Visit the Best Museums in Rome
Vatican Museum - The religious art inside the Vatican Museums in Rome may floor you — quite literally. When looking up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece frescoes on the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, be sure not to lose your balance among others gazing up with you. Make your way to the spiral staircase, Raphael Rooms, the Laocoon and the Egyptian museum. Note that there is a dress code for St. Peter’s and other museums, meaning no shoulders showing or short shorts and skirts.
MAXXI - Maxxi, the National Museum of Art from the 21st century designed by Zaha Hadid, is the first museum in Italy completely dedicated to contemporary art. Recognize the museum by its curving architecture of concrete, glass and steel. Relatively young, Maxxi opened to the public in 2010 where military barracks used to be and has a permanent collection of international artists.
Cinecittà Studios - After Cinecittà was built under Mussolini’s orders and bombed by the Allies in World War Two, this largest film studio in Europe recovered in the 1950s to create blockbuster classics like Ben-Hur and most Fellini films. Rather than shooting breakthrough films, Cinecittà today serves more guided tours that accommodate at least 20 people.
Galleria Borghese - The Galleria Borghese is home Caravaggio masterpieces and Bernini sculptures like Apollo and Daphne, not to mention Sacred and Profane Love by Titian. This Roman garden villa built in the early 17th century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese boasts „secret gardens“ that are available to visit through tours run by Bell’Italia 88.
Castel Sant'Angelo - Almost 2000 years old, the Castle Sant’Angelo was initially created to be the mausoleum to Emperor Hadrian. Over the centuries the castle has transformed internally and externally to now host the Museo Nazionale di Castle Sant’Angelo, a museum with a plethora of medieval treasures and Renaissance art.
Musei Capitolini - Opened to the public in 1734, the Capitoline Museums have witnessed countless visitors entering for a glimpse at the goliath statues in Palazzo dei Conservatori, the statue of Marcus Aurelius from the second century AD or the Remus and Romulus twins. Find the statue of Pope Urban VIII by Bernini here, along with paintings from Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Titian and more.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj - Dating back to the 15th century, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj demonstrates the rule of aristocracy that was once in Rome. The palace is privately owned by one family to this day and a part of it is occupied for their personal use. Step inside to see hundreds of paintings and sculptures by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian and Velázquez.
Enter the Most Beautiful Churches in Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica - Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
Attracting 7 million visitors per year to its holy Catholic site, Saint Peter’s Basilica stands as one of the most sacred buildings in the world, teeming with masterpieces from the Renaissance that continue to retain their reputation. Although you suspect flamboyance, the beauty of the basilica is undeniable. From the angels and gold, to the columns, statues and frescoes, all is monumental. Find here the works of Bernini, Brunelleschi, Raphael, the architect of the dome, Michelangelo, and many more.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore - Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Latium, 00185
Resting on the Esquiline Hill, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is arguably the best preserved Roman church solely consecrated to the Madonna. The basilica was built by a Roman patrician named Giovanni who built the church to the Virgin Mary after she appeared in a dream in August 352 A.D. to show where he and his wife should build the church. When Pope Liberius also had this dream, they all discovered the Esquiline Hill covered in snow in the middle of August the next day, which inspired the church to also be called „Our Lady of the Snow.“ Visit the basilica on August 5 to see the annual release of white petals onto the altar in remembrance of the snow miracle.
Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano - Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, Rome, Latium, 00185
The Papal Archbasilica of St. John in Lateran, or St. John Lateran Archbasilica, stands as the official cathedral church of Rome and hosts the ecclesiastical seat, cathedra, of the Pope. Consecrated in 324 A.D., the basilica stands as the oldest of the four main basilicas in Rome and overall as the oldest church in the West. Although it is situated outside of the Vatican City, it still maintains extraterritorial status from Italy as Holy See property. Despite the fires and natural disasters that ravaged the church over the centuries, the columns, frescoes, mosaics and sculptures bring the sanctuary to life. Pilgrims arrive to see the Baptistery built in 315 A.D. by Emperor Constantine and Giotto’s gothic column fresco that is believed to have the heads of St. Peter and Paul.
Santa Maria in Trastevere - Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, Latium, 00153
Rumored to be built around 350 A.D, the Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches standing in Rome today and the first church consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The church was officially completed in 1143 under Pope Julius I and attracts visitors due to the 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the "Life of the Virgin" (1291). Inside you will find 22 granite columns of Corinthian and Ionic capitals dividing the church aisles from the Baths of Caracalla, Domenichino’s „Assumption of the Virgin“ (1617) and more mosaics on the façade.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere - Piazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere 22, Rome, Latium, 00153
A church from the 5th century, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is traditionally known to have been built over the house of the Roman saint Cecilia, who was martyred under Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander (222-235 A.D.). Ferdinando Fuga created the church’s current façade surrounding a courtyard adorned with the coast of arms and a dedication to Francesco Cardinal Acquaviva d’Aragona who funded the façade. Artworks from the 13th century remain such as the Final Judgment (1289-93) mural by Pietro Cavallini and the ciborium by Arnolfo di Cambio. The most famous sculpture inside is the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia by Stefano Maderno depicting how Moderno claims to have exactly seen the saint’s body when the tomb was opened in 1599.
Santa Maria della Vittoria - Via 20 Settembre, 17, 00187, Roma
Santa Maria della Vittoria is a Baroque-style Roman Catholic titular church completed in 1620 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Most recognised for Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s work Esctasy of Saint Teresa in the Corner Chapel, the church is the only of its kind to be built by an early Baroque architect, Carlo Maderno. Find the beautiful frescoes of The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Cerrini, and do not forget to gaze at the Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue to the left of the altar in the Cornaro Chapel, depicting Saint Teresa of Avila when she had a seraph pierce her heart with a golden arrow and felt both pain and joy.
Other churches to visit are:
- Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura - Piazzale San Paolo, 1, 00146, Roma
- Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli - Scala dell’Arcicapitolina, 12, 00186, Roma
- Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli - Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a, 00184, Roma
- Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri - Piazza della Repubblica, 00185, Roma
- Chiesa del Gesù - Via degli Astalli, 16, 00186, Roma
Historical Monuments and Landmarks in Rome
Roman Monuments and Landmarks
Il Colosseo - The most famous ancient monument in Rome and the largest amphitheater in the world, the Colosseum built in AD 72 actually derives its name from the colossal and bronze statue of Nero that was built nearby. UNESCO listed the Colosseum as a World Heritage Site in 1990 and in 2007 it was heralded as one ofthe new Seven Wonders of the World. Visit the Flavian Amphitheatre inside which can hold up to 70,000 people with an arena of 76 by 46 meters. This historically fascinating monument was first used for gladiator contests and executions, later reused for housing and religious quarters.
Il Pantheon - Built about 2000 years ago, the Pantheon is a witness to the Roman Empire that prompted Michelangelo to say it was built by angels and not humans. Originally consecrated as a temple to all gods since pantheon means ‚honour all Gods‘ in Greek, this monument is the only surviving one of its time. Visit the giant dome to see the eye of the Pantheon and the marble Fountain built by Giacomo Della Porta in 1575 right across.
Trevi Fountain - Completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762, the Trevi Fountain has water flowing from the 'Aqua Virgine', one of the oldest Roman aqueducts, and presents Triton controlling the chariot of Oceanus. Due to the tradition of tourists throwing a coin in the fountain for good luck and an eventual return to the Eternal City, it won’t be hard to miss a trove of coins in the water. The Trevi Fountain is most famous for appearing in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg calls for Marcello Mastroianni as she wades in the water.
Roman Forum - Find the Roman Forum between the Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, and walk through one of the most fascinating archaeological landmarks. The Roman Forum was a valley between Campidoglio and Quirinal three thousand years ago that transformed into the political center of the Roman Empire, later to be covered in marshland. The area surrounding the Roman Forum saw many markets and shops come and go. From the Campidoglio terraces, see the panoramic view of the landmark. Discover the piazza, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Antoninus, the Roman Senate, Palantine Hill and more.
Aventine Hill - The Aventine Hill is the most southern of the seven hills of Rome, offering a haven of serenity away from the business of the Eternal City. Here you will find churches, monasteries and the Knights of Malta keyhole in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. There stands the Basilica of Santa Sabina, Santa Prisca, Santi Bonifacio ed Alessio, Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino and Santa Maria del Priorato. If you are looking for something to eat on the hill, best head down to Testaccio.
Villa Borghese - Leaving from the Pincio Gardens by Piazza del Popolo will bring you directly into the Villa Borghese park stretching 85 hectares long and previously owned by the Borghese Princes until the 19th century. The Galleria Borghese is nestled in the Villa Borghese and the Biopark inside offers families the chance to take their children to see birds, reptiles and other animals. Visit the Casa del Cinema offering film screenings, classes and conferences, and don’t forget to stop by the Globe Theatre — Roman style.
Baths of Caracalla - The Baths of Caracalla represent an ancient daily tradition of bathing for the Romans. The baths designed by Emperor Septimius Severus were the crux of a relaxed community alongside the palestrae for exercise, libraries, gardens and artworks. A haven for pleasure and leisure, this complex was officially completed under Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus, Caracalla, in 216 A.D and could host six to eight thousand people a day.
Piazza Venezia - Perhaps you have seen Piazza Venezia in the Italian film The Traffic Policeman by Luigi Zampa. The Altare della Patria overpowers the piazza, paying homage to the first king of Italy, Victor Emanuel II. Tourists come to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier built within the marble altar in remembrance of lost soldiers in World War One. The piazza is named after the Palazzo Venezia that previously served as the residential palace for Venetian Pope Paul II — Mussolini did not hesitate to make his speeches here too.
Spanish Steps - On a steep slope between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti lay the monumental Spanish Steps that featured in many films like Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn. Completed in 1725, these 135 steps were originally commissioned with the French diplomat Étienne Gueffier, which connected the Trinità dei Monti church and the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi. The architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi finished designing the stairway. Try finding the Bourbon flour-de-lys and Pope Innocent XIII’s crown and eagle while on the steps.
Piazza Navona - Regarded as the most elegant piazza in Rome, Piazza Navona was built by Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D. on what used to be the Stadium of Domitian and attracts crowds with its three dominating fountains: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain) and Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain). The Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone should be hard to miss once you step into the piazza, where legend has it that St. Agnes was stripped naked here but spared of shame when her hair miraculously grew to cover her nudity. Check out the outdoor cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs spread throughout the piazza’s neighbourhood.
Relax in the Gorgeous Gardens of Rome
Gianicolo - Behind Trastevere and on the Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill, be ready for a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome encompassing all things ancient, modern, and nature. The botanic gardens -- Orto Botanico -- stretch out for 12 hectares, measuring around 2,000 square meters full of greenhouses, plant cultivation, a Japanese garden, and over 7,000 different flowers. Pope Nicholas III cultivated the garden in the late 13th century and it is today managed by the Sapienza University of Rome. There are also facilities to welcome disabled visitors on a specially designed path with battery-powered chairs and a section of the garden, the Garden of Scents, providing the blind with information concerning the garden in braille.
Sacro Bosco - In the Villa Orsini, Sacro Bosco -- also known as the Park dei Monstri created by Prince Vicino Orsini -- is recognised as more of a sculpture park than a garden, but nevertheless rich in its greenery. Designed by Bomarzo, the park offers a plethora of statues of gods and beasts intertwined with ravines and nature. Discover at every corner some form of art atypical to what you would find at St. Peter’s. Visit the Villa of Wonders, a tragic work that Prince Vicino Orsini began dedicating to his wife until she suddenly died at a young age, prompting the project to stop and later continue in her honor. The symbolism within this sculpture park/garden is undeniable, so long as you are curious enough.