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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Vatican Museums will beyond impress any visitor and features the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.
Maria's expert tip: Book your tickets online (http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va) and you'll avoid having to wake up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for a couple of hours. Buying your tickets online only costs you 4 euros more than what you'd pay at the ticket booth and is definitely worth it as you get to skip the line.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome and is renowned for its stunning Baroque fountains.
Maria's expert tip: For a serene view of Piazza Navona that's virtually empty and all to yourself, make your way over to the piazza around 7am.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Visit for the contemporary are but to also see a great example of Italian use of old and abandoned space.
Maria's expert tip: If you're in the area of Testaccio, check out MACRO's sister museum, the MACRO Testaccio, a former slaughter house-turned contemporary art museum.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: One of Rome's oldest market and still frequented daily by locals and tourists alike.
Maria's expert tip: Taking a stroll through the market won't cost you a dime. If you decide to buy something, it's best to make sure you have spicci (change) on hand as big bills are often frowned upon at the outdoor markets.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Don't miss the biggest church in the world and it's beautiful late Renaissance artwork.
Maria's expert tip: Make sure not to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. If caught with bare shoulders or your knees showing, you will be denied entry into the basilica.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The most unique way to explore Rome is through its food. The tour takes people off the beaten track and into real Roman neighborhoods.
Maria's expert tip: Get in early because group sizes are small and tours book out fast.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: MAXXI is Rome's center of excellence when it comes to modern and contemporary art.
Maria's expert tip: In the summer months, the MAXXI sometimes organizes free events such as musical performances, lectures and concerts.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Colosseum is the most recognizable monument in the world and is a must-see for all visitors.
Maria's expert tip: Admission to the Colosseum also grants you free access to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
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.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Trevi Fountain is the most famous fountain in the world and certainly one of the most beautiful.
Maria's expert tip: Make sure you know how to toss the coin in the right way. Toss the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder and your back to the fountain. One coin means you'll surely return to Rome. Two coins mean you'll return to Rome and find love at last. Three coins mean, you'll return to Rome and marry the love of your life.
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
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Pantheon is Rome's finest example of preserved ancient Rome monuments.
Maria's expert tip: Enter the Pantheon during some rainfall and you'll witness a cascade of rain entering through the large circular hole at the top of the dome. Onlookers are often marveled by the fact that the rain doeson't flood the floors of the monument. Rather, it creates a waterfall onto the resplendent marble floor and gradually drains away.