Rome, one of the most attractive European capitals, is so rich in art and history that plenty of interesting monuments to visit can be found in every corner. And with so much to see and so many things to do, planning a good visit is not an easy task.
So here is a list of the top monuments to visit in Rome that you really should not miss no matter how long you are planning to stay.
Let’s start with the most popular ones…
1. The Colosseum
If you are visiting the eternal city, the Colosseum must be your first stop. The biggest amphitheatre of the world is Rome’s most famous trademark and a building that has seen almost 2000 years of Roman history, since it was completed by Titus in 80 AD. At the moment it is undergoing a clean-up that will be completed in October 2016. In the meantime the Colosseum will still be open to the public.
2. Mercati Traianei
Once left the giant arena, walking on Via dei Fori Imperiali, you will reach the Mercati Traianei, a big complex of ruins that will bring you back to the time of the Roman Empire. This is the place where most of the administrative tasks were taking place. Not all the areas are open to the public but what is accessible will give you a good idea of what life was in ancient Rome.
3. St. Peter Basilica
Certainly not less popular than the Colosseum is St. Peter Basilica. The impressive church is the heart of the Vatican City and the iconic image of Catholicism. The modern basilica was built in the XVI century with the involvement of several big artists including Bramante, Raffaello and Michelangelo and the interiors are just a joy for the eyes especially for Baroque art lovers. The entrance is free as for all the other churches of Rome.
4. Castel Sant’Angelo
At the other end of Via della Conciliazione, the long and large road leading to St Peter, is Castel Sant’Angelo, originally built as Hadrian Mausoleum and then later used as a fortress, a prison and a castle. Unfortunately there isn’t much left of the original structure, but its history and its strategic position overlooking the Tiber makes it a special place. If you are visiting Rome in summer don’t miss the night openings.
5. Santa Maria Maggiore
Another impressive church to visit is Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome built in the V century on top of the Esquilino hill. The church has been revised and restored several times but despite the various interventions, the interiors have maintained the original plan of 3 aisles and its spectacular mosaics.
Every year, on the 5th of August a cascade of white petals is sent down from the ceiling to commemorate the miraculous snow fall that is said the Virgin Mary induced to indicate to Pope Liberio where he had to build her church.
6. Basilica di San Clemente
A short walk from the Colosseum will take you to another church that needs to be on your list of the top 10 monuments to visit in Rome: the Basilica di San Clemente. The peculiarity of this building is that it is divided in 3 levels. The upper level, the current church, has been built in the XII century.
Under this, in the XIX century, an older construction dating from the VI century has been found. At the lower level there is what is left of two republican houses and a Mithraeum. Visiting this place is like travelling back in time among beautiful frescoes, mosaics and ancient ruins.
7. Trevi Fountain
Back into the historic centre of the city, you must visit the Trevi Fountain, beautiful example of Baroque art and a must for all tourists and Fellini’s lovers of La Dolce Vita. Once there, don’t forget to throw your coin (with the right hand over the left shoulder) and make the wish to come back, if it doesn’t work at least you will have made an offer to the needy of the city!
8. Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi
Talking about fountains, the other one on this must-see list is the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, one of the most beautiful works of GianLorenzo Bernini. The fountain, characterised by a massive base with four statues representing the four major rivers of the four continents, is situated in the middle of the exquisite Piazza Navona.
9. Ara Pacis Augustae
Not more than a kilometre away from Piazza Navona is another important monument of ancient Rome: the Ara Pacis Augustae. This white elegant altar, finely decorated with friezes on the outside, dates back to the I century. It was built in Augustus’ name to celebrate his return from Spain and Gaul.
Its current position though is not the original one; what you can visit nowadays is a reconstruction done with the rests found on the ancient site.
Last but not less important on this top 10 is the Pantheon. Once again another monument dating back to ancient Rome, built in the I century as a temple and then later converted into a church. The interior is magnificent and spacious, lightened by the oculus in the big dome.
It is one of the most imitated monuments and the piazza in front of it is full of lively cafés where to rest and relax with an aperitif after a day of sightseeing.