Things to Do in Rome - page 2
Not to be confused with Florence's Palazzo Corsini, Rome's own Palazzo Corsini and the land it sits on changed hands many times over the centuries before coming to house the offices of the National Academy of Science and first-floor Corsini Gallery as it does today. Surrounded by formal gardens, the Baroque palace's gallery exhibits Italian art with Renaissance showstoppers such as Caravaggio's St John the Baptist (1606), St Sebastian (1614) by Rubens and works by Guido Reni, Fra'Angelico and Carracci. In addition, late 18th-century pieces, historical art and landscape paintings are included.
Otherwise known as the National Gallery of Antique Art or the Galleria Corsini, this gallery is somewhat of a hidden gem with its light crowds and extensive collection of ancient art. Travelers will love exploring the manicured grounds and can note that the gallery's Roman sister collections include Palazzo Barberini and Galleria Borghese.
There are many churches in Rome - and throughout the world - dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The largest one is the Basilica Papale (or Papal Basilica) of Santa Maria Maggiore near the Termini Train Station in central Rome.
As you might guess from the name, Santa Maria Maggiore is technically part of the Vatican - just as a foreign embassy might be. As part of Vatican City, the Basilica is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes all extraterritorial properties of the Holy See in Rome.
Although the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore has been expanded upon and redecorated over the centuries, it was originally built in the mid-5th century and much of the original structure is still in place. In the years after the papacy was moved back to Rome from Avignon, part of the church was used as the papal residence until renovations to the Vatican Palace was completed.
The area of Rome known as the “centro storico,” or “historic center,” is sometimes referred to as whatever lies inside the ancient Aurelian Walls, but the border the walls created aren't exactly the same as what many people refer to as the Centro Storico today.
UNESCO designated the “Historic Center of Rome” a World Heritage Site in 1980, declaring the area inside the Aurelian Walls plus Vatican City (which was outside the walls) to be the city's Centro Storico. To most visitors, however, the Centro Storico is much smaller, and where many of the main attractions are located. In the Centro Storico, you can visit sights such as the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and the Capitoline Hill. The Forum and Colosseum are just outside the smallest interpretation of the Centro Storico, as are Vatican City and the Trastevere neighborhood.
Inside the Galleria Agostiniana, part of the must-see Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, is the small Leonardo da Vinci Museum, dedicated entirely to the great inventor and artist. What started out as a temporary exhibition is now permanently housed in a church on the busy Piazza del Popolo. Larger museums dedicated to the life and work of Leonardo are in Milan, Florence, or even the artist’s hometown of Vinci, but the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome is a great comprehensive look at his Renaissance works.
The museum’s collection features more than 60 inventions modeled after Leonardo’s machines. There are more than 120 pieces on display throughout the museum, including artistic studies of famous pieces like “The Last Supper” and “Vitruvian Man.” Some of the models are interactive, making this a good option for families traveling with children.
Piazza della Repubblica is a square in Rome not far from Termini train station. The square was the original site of the Baths of Diocletian. It was known as Piazza Esedra until the 1950s, and many older locals still refer to it by its old name. In the center of the square is the large Fountain of the Naiads, or water nymphs. Figures of the four water nymphs adorn the sides of the fountain representing oceans, rivers, lakes, and underground water. When the fountain was unveiled in 1901, it was considered too provocative due to the nudity of the statues.
One of Rome's most well known streets, Via Nazionale, starts at Piazza della Repubblica. On this street and in the surrounding area you'll find upscale hotels, shops, restaurants, and cafes. Near the piazza is the Teatro Dell'Opera Di Roma, a lavish 19th century opera house. There are also several churches and ornate buildings in the area.
Located at the southeastern end of the Roman Forum, the triumphal Arch of Titus stands as a memorial to an emperor's brother.
Emperor Domitian commissioned the arch in the 1st century to honor his brother Titus, with the scenes showing Titus' many victories in war. Among the scenes is the Siege of Jerusalem – you can see a Jewish Menorah being carted back to Rome among the spoils.
Triumphal arches are familiar sights in Europe today – the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is one of the most famous examples – but most were based on the design of the Arch of Titus.
Standing an impressive 100 feet high, the Column of Marcus Aurelius was built as a Roman victory monument and stands in what is now called the Piazza Colonna, situated in what would have been the northern boundary of Ancient Rome.
The original date of construction is unknown, but there are inscriptions of the column throughout the region that promote the idea that the construction was completed, at the very latest, by 193 AD. Most scholars believe that the construction of the column may have started directly after the Roman victories over a number of their northern rivals. Parallel to this idea are the intricate carvings on the column that work in a spiral fashion and tlel the stories of victories, war and conquest. The details show images of men, horses, women and the destruction of certain villages. By the 15th century, the statue of Marcus Aurelius atop the column had already deteriorated.
Among the ruins on the Palatine Hill is a structure that experts believe was built for Emperor Augustus' wife, Livia. It's known as the House of Livia, and is still being excavated.
The House of Livia was probably built in the early 1st century B.C.E., with frescoes added later in that century. Livia made this her primary residence, staying even after the emperor had died, when her son Tiberius became Rome's second emperor. The building's frescoes are wonderfully well-preserved, and feature an ancient trompe l'oeil effect with painted ceilings designed to look like coffers and painted scenes made to look like views through open windows.
Some call the entire Palatine Hill an open-air museum, but there's an actual Palatine Museum set among the ruins, too.
Most of the appeal of a visit to the Palatine Hill is to walk through the ancient Roman ruins, imagining what it might have been like to live and work in them 2,000 years ago. Besides the structures themselves and the frescoes that are forever adhered to the walls, the items that archaeologists have recovered during excavations of the site are often put into the Palatine Museum. Some pieces in the museum's collection date from well before the city of Rome was officially founded, while most of the artifacts date to the 1st and 2nd century.
More Things to Do in Rome
The Capitoline Hill is one of Rome’s famous seven hills, and in Italian it’s called the Campidoglio. The Piazza del Campidoglio is the trapezoidal space atop the hill, with buildings on three sides and a grand staircase on the fourth. The piazza and surrounding buildings were designed by Michelangelo in the mid-1500s.
Michelangelo employed several visual tricks to give the space a balanced feel, despite its lack of literal symmetry. He designed facades for the existing buildings, made the staircase more of a gradual ramp, and crafted a pattern to be inlaid in the piazza that deceives the eye into thinking it’s a perfect oval (it’s actually egg-shaped). The buildings once served as government buildings, but they now house the Capitoline Museums. At the center of the Piazza del Campidoglio is a replica of an Ancient Roman bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback. The original bronze is nearby in the Capitoline Museums.
At first glance, this ancient open-air theater appears quite a bit like a mini-Colosseum. Built during the later years of the Roman Republic, it was built nearly 100 years before the famous Colosseum. Named by the Emperor Augustus in 11 BC after his recently deceased nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the theater may be the oldest surviving of its kind in the world.
The structure’s archways and tiers comprise a semicircular design (unlike the Colosseum, which is completely circular.) The third tier was lost in reconstruction during the Middle Ages, but ornamental Doric and Ionic columns still frame the theater. In its prime the structure could hold more than 15,000 spectators and was one of the most popular entertainment venues in Ancient Rome. Live music and drama performances filled its seats until it was adopted by noble families and luxury apartments (which can still be seen today) were built atop the ruins.
Quirinale Palace is the official residence of the president of Italy. It sits on Quirinale Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome. The palace was built in the late 1500s by Pope Gregory XIII as a summer home and was home to many popes for over three centuries. After the unification of Italy, it became the royal residence, until 1947 when the country's presidents began living there. The palace houses a wide variety of art including paintings, statues, tapestries, clocks, furniture, porcelain, glass chandeliers, and much more. In the Scalone d'Onore, the monumental staircase hall, visitors can see a frescoe by Melozzo da Forli that was once in the Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli. Another impressive part of the palace is its garden, which offers views of Rome from its high vantage point. The style of the garden has changed many times over the centuries, but today it combines influences from the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors can also see the changing of the guard on Sundays.
Thermae Antoninianae, as per their Roman name, are, simply put, one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal complexes in the world, and second largest in Rome itself. Built in 212 AD during the reign of the notoriously spiteful Emperor Caracalla, the complex was built as part of a political propaganda but had the particularity of being open to Romans from all social classes, as it was completely free of charge; the public opinion’s regarding the emperor was drastically improved in the following years, as they attributed their pleasant experience and extravagant surroundings to him.The Aqua Marcia aqueduct (the longest one in Rome) was specifically built to serve the great imperial and 25-hectares large complex, which was really more of a leisure center than a series of baths. Visitors could relax in the complex’s three different baths, exercise in one of the two gyms or the pool and catch up on their reading at the library.
A small and relatively unknown archaeological site of ancient Rome, the Largo di Torre Argentina is a square set around the sunken Area Sacra. The remains of four temples built between the 2nd and 4th centuries BC are some of the oldest ruins in the city. What’s left of the Republican-era structures was only just discovered in the 1920s due to construction in the area. The remains of the Theater of Pompey were also found here, said to be the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination. The four temples are distinguished by letters A, B, C, and D, with temple D being the oldest (it is estimated the columns date back to the 2nd century BC.) They’re off limits to humans — however, the piazza has become somewhat of a cat sanctuary. There are nearly 300 stray cats that stay there, lounging on ancient platforms and strolling among history. The area is maintained by volunteers. Sidewalks surrounding the ruins lead to viewing platforms where visitors are welcome to interact with the cats.
By Rome's standards, the Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola seems like it isn't very old at all – only consecrated in 1722 – but that's because prior to 1650, it was a private church.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus – better known as Jesuits – and the original church on this site was built entirely by Jesuit labor in the 1560s on the foundation of an earlier building. That church, built as the private chapel for the Collegio Romano (the first Jesuit university), was expanded slightly in 1580, but by the early 1600s it was already too small for the number of students at the college. Construction on the current church was started in 1626, a mere four years after Saint Ignatius of Loyola was canonized, and it opened to the public in 1650. The interior reflects the church's Baroque style with heavy ornamentation. There is gold decoration everywhere, enormous frescoes, and Jesuit iconography and stories depicted throughout.
Caelian Hill is the most south-eastern hill of the of the famous “Seven Hills of Rome,” which are located east of the river Tiber and form the geographical heart of Rome, within the walls of the ancient city. The other hills are Aventine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Quirinal Hill, Viminal Hill and Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city and where the main archaeological remains can still be seen today.
The hills were initially not grouped in any way, and only started to interact with each other when denizens began playing religious games and turned the valleys separating them into lively markets named fora in Latin. It wasn’t until the 4th century, however, that the Servian Walls were built to protect newly-formed Rome.
There is a neighborhood in Rome still known by the population that called it home in the 16th century. The Roman Jewish Ghetto, formally established in 1555, was where Jews in Rome were forced to live after that year, although Jews had lived in the city for centuries. The city erected walls around the ghetto, and they were torn down only after the ghetto was officially abolished in 1882.
Despite this unhappy history, this part of Rome is now a relatively popular tourist destination. The former Jewish Ghetto is still a center of Jewish life in Rome - the city’s synagogue is here, and this is where you’ll find restaurants, markets, and butchers serving and selling Kosher food products. In fact, in the spring when artichokes are in season, this is the part of the city where you’ll find Rome’s famous “carciofi alla giudia,” or Jewish-style artichokes.
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