Tag Archives: Rome

Things to do in Rome and the best places to visit in Rome.

Top 10 Historic Buildings in Rome

Rome is a city packed full of attractions, with more sites and museums than you can shake a gladiator’s trident at. So, if you were interested in visiting them with your Rome city card and getting to know their history, which would be the best places to visit?

Castel Santâ Angelo

Rome Castel Sant Angelo

The history of this building began around 130AD when it was first constructed as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. Since then, it has been a castle, a fortress and in its latest incarnation, a museum. Once the tallest building in Rome, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, or the Castel Santa Angelo, as it is commonly known, is worth visiting as much for the sights it boasts as for its own beauty. Getting to the top and enjoying the view of the Roman skyline, especially with Vatican City just a stone’s throw away, is an experience not to be missed.

St Peter’s Basilica

If you visit Rome, it would be unthinkable not to see St Peter’s Basilica, an enormous, majestic piece of Renaissance architecture. As the burial site for Saint Peter, one of Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles, it has great historical and religious significance.

Galeria Borghese

More than just an art gallery, this 17th century villa has housed many collections, from Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who first began collecting art and antiquities, to Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese, responsible for the now famous Villa Borghese gardens.

The Coliseum

The largest and most iconic amphitheatre in the world, this famed Roman site for gladiatorial contests and spectacles needs no introduction.

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Rome Vatican

An absolute must among the things to see in Rome. Every room and hallway in the museums is a masterpiece of design, and packed full of vital works, particularly of Renaissance art. Michelangelo’s decorations on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel provide the climax of the visit.

The Capitoline Museums

A collection of buildings rather than a single one, the plans for The Capitoline Museums were originally conceived by Michelangelo himself. The complex is comprised of three main buildings: the Palazo Senatorio (built in the 12th Century but later modified in line with Michelangelo’s plans), the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. Unified by the glorious Piaza del Campidoglio, the museums have a number of artistic and archaeological exhibits, making this a must-see for history buffs.

The Pantheon

An almost 2,000 year-old temple with massive classic columns and the famous coffered dome, this was in fact the third attempt after the previous two Pantheons had burnt down. One of the primary Rome attractions.

Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

Dating back to the 4th century, this cathedral is of huge importance to Catholics as it is the oldest, highest-ranked Basilica in Rome and acts as the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. Its long and rich history, as well as the adjacent Lateran Palace, merits exploration.

Roman Forum

For the true ancient ruin experience, nothing can beat the Roman Forum, situated right next to the Coliseum. It used to be the beating heart of ancient Rome, operating as the marketplace and venue for a host of public events.

Trevi Fountain

Finally, La Fontana di Trevi slips into the list because though it may just be a fountain, it is one of epic proportions and fame. It marks the terminal point of an important aqueduct that served ancient Rome, highlighting the historical and cultural importance of water to Roman civilisation.

Read more of our tips on what to do in Rome.

10 Fascinating Rome Museums

The Italian capital of Rome offers some of the best museums in Europe; here are our tips for ten Rome museums.

MAXXI Museum (National Museum of the 21st Century Arts)

MAXXI Museum was opened in 2010 and it contains paintings, photography and architectural works from both international and Italian artists. It was designed by architect Zaha Hadid (who also designed Glasgow’s Riverside Museum).

Rome museum

MAXXI Museum by mark hogan

Capitoline Museum

Capitoline Museum, founded in the late 1400s, famous for its Rome-related collections. Many of the early donations came from Popes, and it was opened to the public in 1734 by Pope Clement.

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Best of Rome Travel Tips

Rome is one of those very special cities with so much history and culture that you could easily spend weeks there and still feel you didn’t want to leave. Rome is included in our best European cities to visit post. Our top tips for what to do in Rome is a collation of  posts by the Europe a la Carte blogging team, with insider tips from local resident Kimberly Sullivan.

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Rome Week on Europe a la Carte

It’s Rome Week on Europe a la Carte from 30 May to 5 June 2011.  It’s the Italian capital of Rome in the spotlight. You’ll find lots of ideas for things to do in Rome on Europe a la Carte.

The Colosseum in Rome by melenama

On the Europe a la Carte Blog

Read the comments below for readers’ tips on things to do in Rome. Comments are now closed.

On the Europe a la Carte facebook page

If you click “Like” on the Europe a la Carte facebook page, you can post a link to your favourite blog post, photo or video about Rome.

Spanish Steps by christine zenino


I’ll be favouriting some of the Rome photos on Flickr that you highlight.

Trevi Fountain by cfwee

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When in Rome: Coffee with a view at Colle Oppio park

What’s better than taking a short break from all your sightseeing on your trip to Rome? How about a little table in the sun where you can rest your legs, sip a cappuccino and enjoy the view. What if the view’s like this?

Truthfully, the café is a little farther up the path, but you get the idea. The Colle Oppio café is a wonderful place to relax, drink a coffee or – depending on the hour – an aperativo and enjoy the fabulous view.

Colle Oppio is a small park just next to the Colosseum and, on nice days, it provides a welcome respite from busy tourist itineraries. It’s a favoured spot for locals as well. If you’re travelling with children, there’s a tiny playground toward the back of the park.

From Colle Oppio there are also pretty views over the imposing medieval Santi Quattro Coronati abbey-fortress.

Colle Oppio is most famous for its stunning Domus Aurea (Golden Palace), which is , sadly, closed to the public while it undergoes major renovation following a partial collapse.

The Domus Aurea was the opulent Ancient Roman Palace of Emperor Nero. It was built in 64 AD, following the great fire of Rome that destroyed all of the previous buildings in the area. The complex of buildings that made up the Domus Aurea was enormous, spanning from the Palatine Hill to the Esquiline and Celian Hills. A great lake and surrounding forest land was built on the ancient site.

The complex was largely destroyed by subsequent Emperors. The lake was drained in order to construct the Colosseum in its place. The segment in Colle Oppio was built over rather than destroyed. It was only in the 15th century that the sole surviving segment of the Domus Aurea was “rediscovered”. Famous artists like Raphael visited and were influenced by the stunning frescoes.

There is no news yet as to when the site will once again be open to visitors. I reckon that the  Colle Oppio is one of the best Rome cafes where you can enjoy your cappuccino with a  view on your next visit to Rome.

Some of my past suggestions for things to see in the area include the Ludus Magnus – just across the street – or having a bite to eat at the bakery Panella , only a short walk away.

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When in Rome: Vatican stamp collecting

It’s the rare visitor to Rome who doesn’t make his or her way to the Vatican. Visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum are highlights of any visit to the Eternal City, as Heather has described in her post “Be a religious tourist in Rome“. As most visitors know, Vatican City is actually its own state, separate from Italy, with its own Head of State  – the Pope.

Vatican City also mints its own coins (it is within the euro zone) , maintains its own postal service (since 1929) and issues its own postage stamps.

On your next visit to the Vatican, stop by at the post office (just next to the Visitor’s office, to the left of the main entrance to Saint Peter’s) to see the special issues of stamps and to mail your postcards, franked by the Vatican City postal service.

One of my children has just started collecting stamps and I have other friends who collect franked Vatican stamps, so I am often passing through the Vatican post office to purchase postage stamps or mail out letters.

It’s fun to see tourists from all over writing post cards, affixing their Vatican stamps and sending them off to all corners of the world. With the rich collection of art at the Vatican – and within the Catholic church the Vaticanissued stamps can be quite striking, including recently issued stamps from works by Caravaggio and Botticelli. For serious collectors, there’s even a helpful on-line catalogue of issues from 1929 to the present.

So on your next visit to Rome, be sure to stop by at the Vatican post office to buy postage stamps or mail out your postcards. Your stamp collecting friends will thank you and you couldn’t find presents easier to pack than these.

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When in Rome: SS Giovanni e Paolo and the Ancient Roman houses

Rome is my favourite European city. I love walking around and seeing all the layers of its long history. Although most visitors concentrate on Rome’s Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque splendours, medieval Rome is also fascinating to explore.

One of my favourite corners of Rome starts at the tiny, cobblestoned street of Via San Paolo della Croce, which leads over the Celian hill. If you come here in the silence of early morning, you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported back in time to medieval Rome, particularly as you near the lovely Basilica of SS Giovanni e Paolo (Saints John and Paul).

This church was built in 410 AD and restructured in the 11th century by Pope Pascal II, who also erected the lovely bell tower typical of medieval Italian churches. Major renovations to the interior were carried out in the 18th century, but the pretty exterior remained untouched.

This perfect Roman spot has been admired by countless generations of Romans and tourists alike. The following observations about the church and its idyllic position were recorded by Henry James in his Italian Hours:

No spot in Rome can show a cluster of more charming accidents. The ancient brick apse of the church peeps down into the trees of the little wooded walk before the neighbouring church of San Gregorio… and a series of heavy brick buttresses, flying across to an opposite wall, overarches the short, steep, paved passage which leads into the small square. This is flanked on one side by the long mediaeval portico of the church of the two saints, sustained by eight time-blackened columns of granite and marble. … The place always seem to me the perfection of an out-of-the-way corner – a place you would think twice before telling people about, lest you should find them there the next time you were to go.

I love James’ description of  this “out-of-the-way-corner”. That’s exactly how I feel when I have this little slice of Rome to myself, before the crowds and the cars. Here are the heavy brick buttresses he describes.

If Henry James’ description can’t coax you to SS Giovanni e Paolo, then perhaps what lies beneath might do the trick. Underneath these dramatic buttresses are the Case romane , the Ancient Roman houses, which opened to the public in 2002, following extensive excavations.

These are the homes where John and Paul, officers under Emperor Constantine, were said to have lived. They were martyred in 361 and the basilica that takes their names was built over their former dwelling place.

Excavations began in 1887, uncovering a site of more than 20 rooms, some with vivid, well-preserved frescoes.

Photo courtesy of the Case romane web site

These homes are a wonderful glimpse into Roman life between the 2nd and 4th century. A small but interesting museum displays objects excavated from the homes. Check the museum’s web site for opening hours and ticket information

Enjoy your visit to medieval and Ancient Rome at the Basilica of SS Giovanni e Paolo. For more of medieval Rome, see the Shrine to Pope Joan and the beautiful mosaics of Santa Prassede.

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When in Rome: Nativity scene tourism

Those of you visiting the Eternal City during the Christmas season will be certain to notice the Christmas trees that now grace the city. Christmas trees are a relatively recent import – a northern European tradition. To get a real flavour of Italian Christmas traditions, visitors in should visit the many Roman churches that host a traditional presepio – a nativity scene.

The nativity scene is said to have originated in Italy. It is Saint Francis of Assisi who is credited with having constructed the first  nativity scene in a cave in the town of Greccio, outside Assisi, way back in 1223.

Nativity scenes from Naples are the most famous and even today its craftsman are renowned for carrying on this ancient tradition.

My favourite among the many on offer in Rome’s churches during the holiday season is a Neapolitan nativity scene from 1700 on display is at the Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano (Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian) in the Roman Forum, just off the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

The Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano  was built in the early 6th century AD and it is the oldest church in the Imperial Forum.  The church features original early Christian mosaics in the apse.

Each year at during the Christmas season, tourists and Romans flock here to see the stunning details of Neapolitan craftsmen in this lovely nativity scene. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are surrounded by hundreds of figures and animals, all set amongst Roman ruins. The details are marvellous and, even after numerous viewings, I find myself admiring scenes I hadn’t noticed on earlier visits.

A visit to see this historic nativity scene in Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano  is my European travel tip if your holiday travels take you through Rome. Be sure to also stop off at the Christmas market on Rome’s lovely Piazza Navona.

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When in Rome: Piazza Navona’s Christmas Market

Rome’s Piazza Navona has to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world. In a recent post, Arwa called it her favourite piazza in Rome . Each December, continuing on through January 6th,  there’s a Piazza Navona Christmas market.

Although it can’t compete with the elegant Christmas markets of Vienna and Nürnberg, this Rome Christmas Market offers a stunning backdrop and makes a visit here worth it.

On January 6th, Italian children celebrate the Epiphany with the tradition of  La befana . La befana is an old witch who leaves good children a stocking filled with candies on the morning of January 6th. Walking through the market stalls, you will see many of these witches on display.

There are carnival games and a carousel on the square, gifts for sale at the stalls and lots of sugary treats.

Parents beware: it’s almost impossible to avoid the ubiquitous stands selling monster-sized cotton candy.

Enjoy wandering Rome’s Christmas market during your holiday visit to the Eternal City!

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When in Rome: Ludus Magnus – training ground of gladiators

When Rome sightseeing at the Colosseum, be sure to take the time to cross the street and peer into the area known as the Ludus Magnus. Two thousand years ago, this was the largest and most prestigious of Rome’s gladiatorial training schools.

The Ludus Magnus was built during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). Ancient records of its construction exist, but it had been built over and its exact location remained a mystery until it was unearthed in an excavation in 1937.

Renderings based on excavations and ancient records are believed to be quite accurate. As the image below illustrates, the Ludus Magnus once boasted s central practice arena where gladiators learned and trained, surrounded by limited seating for spectators. Rooms around the training area contained barracks for the gladiators and storage for the equipment. Underground tunnels connected the Ludus Magnus with the Colosseum.

Rendering courtesy www.livius.org

Today, just over half of the arena and the barracks remain. The brick-work of the present-day ruins would have been covered with marble at the time of Ancient Rome.

Peer down at the remains of the school that once trained Rome’s best gladiators. Better yet, enjoy stunning views of the Ludus Magnus and the Colosseum over a glass of wine from the rooftop terrace of the adjacent Hotel Gladiatori .

If you are visiting the Ludus Magnus, you are just three blocks away from the portico marking the spot where  Pope Joan’s true identity was discovered. Why not enjoy a short stroll in the pretty neighborhood of Celio in order to visit this curious medieval site?