When people think of the world’s greatest cities, a short list can come to mind quite quickly – New York, London, Paris and Rome. Named Trip Advisor’s second best destination, behind Istanbul and ahead of London and Paris, Rome is a fabulous city rich in history, art and culture. You probably don’t need many reasons to visit Rome but here is a look at 10 of the best. The best part of all is that you can see many of the top attractions in the Eternal City in a matter of days, allowing you to consider visiting other fascinating cities in Italy.
At look at Rome’s architecture is like a look into more than two thousand years of innovative designs now familiar all over the world. The Romans are credited with developing architectural structures such as arched construction and aqueducts. Examples of Roman influence in other parts of the world include Paris’ Arch of Triumph, the U.S. Supreme Court Building, New York Public Library and Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village.
Some of the world’s most famous structures can be visited in the Roman Forum, including the iconic Colosseum. The Roman Forum was the center of all activity in the city during the time when most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa were ruled by the Roman Empire. Among the structures to see are the Arch of Titus and Circus Maximus, the site of the fictional chariot race from the classic 1959 movie “Ben Hur.”
Each year, millions of people from all over the world flock to Vatican City to see one of the holiest sites of the Christian religion and, upon occasion, the Pope. St. Peter’s Basilica is considered to be the world’s largest church and along with its massive square and other buildings, comprises the smallest country in the world. There is no admission fee to enter St. Peter’s Basilica but visitors are advised to act and dress properly. Once inside, visitors will get a better feel of the sheer enormity of the church, with its towering arched ceilings, meticulously crafted mosaics and priceless artwork and sculptures such as Michelangelo’s “Pietà.”
Although there is no admission fee to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, there are fees to visit other sections of Vatican City. For many visitors to Rome, the Sistine Chapel is the ultimate highlight of their trip, with a chance to gaze at the ceiling artwork by Michelangelo, with nine scenes from the Book of Genesis including one of the world’s most famous paintings – “The Creation of Adam.” The famous chapel is located within the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope.
The most important museum in Rome is the Vatican Museum, of which the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms are part of the tour. Drawing nearly six million visitors annually, the Vatican Museum is the world’s fifth most visited museum. But other museums are also worth visiting during a Roman holiday and among them are the National Roman Museum, National Museum of Art and the Capitoline Museums, home to the famous Capitoline She-Wolf, the symbol of the city.
Completed in 1762, Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque-style fountain in Rome. Also one of the world’s most famous fountains, Trevi Fountain has been featured in several movies, including “La Dolce Vita,” “Roman Holiday” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Visitors to the fountain can toss a coin into the fountain over their shoulder, signifying a return trip to the Eternal City.
Food and Shopping
The food is a big part of why a vacation in Rome can be so unforgettable. From cheap eats to high-end restaurants like La Pergola, visitors can enjoy a variety of excellent Italian cuisine to fit their budget. Pizza can be found most anywhere but it’s hard to find any other city that serves better gelato. Rome is also well known for its shopping districts, most notably Campo de’ Fiori, the oldest market in the city, Via del Corso and the luxury designer stores like Gucci, Prada and Bulgari on Via Condotti, near the very popular attraction the Spanish Steps.
Completed in the year 128, the Pantheon is one of the world’s most famous churches and considered a precursor to modern places of worship. Originally built as a temple to all gods, it is also one of the best preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. The nearly two thousand-year-old structure is believed to be the site where Romulus, the founder of Rome, ascended to heaven. The Pantheon’s dome is the world’s largest dome made of unreinforced concrete.
Because Rome’s Metro subway service has only two lines, most of the city’s popular attractions can be visited more easily than those in Paris and London. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum are must-see attractions, but visitors should also visit the famous squares, such as Piazza Navona with its Fountain of Four Rivers and Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna), especially during the traditional evening stroll. Other attractions include Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the official seat of the Bishop of Rome and Bocca Della Verità (Mouth of Truth) at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin.
Proximity to Other Famous Cities in Italy
If it fits within the budget and length of the trip, visitors should venture out to other cities. Like the rest of Europe, Italy has an efficient train system with stations at all of the most important cities, including Naples, Florence, Pisa, Milan and Venice. Several trains depart from the Rome train station (Roma Termini) to Florence (Firenze), and most one-way trips takes just 90 minutes. A trip to Venice will takes about three to four hours on average but a visit to this magical city is likely to be an unforgettable experience.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.