Visiting Rome? The top 10 musts are listed below!
Greet the Old Masters of the Capitoline
This is the city that has nurtured the art of Michelangelo. Housed in twin palaces on opposite sides of his Piazza del Campidoglio are the Capitoline Museums. They constitute the oldest public gallery in the world, having opened their collection to the public in 1734. Once inside, you can admire breathtaking paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Caravaggio, and beautifully crafted statues by the Baroque genius Bernini. While on the art trail, don’t miss the Borghese Gallery and the Palazoo Barberini Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.
Connect with your inner gladiator at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is a monument of epic proportions. Stories of gory battles between gladiators, slaves, prisoners and wild animals have emerged from this Flavian amphitheatre, which dates from AD 72. A vast arena of entertainment, with a seating capacity of over 50,000 people, it could fill up in 10 minutes. Nowhere in the world was there a larger or more glorious setting for mass slaughter. Today, the only gladiators that you will see are the ones parked outside for the tourist shutterbugs and on the movie screen (Gladiator, a must watch movie!). But this is a necessary pilgrimage for history buffs, and the ideal starting point from which to take in the Roman remains of the city: the jaw-dropping Forum, the Domus Aurea and the Pantheon.
Stroll through the Gardens of the Villa Borghese
Like any other capital city, Rome can be overwhelming. When the Colosseum starts to weigh down on you, find serenity in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, the city’s most central public park. It’s popular with joggers, dog-walkers and pleasure seekers. In recent years, it has grown a contemporary art museum in the Orangerie: the Museo Carlo Bilotti. To escape the crowds, climb the steep hill behind Trastevere and the Gianicolo, where you’ll discover the green tree-filled expanse of the Villa Pamphili Park in the suburb of Monteverde. Children can feed turtles at the pond and ride ponies in the park, while you nap under a shaded tree before heading out to catch a glimpse of the Pope.
Join an audience with the Pope at the Vatican
If you met the Pope, what would you say? Well, you probably won’t, but you can join an audience with him on Wednesday mornings. If the weather is fine, then he’ll hold this general audience in St Peter’s Square; otherwise it takes place in the Sala Nervi audience hall. Expect to join clusters of Catholic devotees, and flocks of camera-waving tourists. Afterwards, you can take the opportunity to wander through St Peter’s Basilica, admire Michelangelo’s stunning frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and visit the famous ‘Belvedere Apollo’ and ‘Laocoön’ at the Museo Pio-Clementino among the Vatican Museums.
Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
Tucked away in a tiny piazza and surrounded by jostling crowds, the fountains’ creamy travertine gleams beneath torrents of water and camera flashes. It’s a rococo extravaganza of rearing sea horses, conch-blowing Tritons and craggy rocks, erupting in front of the Palazzo Poli. A stone’s throw away sits La Citta dell’Acqua, which incorporates the remains of an Imperial-age apartment building and a holding tank for the waters of the Acqua Vergine gushing underneath.
Perfect your geometry at the Pantheon
Appraise the architecture of ancient Rome with a trip to its best-preserved building: the Pantheon. Built by Hadrian around AD 119-128, it was originally a temple to the classical deities and remains a church today, holding the tombs of the united Italy’s first king and the artist Raphael. The exterior still retains its original bronze doors, and inside the dimensions follow the rules set down by top Roman architect Vitruvius. The diameter of the hemispherical dome is exactly equal to the height of the whole building, giving it the capacity to hold a perfect sphere.
Scope out delightful ice cream at San Crispino
There’s so much ice cream on every street that scoping out a unique gelato experience is quite the challenge. But you’ll find what many consider to be the best ice cream in the city at Il Gelato di San Crispino. The secret is the makers’ obsessive control over the whole process. The flavours change as the seasons shift – try the summer-time lampone (raspberry) and suisine (yellow plum). Only tubs are allowed because cones interfere with the wonderful flavours.
Photograph the city’s best Piazzas
For a snapshot of Rome’s artistic heritage, visit its exquisite squares. At the Piazza del Popolo, you can follow Grand Tourists of the 18th century, who would have caught their first glimpse of the city through its most northern gate, at the end of the ancient via Flaminia. Designed in the shape of an oval by Rome’s leading neo-classical architect Giuseppe Valadier in the 19th century, its focal points are the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, with a chapel by Raphael, and an Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome by the emperor Augustus. The Piazza Navona, on the other hand, is a theatrical space, which is home to the works of great Baroque masters: the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Borromini and the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini.
Scale new heights to see spectacular views
If looking up at historic buildings is straining your neck, then how about gazing down at some views instead? The Vittoriano, a huge white monument to united Italy, may obscure sights on the ground, but has a lift that will zip you up to its terraces in a matter of moments to enjoy a bird’s eye view. If you’re a stickler for tradition, then climb the 320 steps to the top of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. It will offer you a breath of fresh air after marvelling at the magnificent frescos.
Glam up for a night at the Opera
A night at the opera can be an inspiring experience and a great opportunity to wear your elegant gloves. The grey, angular Mussolini-era facade of the Teatro dell-Opera di Roma gives way to a beautiful and harmonious interior with a good-sized stage. Here you’ll find towering rows of boxes, and loads of stucco, frescoes and intricate gilding all around. For the best acoustics, splurge on a box – it’s all part of the experience.