Top Ten Things to See and Do in Rome
By Maria Pasquale
Rome Local Expert
Rome wasn't built in a day, nor does anyone expect you to see it in one either. From monuments and museums to churches and amazingly intact archeological sites, there's plenty to keep visitors of the Eternal City busy.
Museum buffs with a particular interest in some of the world's finest collection of Baroque and Renaissance art will certainly find plenty to do and marvel at inside the Vatican Museums. More of a modern and contemporary art type of person? Head to the new kid on the block, the MAXXI museum.
If you're a history buff interested in witnessing some of Ancient Rome's best preserved monuments, visiting the Colosseum and the Pantheon will certainly be on the top of your list. For those looking for a holier than thou experience, head to the mother of all churches, St. Peter's Basilica.
Or maybe you're coming to Rome to eat. If so, look no further than Eating Italy Food Tours. This unique Rome tour will have you eating for 4 hours on the streets of Rome in off the beaten track neighborhoods that locals cherish but tourists don't even dream about.
However you decide to spend your time in Rome, don't forget to stop every now and then and make an attempt to take it all in. It is after all, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and you'll be pinching yourself from the moment you arrive.
Visiting the Eternal City and not making a stop at the Vatican Museums is almost like breaking one of the ten commandments. It's where some of the world's greatest art collection is stored. The Vatican Museums are actually a part of the Vatican palaces, where popes have lived since the 1200s. Inside you'll find works such as Egyptian relics, Etruscan artifacts, Renaissance paintings and Greek and Roman sculptures and busts, all housed in maze of apartments, galleries and palaces. Let's also not forget about, perhaps what many consider to be the true gem of it all, the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo's famous Last Judgement can be seen. Entrance is free on the last Sunday of the month (9:00am-2:00pm), with last entry 90 minutes before doors close. From Monday to Saturday (9:00am-6:00pm), last entry is 2 hours before closure time. Metro: stations Ottaviano-Musei Vaticani; Cipro. Bus: 49. Tram: 19. (06-69883860)
You can't get anymore Baroque beautiful than Piazza Navona. This piazza has it all: three glorious fountains, Bernini sculptures, a lovely outdoor caf� scene and the magnificent Sant'Agnese in Agone church. In the first century A.D., this piazza was built over the Stadium where Emperor Domitian hosted chariot races and other contests. The most prominent of the fountains in the piazza is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Bernini created the fountain for Pope Innocent X in 1651. The fountain represents the four rivers and four corners of the world: the Nile; the Plata, the Danube and the Ganges. BUS 40, 64, 492, 30. (060608)
Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma (MACRO)
What was once the location of a Peroni brewery (one of the most famous Italian beer makers) in the Salario-Nomentano distrit of Rome, is now the industrial space where Rome's uber sleek contemporary art museum, the MACRO is located. The museum recently underwent a massive makeover, giving it a stylish mod steel and glass exterior design. MACRO often showcases light installations, contemporary and pop artworks by world-renowned and emerging Italian and international artists. The collection covers pieces dating back to the 1960s through today. The museum also has a sister site in Testaccio which also feature contemporary art. BUS: 80, 38. (06 6710 70400)
Campo de' Fiori Market
If you feel like visiting quintessential Rome, there's no better place to do it than at the Campo de' Fiori open air market or mercato all'aperto. Taking a stroll through this market, gives you a glimpse of Italian culture. Once inside, you'll witness the vendors take center stage as they turn the art of selling a tomato into an off-Broadway performance. By day, the Campo de' Fiori market sells all types of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meats and even fish. There's also a lovely flower market in the far corner of the piazza. The Campo de' Fiori Market is open Monday through Saturday from 7.30am-1.30pm. BUS: 40, 64, 46. TRAM: 8. (060608)
St. Peter's Basilica
Commonly referred to as the 'mother of all churches,' St. Peter's Basilica was comissioned in 324 AD by Constantine as a church to be dedicated to the Apostle Peter. The church was reportedly built on the burial site of this most influential Christian, who was crucified upside down in the nearby Circus of Nero in 64 AD. The original church was destroyed in the 16th century, and the present church was built on the same site. Guided tours of excavations around Peter's tomb are available. Fall and winter closures are about one hour earlier. It is also possible to visit the top of St. Peter's dome by either climbing the stairs (about 500 steps) for 5 euro or taking the elevator all the way up for 7 euro. METRO: Ottaviano/San Pietro, BUS: 46, 64, 492. (06-69883731)
Eating Italy Food Tours
Rome's number #1 rated food tour and only one of its kind, runs daily except for Sundays in two real Roman neighborhoods (Testaccio and Trastevere). On this four hour journey through the streets of Rome, you will get to enjoy about 10 authentic tastings (from tiramisu to buffalo mozzarella to pizza) at gourmet food stores, bars, a restaurant & fresh food market. You will get to really know the city through its people, culture and cuisine in a truly unique way and the best part of the tour (aside from the unforgettable food!) is that it takes you to the parts of Rome that you wouldn't have ordinarily stumbled upon. (800-838-3006)
Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo (MAXXI)
The new kid on the block in Rome is the MAXXI museum (Museo di Arte del XXI Secolo) which opened in 2010 in the Flaminio area. The museum has the famous Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid to thank for its stunning 60 million euro design and creation. The MAXXI holds some of Italy's most prized contemporary pieces of art and is divided into two sections, namely "MAXXI art" and "MAXXI architecture". It also contains a library specializing in art and architecture and galleries where exhibitions and special performances are held. The museum also takes part in the annual Rome International Film Festival held in November. TRAM:2. BUS: 53, 217, 280, 910. (06/3210181)
One of the best preserved monuments and best examples of Ancient Roman architecture in the city is the Colosseum. It took nearly ten years to build one of the world's largest public venues: heroic arches, columns and windows that stood 160 feet high and a seating capacity of 50,000 which made this arena so immense and prominent. Construction of the arena was ordered by Vespasian in A.D. 72 and was inaugurated by Titus in A.D. 80 with combat games involving gladiators and animals. Aside from bloody battles, legend has it that Christians were also fed to the lions at the Colosseum. BUS: 87, 571. METRO: Colosseo It was also here that Christians were fed to the lions. (06-7005469)
Thanks to Fellini's Dolce Vita, the Trevi Fountain has served as a picturesque backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters like Three Coins in a Fountain and Roman Holiday and a dream come true for young women looking for love. Legend has it, throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, will ensure you a return trip to the Eternal City. The fountain is a dramatic aquatic marvel for visitors thanks to its vast basin ensconced between three tiny streets (the "tre vie,") with cascades of water that appear to be streaming from the wall of Palazzo Poli. Believe it or not, the Trevi Fountain is quite the money maker. Authorities say it rakes in some 600,000 a year, all of which is donated to charity. (06.06.08)
After the Colosseum, undoubtedly one of Rome's best preserved monuments is the Pantheon. It was originally meant to be a pagan temple only to be later converted into a church. The original rectangular facility, which was comprised of 16 granite columns, serves as the porch of the dome structure. The immense preserved building, located in Piazza della Rotonda, makes photographs postcard perfect. The piazza where the Pantheon is located also happens to be a favorite hangout for young people and a popular sport for diners eating a meal at one of the various outdoor cafés. BUS: 40, 64, 46, 916 (06-68300230)
About Maria Pasquale
Born to Italian parents, Maria always knew Rome was her destiny, although she was raised in Melbourne. She has a formal background in political science and policy and now runs her own event management & PR company, through which she manages marketing & social media for Eating Italy Food Tours in Rome. An unabashed romantic (Rome being her one true love!) she is the creator of popular food, travel and lifestyle blog HeartRome (www.heartrome.com). In Rome you'll find her walking the streets of Trastevere, checking out the latest bar for an aperitivo or dining with friends.
Read more about Maria Pasquale here.