Things to Do in Rome - page 2
Long-ago travelers from the north once got their first glimpse of Rome from Piazza del Popolo, and the square’s scenic overlook offers a dramatic view of the city today. Art enthusiasts come to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, home to works by Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio.
Though this ancient open-air theater resembles a mini-Colosseum, it was built nearly 100 years earlier during the final years of the Roman Republic. Named by the Emperor Augustus in 11 BC after his deceased nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the theater may be the oldest surviving of its kind in the world.
The ruins of this ancient Roman city, now theHerculaneum Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico di Ercolano), live in the shadow of their more famous neighbor, Pompeii. But many enthusiasts consider this smaller site—one of Italy’s most important UNESCO-listed spots—to be equally interesting and engaging.
Though Rome’s Jewish Ghetto no longer officially exists (it was abolished in 1882), the neighborhood is still the center of Rome’s Jewish community, the oldest in Italy. The city’s 19th-century synagogue— home to the Jewish Museum of Rome— is here, as are winding lanes lined with kosher restaurants, markets, and butchers.
Like many cities in Europe, Rome required its Jewish residents to live in a separate, walled-off neighborhood during the Middle Ages. The Roman Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Roma) was established in 1555, when the city erected walls around this area in the historic center; these barriers were torn down only after the ghetto was abolished in 1882. Today, despite its unhappy history, the Jewish Ghetto is now one of Rome’s most beautiful neighborhoods.
Don’t be fooled by the name—Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo was built as a tomb, not a castle. Commissioned by emperor Hadrian in AD 139, this imposing cylindrical mausoleum held the ashes of Hadrian and subsequent Roman emperors until becoming a fortress in AD 401. In the 14th century, a fortified corridor between the castle and St. Peter’s Basilica was built, and it became a papal residence. Today, it’s home to the Castel Sant'Angelo National Museum Castel Sant'Angelo National Museum (Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo) and its collection of art, archaeological finds, and weaponry.
Rome’s Olympic Stadium (Stadio Olimpico) seats more than 72,000 spectators, and when the city’s deeply beloved A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio soccer teams hold their home matches here, there isn’t an empty seat in the house. But the stadium isn’t just for "football" fans; rather, the venue is also used for rock concerts and other sporting events.
Among the many masterpieces inside St. Peter's Basilica, Michelangelo's majestic and movingLa Pietà is perhaps the crown jewel. This remarkable life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ blends classical ideals of beauty with startling naturalism and is among the world’s most important works of art.
From the site of its foundation to the residence of its head of state, theSeven Hills of Rome (Sette Colli di Roma) are an integral part of the city’s historic and cultural identity. Follow Rome’s history, from individual communes to its rise to power as an empire until the present-day. Visitors can find traces of the city’s storied history in the Seven Hills.
A small and relatively unknown archaeological site of ancient Rome, the Largo di Torre Argentina is a square set around the sunken Area Sacra. The remains of four temples built between the 2nd and 4th centuries BC are some of the oldest ruins in the city. What’s left of the Republican-era structures was only just discovered in the 1920s due to construction in the area. The remains of the Theater of Pompey were also found here, said to be the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination.
The four temples are distinguished by letters A, B, C, and D, with temple D being the oldest (it is estimated the columns date back to the 2nd century BC.) They’re off limits to humans — however, the piazza has become somewhat of a cat sanctuary. There are nearly 300 stray cats that stay there, lounging on ancient platforms and strolling among history. The area is maintained by volunteers. Sidewalks surrounding the ruins lead to viewing platforms where visitors are welcome to interact with the cats.
One of the most handsome public squares in Rome, Piazza Farnese is home to the majestic Palazzo Farnese, today the French Embassy. Also on the square are the Chiesa di Santa Brigida and two stately fountains made from marble basins pilfered from the ancient Roman baths of Caracalla.
More Things to Do in Rome
The Italian town of Tivoli, just east of Rome, is home to luxe residences, splendid villas, and two famous UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Renaissance palace of Villa d'Este, known for its extravagant, gardens and water fountains, and the ruins of Hadrian's Villa (Villa Adriana), the grand second-century estate of Emperor Hadrian of ancient Rome. A visit to both sites entails garden walks and a variety of ancient architectural styles—not to mention a quiet, elegant escape from the city and some of the best natural water in Italy.
The Roman emperor Nero was not known for his restraint, and the Golden House (Domus Aurea) reflects his decadent taste and lifestyle. Built after Rome’s great fire in AD 64, the remains of this sumptuous pleasure palace, covering nearly one-third of the ancient city of Rome—dwarfing the nearby Colosseum—are now open to the public.
The Villa Celimontana and the gardens that surround it sit on one of the ancient seven hills of Rome, the Caelian Hill (Celio in Italian), and the area is a peaceful oasis from the busy city.
The villa itself dates from the 16th century, though it has been modified significantly over the centuries. It was originally called the Villa Mattei after the family for whom it was built, and housed the Mattei family’s art collection. Today, the villa belongs to the Italian Geographic Society.
The gardens around the Villa Celimontana contain some ancient Roman ruins that date back to the 1st century AD, and some of the Mattei family’s collection of ancient artifacts are now on display throughout the grounds. There’s also a relatively small obelisk in the garden that has Egyptian hieroglyphics on it.
Inside the Villa Celimontana today visitors can see some of the historic maps and other documents kept by the Italian Geographic Society. There are also rooms in the villa that have beautiful frescoes and mosaics that were added in the 17th century.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore)—among the first churches in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary—sits on the summit of Esquiline Hill. An extraterritorial property of the Vatican, it is one of the city’s four major basilicas and has one of the best preserved Byzantine interiors in Rome.
The exact borders of theHistoric Center of Rome (Centro Storico di Roma) is the subject of much debate among Romans and visitors. Officially, however, it’s the area inside the ancient Aurelian Walls plus Vatican City, and it encompasses some of the city’s most famous sights.
The Portico of Octavia (Portico di Ottavia) was a large courtyard with many columns originally built in the 2nd century BC. It was rebuilt about 100 years later by Emperor Augustus and dedicated to his sister, Octavia. It once covered an area of almost 445 feet long and almost 380 feet wide, larger than a football field, and it had
more than 300 Corinthian columns. The Temple of Juno Regina and the Temple of Jupiter Stator stood in the middle. Today not much remains of the structure compared to what it once was. Visitors can still see five columns and the ruins of the entrance gate.
In the Middle Ages, the ruins of the Portico of Octavia became the site of a fish market. A stone to the right of the portico's great arch still marks the location. Nearby you can find the Teatro Marcello, the Tiber River and Tiber Island, the Temple of Apollo Sosiano, and it's not far from the Roman Forum.
Rome’s Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano(Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano) offers wonders both above and below ground. The interior of the 12th-century church is richly decorated with Byzantine mosaics considered among Italy’s best, and below the surface are two layers of ancient ruins including a fourth-century basilica, a temple, and a first-century villa.
TheBasilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is Rome’s only Gothic church, but it’s a Michelangelo sculpture and a stunning interior—not its architectural design—that attracts travelers from across the globe.
Visitors will find colorful frescos inside the 13th-century church, as well as the tomb of Pope Pual IV and the famed Michelangelo sculpture,Christ Bearing the Cross. Travelers call Santa Maria Sopra Minerva the greatest place you’ve never heard of, thanks to its impressive basilica and a vast collection of artwork that's unmatched in its quiet and reflective setting.
Combine your visit to S. Maria Sopra Minerva with a skip-the-line ticket to the Pantheon on an informative guided tour.
The Vittoriano monument, among the most famous landmarks in Rome, is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Vittoriano Museum Complex (Complesso del Museo Vittoriano). This is where some of the city’s most important art exhibitions are held each year, so it’s a particularly interesting for art enthusiasts.
The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), known as the Thermae Antoninianae in Roman times, are one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal complexes in the world. Visit the impressive remains of the ground floor to get an idea of the vast complex, which housed the most sumptuous baths of its time.
One of the most famous (and, for many Romans, infamous) landmarks in Rome, the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument(Vittoriano) is home to the Vittoriano Museum Complex, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Roma dal Cielo elevator that connects to the panoramic rooftop terrace overlooking The Eternal City.
The Tiber River has run through Italy's capital city since ancient Roman times, and Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) has a history that’s just as long. Once the site of the ancient temple of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, the island is where Romans have sought healing for centuries.
Located at the western end of Rome’s prettiest bridge, the Ponte Sisto, the Piazza Trilussa is in bohemian Trastevere, the city’s hard-drinking, clubbing district that comes alive at night when the backstreet bars are packed out. Named after a Roman poet from the 19th century, the cobbled square is home to a monument in his honor as well as the stately Acqua Paola water fountain, carved with the heads of dragons and lions. This travertine fountain was commissioned by Pope Paolo V, a member of the all-powerful Borghese family, and constructed in 1613 by Dutch architect and garden designer Giovanni Vasanzio (Jan van Santen in Dutch); it bears the Borghese family crest. Originally it was located on Via Giulia on the east side of the River Tiber but was reconstructed in its present home in 1898. Recent renovation work on the Acqua Paola have seen the restoration of the gardens behind it and the building of steps leading up to the fountain; these have now become are one of the most popular meeting places for the youth of Rome, and summer nights see the piazza crammed with crowds pouring out of the neighboring clubs and bars.
The hauntingly beautiful chapels beneath Rome’s church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini served as the burial chambers for Capuchin friars for centuries. As there were more bodies than space, older graves were dug up, and bones of the dead were used to create intricate designs decorating the chapel walls and ceilings.
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