The amazing city of Rome is difficult to summarise into a few words. With so much history, beauty and culture, mostly all within walking distance, you are spoilt for choice with things to see.
Nicknamed the Eternal City, the famous buildings in Rome will leave you awe struck and remembering your time here for many years to come.
Here we highlight some must see ancient Roman buildings, ruins, museums and chapels containing priceless artefacts and artworks. And while you’re moving around to see them, walk through stunning piazzas and cobblestoned streets with a gelato in hand.
One of the most famous buildings in the world, the Colosseum is a must see for your visit to Rome. A reconstructed section of the arena shows the shafts through which wild animals entered through the trapdoors into the main arena. The shows were brutal, but that didn’t stop crowds of over 50,000 people attending to see these combats.
Guided tours are recommended so you can soak in the stories of its gladiatorial past, and visit the top tier and hypogeum (under the arena floor). A guided tour means you can also skip the long queues. You can also get a combined ticket to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum which is located nearby.
The Roman Forum
Be transported back to ancient Rome with a tour through the Roman Forum. The ruins are so impressive you can easily picture toga clad Romans walking along the cobble stone pathways as they would have done around 500 B.C.
On the site were temples, basilicas and public spaces – a social, political and commercial centre of the Roman Empire. Among the points of significance is the Tempio di Guilio Cesare, where Julius Caesar was cremated.
An architecturally impressive building, the oculus in the domed ceiling opens to the sky, letting the natural sunlight stream in. Originally a temple 2,000 years ago, it’s now a church and therefore one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world.
The Galleria Borghese (Villa Borghese)
Here you have three treats in one – a stand out collection of Baroque art, inside a beautiful 17th century villa and surrounded by lush gardens complete with fountains and sculptures.
Some tips - reserve tickets in advance for your 2 hour limited gallery visit, and be aware you have to check any baggage. You might also need a taxi to the top of the hill if you take the bus to the location, otherwise prepare for a bit of a steep walk.
You can spend many hours here and still not see everything, so try to pre-plan the things you want to see in particular and just visit those. Many opt to at least visit the famous Sistine Chapel and the magnificent St Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s (Basilica di San Pietro)
The largest and most majestic church in Italy, expect large crowds and make sure you’re wearing respectable clothing before making the trip.
Inside the basilica are 45 altars and 11 chapels, Michaelangelo’s Pieta, and many other priceless pieces of art. If you want to visit the Tomb of St Peter you need to book a guided tour.
The Sistine Chapel is the where the new Pope is selected, and continues to facilitate many religious activities as it has done since 1480. On the ceiling is ‘The Last Judgment’ painting by Michelangelo.
The amount of priceless artwork on display in the Vatican Museums is vast to say the least. Collections include the Classical Antiquities Museums showing marble sculptures by Greek and Roman artists, the Gregorian Etruscan Museum containing objects from 1828 found in ancient excavations, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum with monuments from ancient Egypt, and Raphael’s Rooms – 4 residential rooms within the Pontifical Palace.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps were completed in 1725 and lead up to the Trinita dei Monti church at the top and the Barcaccia Fountain (Fontana della Barcaccia) at the bottom.
The Spanish steps end in Piazza di Spagna where you’ll find many luxury shops. Enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, take a seat on the steps and watch the people go by. Be aware of pick pockets as this is a major tourist hot spot with big crowds.
The Trevi Fountain
Allow yourself to be swept up in the tradition and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. The largest baroque fountain and one of the most famous in the world, this Roman icon is a stunning vision, day or night.
It gets extremely busy with tourists jostling to get a photo in front of the fountain, so again, be wary of your belongings to avoid any loss or need to claim on your travel insurance*.
The Piazza Navona
This piazza is a must see and a great spot to stop for a gelato or coffee to soak in the beautiful baroque surroundings.
Amongst the ornate fountains are tourist shops, street artists and cafes. A remarkable part of the city, day or night, make sure your camera is fully charged!
Slightly away from the tourist crowds is the quaint neighbourhood of Trastevere. A great place for lunch and shopping, or for dinner and drinks, there is no end to the charm and tradition of these cobblestone streets.
Whilst there, the Santa Maria church is worth a visit with its breathtaking mosaic and gold interior.
When in Rome…
As the famous saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. This can easily be applied to indulging in some local food and coffee that the Italians are famous for.
Ordering a coffee in Italy is a little different to what you’ll be used to here in Australia. Let’s start with that morning coffee. Only in the morning is it ‘acceptable’ to order a cappuccino, latte or caffe macchiato. If you want a latte, to be extra sure, ask for a ‘caffe con latte’ so you don’t just end up with a glass of milk.
For the rest of the day, your order will be for ‘un caffe’ which is a simple single shot of espresso, usually drunk down immediately without the need to linger at a table. For something cooler, ask for a caffe freddo, which is an iced espresso, usually already sweetened, or a caffe shakerato, which is an espresso shaken with some ice and sugar.
With the complicated coffee routine out the way, indulge in as much gelato, pizza and pasta as you can, giving you the taste of real Italian treats and cuisine.