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Top Rome Attractions

The first time you visit Rome, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Rome to help with your itinerary planning.

The Pantheon The Pantheon
The Trevi Fountain The Trevi Fountain
The Coliseum The Coliseum
Vatican City Vatican City
Forum Romanum Forum Romanum

The Pantheon

 Address Piazza della Rotonda
 Admissions Free
 Hours M -S 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM; Sun. 9 AM to 6 PM

A treasure of both ancient and modern Rome, the Pantheon is known for its durability, structure, and tombs. The spherical roof sits atop a cylinder base that extends out into a rectangular shape. The domed roof peaks at an open circle, known as the oculus, which evenly distributes sunlight and surprisingly keeps the inside of the Pantheon almost completely dry during inclement weather. The dome was constructed using a mixture of concrete that dried almost weightlessly.

The original Pantheon was built around 26 BC by the Emperor Marcus Agrippa, whose name appears engraved on the portico above the bronze double doors. The structure that stands now was built by the Emperor Hadrian around 118 to 128 AD, after a major fire destroyed the original.

The Pantheon earned its reputation as a major historical landmark by transitioning through the centuries with Rome. Originally constructed as a temple for the gods, ancient Romans sacrificed animals in the center of the floor. In the year 609, the Pantheon was converted to a Catholic Church, Santa Maria ad Martyres, as Catholicism became a dominant religion. The famous individuals laid to rest in tombs in the Pantheon, include King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I, and the painter Raphael.

 

The Trevi Fountain

 Address Piazza di Trevi
 Admissions Free
 Hours Open 24 hours

If you wish to revisit Rome, you must see the Trevi Fountain. Legend dictates that a coin tossed into the fountain will ensure a visitor’s return to the Eternal City. Although the fountain, a fairly recent statue compared to some of Rome’s more ancient monuments, was built in 1762, its water source is much older. In 19 BC, Agrippa created the Vergine Aqueduct, and used the location of the Trevi Fountain as one of the several supply points. To this day, the aqueduct is still active, not only by the Trevi Fountain, but throughout many spots in Rome.

Built by Nicola Salvi, the Trevi Fountain depicts Neptune, the sea god, standing on a seashell chariot drawn by horses and two tridents. Fixed in niches on the left and right side of Neptune, rest the figures of health and fertility. The entire scene sits on a rough pile of rocks, enhancing the grace of the smoothly carved figures. In order to make the dramatic scene seem even greater, the fountain is attached to the numerously windowed back wall of the Palazzo Poli. In addition, Salvi chose to create her work of art in a relatively small piazza, knowing that its grand scale would be further enhanced by the tight space. Nicola Salvi’s intentions were to leave spectators breathless, and she certainly succeeded.

 

The Coliseum

 Address Piazza del Colloseo, Via dei Fori Imperiali
 Admissions :8 - 10 Euro
 Hours November to February, 9 am to 4:30 pm; March, 9 am to 5:30 pm; March 28 to August, 9 am to 7 pm; September, 9am to 7 pm; October, 9 am to 6 pm
 Phone 06-39967700

A magnificent structure, even in ruins, the Coliseum is exemplary of ancient Roman ingenuity. Although it was built almost 2000 years ago, the Coliseum boasts several more modern concepts. During its prime, the Coliseum was equipped with a sort of cooling system, fashioned from carefully maneuvered canopy sheets. The pluming still exists today, and was used in ancient times for lavatories and theatrical purposes. When staging a naval scene, the Coliseum’s directors would remove the wooden floorboards and flood the basement area to float ships. The exits were numbered for organizational purposes and connected to stadium seating through tunnels that allowed for a quick and safe evacuation, should any disaster occur. As safety conscious as this may seem, the Coliseum’s beginnings were not particularly humane. Within the first few days of it’s opening, thousands of animals and several humans were sacrificed as a form of entertainment. Gladiator battles were usually fought to the death, and often times, wild animals would rise from trap doors in the floor and join in the fight.

When you tour the Coliseum today, picturing its reign during the Roman Empire takes some imagination. The marble that once covered the Coliseum has been stripped and used for other projects, and most of the Coliseum itself has been torn down. The huge structure had four columns stacked one on top of the other in a complete circle. Now, only a small section of the Coliseum boasts its original four stories. The wood floor is also gone, showing the deteriorating labyrinth of hallways that created the basement space. Despite its current bareness, the Coliseum, called the Flavian Amphitheater in ancient times, is still awe inspiring due to its huge size.

 

Vatican City

 Admissions Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, 12 Euro; St. Peter’s Basilica, Free but must call and schedule ahead
 Hours Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, March to October, Monday to Friday, 8:45 am to 4:45 pm, Saturday and last Sunday of the month (except holidays) 8:45 am to 1:45 pm; November to February, Monday to Saturday and last Sunday of the month (except holidays), 8:45 am to 1:45 pm; St. Peter’s Basilica, April to September, 7 am to 6 pm; October to March, 7 am to 6 pm
 Phone :Vatican Museum, 06-69884947; St. Peter’s Basilica, 06-69884466
 Website www.vatican.va

The religious significance of Rome captures the interests of millions of sightseers every year. However, Vatican City’s drawing power extends well beyond those of the Catholic faith, as it is a historical and cultural gem.

Inside the Vatican museums you will come across religious works of art from many generations. Paintings and sculptures line the rooms and hallways, as do artifacts from past Popes. After viewing the various works of art, the tour culminates with the Sistine Chapel. In the Chapel, guards continuously hush the whisperings of the crowd, out of respect for the holiness of the Church. Not much time is spent talking, as your attention will be immediately grabbed by Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes, which are arguably the most magnificent ever created. The paintings depict religious scenes such as Creation and the Last Judgment with such intensity, that you will find yourself standing with your neck craned upwards in an effort to see every detail.

Equally important to Catholics, art lovers, and history buffs alike, is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. When you first enter the Piazza in front of the Church, you will have to walk through massive columns. The impact of the enormous columns that surround the Piazza, are a sort of preparation for the vastness of the space and the Grandeur of the Church. These columns form an elliptical shape around the spacious Piazza. While the Piazza is the perfect place for a picture, be sure to visit inside the Church as well. The line to enter the Church is well worth the wait. After you enter, you will see Michelangelo’s Pietà on your right. Even behind glass, the statue still commands the attention of the large crowds that are constantly gathered around. Walking further into the Church will lead you to another great work of art, Bernini’s Baldacchino. This great four columned bronze canopy structure, which may only be used by the Pope, stands underneath Michelangelo’s dome. Underneath the Church itself, are the Vatican Grottoes, home to the tombs of past Popes. This is the spot where, Catholics believe, St. Peter was laid to rest.

The architecture, paintings, and sculptures of St. Peter’s and the Vatican make it worthy of being an independent city. You can spend an entire day within the walls of the Vatican, trying to capture the vast richness of every detail. Michelangelo, Bernini, Bramante, and a score of other artists, have spent centuries creating this collaborative masterpiece.

 

Forum Romanum

 Address Piazza di Santa Maria Nova
 Admissions Free
 Hours Monday to Saturday, November to February, 9 am to 4:30 pm; March, 9 am to 5:30 pm; March 28 to August, 9 am to 7 pm; September, 9am to 7 pm; October, 9 am to 6 pm
 Phone 06-39967700

If one spot visually captures the history of ancient Rome, it is the Forum. What began as a place for vendors and consumers to buy and sell goods, developed into a center of the utmost political and social significance. Among the temples, statues, courts, and palaces, ancient Rome flourished, and solidified the culture that is studied by so many historians and archaeologists today.

Evidence of over a dozen major buildings and monuments still remains on the grassy field. The most numerous remains are that of the temples. The Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Saturn, The Temple of Romulus, the Temple of Vespasian, and the Temple of Venus and Roma, all boast tall, imposing columns, although only a few of the originals are still standing. A part of the once circular Temple of Vesta also stands, next to which is the foundation and few remains of the once great Palace of the Vestal Virgins.

Among the structures of political import, the Rostrum and the Curia are most notable. The Rostrum served as a brick podium where political leaders would address the public. In the immediate vicinity of the Rostrum stands the Curia, known as the Senate House, where laws were debated and set forth.

A walk through the Forum will also lead you to the Arch of Semperus Severus and the Arch of Titus. Both are in remarkably good condition for their age, and stand on opposite ends of the Forum. Archaeologists have proposed various visual reconstructions of the Forum, but nothing can compare to the site itself. Like the Coliseum, the Roman Forum forces the imagination to piece together the ruins of what once acted as the focal point of such a great state.

 


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