Share on Facebook

10 Unforgettable Things To Do in Rome

Need a little Italian sun? From Vatican City to the ancient Roman Forum, take a five-minute online vacation to explore the most beautiful and unforgettable things to do in Rome.

1 / 10

1. Visit The Roman Forum

Gazing on it today, a picturesque shambles of ruins and weeds, you would hardly guess that the Forum was the symbol of civic pride for 1,000 years. Its humble beginning, more than 3,000 years ago, was a swampy cemetery for the original village on Palatine Hill. Gradually it rose, ever more glorified, as Rome’s power grew. After the marsh was finally drained off in the 6th century BC, it took on its central role in the life of the Republic. The Forum showed its most elegant face starting with the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who is said to have turned the city from brick to marble.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

2 / 10

2. Visit Vatican City

The Vatican is the world’s smallest nation, covering just 120 acres and is a theocracy of just over 550 citizens, headed by the Pope, but its sightseeing complex is beyond compare. Within its wall are the ornate St. Peter’s Basilica, the astonishing Sistine Chapel, lush gardens, apartments frescoed by Fra’Angelico, Raphael and Pinturicchio and some 10 museums. The latter include collections of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; Paleochristian Renaissance and modern art; and a world-class ethnographic collection.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

3 / 10

3. Visit The Pantheon

When Emperor Phocas donated this paragon temple to Pope Boniface IV in 608, he unwittingly ensured that one of the marvels of ancient Rome would be preserved, virtually unaltered, in its new guides as the Christian church Santa Maria ad Martyres. Emperor Hadrian, an amateur architect, designed this lovely structure in AD 118-25. It has been lightly sacked over the ages – barbarians took portable pieces, Constans II stole its gilded roof tiles and, in 1625, Urban VIII melted down the portico’s bronze ceiling panels to make a cannon for Castel Sant’ Angelo. Yet the airy interior and perfect proportions remain a wonder of the world in its own time.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

4 / 10

4. Visit The Galleria Borghese

The Borghese Gallery is one of the world’s greatest small museums. A half dozen of Bernini’s best sculptures and Caravaggio paintings casually occupy the same rooms as Classical, Renaissance and Neo-Classical works. The setting is the beautiful frescoed 17th-century villa set in the greenery of Villa Borghese. Scipione patronized the young Bernini and Caravaggio, in the process amassing one of Rome’s riches private collections.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

5 / 10

5. Visit The Colosseum and Imperial Fora

The rich archaeological zone, rudely intruded upon by Mussolini’s Via dei Fori Imperiali, contains some of the most grandiose and noteworthy of Rome’s ancient remains. Dominating the area is the mighty shell of the Colosseum, constructed in AD 72-80 under the Flavian emperors and originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The quarter also holds other imperial wonders, such as the Arch of Constantine, the gigantic fora of various emperors, most notably Trajan’s, and the 1st century AD folly of Nero’s Golden House, now a subterranean revelation of Roman interior design. The Comune di Roma is constantly working on excavating the area and new discoveries are made every year. The Via dei Fori Imperiali is closed to traffic on Sundays to allow visitors to walk around the site undisturbed.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

6 / 10

6. Visit the Musei Capitolini

Capitoline Hill was ancient Rome’s religious heart, and is now home to a magnificent museum. A gently stepped grade, the Cordonata leads you up the hill and provides an unforgettably theatrical experience, just as Michelangelo planned it in the 16th century. At the top you notice the outstretched hand of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as he dispenses peace from astride his horse. The sides of the star-shaped piazza are graced by twin palaces that contain some of Rome’s greatest treasures. The collections in the Palazzo Nuovo, detailed below, and in the Palazzo dei Conservatori were inaugurated in 1471 with a donation of bronzes by Pope Sixtus IV, and have been judiciously added to ever since.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

7 / 10

7. Visit the Museo Nazionale Romano

The National Museum of Rome, with its excellent Classical art collection, grew too vast for its home in the Baths of Diocletian, which closed in 1981. In 1998 the collection was split between various sites, becoming a truly modern, 21st-century museum. The Ludovisi, Mattei and Altemps collections of sculpture moved into the gorgeous 16th-century Palazzo Altemps near Piazza Navona. The 19th-century Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, a former Jesuit College near Termini, received some of the best individual sculptures, as well as ancient mosaics and fantastic frescoes, some never previously displayed, as detailed below. The ancient Aula Ottagona inherited the oversized bathhouse sculptures; the Baths of Diocletian re-opened in 2000 with an important epigraphic collection and exhibition space.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Cebete)

8 / 10

8. Visit Santa Maria del Popolo

Few churches are such perfect primers on Roman art and architecture. Masters from the Early Renaissance (Pinturicchio, Bramante), High Renaissance (Raphael) and Baroque (Caravaggio, Bernini) exercised their genius in all of the few churches with major chapels still intact, preserving the artworks that together tell a complete story (most Italian chapels have been dismantled, their paintings now in museums). In the Cerasi Chapel, Caravaggio and Carracci collaborated with a frescoist to create a depiction of Peter, Paul and Mary and, on the vault, their connections to the Heaven. Bernini altered Raphael’s Chigi Chapel to help clarify the interplay of its art across the small space. .

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/robkbangor)

9 / 10

9. Visit San Clemente

Nowhere else in Rome can give such a clear idea of the city’s layering and millennia of cultural riches that this wonderful church. The very lowest level remains largely unexplored, dating back to Republican Rome, probably the 2nd century BC. At the deepest excavated level there are 1st-century AD dedicated to the Persian god, Mithras. Above that is a partially intact 4th-centiry AD basilica. When that edifice was burned in the Norman sacking of 1084, the space was filled in and a new church was built, using some of the original architectural elements. In 1857, the Irish discovered the lower church and began the long process of emptying out the rubble.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Michael Foley Photography)

10 / 10

10. Visit Ostia Antica

Some 2,000 years ago, ancient Rome’s lively international port city was right on the beach and at the mouth of the Tiber (ostium means “river’s mouth”). In the ensuing millennia the sea has retreated several kilometres and the river has changed course dramatically. Ostia was founded in the 4th century BC, first as a simple fort, but as Rome grew, the town became even more important as the distribution point for imports from around the Mediterranean. Grain was the most vital commodity, to feed Rome’s one million inhabitants, and so huge storage bins were built here. Goods were sent up to Rome on river barges. Ostia’s heyday ended in the 4th century AD, and it died completely as an inhabited area about 1,000 years ago.

(Photo courtesy of iStock)