Few cities evoke the sheer wonder and amazement of Rome. Ancient history, outstanding art and religious icons are around every corner and when it all gets too much you can just join the locals in sipping espresso in one of the city’s many squares.
With so much to see and do, the real test will be trying to fit it all in. To give you a hand we’ve put together this list of the absolute essentials.
A monument to raw, merciless power, the Colosseum (Colosseo) is the most thrilling of Rome’s ancient sights. It is not just the amazing completeness of the place, or its size, but the sense of violent history that resonates: it was here that gladiators met in mortal combat and condemned prisoners fought off wild beasts in front of baying, bloodthirsty crowds. Two thousand years later it is Italy’s top tourist attraction, pulling in between 16,000 and 19,000 people on an average day.
Along with the Colosseum, the Pantheon is one of Rome’s iconic sights. A striking 2000-year-old temple (now a church), it is the city’s best-preserved ancient monument and one of the most influential buildings in the Western world. The greying, pock-marked exterior might look its age, but inside it is a different story and it is an exhilarating experience to pass through its towering bronze doors and have your vision directed upwards to the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Visiting the Vatican Museums is an unforgettable experience that requires strength, stamina and patience. You will need to be on top of your game to endure the inevitable queues – if not for a ticket then for the security checks – and enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the world’s great museum complexes.
St. Peter’s Basilica
In Vatican City, a city of astounding churches, St. Peter’s Basilica outdazzles them all. Awe-inspiringly huge, rich and spectacular, it is a monument to centuries of artistic genius. On a busy day, around 20,000 visitors pass through here. If you want to be one of them, remember to dress appropriately – no shorts, miniskirts or bare shoulders.
Piazza di Spagna and Spanish steps
The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) provide a perfect auditorium for people-watching, and have been a magnet for visitors since the 18th century. The Piazza di Spagna was named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, and consequently the steps were so-named, although they were designed by the Italian Francesco de Sanctis and built in 1725 with a legacy from the French.
Source: Lonely Planet Guide.