It was once considered the centre of the universe, when all roads lead there. Now the Italian capital is a living museum, with all the trimmings of a cosmopolitan city.
Rome is the capital and largest city in Italy, with around three million residents.
It was founded over 2,750 years ago and is one of Europe’s most ancient cities.
History and art surround you wherever you go in Rome. Whether you seek it or not, you get a real sense of its cultural heritage, simply by being there. Filled with fascinating architecture, ruins, museums, churches, and galleries; Rome was evidently not built in a day.
Rome’s religious history is world renowned. Its independent state, Vatican City, is the seat of the Catholic Church, and home of the Pope. Here you’ll find the Vatican Museums and the spectacular Sistine Chapel, with breath-taking painted ceiling and frescoes by Italy’s famous artist, Michelangelo.
Vatican City is a busy place, especially during papal appearances, on occasional Wednesdays. To avoid a lengthy wait, book an advance admission and jump the queue. The Vatican Museums are now also open at night-time on certain day, offering a quieter visit.
Take a shortcut from the back of the Sistine Chapel to St Peter’s Basilica where you can marvel at more of Christian Rome and Michelangelo’s stunning dome and marble Pietà sculpture.
For a glimpse at ancient Rome, go to the Forum area. Once the centre of all civic life, the Forum is now comprised of ruined or reconstructed temples, arches and public buildings such as the striking Arch of Septimius Severus, the Curia and Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius.
Head east from the Forum, to visit the city’s famous Colosseum, an ampitheatre where vast crowds gathered for entertainment such as gladiator fights or hunting shows with exotic animals.
The Roman Pantheon ‘temple of all the gods’ is another ancient must-see. This well preserved, 2,000 year old pagan temple has an impressive domed ceiling (oculus), unlike any of Rome’s churches. It must be seen from inside. The Pantheon is now used as a church. During the Christian Pentecost festival, a shower of rose petals falls from the oculus to the floor.
The square in front of the Panteon, Piazza della Rotonda, is the perfect place to relax after seeing the sights. Stop by one of the cafés or gelaterias to sample the city’s famous ice cream.
The best views of Rome can be enjoyed from the top of the Spanish Steps at the 16th-century Trinità dei Monti church, which sits above the Piazza di Spagna. You might recognise this area from the movie Roman Holiday. Here you’ll find some of Rome’s upmarket boutiques, charming cafés, galleries and antique shops.
Don’t leave Rome without throwing coins into the famed Trevi Fountain. Tradition has it that this act will expedite your return.