Rome is a quintessential tourist destination. The capital of Italy, this city is home to so many iconic places! From the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps, there are so many things to do and see!
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly cannot be toured in only one day either!! Below are some of the can’t miss sites in this stunning city:
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo, or the People’s Square, sits just beside Villa Borghese. This square is super lively with performers and tourists. The piazza was a place for public executions until 1826! You can climb the hill at the edge of Villa Borghese to take in a stunning view over the city.
The Spanish Steps were built in the 1700s to connect the Trinità dei Monti church above to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) at the bottom. The 135 steps are featured in countless movies (including The Lizzie McGuire Movie!).
I drank from the Baroque style fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps – Fontana della Barcaccia. This fountain was constructed between 1627-1629, but the water source is an aqueduct from 19 BCE!!
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque style fountain in the city! No doubt, you’ve heard of this fountain before. (Fellow Lizzie McGuire fanatics: This is where Lizzie makes a wish just before meeting Paolo for the first time!) The water in the Trevi Fountain comes from the Acqua Vergine, the aqueduct that replaced the Aqua Virgo which supplied water in Ancient Rome.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world! And it is located within Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world! The basilica was built from 1506 to 1626, replacing Old St. Peter’s Basilica which stood there since the 4th century AD. The current basilica is in the Renaissance style and draws huge crowds!
Entrance to the basilica is free. Because it is a huge attraction, there’s usually a long line to enter – HOWEVER the line moves pretty quickly. **Important note** There is a dress code – shoulders and knees should be covered.
You can climb the cupula, or the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s 8 euros to climb by foot (551 steps) or 10 euros to take the elevator part way and then climb the remaining 320 steps. The views are absolutely amazing from the top!
The Vatican Museums contain around 70,000 works of art collected by popes throughout centuries. Roughly 20,000 are on display throughout the visitor’s route in the museums. The museums are closed on Sundays, except a few hours in the morning every last Sunday of the month!
It would be a huge missed opportunity to be in Rome and NOT visit these museums. It costs about 15 euros to enter the museums, so you’ll want to get your money’s worth! You need to set aside several hours to fully take advantage of the visit.
All of the Salas, or galleries, in the Vatican Museums are STUNNING. However, there is one Sala in particular that most people are there to see: The Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the final Sala prior to the exit of the Vatican Museums. In 1482, a group of Renaissance painters painted a series of frescos (mural painting on wet plaster) in the chapel. The frescos depict a Trompe-l’œil, or an optical allusion, of drapes below the series of Life of Moses and Life of Christ. The upper frescos on the walls feature papal portraits. Most well-known, is the chapel ceiling where Michaelangelo painted The Last Judgment from 1508-1512.
The Castel Sant’Angelo was built to be a mausoleum for the Roman Emporer Hadrian in 123 AD. Later used as a fortress for popes, this structure is now a museum. If you don’t have time to include another museum during your visit, it’s worthwhile to at least stop by to see the outside.
Ponte Sant’Angelos, the bridge facing the castle is an attraction in its own right. This bridge built in 134 AD is now pedestrian only and provides a scenic walkway.
Piazza Navona is an open square built over the former Stadium of Domitian from the first century AD. The plaza is very lively, and reminds me of Place des Tertres in Paris with all the artists throughout the square.
This ancient Roman gladiator arena is an absolute must see when visiting Rome. The colosseum opened in 80 AD, featuring gladiator combat and wild animal fights.
The basic structure is still in tact, and where the stage used to sit you see what was then underground chambers. The colosseum is huge – it held 50-80,000 spectators, the largest arena of its time. Apparently viewing the shows was free! Entry now is 12 euros. The colosseum was used for entertainment until the Middle Ages. There is a display case in the Colosseum containing artifacts found in the arena. Chillingly enough, it includes the skull of a bear and the jaw of some wolf-type animal.
The Roman Forum, a rectangular forum with the ruins of ancient government buildings, is located just next to the Colosseum in the center of Rome. This was formerly the center of day-to-day life in the Roman Empire where elections, speeches, trials all took place.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, this area was actually buried over time. The area wasn’t excavated until the 20th century.
The Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. It’s been referred to as “the first nucleus of the Roman Empire.” Appparently it was a very desirable neighborhood in Ancient Rome! There reportedly were inhabitants on this hill dating back to 1,000 BC!
What is left now, is a huge archeological site. It’s pretty crazy how much structure is also intact! The remains of the House of Augustus and the House of Livia are open for touring.
The Palatine Hill is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. It also offers a great view of the Roman Forum from above.