I began my travel through this iconic city with on the most iconic places, not only in Rome, but also in the rest of the world. The Colosseum is right in the center of the city, which itself speaks greatly of its importance. Also known as the Flavius Amphitheater, it is the largest of its kind in the world. This monument is hailed as the epitome of Roman Architecture and engineering. This UNESCO World Heritage site, housed around 50,000 to 80,000 people in its time and was used for entertainment purposes in the early medieval era (remember Gladiator?) The monument is gigantic with four floors and each floor having around 80 arches each. Due to earthquakes much of the monument has been destroyed, but it still spills splendor and awe. If you think the Colosseum looks magnificent during the day, be ready to be blown away by its night view. The monument lights up the cityscape of Rome and looks like a jewel on the street!
Go to Piazza Navona, where you’ll find giant frittelle doughnuts and Sicilian puppets that make special presents. Visit the fashionable thoroughfare of Via Condotti, studded with high-end boutiques like Gucci, Celine, Dior and Ferragamo. If you’ve got old souls on your gift list, the nearby Via Margutta and Via del Babuino are known for their antiques.
St. Peter's Basilica
If there had to be one example to sum up the fury of artistic spirit during the Renaissance it would definitely be the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Rome. This is the largest church ever built in Rome and is built on the crucifiction spot of the first Pope St. Peter. A lot of famous minds worked on this masterpiece namely, Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, Bramante, and Peruzzietc. Built in style with Renaissance as well as Baroque architecture, this church was built during the peak of the Renaissance in Italy. Since it is one of the holiest places for Christians all over the world, this place is flocked with devout Christians and inspired travelers soaking the wonder of art. Basilica is not to be missed, it is one of the greatest buildings of its time!
On the west of the Colosseum lies one of the oldest and most important structures of ancient Rome- The Forum. This rectangular plaza strewn with the ruins of various government buildings of ancient Rome was the center of the city often referred to as the 'marketplace'. This place formed a great part in the public life of ancient Rome with processions, trails, meetings, speeches, elections and gladiator matches happening here. It also housed various shrines of Roman Gods and Goddesses and housed The Senate of Rome, the place which gave birth to the Republican government in Rome. There are also structures made by the great Julius Caesar and till today remains a golden ground for archaeologists and historians. This place, although in ruins, remains to be an architectural wonder and resonates the Rome's rich past.
The Palatine Hill is very closely knit with the history and mythology of Rome. Rome was built on seven hills, the center most of which is the Palatine Hill. According to mythology, this hill was where the makers of Rome, Romulus and Remus were found by the She-wolf who raised them. Many famous senators of Rome lived on this hill (including the great Augustus Caesar) and thus the word "palace" originates from Palatine. Archaeological data have also proven that the early Romans inhabited this place, giving Palatine hill a strong historical reference. Today, most of this place is covered with Domitian's Imperial Palace that was used for around 300 years. Amongst the buildings is also a museum that houses some of the precious archaeological artifacts from Rome's history.
After navigating through the museum, we finally reached the most important part of it, the Sistine Chapel. The wall on which the much-famed The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo, is painted looms out slightly over the viewer, and is meant to be somewhat fearful and to instill piety and respect for God's power. That piece inspires nothing but admiration. The artwork is astounding and nothing rivals it. But again, the crowd dampened the experience. But, this is where I'll explain to you, the perks of being five-feet tall. I walked right to the back of the room and blocked out the crowd. Once you focus on just piece of art, everything else fades away. It's almost like The Matrix, everything slows down. Concentrate enough and you feel like you're a part of Creation of Man.
Villa Borghese is not just an exceptionally beautiful park, it is also about 80 hectares of galleries and museums. Loved by joggers, families having a little picnic of their own and lovers alike, this park is all the more popular because it houses the best art gallery in Rome, the Museo e Galleria Borghese. This spectacular place is home to the works of Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and Botticelli among others and requires pre-booking in order to prevent itself from getting too crowded. Tickets inclusive of the booking fee come for about 11 Euros and the museum is open till 7pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. Entry to the park however, is free and you could go with some food of your own. Getting there: The best way to get to the Villa Borghese is by taking the underground metro because it is faster, cheaper and your station 'Flaminio' along the A line is about 500 metres. The tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Beware of pickpockets.
Piazza Venezia situated in the heart of Rome is a public square with much chaos and traffic. This square engulfs the everyday life of the Romans. Two important monuments are located here. Palazzo Venezia from which the place gets it's name is a palace dedicated to Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.( This place was a former embassy of Venice in Rome.) Another one is Vittoriano, dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy.
Piazza del Popolo
This huge square also called as the "People's Square" used to be the gateway into Rome. In ancient times the Via Flaminia was one of the important road links to Rome and gave the visitors a direct entry into the Piazza Del Popolo. Assuming the place's significance and as a show of Roman greatness to the visitor's that would enter pope Pius IV commissioned architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio to build a huge gate called Porta Flaminia. There is also a tall obelisk constructed by Augustus. The square has been a center of many activities in Ancient Rome including public executions.
Circus Maximus is where the ancient sport lovers would go to seek some entertainment. It was the largest and the first stadium of Ancient Rome. Since Chariot Racing was the most popular sport back then, loved by all Romans, this stadium held chariot races and entertained the Roman Crowd. It could house almost 1/4th of the Roman population. The first king of Rome, Romulus, is said to have held Chariot races here. This huge stadium today signifies the glory of Roman kings as well as the lifestyle of its people. A very significant monument to understand the public life of Rome.
Continue to Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) to find the ancient Ponte Fabriano and the church of San Bartolomeo. In the heart of Trastevere, visit the Basilica of Santa Cecilia and the church of San Crisogono, where remains of a church built in the 4th century were discovered in the early 20th century.
Campo de' Fiori
Literally translated into the "Field of Flowers" this place was once a meadow. In the Ancient Rome context it lay between the famous theater of Pompey and the Tiber river. It was mainly deserted due to the overflowing of the river. The region populated only a few centuries back though, and now a lively market exists there. There is a huge statue of Giordano Bruno, a philosopher who was burned at stake during the Roman Inquisition. This place has a historical significance and is at the same time a great opportunity to interact with the locals.
Villa dei Quintili
From the Baths of Caracalla, board the 118 bus to go to Appia-Bisignano. This is where you will visit the Villa dei Quintili, one of the most under-appreciated and yet, the most scenic monument in Rome! The entrance ticket to this villa was also included in my Archeologia Card.
Monte Testaccio. This is an ancient man made mountain of pottery which today is surrounded by clubs and bars. Only in Rome will you see this happen and I love it. By day you can go play on monte testaccio and climb up all of this old amphora from all over the ancient world: Spain, Africa, Greece and Egypt, and then later you can go back to the same area to go to bars and clubs and go to the Macro, one of Rome’s brand new Modern art museums. Now I realize that this is once again history but I think a mountain of pottery deserves its own spot.
Basilica Di Santa Prassede
Along with Castel Sant'Angelo, Basilica Di Santa Prassede has stood the testimony of time and a many economical and artistic changes that occurred from the 5th to the 14th century A.D., tracing Roman past from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Having been reestablished under Papal authority, it served as a saving grace and hidden space for many Popes and Cardinals through various tribunal and war times.
Santa Maria in Montesanto
This is one of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo along with Santa Maria Del Miracoli. Built in the 17th century, this church includes the handiwork of three great architects. Started by Carlo Rainaldi, continued by Gian Bernini and finally completed by Carlo Fontana. Literally meaning the Holy Mountain, this is also called as the Church of artists because of the weekly mass conducted here by artists. Referring to Mount Carmel in Israel it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The two structures are considered to be twin structures because they look similar, but if you look closely you will find this one to be much different than the Santa Maria of Miracoli.
Osteria del Pegno
Osteria Del Pegno is one of our favorites and we would have recommended it to everyone when we were in Rome but we only shared our secret with a few special people so count yourself lucky. It is a tiny little Osteria located just a ways from Piazza Navona. It specialized in new Italian Cooking. You can find traditional Roman dishes here like Bucatini Amatriciana and Carbonara but you will also find Sea Bass Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Ravoli in a Zucchini Flower, Saffron and Orange Cream Sauce. It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a bit of a nicer restaurant to eat at without a huge price tag.
Casina delle Civette
The House of the OwlsThis place is hidden in Villa Torlonia, a large park in which the main house is famous as the residence of Mussolini. The House of the Owls is a tiny building in the park, was a princely residence and its architecture, its colors, its windows let it looks like a place came out of a fairy tale.The name “House of the Owls” comes from the almost obsessive presence of the owl theme in the decorations and furnishings of the House wanted by the Prince Giovanni Torlonia, who lived in the House until his death in 1938, and who was a lover of esoteric symbols.The atmosphere in this place is truly magical, and it’s the perfect place to take a break from the tourist crowds in Rome enjoying the quiet in the park and a bit of beauty.
Trinita' dei Monti
We climb up the Spanish steps to meet this magnificent structure. This church is a later Renaissance structure and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This church was originally constructed to commemorate France's victory over Naples and was later re-constructed. It was built in the Gothic style, but the facade is neo-classical. It was raided of its richness during the Neapolitan Invasion.
Ma che siete venuti a fà
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà is located in Trastevere on Via di Benedetta, 25. Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà means “What the hell are you doing here” and is a tiny, fun bar that is really serious about their beers. They have beer selections from all over the world and currently they have 9 Italian beers on tap, 4 English beers, 1 Swiss beer, a Belgian beer and a German beer on tap. They are open from 11am-2am everyday so if you find yourself in Trastevere and you cannot handle anymore wine head here. You may even see our roommate Adrian here (our wonderful guest poster on Paris) but you may not recognize him anymore without all his hair.
Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
A lesser known gothic church in Rome, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is home to Michelangelo's 'Christ Bearing The Cross' and is guarded by Bernini's beautiful 'Elefantino' sculpture mounted on an obelisk outside. The greatly reworked 13th Century church closes at 7 in the evening and the entry is free. If you are a Harry Potter fan, make sure you get a picture of the outer facade of the 'Grand Hotel Minerva' on the Piazza della Minerva, opposite the basilica. It will continue to remind you of everybody's favourite professor/mentor/cat. Getting there: The Basilica on Piazza della Minerva is 200 metres from the Pantheon on Piazza della Rotonda. Taking the underground metro is the best idea because it is faster and cheaper if in case you are not living near the Centro Storico area. The tickets come for about 1.5 Euros and can be bought from the several machines or ticketing counters at the station. Your stop is 'Spagna' along the A Line and the Piazza is a bit of a walk, about 1.2 kilometres from the station. Beware of pickpockets on the train. You could even take a bus from the Termini Station.