Welcome to part 2 in my Rome: 30 Things to See & Do series. Last weeks post outlined the first 15 things to see and do in The Eternal City which offers visitors so many things to see and do that you could, as the name suggests, spend eternity there and not get bored.
For most, a visit to Rome is done in just a few days where you really only get to skim the surface in terms of seeing and doing everything this city has to offer.
But if you happen to have a bit more time, a week, month or more, then this list of 30 things to see and do will provide you with plenty to keep you busy, interested, entertained and informed on Rome’s fascinating history. It will have you visiting the well trodden popular sights and getting slightly off the beaten path, enjoying some of the less visited sights.
So let’s finish off this series with part two, the last 15 of the 30 top things to see and do in Rome.
Pope Julius II founded the Vatican Museum in the 6th century to display some of the world’s most important relics. Over the years various Pope’s have collected and commissioned priceless works of art that now form a collection of over 70,000 pieces with another 50,000 plus pieces being preserved in the vaults. The most popular part of the Vatican Museum is undoubtedly the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel. It’s here where you will find the famous Michelangelo painted ceiling and The Last Judgement, which is believed to be Michelangelo’s crowning achievement in painting. It is quite impressive looking up at the ceiling, thinking of the years that Michelangelo spent creating this masterpiece.
Read More: Tips for Visiting the Vatican City on Reflections on Route
You will find the Capitoline Museum right near the Colosseum and is a place often overlooked by visitors to the more popular attractions in this area. If your interested in the history of the Roman Empire then this is definitely the museum for you. Inside you will find works of art from Roman times as well as a few replicas of ancient Greek sculptures. Among the most impressive Roman statues on displays are those of Roman leaders Nero, Aurelius and Constantine.
The Spanish Steps are probably the most famous set of stairs in the world. The stairs were built by French diplomat Etienne Gueffer in 1723-1725 as a way of linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and the Trinita dei Monti church at the top with the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldechi below. As the widest staircase in Europe you can walk the 135 stairs to the top, hang out on the stairs with the thousands of tourists who visit this spot each day and wander around Piazza di Spagna, the square at the bottom of the stairs. Make sure you visit at nighttime as well, when the stairs are lit which makes for a very romantic stroll after dinner with a gelato.
Piazza Navona, to me, is the most beautiful of all the squares in Rome. It features three magnificent fountains and is surrounded by some of the best Baroque Roman architecture in the city. The Piazza was established in the 15th century and was created in the shape of the Stadium of Domitian that once stood here. The stadium dates from 86AD and actually had a larger arena than the Colosseum. The buildings surround the square today stand where the spectators use to sit, giving you a good perspective of how massive the arena was. Right in the centre of the Piazza stands the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers. Designed by Bernini in 1651, it is topped with the Obelisk of Domitian which was brought to the Piazza in pieces from the Circus of Maxentius.
Read More: Romantic Hidden Gem in Rome on Worldwide Wendy
Campo de’ Fiori
As one of Rome’s most atmospheric squares, you will find Campo de’ Fiori abuzz with locals and tourists day and night. During the day it is one of the city’s more popular produce markets offering fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers to the locals who are regulars at these stalls and the tourists passing by. At night, the stall holders have packed up and the square is taken over with people socialising, relaxing and taking an evening stroll.
The Pantheon, also known as “Temple of the Gods”, was rebuilt by Hadrian in around 126AD but was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as early as 27BC and is today one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the world. From the front you see the portico of large granite Corinthian columns with the concrete dome rising above. Step inside the rotonda to peer up into the dome and the central opening where the light (and sometimes rain) streams through onto the original marble floor below. The dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world with the height to the central opening and the diameter of the interior circle the same at 43.3 metres.
Read More: Two Days in Rome: Your Complete Itinerary on Our Escape Clause
Audience with the Pope
Most Sunday’s at noon, St Peter’s Square is packed to the brim with people waiting to see and hear the pope give his weekly blessing. When the pope is in Rome, he will appear on his apartment balcony overlooking the square and delight all of the devoted people waiting to hear what he has to say. On Wednesday mornings there is also another opportunity to see the pope and receive a more personal blessing. This time tickets are required but they are free. It is a smaller group and blessings are read in a range of languages to suit you and your group.
For centuries the Roman Forum was the heart of ancient Rome, a place for public speeches, criminal trials and triumphal processions. It was full of statues and monuments of the city’s greatest and it was and still is, one of the most celebrated meeting places in the world throughout history. Three thousand years ago when the Roman Forum was born, it slowly became the social and political centre of the Roman Empire. It was around the 7th century BC that it really started to take off as a home to markets and social activity. It quickly became crowded with people flocking from all over to witness and participate in one of the many spectacles going on or simply meet with others to comment and chat about things like political issues or military campaigns. Today this area located between Palatine and Capitoline Hills is a sprawling ruin of architectural pieces and the site of regular archaeological excavations. There is a lot to see and take in here and you could easily spend a few hours wandering around the grounds.
Altare della Patria
Also know as the Monument Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Altare della Patria was built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy and is one of the more controversial monuments in Rome. Completed in 1925, it is the largest white marble Botticino monument ever created and one of the whitest in Europe. It features stairways, Corinthian columns, a scultpure of Victor Emmanuel and statues of goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. The monument is 135 metres wide and 70 metres tall and takes up an area of 17,000 square metres. Inside you will find the Italian Unification Museum and an elevator that takes you up to the roof top for 360 degree views of Rome.
Built by the Romans, the Aurelian Walls are arguable among the best remaining examples of Roman architecture left in the world. They once completely surrounded ancient Rome and were used right up until the 18th century as city fortifications. The best places to see the walls now, as they are no longer fully intact, are the sections that remain near Villa Borgese and the Apian Way. Both of these locations offer the chance to get close to the most well preserved parts that still remain.
Temple of Hadrian
The Temple of Hadrian was built in 145, and while it is not as well kept as the nearby Pantheon, the parts that do remain are rather impressive. The one wall that survived includes 11 of the original 15 metre high Corinthian columns. In the 17th century this wall was incorporated into the papal palace by Carlo Fontana with the building now being occupied by a bank. While some of the stones used in the original building survived, they are no longer in the building walls, rather, they were used to construct the adjacent Piazza di Pietra.
While the birthplace of pizza in Italy was a little further south in Naples, Rome is still a great place to grab a slice or two of one of the world’s most popular foods. You can find a pizzeria on every second corner in Rome, with some offering a sit down eating experience where you can order a whole pie while others offer the chance to order from street vendors by the slice. It can be tough finding “the best” pizza in the city and while trawling through the pages and pages on the net regarding this subject, I found so many different opinions on which places serves “the best”. My advice when choosing somewhere to eat is always look for a place that is busy and looks to have at least a few locals eating there. And when ordering, try to stick with a pizza that has only a few toppings so you can really taste that delicious fresh tomato homemade sauce.
Being in the centre of one of the world’s best wine producing countries means that you are going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to sampling the local wine in Rome. When you sit down in a restaurant or bar in Rome the wine list will be extensive and include wines from world famous regions like Tuscany and Umbria, plus lesser known regions in eastern and southern Italy. Take the opportunity to sample what is usually very expensive back home and enjoy drinking like a local at local prices.
One of the largest green spaces in the city is Villa Borghese, an English style garden that contains a number of interesting buildings and is a great way to spend a few hours away from the crowds of the ancient city. The gardens were originally made in 1605 by architect Flaminio Ponzio from sketches by Scipione Borghese who used the villa for parties and to house his art collection. In the 19th century the gardens were redesigned and are as you see them today. On the property is of course the villa itself and the Galleria Borghese where you will find one of the best collections of Renaissance art in the world. Everything from paintings, to sculptures and antiques dating back to Roman times can be found in the gallery, plus a few mosaics that date back over 2,000 years.
Underneath Rome are at least forty catacombs, underground burial places, used mostly for Christian burials since the 2nd century AD. The walls and ceilings of some of these catacombs contain paintings which are thought to be some of the earliest examples of religious art with some chambers decorated in well-preserved mosaics. Only a few of these catacombs are safe and open for visitors and are offered only as a guided tour.
Where to Stay in Rome
Over to you!
What’s your favourite place in Rome? Or where do you want to see the most?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.