There’s so much to see and so much to do it can be overwhelming. If you only have a day or two, which is a shame, these are your don’t miss sights.
Easily Rome’s most recognizable monument, the Colosseum is a must see for sports fans. Started in 72 A.D. by Vespasian and finished in 80 A.D. by his son Titus, this ultimate Sports arena was the precursor for NFL stadiums everywhere. They had tickets with specifies gates, rows and seats, refreshments, halftime entertainment and paid sponsors. What they didn’t have were egotistical, arrogant athletes, holding out for more money. They had their own ways to deal with holdouts and contract disputes and made them part of the entertainment as well.
After being almost completely destroyed by fire, the Pantheon was rebuilt by Hadrian in 118 A.D. The best preserved of the ancient monuments, it is another engineering marvel and best of all, free. The top of the dome is open, the floors have holes to drain the rainfall and the artist Raphael is entombed there. The piazza out front is fun too, just don’t get suckered into paying to take a photo with the characters there. Believe me, there are plenty of free characters in Rome to photograph.
Free tip here: right across the street is the church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi). Just drop in, and prepare to have your mind blown. The Caravaggio’s at the back left altar as well as the entire church are stunning. This church, like many others in Rome is open, free, and will be one of the best stops you make.
This lively square is just a few short blocks from the Pantheon and a must see mainly for Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. It contains an Egyptian Obelisk but what square in Rome doesn’t? The Romans lifted so many obelisks from Egypt, I doubt there are any actually left there. The square is usually full of artists, either working or selling, along with plenty of tourists playing or buying. Ringed with restaurants it is a great place to grab a bite or a drink, though walking just a block away brings the price down big time.
This is the biggest and whitest building in the area and is known affectionately or insultingly as the Wedding cake, or the Typewriter. It is located at Piazza Venezia and is practically brand new by Roman standards since it was just recently built in the early 1900s. It is a massive building with a monument to Italy’s Unknown Soldier, a museum and a view that can’t be beat. After walking up quite a few stairs to hit the mid-point balcony, you will happily discover a glass elevator, well worth the 7 Euro charge to get to the top terrace. There you will be rewarded with one of the best views of Rome.
The Trevi Fountain
This place is packed all the time. Of course, that can be said about most of Rome as well. This is a must see, not only because of the Baroque fountain by Nicola Salvi, but because it is said tossing a coin in will ensure your return to Rome. That was enough to get me to push through the throngs to get my shot.
Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum
If you’re a Michelangelo fan and, come on who isn’t, this is obvious. The museum is one of the most famous in the world with works from ancient Greece to more modern works from the Renaissance Masters (come on this is Rome, anything less than 500 years old is modern.)Then behold the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s most famous work. The 3D effect he accomplished with paint is amazing and doesn’t even require special glasses.
You’re already there at the Vatican, so you may as well stop in and see the largest church in the world. It holds Michelangelo’s Pieta, one of the most stunning marble sculptures you’ll find. He finished it at the ripe old age of 23 and actually put his name on it-something he never did- because no one believed such a youngster could pull off such a masterful work. The church is enormous, gorgeous, awe-inspiring and a whole bunch more adjectives. Bernini’s Baldacchino sculpture is also there along with a couple of dead popes. Quite a few popes are entombed around the church along with St Pete himself under the altar, but there are two whose embalmed bodies are in glass enclosed cases. Maybe a bit on the macabre side but a sure bet to entice that whining youngster to stick to the tour.
One of the oldest and most famous of Rome’s museums, this palace in the Villa Borghese Park is full of Berninis along with other master works by Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio If you like the fountain in Navona square, you’ll love this place. Reservations are required and trust me, they really are. In all honesty, something I should use after almost going to confession in St. Peter’s, we didn’t get in to see this jewel because the next available reservations were days after we left. Here’s hoping that coin I threw in the Trevi fountain really brings us back to Rome.
Now that you know where to go, toss the Nikon in your Camsafe and let’s go!