Rome is a mystical, historical, vibrant and absorbing international city that is full of charm, one of the world's truly great cities. Rome is also surely the only city with a separate Country within the city – of which more later.
Cosmopolitan Rome is a city teeming with more than 3.7 million residents and bustling with visitors year round making Rome the 11th most visited city in the world each year, the 3rd most visited in Europe and the number one attraction in Italy. The Colosseum alone receives 4 million annual visitors, the Vatican City 4.2 million visitors each year.
Visitors to rome are spoilt for choice of 'Places to See' there are so many, and even three months would barely be enough to get to know the city well, but some of the highlights can be categorized as 'Must See' places, so why not step back a few centuries and visit as a minimum:
The Colosseum (aka Roman Coliseum)
A truly exceptional example of Roman architecture and the largest amphitheatre ever built by the Roman Empire, the colossuem is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The ampitheatre dates back to 80AD, and with a little creative imagination it is easy to imagine the amphitheatre full with 50,000 people and the gladiators down below in the ring duelling - the roar of excitement and atmosphere sends tingles down the spine even today. There is also a comprehensive Colosseum Museum on site.
The colosseum is of course one of Rome's major tourist attractions, a landmark for the city, and suitable for all the family.
1800 Years old the Pantheon remains a remarkable reminder of the skill sets of the craftsmen from the Roman Empire. This imposing building, a temple for the gods, consists of a 43 high metre dome and eye catching marble columns. One of the most exceptional structures in Rome and it's connection to the Ancient roman epoch ensure that visitors are in awe of the beauty and detail of the building, apart from the astonishing architectural achievement that the size of the dome represents.
Central to any visit to Rome, the monuments that comprise the Roman Forum are what remains of the place that was once the heart of the Ancient roman empire, and include ruins of temples, basilicas and triumphal arches and other buildings of interest. They together comprise an astonishing site and tribute to Ancient Rome unmatched elsewhere in the world.
It is hard to believe that for many centuries the forum represented little more than a quarry where locals would go to find rock for their building projects, and cart away great lumps of ancient monument! Nowadays it is strictly forbidden to remove any rock at all of course...
Trevi Fountain (aka Fontana di Trevi)
Trevi Square located in the Quirinale district showcases one of the most beautiful fountains in the world, the famous Trevi Fountain. This monumental fountain dates back to 1762. The fountain is unique in that it acts as a central distribution node pushing water to all the other fountains in the city. The remarkable carvings of the fountain include the imposing central figure of Neptune the God of the Sea.
Legend has it that if you turn away from the fountain then cast a coin over your shoulder back into the fountain, the coin will drop to the bottom which is seen in mythology as the sea. When the coin touches the sea legend has it that means you will return to Rome in the future. Worked for me – I’ve been back since throwing a coin in, hope it does the same for you!
Remember we mentioned the ‘country within a city’ earlier on? The home of the Roman Catholic Church is housed in the Vatican City which is legally endorsed internationally as a Country and is in the heart of the City of Rome, and a key part of any visit to the city.The vatican is also officially known as the State of the Vatican City, and locally as Stato della Citta del Vaticano.
The Vatican has a legal right to be recognized as a Country – officially a 'landlocked Sovereign City State' and Vatican City State is a recognised national territory under international law.
The Vatican city attracts visitors around the clock all day everyday, with access limited at Christmas, Easter and other important religious festivals, when the Pope speaks from Saint Peter’s Basilica. Note: wear long trousers and sleeves when you visit or you may not be allowed access to the cathedral.
The Vatican City has so much to see and offer that many spend more than one day visiting the attractions, including The Vatican Gardens and a whole raft of buildings to visit including the St. Peter's Basilica (aka Papal Basilica of Saint Peter) and of course the world famous Systine Chapel and the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. Being an independent nation, the Vatican also issues it’s own stamps to be used on your postcards, always very popular with visitors.
The Vatican Museums (aka Musei Vatican)
Judged by many to be among the finest museums in the world, the museums at the Vatican were founded in the 16th Century by Pope Julius II. Paintings, artifacts, sculptures, busts, masks mosaics et al are showcased in 54 individual galleries. There are further museums within the museums, with individual names like - Museo Chiaramonti - Museo Gregoriano Etrusco - Museo Egiziano - truly magnificent names with equally magnificent exhibits.
The population of The Vatican City circa 2009 was 826 residents, with over 3,000 daily lay workers coming to work in the city, all residents and all workers are Catholic. Don’t be deterred if you belong to another religion or are non believer, you still need to visit Vatican City.
Other Rome attractions
There are many more Roman Empire attractions in Rome, including:
- The fashionable region to the west of Rome (across the Tiber river) - see Trastevere
- The beautiful square designed by Michelangelo around the Capitoline Hill - see Campidoglio
- Circus Maximus (aka Circo Massimo), a colossal stadium holding 250,000 people dating back to the 6th century BC and famous for chariot racing
- Arch of Titus is one of only two remaining arches from the Forum Romanum. Dating back to 76AD it was built to commemorate the Romans capturing the city of Jerusalem in 70AD when they overan the incumbent Jewish zealots. Titus was the Roman Emperor who led the invasion.
- Baths of Caracalla (aka Terme di Caracalla), the red brick ruins of thermal baths covering a vast site of 27 acres. The thermae are the largest in the world and provided huge vault baths for over 1600 people to bath together dating back to 217AD
Rome offers many many more Roman Empire attractions all unique, all original and all worth visiting if you have time during your stay in Rome, along with many fascinating monuments from later epochs.
If you don’t have much time for your visit that’s simple to resolve - book a return visit to Rome – making your Trevi Fountain wish come true and joining the thousands of other visitors who fall under Rome’s spell and come back time and time again.
General visitor information
Accommodation - Rome offers accommodation all for all visitors,from luxury and five star hotels to budget focussed one and two start hotels, along with designer boutique hotels, and numerous hostels. There are over 800 hotels in Rome listed at booking.com, all prices and hundreds of real travellers reviews - see booking.com Rome hotels
Food - Italian food as most people know is delicious – sometimes heavy on the pasta and sauces but oh so tasty and inventive. Rome has all types of restaurants on offer to match your budget, fast food joints, traditional Italian cafes. It is in Rome that we have enjoyed some of the greatest meals we have had – and not usually too expensive – but you might like to search for restaurants slightly off the main tourist routes to get the best value for money.
Coffee – there is almost as much to say about Italian coffee as there is for Italian food, but we will summarize with the claim that Italian Coffee is probably the best in the World - and avaliable on every street corner and building - visitors go 'Al Fresco' and sit outside in one of Rome's squares, order a coffee - sit back relax - sip the coffee - and just watch the world go by! That's Coffee in Rome.
Getting to Rome
Whichever mode of transport you select you will find it easy to travel to this great metropolis, the most popular options include:
- By car: An abundance of international standard arterial roads and motorways make Rome an easy place to visit if arriving by road.
- By Air: there is also easy access by plane, with Rome on the destination roster for most carriers - Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport has three main terminals processing over 35 million travellers a year and is just 35 kilometers from downtown Rome via a 6 lane freeway.
- By Rail: a very satisfying experience. In Europe trains are a great way to travel and Roma Termini Railway Station (aka Stazione di Roma Termini) carries a huge 150 million passengers per year through this bustling 29 platform station. High-speed trains depart and arrive many times a day to Paris, Munich, Geneva, Basel, Vienna et al.
- By sea: the Port of Rome offers a good selection of sea ferries to other cities in Italy - Naples etc.
- Travelling by Bus: Rome offers fast speed bus services to all major European destinations.
Explore Rome - a summary
While the above is of course just a brief glimpse of a few of the highlights of Rome hopefully it gives you enough insight to be convinced that you should visit - Rome once visited is never forgotten and always visited a second and third time and more!
And one little secret? Rome at night is even more beautiful than Rome by day, so be sure to venture out and explore some of the highlights at night when the tourists are not around and the monuments are carefully floodlit.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Rome - Lazio guide.