Whether exploring ancient architectural wonders, gorging on world-famous pizza and pasta, or appreciating the artistic treasures of the Vatican City, expats are bound to enjoy the many things to see and do in Rome. Of course, Rome is also the perfect base for weekend getaways if expats wish to explore the rest of Italy and Europe.
Known as the Eternal City, Rome was once the capital of one of the world’s mightiest empires and, for many, a capital of civilisation itself. While it no longer occupies this position, the monuments, memorials, museums and countless reminders of the city’s prominent history exist around every corner and in every alleyway. Here are some of Rome's top attractions.
Attractions in Rome
This enduring symbol is considered one of the most magnificent feats of ancient Rome and one of human civilisation's greatest surviving engineering accomplishments. The massive amphitheatre used to hold over 50,000 audience members and was used primarily for public spectacles and gladiatorial contests. Its architecture boasts an impressive array of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns and an underground network of cells, corridors, ramps and elevators that were used to transport animals from their cages to the arena. Years of erosion, pillaging and earthquake damage have taken their toll on the building, but it remains an impressive sight.
Capitoline Hill is a reminder of Roman civilisation at its strongest and is still the seat of the city’s government today. Several ground-level ruins are scattered about the area, but the major attraction is the stunning piazza surrounded by three palaces. These are the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the twin structures of the Palazzo dei Senatori and Palazzo Nuovo, which house the Musei Capitolini (the Capitoline Museums).
Within the Musei Capitolini, expats will find one of the world's largest collections of classical statues, including famous statues such as the Satyr, the Dying Gaul and the Capitoline Wolf with Romulus and Remus. After getting their fill of immaculate sculptures, expats can take one of the paths that climb the side of the hill for panoramic views of the ancient sites of the Forum and Colosseum.
For centuries, the Roman Forum was the nucleus of the city’s public life. The open rectangular area was the site of ancient Rome’s commercial, political and religious life. Some of the most notable monuments surrounding the square include the impressive Arch of Septimus Severus – designed to celebrate Roman victory over the Parthians – and the former atrium of the House of the Vestal Virgins and Temple of Vesta. Archaeological excavation continues, along with various restoration and preservation efforts.
The Pantheon is a testament to the architectural prowess of the ancient Romans. Originally built as a temple to all gods, this structure has been remarkably well-preserved. Its massive dome, with its famous central opening known as the oculus, is a marvel of engineering that has inspired architects for centuries. Visitors can wander inside to view the tombs of renowned figures such as the artist Raphael and two kings of Italy.
This elegant square is one of the most vibrant public spaces in Rome. Lined with restaurants, gelaterias, and bustling cafés, Piazza Navona is famous for its three magnificent fountains designed by Bernini and Giacomo della Porta, with the Fountain of the Four Rivers as its centrepiece. It’s a splendid place to while away an afternoon, admiring the baroque architecture or watching street performers.
The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna
Constructed in 1725, the Spanish Steps are a famous staircase that elegantly curves from the Piazza di Spagna to the Church of Santa Trinità dei Monti, a pastel-tinted neoclassical building. Bernini’s boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain can be found at the bottom of the steps, along with the Keats-Shelley Memorial House.
The Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums
Michelangelo’s iconic painted ceiling is the Vatican Museum’s most famous attraction. Expats should take time to explore the illustrious wings and walls of the museums, which house one of the world’s most significant collections of art. Works by Raphael, Botticelli, Rosselli and Ghirlandaio grace the building, as well as an impressive assembly of classical statues. The museum is located in Vatican City, the residence of the Catholic Pope.
Nestled within the lush greenery of Villa Borghese, Rome’s largest public park, the Galleria Borghese is home to a substantial collection of art, sculpture and antiques. Once the private collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, today it offers art aficionados a chance to see works by masters like Caravaggio, Titian, and Bernini. The villa itself is an architectural achievement, with its opulent rooms and picturesque gardens.
This medieval neighbourhood comprises narrow cobblestone streets accented with colourful flower boxes and washing soaking up the sun. Cafés, quaint restaurants and quirky boutiques abound, and the area has long been home to artists, expats and many of Rome’s most famous residents.
Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are amongst the largest and best-preserved ancient thermal complexes where Romans once indulged in their bathing rituals. Today, visitors can explore the extensive ruins and imagine the grandeur of the bathing chambers, gyms, and gardens that stood here. During the summer, the site is transformed into a dramatic backdrop for opera performances.
Rome's catacombs are an intricate network of underground burial passages that date back to the 2nd century. Christians used these subterranean crypts to bury their dead and conduct worship in secret during times of persecution. The catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastiano are open to the public, offering a haunting yet fascinating glimpse into early Christian art and rituals.
►Read Kids and Family in Rome for an overview of family-friendly activities in the city
►For more general leisure activities in the city, see Lifestyle in Rome
Image credits: Inside the Coliseo by Ruben Ramirez, View of the Foro Romano from Capitoline Museums by David Bruggink, Piazza Navona by Fernando Mola-Davis, White Vespa in Trastevere by Iga Palacz, all on Unsplash.
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