10 Historic Things to Do in Rome

Time Travel Through Rome's Best-Known Landmarks

The city of Rome is filled with world-famous historic sites. One could spend a week in this ancient city and still not see everything it has to offer. However, there are a few places in Rome that are considered “must-see” attractions due to their high-profile artistic, historical, and cultural values. They are some of the world’s ultimate sites to be seen and are on every world traveller’s checklist.

1

Colosseum

Explore the gladiators' underground chambers at the Colosseum

The Colosseum, built in AD 80, was the Roman Empire's largest amphitheatre, and still stands today as a reminder of the grandeur and barbarity of the time. Located 20 minutes southeast of the Vatican, it's where famous gladiatorial combats, wild animal hunts, and beast fights, were once held.

You can go on guided tours through the vast arena, and explore tunnels and passages where wild animals were transported, or step foot into the gladiators' underground chambers. Learn more about the site in its small exhibition area, which details the long history of the Colosseum and explains ongoing restoration works.

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2

St. Peter's Basilica

Be blessed by the pope at St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica is the most recognisable structure in the heart of the Vatican City, and is considered among the holiest sites in Christendom. The basilica is open for public visits, but there's a strict dress code in place, so avoid wearing shorts and tops with bare shoulders. The Renaissance-style church is 4 km west of the Colosseum.

Once you've got your scenic shots of St. Peter's Basilica and its dome from the square, you can consider climbing up its 320 steps to the top of the dome, for unrivalled views over the square and the cityscape of Rome.

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3

Trevi Fountain

Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain for good luck

Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque water feature in Rome, located in Piazza di Trevi, right in the city centre. One of the city's must-visits, the fountain features sculptures of the Roman god Neptune and other mythological figures, with the magnificent Palazzo Poli palace serving as a backdrop.

You can join other visitors at Trevi Fountain in the longstanding tradition of tossing in coins for good luck. There's plenty of dining options around the piazza, ranging from trattorias to pizzerias, including shops and kiosks right next to the fountain where you can buy coffee, cakes, and gelato.

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4

Roman Forum

Walk along the Roman Forum and imagine life in ancient times

The Roman Forum lies in a valley between Rome's Palatine and Capitoline hills, where you can stroll through a vast area filled with ancient Roman ruins of temples and basilicas with gigantic arches and towering columns, monuments, sculpted gardens, pools, and springs.

Among the temple ruins within the Roman Forum are those of Venus and Roma, Caesar, Vespasian and Titus, and Romulus. The most significant, the Temple of Saturn, has only its front portico left standing, but it still dominates the skyline. Segways are optional for exploring the valley, but are a fun alternative to walking around the 4-hectare site.

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5

Pantheon

See the tomb of Raphael at the Pantheon

Rome's Pantheon is among the city's most stunning landmarks. Still standing in the Piazza della Rotonda after almost 2,000 years, this ancient Roman temple houses beautiful chapels and historical tombs of some of Italy's most important figures, including Raphael and King Vittorio Emanuele.

Inside the Pantheon are massive marble columns and Renaissance sculptures adorning its altars. Looking up, you'll see intricate gold and blue mosaics of its dome ceilings, with richly colored marble under foot. The Fontana del Pantheon fountain, with its towering obelisk, is right outside.

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6

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona was once Rome's main market square. Today, it's one of the most popular, and charming, piazzas for enjoying a meal and soaking up the classical Baroque architecture. Overlooking the square, The Church of Sant'Agnese is particularly impressive, as are the magnificent fountains, such as the Fountain of the Four Rivers with its eye-catching Egyptian obelisk as its centerpiece.

Located just west of the Pantheon, Piazza Navona's cobblestone streets have been depicted in numerous works of film and literature, including Eugene Levy's Once Upon a Crime and Dan Brown's Angels & Demons.

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7

Campo de' Fiori

Buy fresh fruits and baked goods at Campo de' Fiori

Head down to Campo de' Fiori in the early mornings for one of the liveliest open-air market scenes in Rome. This piazza in the Parione district offers pleasant morning walks past rows of stalls selling colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, and scented flowers, with the pleasant aroma of freshly baked bread in the air.

An open-air bazaar by day, Campo de' Fiori takes on an eclectic Roman nightlife scene after sunset, with small clubs, laid-back bars and restaurants open late, some with seats overlooking the piazza and the bronze statue of Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno, at its centre.

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photo by Myrabella (CC BY-SA 3.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

8

Castel Sant'Angelo

Cross the Aelian Bridge over the Tiber to Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo, located just east of Vatican City, is an ancient fortress that was once Rome's tallest structure. Built by Emperor Hadrian as his family's mausoleum in the 2nd century AD, the castle now operates as a museum. It's accessible from the Piazza Navona by crossing the cobbled Aeilian Bridge.

Crossing the ancient angel bridge gives you a scenic view of the Castel Sant'Angelo, and the cityscape from here is stunning around sunset. Inside, discover richly decorated papal rooms, grand halls, walkways and treasuries, before hitting the rooftop cafe for a coffee with a view.

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9

Vatican Museums

See works by the old masters, Raphael and Michelangelo, at the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums, when combined, is the world's largest museum. Featuring over 50 galleries located on the northern border of Vatican City, you'll see some of the world's most important artworks by Renaissance maestros, such as Da Vinci, Raphael, Bellini, Titian, and Caravaggio.

You can enjoy free access to the Vatican Museums each last Sunday of the month, which also grants you entry into the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo's stunning ceiling frescoes. You can conclude your visit at The Vatican Museums with an impressive walk down the famous Bramante 'double helix' staircase.

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photo by HarshLight (CC BY 2.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

10

Piazza Venezia

Count the steps up Piazza Venezia's magnificent Altare della Patria

Piazza Venezia is a public space close to the eastern side of the Tiber, 1 km northwest of the Colosseum. The piazza takes its name from an adjacent palazzo of the same name, built by Pietro Barbo. It features a number of green spaces surrounded by magnificent domed palaces and monuments.

Overlooking the piazza is the sheer-white marble Altare della Patria, also known as the Monument of Victor Emmanuell II, Italy's first unified king. Here, you can visit the Museum of Italian Reunification at its base, or climb up its grand staircase for an immersive view of the square.

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