We decided to visit Rome almost two years after our train trip through Italy. We went in September not only to avoid the peak tourist season but also to avoid the heat that had been so insufferable on our last trip to Italy.
Despite having already visited most of the main Italian cities (Florence, Venice, Verona, Pisa…) we had really high expectations to visit the capital of them all. The truth is Rome had been on our original itinerary for our train trip through Italy, but it ended up being impossible for us to visit it. So, we were excited to be back and we had the exact same feeling we had had in Florence some years earlier: we had 3 days to get to know a city that has a million things to offer! How would we have time to see it all?
The truth is we didn’t. But this time, that made us feel happy. We definitely have endless reasons to return to Rome and Italy.
However, on a first trip to the Italian capital, there are some monuments that are a must on anyone’s itinerary. Here are our suggestions:
Legend says Roma was founded in 753 BC and everyone knows this was the capital of one of the greatest empires in ancient times. So, it’s not surprising that its historic center is the city’s main attraction. Here, you can feel the history of the incredible Roman Empire and revisit its main monuments. You can visit the Forum and Markets of Trajan, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Via Sacra, the Arch of Titus, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum. There is so much to see here, we’ve dedicated an entire post to Rome’s Historic Center.
In Rome’s historic center, the Colosseum is the greatest prodigy of Roman civilization. Today, you can visit the largest amphitheater in ancient times. Read more about our visit to the Colosseum here.
Another one of Rome’s iconic landmarks, the Pantheon is simply impreesive. How can a monumento this old, with almost 2,000 years (it was built in the 1st century!), be so well preserved today? It survived centuries and it’s here today to amaze us with all the stories it has to tell. Besides functioning as a church today, the Pantheon also houses the tombs of the famous painter Rafael and the Italian kings Victor Emanuel II and Umberto I.
There are many squares in Rome, but Piazza Navona quickly became our favorite. It manages to be, at the same time, the city’s most romantic and most social places. Streets artists, cafes, restaurants, palaces, fountains with a beautiful architecture. It’s a must to stop here and feel Rome, enjoy a moment together by the fountain as you listen to the most romantic Italian songs, sung by the best artists in the city.
VITTORIO EMANNUEL II MONUMENT
Located on Piazza Venezia, the heart of Rome, this monument to Victor Emmanuel II was inaugurated in 1911 and immediately raised some controversy. The Romans didn’t like to see such a huge part of Capitoline Hill destroyed and thought the construction was a bit exaggerated (it’s been often compared to a wedding cake). However, it’s an impressive monument, all in marble, and located in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares. You can climb up to the terrace and get an excellent view over Rome.
FONTANA DI TREVI
This is Rome’s most famous fountain and considered by many (us included!) as the most beautiful fountain in the world. Thousands of tourists flock here to participate in the coin-tossing tradition. Legend has it that if you throw a coin to the fountain, you’ll return to Rome one day!
SCALINATA DI SPAGNA
The famous stairwell is located on the also famous Spanish Square that owes its name to the Spanish Palace. On a summer night, the amount of people here is just impressive. Everyone sits on the steps, having an Italian gelato, to relax and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Rome.
CASTEL SANT ANGELO
Built in 139 AD originally as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, throughout the centuries the castle was used as a defense outpost, a prison, and a fort for the Popes whenever there were protests in the city (there is even a tunnel that connects the castle to the Palace of the Vatican!). Today, the castle is visited by tourists from all corners of the world who want to take in the panoramic views of Rome and the Vatican that the castle’s terrace offers. A must!
It’s on top of Capitoline Hill that you’ll find the oldest national museum in the world. The Capitoline Museum is a collection of palaces (Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori) located on Capitoline Square that house a number of sculptures and paintings. The most famous are the sculptures of the Capitoline Worlf (the famous statue of a she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus), Discobolus and the Dying Gaul. Caravaggio’s portrait of Saint John the Baptist and Pietro da Cortona’s Rape of the Sabine Women are the most famous paintings.
Alright, the truth is you actually have to leave Rome to enter the Vatican but this is a mere technicality. In reality, this independent city-state is located inside the city of Rome and you just need to enter its walls to enter a whole new world! Visiting the Vatican is something that will take you a few hours to check out this post that we dedicated exclusively to the main monuments of the capital of Catholicism.