimes at 9 pm every day. If you are really interested in seeing all associated treasures, sacred relics and liturgical objects connected with Santa Maggiore….you can visit the Liberian Treasury Museum or the Museo del Tesoro della Basilica Liberiana.
By the way, the miraculous snowfall event is recreated every year when a hail of snow-white petals and fluff is showered on the church with light and sound snow. Every August 5th the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore comes alive with flocks of Romans and tourists enjoying the spectacle.
You can find various options for entry and tours of Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
Considered to be the largest Baroque fountain in the world the Trevi fountain of 1762 is a dazzling display of craftsmanship of the ancient Roman architects, sculptors and engineers. A fountain of mammoth size that pumps around humongous quantities of water and was/ is beautiful enough to be the city’s leading attraction as well as useful enough to quench the thirst of its population. This is no mean feat!!
No wonder Hollywood fell in love with the fountain and filmed the famous “La Dolce Vita” scene here besides numerous other movies like Roman Holiday, etc. Learn more about the grand history of the fountain…how its construction was abandoned repeatedly and the multiple tragedies that befell its creators Salvi. Learn about the quaint custom of tossing 3 coins into the fountain waters and the favours of a return to Rome, love and marriage that are bestowed to the coin throwers.
The sculpture of the fountain depicting Neptune on his chariot of sea horses tells its own story; the belief that the fountain was masterful enough to control the powerful force of waters is open to interpretation here. Like most Roman monuments the Trevi too fell into ruins and almost collapsed before being restored magnificently by the iconic brand Fendi. Right now the Trevi is lovelier than ever and has dazzling new lights that transform every night into a fairy-tale.
You can find various options for entry and tours of Trevi Fountain (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
The Vatican Museums
With a nearly 7.5 km long stretch of art, masterpieces and valuable collections; the Vatican Museums are mind-boggling and eye-dazzling. Conceptualised in the 15th century the museums are now more than 510 years old and is one of the top global attractions besides being the richest display of Christian art ever. Inside the museums there are offerings beyond compare… the marvellous Sistine Chapel with its Michelangelo ceiling and the mesmerising frescoes in Raphael’s Rooms. Look out for the Pinturicchio created frescoes in the Borgia Apartments and incredibly detailed Gallery of Maps.
The jewel-like Capella Nicolina and the ethereal Hall of Tapestries are just as mesmerising as the all-important Pio Clementine museum which hosts the famous Laocoon and the Belvedere Torso and the Apollo Belvedere. There are several other museum sections but the non-museum parts of it like the Courtyard of the Pines and the Spiral Staircase are delights in themselves. Visiting the enormous Vatican Museums is not fruitful without a plan and that’s why you need to do some homework. You need to know how to pick and choose sections, what masterpieces to look out for and have a food and travel plan ready.
Learn as to why it’s recommended to get skip the line tickets and get to the Vatican early during the morning. Also, learn about the secret passage between St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel allowing you to save a lot of time.
Find various options for entry and tours of Vatican Museums (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
One of the most magnificent chapels in the whole world, the Sistine Chapel is often thought to be a part of the Vatican Museums when in reality it is the chapel of the apostolic Palace (the Pope’s official home). Its construction took the greater part of the years between 1473 and 1481 and Pope Sixtus commissioned it…the name Sistine is inspired from his name.
The world also calls it the Cappella Magna or the great Chapel and its supreme importance stems from two different but equally true facts. Firstly the most important mortal figure of Christendom i.e. the Pope gets sworn in here and kings have been regularly crowned here in the past. Secondly, the Chapel’s ceiling created painstakingly by Michelangelo changed the history of western art and human civilisation recognises it as one of the aesthetically superior creations ever.
There are other fantastic aspects of the chapel like its Last Judgment painting that duly inspires fear and awe at the same time. Other luminaries like Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Rosselli and Pinturicchio contributed immensely to the beauty of the chapel by creating the Life of Moses and Life of Christ frescoes. There are many amazing artworks in the Sistine Chapel and some of the most awe-inspiring ones are the nine stories of Genesis that represent all the events from the drunkenness of Noah to the Separation of darkness and light. Also, the creation of Adam in the central vault is noted for its magnificent detailing and rich imagery.
There are many interesting stories about the Sistine Chapel…for example, Michelangelo who spent 5 years of his life working on the ceiling hated this project!!
Find many options to explore Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (including self-exploration and private group tour) and book online from this Viator site.
Read the full detailed article on Sistine Chapel to know all about this temple of piety, power and beauty
A visit to the Palatine Hill is always recommended for a healthy dose of Roman history and for viewing how the royalty lived and played. The most famous of Rome’s hill; the Palatine hill is where the Flavian kings, Dominitus, Tiberius built their castles and displayed their wealth and power. Even infamous ones like Nero and Caligula committed some of their atrocities on this very hill.
The site which saw Romulus and Remus being nursed to boyhood by the she-wolf Lupus has fascinated many. Supposedly the Bronze Age civilisation resided here…iron huts dating back to the 10th BC have been discovered at this very site. Browse through the massive Domus Augustana and imagine the private races that must have been held at the adjacent royal stadium. You can also visit the recently opened House of Augustus and Livia with their gorgeous frescoes.
Tour the gorgeous imperial fountain Septizodium, and the Cryptoporticus…a tunnel that joined multiple palaces together; the site where Caligula was stabbed 30 times. Wander through the exhibits in the Palatine museum at the top of the hill. There are plenty of more sites…the Farnese rose gardens, the ornate Tiberiana palace and the mystical cave of Lupus. What’s great about the Palatine hill is that it comes as a part of an inclusive ticket that combines two other grand attractions; Colosseum and the Forum
And once you are done with all this enjoy a picnic amongst the shaded trees of the hill and watch the rabbits and wildflowers that dot Rome’s famous hill.
Find various options for entry and tours of Palatine Hills (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
An emperor’s tomb, a brave fortress, a palace for the papacy and a deadly prison; the Castel Sant’Angelo has donned many hats over the centuries. The Castel Sant Angelo started off as Emperor Hadrian’s tomb in 139 AD but got its name in the 6th century when the Archangel Michael statue it hosted miraculously saved Rome from the deadly plague that ravaged Rome for 50 years. In recent times it’s one of the celebrated national museums of Rome and the site of the lovely Notti d Estate summer festival which brings the finest European musicians, artists and actors to Rome.
The uniformly charming and ancient Ponte d Angelo lined with its angels lead up to the impressive monument and once in close proximity, you will be struck by the sheer size and grandeur of the place. Access all 6 levels and the terrace by a superbly designed spiral ramp that morphs into a catwalk near Hadrian’s burial chamber and into a flight of stairs when accessing the terrace. Once inside there is much to see… there are the papacy apartments with all their brilliant stucco, baroque work and frescoes.
Don’t miss the Chamber of Cupid and Psyche, Loggia of Paul III, Loggia of Julius, Pauline Chambers, and Apollo Room etc. walk into the Treasure Room which once housed the urns of Hadrian and his royal successors. Pay homage at the courtyard of Angels which still houses an older marble statue of Archangel Michael.
Take a guided tour and investigate the Passetto d Borgo…the long tunnel designed as an escape route. And once on the top of the monument, the fantastic views of Rome with the worded Archangel Michael for the company will simply claim your heart. From fleeing Pope Clement VII to swindler Cagliastro to brutal beheadings….the walls of the Castel Sant’Angelo have seen too many secrets.
Find various options for entry and tours of Castel Sant’Angelo (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
In the heart of ancient Rome lies a flight of 138 steps that are one its most visited and photographed attractions… they are called the Spanish Steps. It seems strange that a constructional landmark in an Italian city that was developed by Italian architects and sponsored by a French diplomat should get named ‘Spanish Steps’. The mystery is solved when you inspect Piazza di Spagna which is at the base of the steps; that contains the Spanish embassy.
The steps got named ‘Spanish steps’ as the intention was to connect the embassy and Trinita dei Monti church (under the French government’s maintenance) with the seat of the Catholic Church/ Holy See that’s in the square below. There are so many interesting places around the steps like the Keats and Shelley museum, the Babington tea room and Italy’s first Mac Donald store.
Once you are done visiting and sitting on the steps, attending the mass at the Church of Trinita dei Monti that’s at the summit of the stairs is a good option. Or you can spend some time admiring the ‘old boat fountain’ or the Fontana della Barcaccia that lies at the base of the stairs. The Obelisco Sallustiano….an ancient Egyptian style Obelisk and the Column of the Immaculate Conception with its serene Virgin Mary statue are other attractions linked to the Spanish steps.
If you are in luck you will be able to see the masses of colourful azaleas that decorate the steps in April/May. And if you are luckier you will be able to catch the rare Roman snowfall that sprinkles the steps with fairy dust. Learn all about the interesting history of the lovely baroque style Spanish stairs… their wild popularity, ruin and then glorious restoration makes for an interesting novella.
Find various options for guided tours of Spanish Steps (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
National Roman Museum
Museo Nazionale Romano is the world’s biggest collection of ancient Roman art. The museum has 4 branches across Rome and each shows beautiful pieces of art dating from antiquity to imperial times. The 4 branches are Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo, Baths of Diocletian and Crypta Balbi. The Aula Ottagona is sometimes considered as a part of the baths of Diocletian but is formally recognised as a separate branch of the national Roman museums.
One of the most kid-friendly attractions in Rome, the National Roman Museums is one of the most affordable attractions in Rome. Audio guides of roughly 1 hour 10 minutes are available for all branches.
Find various options for entry and tours of the National Roman Museum (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from this Viator site.
One of the most beautiful buildings of the renaissance period the Villa Farnisina represents the immense wealth, power and refined aesthetic sense of Agostino Chigi. The wealth of art in its interiors has been created by all leading artists of renaissance times like Peruzzi, Raphael, Sebastiano and Sodomo. The villa passed on to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1577 (hence its name) and then to the hands of Bourbons of Naples and then to the Spanish ambassador in Rome Bermudez de Castro/ Duke of Ripalta.
Right now the Italian government owns it and it hosts the Accademia Del Lincei. The Villa has now gained a museum status and wandering through the famous hall of Galatea, Loggia della Psyche, Hall of Perspectives, Alexander and Roxanne hall….will give you an insight into the incredible richness of Roman Renaissance art.
Tourists in Rome who are reeling under the effect of an overabundance of Christian imagery everywhere and a profusion of crowds will find a welcome break in the Villa Farnesina. It is serene, unhurried and its art sensual and pagan without any mention of the saints, Christ or the Father Almighty.
Wander through its delightful gardens and take pictures of the excavated sarcophagi that nestles on its grounds. Once the villa represented an idyllic pleasure palace a little removed from the main city centre. Now it’s a part of the interesting Trastevere neighbourhood that brims with fine restaurants and gorgeous boutiques. There are so many stories and interesting facets about this Villa that it’s disappointing to visit it without some background study.
Find various options for entry and tours of Villa Farnesina (including combination tours with other attractions) and book online from This Viator site.