In the Eternal City, one visit is never enough. The beauty of this ancient Italian capital is that there are always hidden alleys to explore and new gelato flavors to discover. Whether you long to experience the city’s rich history, boutiques, quaint piazzas, or religious monuments, you’ll find what you’re looking for in bella Roma. Here are eight sightseeing opportunities you won’t soon forget:
During Rome’s Renaissance period, Tuscan bankers and wealthy merchants commissioned the best architects and artists of the day to create their majestic palaces along Via Giulia. In fact, many of the artists and architects—including Borromini, Sangallo, and Cellini—chose to live on this street themselves. (Raphael also purchased land here to build his own palace but died before construction began.)
The street is also home to several spectacular churches, including Chiesa di San Biagio—originally built in the 11th century.
For many Italians, a cappuccino is the only way to start the morning. The drink we enjoy today got its name in the 1500s from the religious order of the Capuchin friars. To distinguish themselves from other orders, the friars donned reddish-brown robes with pointy hoods, or “cappuccio.” The word “cappuccino” literally translates to “little hood.”
The Pantheon is a true architectural masterpiece that illustrates the glory of Ancient Rome. Its dome is the largest non-reinforced concrete dome in the world. The remarkably preserved building we see today was built during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, although the origins of the Pantheon date back to 27 BC. Consecrated as a church in the 7th century, the Renaissance movement saw the Pantheon converted for use as a tomb. (Famous remains include those of the painter Raphael and two Italian kings).
After spending some time inside the Pantheon, walk three minutes to Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40). This gelato shop opened in 1900 and is one of the best in Rome.
Crossing over the Tiber River to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere feels like you’re leaving a hectic capital city and entering a lively medieval village. A lively medieval village, that is, in which you can dine extremely well.
Forty years ago this neighborhood was much more isolated from the rest of Rome. It hasn’t been entirely excavated, so its unique medieval character is fairly intact. Today you’ll find that while still small in size, Trastevere charms locals and tourists alike.
After exploring the neighborhood, tuck into a traditional Roman meal in a cozy trattoria (an informal restaurant or tavern). Prices are generally reasonable, and in the warmer months these establishments have outdoor seating in the cobbled alleyways.
For history fans and those with a bit of imagination, it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring the vast archaeological sites of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
The entrance fee gets you in to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. The ruins lack clear labels, so bring along a guide book or take a guided tour to help you get the most out of your visit.
Be sure to visit the Curia Julia, one of the Roman Forum’s best-preserved buildings. This is where the Roman Senate met to discuss the affairs of the ever-growing Roman Empire. The building we see today, still largely intact, was the third Senate House built in ancient Rome. It was commissioned by Julius Caesar in 44 BC, though construction did not finish until 29 BC, after his assassination.
After the building suffered severe fire damage, Emperor Diocletian restored it to its former glory in the beginning of the 4th century. The original marble flooring miraculously survived.
Those in need of some green space should head to the 200-acre Villa Borghese—the second largest park in Rome and one of the most beautiful in all of Italy.
Before the Renaissance, this area was mostly vineyards. Today, the enormous Villa Borghese houses several villas and museums, including the Galleria Borghese. The park is also a great place to read, picnic, or rent a bike.
For many Catholics, attending a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica is the ultimate religious experience. Built over a span of 120 years, church construction ended in 1626.
Despite the congestion of much of the Vatican City, attending mass at St’ Peter’s is relatively easy. Keep in mind, however, that it will most likely be in Italian.
The name of this square translates to “Field of Flowers,” and was the center of late-medieval Rome. It’s a lively area of market stalls, street culture, food vendors, inns, and shops. An open-air food market tempts visitors every morning until noon (except Sundays).