Things to Do in Rome - page 5
Rome’s oldest forum, the Forum Boarium was once a busy cattle market and site of several temples, the remains of which can still be seen today. Much less famous than many of the city’s other ancient sights, the Foro Boario is one of Rome’s most interesting “secret” attractions.
This impressive 16th-century basilica is set in the ruins of the Roman Baths of Diocletian, and its remarkable interior—designed by Michelangelo—is testament to the massive size of ancient Roman buildings. The church, located in the heart of Rome, contains a meridian line built in the 1700s to predict the exact date of Easter each year.
Rome’s Villa Farnesina was originally built in the early 16th century for a wealthy Renaissance banker as his summer retreat. The villa and gardens are in the Trastevere district, which used to be outside the city center, and are now open to the public.
The wealthy banker for whom the villa was built had the good sense to hire some of the era’s best artists to decorate the interior, so it’s a stop well-suited to art lovers. Today, these pieces of art are one of the top reasons to visit. The best-known artist represented is Raphael, who painted lovely frescoes on the ground floor.
All of the Villa Farnesina’s main rooms are open to the public, including the ground floor loggia where you can see the famous Raphael fresco called “The Triumph of Galatea.” Other frescoes by artists such as Baldassarre Peruzzi (who designed the villa) and Sebastiano del Piombo are on upper floors of the villa.
There are guided tours in English at Villa Farnesina given each Saturday at 10am, and English audio guides are available at any time for €2. Some Trastevere tours include the Villa Farnesina, though many only reference it from the outside.
Farnese Palace (Palazzo Farnese) is one of the most majestic Renaissance palaces in Rome, built with the collaboration of architects including Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo and frescoed by Carracci and other 16th-century artists. Originally residence of the noble Farnese family, the palace is now seat of the French embassy.
With a long-standing reputation for elegance and a starring role in Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita, Via Veneto (officially Via Vittorio Veneto) was once the stomping ground of international actors, celebrities and paparazzi. Today, the stylish thoroughfare remains one of Rome’s most glamorous addresses, running between Piazzale Brasile and Piazza Barberini in central Rome, and lined with luxury hotels, chic bars and streetside cafés.
Start your explorations at lively Piazza Barberini, home to the magnificent 17th-century Palazzo Barberini, then stroll north along Via Veneto, passing landmarks like the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception and Palazzo Margherita, now home to the U.S Embassy. Be sure to pay a visit to famous cafés like Harry’s Bar, Café de Paris and Doney too, where former customers include big names like Audrey Hepburn, Tennessee Williams and Coco Chanel.
As a 17th century Baroque church facing Piazza Navona, the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone (Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone) stands in one of the busiest areas of the in Rome’s historic city center — yet it remains a peaceful sanctuary and renowned Roman church. History tells us that the Early Christian Saint Agnes was martyred on site here in the ancient stadium built by Emperor Domitian. The structure itself was built in 1652 and meant to act as a personal chapel for the family of Pope Innocent X, who lived in the palazzo just beside it. Today it remains a beautiful chapel, known for its frescoed ceilings, many fine sculptures and altars, and impressive marble work. It is also a shrine to Saint Agnes, with her skull still on display to visitors and her body buried in the catacombs. The church’s architecture is characterized by its massive dome, Corinthian columns, and Greek cross plan.
Standing proud at the top of Rome’s iconic Spanish Steps, the historic Trinità dei Monti is one of the city’s most photographed churches and dates back to 1585. Built under order of King Louis XII of France, the landmark church remains the property of the French government, a legacy hinted at by the pair of clocks that adorn its façade – one showing Rome time, the other Paris time.
For most visitors the most striking image of the church is from piazza below, looking up over the Fontana della Barcaccia and the Spanish steps. Climbing the 135 steps to the church entrance (there’s also a lift running from the Spagna metro station) is also rewarding, offering a closer view of the Renaissance façade, the work of architect Giacomo della Porta. Inside the church, highlights include a series of magnificent frescoes by Daniele da Volterra, Federico Zuccari and Giambattista Naldini.
The Vatican Gardens (Giardini Vaticani) cover an impressive 57 acres (23 hectares)—more than half the entire area of the Vatican City-state—and include a Renaissance layout dotted with fountains, statues, and buildings dating as far back as the sixth century. The gardens were a humble expanse of orchards and vineyards until Pope Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed the land with a wall in 1279.
One of the many ancient Roman ruins atop the Palatine Hill is the Domus Augustana, part of the huge Flavian Palace, built for Emperor Domitian.
The Domus Augustana – sometimes called the Domus Augustiana – was the luxurious residence of the emperor (his official name was Titus Flavius Domitianus, hence the name of the palace). The palace complex was built in the late 1st century, and the Domus Augustana was lived in by emperors until about the third century. It's fairly well-preserved.
Commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508, the grand Via Giulia is one of Rome’s most elegant thoroughfares, running for almost 1km between the Piazza dell'Oro and Piazza San Vincenzo Palloti. It’s a picturesque walkway, with its timeworn cobblestones framed by monumental arches, historic churches and Renaissance-era buildings, and the smattering of cafés and restaurants offer ample opportunities for people watching.
Highlights of Via Giulia include the ivy-covered Arco Farnese, designed by Michelangelo; the adjoining Palazzo Farnese; and the 17th-century Fontana del Mascherone. Other architectural gems include the Palazzo Falconieri, the baroque Santa Maria dell'Orazione Church; and the Palazzo Sacchetti, while the street has also earned a reputation for its quality antique shops.
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Tucked away in a quiet corner of Rome’s Trastevere district, the Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe) is one of many important monuments found in the historic Jewish Ghetto. The collaborative masterpiece of sculptor Taddeo Landini and architect Giacomo della Porta, the fountain was built between 1580 and 1588, and stands at the center of the Piazza Mattei.
A prime example of late Renaissance art, the fountain’s design features a central pedestal depicting four ephebes perched on marble shells, each lifting turtles to the upper water basin. Today, the original bronze turtles that gave the fountain its name have been replaced by replicas thanks to a spate of thieving, while the originals are preserved in the Capitoline Museums.
One of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme) houses several relics from the Holy Land brought to Rome around 325 AD. The relics are said to be parts of the cross from the Passion of Jesus Christ — carried from Jerusalem by the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, the St. Empress Helena. The church name comes from the Jerusalem soil that was laid on the floor of the basilica, as a way of moving part of the holy city to Rome. Though it was once the Palazzo Sessoriano, the palace of the St. Empress Helena, it was later converted into a small chapel.
It has since been renovated and restored over the centuries to its Baroque style facade that exists now. Today visitors can see three relics enshrined: pieces of the True Cross, a nail from the crucifixion, thorns from the crown, and small pieces of the tomb of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre. There is also a full size replica of the Shrine of Turin.
Montecitorio Palace (Palazzo Montecitorio) is the seat of the Chamber of Deputies, one of Italy’s two houses of parliament. Designed by Bernini, the palazzo was completed by Carlo Fontana under Pope Innocent X in 1650. It has one of the most elegant and striking baroque facades in Rome and a splendid 20th-century art nouveau interior.
Leading from the Capitoline Hill to the Colosseum via the first-century AD Arch of Titus as it traverses the Forum from west to east, the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) was once the main thoroughfare of Ancient Rome. With its origins stretching back to at least the fifth century BC, it was later paved and later still, in the times of Nero, lined with colonnades. The street was backed by Ancient Rome’s temples, civic buildings and the palaces of the wealthy; it was here that festivals were held, where prostitutes came to solicit clients and where crowds gathered to gossip and gamble along its route. Via Sacra was also scene of triumphal processions to celebrate military victories, when slaves and prisoners were dragged to market. Today the road forms part of the open-air museum that is the Forum; over the centuries this has been ravaged by fire, plundered for its stone and used as cow pasture but still retains something of its ancient majesty among scattered boulders, shattered arches and broken columns.
The Bramante Staircase (Scala del Bramante), designed by Donato Bramante in 1505, is an innovative double-helix spiral lined with Doric columns that connects the Vatican’s Belvedere Palace to the city of Rome below. It was commissioned by Pope Julius II and inspired Giuseppe Momo’s impressive 1930s staircase at the Vatican Museums exit.
Not far from the busy and popular Piazza Navona in Rome is the Church of Santa Maria della Pace (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace), which has a Baroque facade on a 15th-century church.
The front of the existing church was redesigned in the mid-17th century at the behest of Pope Alexander VII, including the lovely semicircular entrance lined with columns. The architect, Pietro da Cortona, also had some neighboring buildings destroyed to open up the little piazza around the church more.
Inside, the main attractions are artistic and predate the 17th-century work on the facade. A large Raphael fresco of the “Four Sibyls” is over the altar in the Chigi Chapel, painted in 1514. The Ponzetti Chapel contains a Peruzzi fresco of the “Madonna and Child,” and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed the Cesi Chapel.
Behind the church is the rest of the complex, including a large cloister built by Bramante between 1500-1504. Today, part of the cloister serves as an exhibition space for which tickets are required. Exhibitions rotate regularly.
The ancient Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati (Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati) is dedicated to four unnamed saints, all martyred. The name means “four crowned saints,” meaning they were martyrs.
The church was first built in the 6th century, but mostly destroyed in the 11th century. The rebuilt church was much smaller, preserving the original apse. In the 13th century, the Chapel of San Silvestro and a cloister were added – the former decorated with frescoes, and the latter with intricate inlaid stonework designs. The four saints to whom the church is dedicated are buried in tombs in the crypt.
The Triton Fountain (Fontana del Tritone) is not on the scale of Rome’s most famous water feature, the Trevi Fountain, but it’s well worth a visit. Located in bustling Piazza Barberini, Fontana del Tritone was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and carved by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose baroque sculptures also appear in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Rome–Fiumicino International Airport is officially named the Leonardo da Vinci Airport, but commonly referred to as Fiumicino for the city where it’s located just outside of Rome. The country’s largest and busiest airport, Fiumicino serves more than 40 million passengers annually and is the main hub for Rome and central Italy.
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Doria Pamphilj), located in Rome, Italy, is one of the largest and most magnificent palaces in the center of the city. It is home to the Doria Pamphilj family, and some members of the family still live in one section of the palace. The original building dates back to the 15th century, though it has been renovated several times. A visit to the gallery provides a glimpse into aristocratic life in Rome. Many private rooms are now open, including a ballroom, a chapel, and living quarters, all decorated with elaborate paintings and sculptures.
The art gallery itself contains approximately 400 pieces from the 15th to 18th centuries. Some of the more famous pieces include a portrait of pope Innocent X by Velázquez and two busts of the same pope, created by Bernini. The Gallery of Mirrors is one of the most lavish rooms in the palace and includes frescoes depicting the Labors of Hercules.
Once the largest and grandest of Rome’s private residences, the ancient ruins of the Villa of the Quintilii (Villa dei Quintili) are still an impressive sight today. Located along the legendary Appian Way (Via Appia), the lavish villa includes two impressive entrances, intact mosaic tiles and marble floors, and the remains of its private luxury baths, dating back to 151 AD.
Tour the ruins on a half-day trip from Rome to admire the rooms and artifacts on display, or cycle along the ancient Appian Way to visit the ruins and other ancient landmarks, like the Caracalla Baths and the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella.
The Baroque Basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte—while small—houses impressive religious artifacts and artworks worthy of a visit. The 17th-century church is home to a single nave and three chapels that include paintings by Borgognone and ornate frescoes and stuccoed angels by Marini. Of particular note are the sculpted angels on each side of the presbytery, created by Bernini.
The church's striking dome and tower, designed by Borromini, contrasts its modest interior, and serves as a beacon to those traversing Rome's top attractions. Located between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, the church is a highly-recommended stop along the way.
You can visit the church, which honors St Andrew, as part of a city walking tour of sites dedicated to Mary and different saints.
A lush garden overlooking Roman rooftops and domes, the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) was once an ancient fortress and now offers some of the best panoramic views of Rome. Full of orange trees, there are many benches and grassy areas to relax on and escape the bustle of the city. Views stretch across the skyline from Trastevere all the way toward St. Peter’s Basilica.
Legend says that Saint Dominic planted a single bitter orange tree in the courtyard of the nearby Basilica di Santa Sabina in 1200 AD. It is said to be the first orange tree in the whole of Italy, and today the gardens have a pleasant orange aroma from the groups of many trees.
Upon entering the gardens, visitors can see the face of Giacomo Della Porta's fountain, believed to have been made in reference to the river god Oceanus. Overlooking the Tiber River, it has been called one of the most romantic spots in Rome.
The National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano) has four branches in Rome, but the main seat is Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, where one of the world's most important collections of classical art covers four floors, including sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins, and jewels dating from the late Republican period to the end of the Roman empire.
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