Rome is the capital of the Italy and the centre of the historic Roman empire. No matter where in Rome you are, you will never be far away from something of historic relevance in this city. It is like a living and breathing museum.
To explore Rome properly, you’ll probably need a few weeks. But most of us unfortunately don’t have that luxury. So in this post, I have compiled the top things to do in Rome in a 4-5 day period.
Roman Forum – You cannot start your Roman journey from anywhere but here. The Roman Forum is the centre of the ancient Roman government. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. This square, or forum, is a living and breathing outdoor museum. Remains of ancient Roman temples, government buildings and memorials are scattered across the forum. One of the more significant monuments is that of the Temple of Saturn. Apart from the obvious use as a temple, this building also operated as a bank.
Colosseum and the Palatine Hills – At one end of the Roman Forum, is arguably the most famous landmark of Rome – the Colosseum. It is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built. And is still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world today, despite its age. It was completed around 80 AD. The Colosseum is most famous for hosting gladiatorial shows. But apart from that, it was also used for hunting animals, simulating war tactics and celebrating military victories.
Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Palatine Hill. This is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most oldest part of the city. It is an open air museum which takes a little closer to ancient Rome. If you are a fan of Roman mythology, you might already know that this was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal. This is where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa that kept them alive. Romulus later went on to form Rome, as per the legends. You can hear all about this mythical story and others, here. Tickets for both these places can be bought together or separately. A guide is recommended for enjoy the sites even more.
Monuments – Rome is so much more than the Forum and the Colosseum. It is full of monuments of historical importance. Some of the key monuments you might want to visit are the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. The Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple that has been converted into a church. Entry is free to this church and is definitely worth exploring due to its architecture. What makes it special is that even after almost two thousand years when it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Trevi Fountain is arguably one of the most famous fountains of the world. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. Many a movie has been shot in front of this fountain including Roman Holiday. About a 10 minute walk from here are the Spanish Steps, another location made famous by movies such as Roman Holiday and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Piazzas – Rome has a number of piazzas or squares that are great for dining al fresco, having a drink and, of course, people watching! Some of the most famous squares in Rome are Piazza Venezia, Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona. Each piazza has history and culture associated with it. As you’d expect in a city of historical significance like Rome.
Piazza Venezia is technically the centre of Rome. It is the site of Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland), part of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of Italy. Piazza del Popolo, or the plaza of the people, is one of the largest public squares in Rome. At the centre of the piazza is an Egyptian obelisk of Sety I (later erected by Rameses II) from Heliopolis. Architecturally, it is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. Piazza Navona is built like an open air stadium. Ancient Romans used to go there to watch games. The famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is located in this piazza.
Vatican City – Home to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is the smallest country in the world, which is land-locked within Rome. Irrespective of your choice of religion, or the lack of it, this is a must visit place for its exquisite art and architecture that you will not find anywhere else.
Key places of importance are the St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, home of the famous Michelangelo frescos. I’ll recommend to book tickets in advance to avoid the long queues. You may also want to take a guide for these places.
Just outside of Vatican City, is the beautiful Castel Sant’Angelo. It is the Mausoleum of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. Believe it or not, the structure was once the tallest building (48 m high) in Rome. That’s around 782 m shorter than the tallest building of the world, at this point in time, Burj Khalifa.
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