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The governmental seat and capital of Italy, Rome, is simply a must-do for every tourist. Besides housing famed ancient monuments like the Colosseum and Pantheon, Rome is also home to The Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. Rome is also the gateway to Vatican City.
Vatican City is its own country and the central geographical home to Catholicism and the Pope's home and hierarchy of the Catholic faith. Some of the most notable sites in Italy are in Vatican City, including St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Bramante Staircase, and, of course, the Vatican and Vatican Museums.
If any destination on your Italy vacation deserves an extra day of exploration, it’s Rome. Europe’s “Eternal City” boasts so much culture, from ancient architectural finds to piles of pasta and gelato and modern high-end couture designers. Fitting everything into a week is next to impossible, never mind a day or two! For the best sites to see and things to do when in Rome, check out our favorites below.
Built in 80 A.D. and boasting a bloody history, his one building has been in the city for centuries. You'll find everything from ancient artifacts to small models of the arena. From the top main platform, visitors can see what the Colosseum held in ancient days, as well as the quarters below the arena floor that held the gladiators and slaves. Combine your Colosseum tickets with Roman Forum and Palatine Hill for VIP access that allows you to skip the lines altogether.
Your Roman travel mandates a visit to Vatican City. "The Vatican, the Museum of Museums," houses vast collections of art and artifacts accumulated by the Popes over the centuries. Religious or not, the art alone warrants considerable time spent exploring the Vatican Museums. Home to Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel, you’ll find master paintings and sculptures inside of the Apostolic Palace’s most extraordinary and artistically significant rooms. Nearby, the Saint Peter's Basilica, built over the tomb of the first Pope, Saint Peter, stands as the world’s largest church. At over 18,000 square yards, you’ll find an iconic courtyard outside and notable art from Bernini and Michelangelo inside. Bypass the lines and ascend the famous Bramante Staircase for amazing views of Rome.
With sites dating back to 500 B.C., these paths were walked by the likes of Julius Caesar. When you’re done strolling the ruins, find the stone carving of Bocca Della Verita. Legend has it that, if you lie to him, he’ll bite your hand off! Roman Forum was the scene of public meetings, law courts, and gladiatorial combats in republican times the Curia (senate house) The Sacra Via: This was the main road that ran through the Roman Forum and connected the various important sites. This famous street also stretched to the Colosseum, which was within walking distance of the Forum. It primarily served as a pathway for ceremonies and processions.
Today, we know that the original design of the Trevi was used as Rome’s source for naturally pure and potable water. It wasn’t until many years later that the Trevi Fountain was redesigned and renovated by one of Italy’s most famous sculptors, Bernin. Centered around Neptune, this iconic Baroque fountain is the perfect place to snap an iconic Italy photo. And, legend has it, anyone who tosses a coin into the fountain is destined for a return trip to Rome!
A burial place for Rome’s former kings and key artists, this is regarded as the world’s only architecturally perfect building. Don’t stop at admiring the outside though- step inside and look up! When you do, you’ll find that the interior dome is open sky, inviting the outdoors in. While there, be sure to check out Giolatti, famed for gelato in every shade of the rainbow and in business since 1900!
Though their somewhat misleading name may lead you to assume otherwise, the Spanish Steps were not made by the Spanish. The ‘Spanish’ part of the name refers to the Spanish Embassy, which was once located in the piazza at the base of the monument. Standing at the top of 138 Spanish Steps is the 16th-century Trinità dei Monti church. At the base lies the Fontana della Barcaccia, featuring a half-shrunk stone ship sculpted by Pietro Bernini, the father of the Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck made the steps an even more must-see sight for Americans after the monument was a co-star in Roman Holiday.
Piazza Navona was built in the 1st century AD. Venture to find the three fountains of Piazza Navona. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) was designed by Bernini in 1651 and is in the center of the square. The second fountain, Fontana del Moro is located in the southern corner of the square, and was initially called the “Seashell Fountain.” The third fountain in Piazza Navona, Fontana del Nettuno, or Fountain of Neptune features the sculpture of Neptune fighting with an octopus, and other sculptures, based on mythology.
It has been said that if you see just one city in Italy, perhaps even one city in all of Europe, make it Rome. In addition to the Roman Forum, St. Peter's Basilica, you'll find the Vatican Museums and Bramante Staircase.
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