Things to see and do - Rome
Postcard From Rome :
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Postcard From Rome
Postcard From RomePedestrian, 10 km, 3 days
A walk in the most popular and charming places of the "Eternal City" that allows you to discover the attractions of Rome.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
The work on this huge arena began in AD 72, on part of the site occupied by Nero's Golden House (Domus Aurea). Its three arcaded tiers of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns are topped by a wall, punctuated by band-moulded pilasters. It is the biggest amphitheatre in the Roman world. Originally known as the Flavian amphitheatre, it was later called the Colisseum, perhaps because of the huge statue of Nero which once stood near it, or simply because of its gigantic size: 527 m in circonference and 57 m high. The building was a symbol of Roman greatness and from the day of its inauguration by Titus, in AD 80, the games lasted for a hundred days! Inside, you'll see a 188-m by 156-m, very rounded oval shape, surrounded by an impressive wall, once topped by steps. It is believed that there was room for about 50 000 spectators - 45 000 seated and 5 000 standing. You can now see the wings, under the former arena.
Harmony, charm, majesty... You must visit this square as soon as possible, while trying to imagine that you're alone there, for a while. You'll need a lot of imagination indeed, as its is so often overrun... It was covered with monuments and temples in Antiquity, left to goats in the Middle Ages and was redeveloped, thanks to Michelangelo's designs (not always respected), from 1536 onwards. Once, overlooking the Forum, it is now open to the modern city, from which you can reach it via the Cordonata Steps. On either side of the staircase, the statues of the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux, from the end of the Empire era, were found on the Campo di Marzo, in the 16th century. At the centre, the equestrian statue of Marcus-Aurelius, back in place, watches philosophically (he was often in that mood) the mixed crowd filling the square. Marius Trophies and military columns complete the decor of this trapezoid square, closed by the Palace of the Senate, flanked on your right by the the Palace of the Conservatori, and on your left by the New Palace, which presently houses the renovated and extended Capitoline Museum.
This church's wide facade, overlooking the Aracoeli Steps is one of Rome's most famous tourist views. It was built on the site of the citadel, then where Juno's temple once stood. The church was erected from 1250 onwards, by Franciscan monks. Its name stems from a temple (ara) dedicated to the Goddess of the sky (coeli), unless the former citadel's name was distorted (arx). Beyond the austere brick facade , you can see a superb wooden ceiling, donated by Marcantonio Colonna, and a marble pavement, one of the best preserved works by the Cosmati family, a monumental mason corporation (descendants of a certain Cosma), active from the 12th to the 14th century. The church houses numerous works of art: the St. Bernard of Sienna chapel, decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio, tomb of Cardinal d'Albret by Andrea Bregno, Giovanni Crivelli's tombstone attributed to Donatello, Cardinal Matteo d'Acquasparta's Italian Gothic monument. It was also the church of the Santo Bambino, whose figure was renowned for its miraculous powers. Unfortunately, it was unable to reappear, after having been stolen in February 1994... but as Christmas draws closer, children are always grouped together in order to recite "sermons" in front of the Holy Child.
Whether you like the "Jesuit style", or not, you should go and see this church, built in 1575. It is that style's prototype and has often been copied around the world. The facade by Giacomo Della Porta, is strict and solemn, as it was supposed to be for the sanctuary of the strongest militants of the Counter-Reformation cause. It hides an incredibly rich interior, produced at the height of Baroque Art. Its decoration is a far cry from the austerity of Romanesque churches ! If the majestic Latin cross plan meets the Company's requirements, the luxurious multicoloured marble, paintings, sculptures, bronze statues, stuccoes and gold decoration leave you breathless ! The vault is decorated with frescoes by Baciccia (1679), combining the science of composition with trompe-l'oeil exuberance. Notice how the painted surfaces move on into relief decorations, representing the damned that are swept off into a tumultuous movement... LThe St. Ignatius Loyola Altar, by Andrea Pozzo, is another masterpiece. There are lapis-lazuli columns supported by green marble, gilded bronze low reliefs, a lapis-lazuli terrestrial globe, allegorical statues... Not to be missed ! Andrea Pozzo also produced the trompe-l'oeil paintings decorating the vaults and corridor walls of the house where Ignatius Loyola lived and died, at n° 45 of the square.
"The Pantheon is the most perfect piece of Roman architecture left to us", exclaimed Stendhal. We can only agree with him, when entering this temple built by Agrippa, in 27 B.C. It was dedicated to all gods and rebuilt by Hadrian, in the 2nd century A.D. In the 7th century, it was converted into a church ! As soon as you'll pass the porch and its 16 monolithic granite columns, you'll be amazed by the impression of greatness and harmony of this huge circular hall. The incredibly bold, ancient dome rises to 43.30 m and is pierced in the middle by a huge opening, which provides the building's only source of light. The interior is punctuated by monolithic columns, distributed in front of niches that are alternately round or rectangular. These have been converted into chapels. In one of them, the first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II (1820-1878) is buried. The painter, Raphael, who died in 1520, was placed in a fine antique sarcophagus, on which Pietro Bembo's famous tribute says the following: "Nature was frightened of being conquered when he looked at it; now that he's dead, it's scared of dying" ! We can feel deep emotion here, in this place full of magic from the past and ancient greatness.
This symbolic place is filled with crowds from morning 'til night. Café terraces (including the historical Tre Scalini, famous for its tartuffi !) are overrun, fountain coping is used as temporary benches by harassed strollers, caricaturists offer to draw your portrait, pigeons and turtledoves coo in unison, musicians and buffoons gather onlookers. If a drop of rain falls on your head, suddenly an armada of Bangladeshis appear from nowhere and propose the sale of an umbrella... It is a permanent theatre, where Rome is on stage and watches itself live! It is an elongated square, in memory of the Stadium of Domitian. It has ochre, almost red facades; fountains: particularly The Rivers Fountain commissioned from Bernini by Pope Innocent X, with an obelisk from the Via Appia in the middle. It also has the fountains of the Moors and Neptune, placed at opposite ends of the square; a facade by Borromini, the concave facade of Sant'Agnese church, the Palazzo Pamphili, which houses the Brazilian Embassy... An emperor, a pope, two Baroque masters: this is typical Rome, an ancient city, redesigned by popes, summarised here ! Why not admit that you prefer Neptune's Fountain and its tritons, naïads and imps, which are disrespectful volatiles' favourite roosts ? After all, Piazza Navona is, above all, a place where you feel good, where History has created a harmonious miracle. You can cross it at night and sit at a café terrace in the Summertime and just watch time go by. In other words; la dolce vità !
The Roman Forum, located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, was the civic heart of Ancient Rome. It was a major meeting place, a business centre, the Republic's political centre, a centre of Pagan religious activity, as well as an architectural centre, dotted with triumphal arches and temples dedicated to deified emperors. It stands in the middle of the seven hills, where villages were inhabited by peasant-soldiers, the Latins and Sabines. This marshland soon became the place where chiefs met to take common decisions, such as the birth of the Forum, that you discover today, and where soon temples and public buildings were erected. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Forum was abandoned. Over the course of time, it became a vast expanse of ruins, where Rome's inhabitants found stones to build their homes and cattle grazed. It was then called: the Campo Vaccino, or "Cow Plain" ! Then, the Renaissance arrived, as well as new interest for Ancient Roman remains, while churches squatted former Pagan temples, the wealthy decorated their homes with statues found in the Forum. You just had to dig to find something ! Serious archeological digs and clearing work only really started at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, mutilated walls, colonnades, ruined temples or churches make up a magnificent landscape, when seen from the Palatine Hill. Despite the irreparable ravages of time, this site offers the melancholy majesty of a great extinct civilisation.
Anita Ekberg in evening dress, bathing in the fountain: this picture from the Fellini film, La Dolce Vità, has increased this monumental fountain's fame. It is is a late Baroque masterpiece and the place is now hard to imagine without the blond Swedish girl's or Marcello Mastroianni's presence ! Instead, you might be in the middle of a thick crowd, dominated by groups of Japanese tourists and having to elbow your way to see something of the fountain... The fountain is fed by a 20 km-long canal, built by Agrippa in 19 B.C., called the Acqua Vergine. One of the high reliefs, repaired by successive popes, reminds us that the canal finishes at this location. Pope Clement XII charged Nicola Salvi to build the fountain in 1732. The architect gave the fountain a similar size to the palace onto which it is leaning and drew a triumphal arch from which springs forth the figure of the Ocean, perched on a chariot, guided by two marine horses and two tritons, while, Abundance and Salubrity watch over them from their niche. Meanwhile, the good public bow to tradition by throwing two coins into the green waters. One will ensure that you will return to Rome, while the other enables you to make a wish.
This site is famous throughout the world. At the end of the elegant Via dei Condotti, this square, overlooked by the Trinita dei Monti staircase, is where young and older people take over the steps on a fine day, in order to relax... or enjoy the moment and location. The square is made up of two triangles and was named in the 17th century, when the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See set up home in the Palazzo di Spagna. Immediately, the district became Spanish territory: it is said that many strangers getting lost there at night woke up the next morning as Spanish soldiers, without understanding what had happened to them ! At the centre of the square is the famous Barcaccia Fountain, representing a boat decorated with Barberini suns and bees. It is believed to have been made by Pietro Bernini, the father of Giovanni Bernini. The English Romantic poet Keats died in the pink house, at the right-hand side of the staircase. It is matched by a tea room built in a very Victorian style. Opposite, stands the magnificent staircase, decorated with azaleas when Summer arrives, leading up to the front of the Trinita dei Monti church, whose obelisk precedes it. Few places have been so often photographed. Thus, you end up surprised to see it for the first time just as you imagined it... And, naturally, like everyone else, you'll go and sit on the steps (if there's room !) in order to enjoy the moment and realise that you really are in Rome.
This square, which symbolises Roman elegance, is lined with noble-fronted palaces, decorated with ancient statues and an obelisk, as well as adorned with a fountain. Sixtus V placed the Dioscuri from the Baths of Constantine there. Later, Pius VI erected an obelisk from the entrance to Augustus' mausoleum between them. Finally, Pius IX, completed the decor with a handsome ancient bowl.
This has always been a separate district. Trastevere means "across the Tiber", and the land of the Etruscans started here in Antiquity. Jewish and Syrian immigrants lived here as early as the Republican era. It was a working-class district under Augustus, and has remained so until recently. The Roman dialect was spoken here, ruffians met in its inns, where groups of craftsmen, street merchants and workers also gathered together. This strong, sometimes rebellious personality is still present today and makes it one of Rome's most endearing districts. Far from Ancient Rome's greatness and Baroque volutes, it is an intimate district, pleasant to live in and is undergoing a sociological transformation today. On both sides of the Via della Lungharetta, a network of alleys with, often restored, ochre-coloured houses, comes to life at dusk. Trattorias, restaurants (some catering openly for tourists), pizzerias, bars, discotheques are always full. Theatres, art and handicrafts galleries are gradually replacing the crafstmen of a by-gone age. There still remains some intimate squares, where the lights of an ordinary-looking café suddenly sparkle, while a few benches and trestle tables are pulled out onto the pavement. Soon, the place is overrun, as you just happened to stumble upon the latest fashionable restaurant, whose sapeghetti alle vongole attract the Rome smart set !