This is a must-visit city in Europe, no questions asked!
Whether you know everything or nothing about the Roman forum, gladiators, or Julius Caesar, the city is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Cars scream their way through the cobbled stone streets, winding between ancient ruins, piazzas, and fountains.
These are my top sights in Rome, please leave a comment below if you have other favourite sights!
This great amphitheatre’s construction began in 72 AD under Roman Emperor Vespasian and was completed by his heir Titus in 80 AD, although it has been restored throughout the centuries.
It is estimated it held between 50,000 – 80,000 spectators who came to watch the gladiatorial contests, executions, mock battles and drama performances.
There is so much to learn about this monument that I strongly suggest taking the guided tours offered at the ticket box.
There is a separate line to book in for this and pay for your entry and I have often found it to be much shorter than those lining up to pay for entry only. I believe when you book online the entrance line is even shorter.
Tickets are often combined with the Roman Forum tours.
Be very vigilant of your belongings in and around the Colosseum as pick pocketing is rife and there are many guide touts who are seeking your business as you enter. I’m sure many of these know what they are talking about, but this may not always be the case and I prefer to take a tour with an official guide.
One of the holiest cities in the world, Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church in the heart of this busy capital city.
If you are visiting Rome for the weekend, I highly recommend heading to the Vatican on Saturday rather than Sunday.
Vatican City is the smallest state in the world with only 842 inhabitants in an area of just 44 hectares. Ruled by the Bishop of Rome known as the Pope, Vatican City features some of the most famous architecture, sculptures and paintings that exist in the world today.
The tiny city was built upon the tomb of St Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, and runs its own radio station, post office service, television station and newspaper. It is watched over by the colourful Swiss Guards who are soldiers trained by the Swiss Armed Forces.
The Vatican’s main sights are St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
THE SISTINE CHAPEL & VATICAN MUSEUM
The only way to visit the Sistine Chapel is through the Vatican Museum.
The Vatican Museum is closed on a Sunday (except for the last Sunday of the month – beware of crazy long lines on these days) and last tickets are sold at 4pm. The Vatican’s dress code still applies.
The third most visited museum in the world, it contains 54 galleries of Renaissance Art by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and many famous artists as well as countless statues and ancient treasures.
The museum’s biggest drawcard is the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and the altar wall fresco called ‘The Last Judgement’ which were both painted by Michelangelo who is referred to as one of the greatest artist of all time.
The Sistine’s ceiling depicts the nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, with over 300 individual figures in the painting it took four years to create, and was completed in 1512.
ST PETER’S BASILICA
This iconic Basilica was designed by Michelangelo and built in the Renaissance style.
This is my favourite church in Europe! I can’t stress how important it is to wait in the long lines to see the interior of this church, whether you are religious or not.
The Dome is open from 8am, entry is a few euro, and the 360 degree views are worth the 551 steps (there is an elevator that can take you half way up).
Head out early in the morning and line up on the right hand side of the entrance to St Peter’s Basilica, it opens at 7am daily and is free to enter.
There is a strict dress code for men and women so make sure to cover your shoulders and not wear a mini skirt or shorts!
Who could forget this beautiful Baroque fountain?
The largest fountain in the city, it is nestled in a tiny piazza and is constantly packed with tourists which is why I suggest visiting at night when the main groups have moved on. Plus, the fountain is lit up beautifully at night with an aura of luck and legend.
It is said that throwing a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder ensures you will return to Rome, though today tourists couple the throwing with a wish.
Visit it as many times as you like as fountains never close to the public.
This is my favourite piazza in Rome where I can spend hours reading a book or people watching. The problem is, everyone else loves it too, so don’t think you’ll be able to enjoy the artists and musicians alone.
The Piazza was originally the site of the Stadium of Domitian in the 1st century and the piazza still follows the stadium shape. Today it is lined with restaurants and although very touristy, it is the perfect place to enjoy dinner alone or with friends.
The word ‘Pantheon’ means ‘honour all gods’ in Greek and was originally built to be a temple of all gods.
The current building is estimated to have been built around 126 AD under Emperor Hadrian’s rule and is the best preserved building from Ancient Rome.
The most iconic architecture in this church is the nine metre central opening known as an ‘oculus’ in the domed roof.
It is the original structure and holds the title of the “world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome”. Entry into the church is free.
If you are in need of a meal or just a coffee pit stop, the Piazza della Rotonda is right in front of the Pantheon and although is more pricey due to its incredible view, it is a really nice place to soak up the afternoon sun.
The steps begin at Piazza di Spagna and lead up the Trinita dei Monti Church.
They are a very popular place to rest your legs and lick your gelato.
During the summer months, the steps are adorned with bright pink flowers and artists lining the road in front of the church.
Castel Sant’Angelo, which translates to Castle of the Holy Angel, was the site of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum built for himself and his family 134 – 139 AD.
The Mausoleum saw many attacks and looting during Rome’s turbulent past, but by the 14th century the Pope’s converted it into a fortress castle that was connected to St Peter’s Basilica by a secret passageway. It has also been used as a prison, barracks and now a museum.
By late afternoon as the pinks soften the sky, the views from this Castle are worth a peek. Be aware that in the winter months the castle closes in the early afternoon.
Piazza Venezia is where the Altare della Patria or ‘Altar of the fatherland’ sits majestically overlooking this roundabout. It is also referred to as the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II in honour of the first King of unified Italy.
Whatever you want to call it, this monstrous building has it all – sweeping staircases, Corinthian columns, fountains, flags, tombs and statues in a dazzling white marble.
It also contains a museum about Italy’s unification and a glass rooftop view box for great views. I haven’t been into the museum so I can’t say whether it is worth visiting or not.
PIAZZA DEL POPOLO
Piazza del Popolo is my favourite spot to watch the sunset.
The best view are from the park above the east side of the Piazza – climb the steps on either corner up to the park’s view point.
The Piazza below was designed between 1811 -1822. In its centre stands an Egyptian Obelisk brought to Rome in 10 BC and there are twin Baroque churches from the 17th century with the Via del Corso running between them.
SANTA MARIA IN TRASTEVERE
Located in the Trastevere neighbourhood on the west side of the River Tiber, this church is one of the oldest in Rome.
Founded as early as 350 AD, the main structure was built in the 12th century. The Apse (altar) is adorned by six astounding mosaic panels from 1291 showing the finesse and skills of the artist Pietro Cavallini.
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So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
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