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Originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, and subsequently rebuilt by Hadrian, the Pantheon is a monumental homage to the architectural finesse and ingenuity of the Romans. Massive bronze doors guard the entrance to the central space, sheltered by the graceful arch of the Pantheon's dome. The temple was transformed into a church in the early 7th Century by Pope Boniface IV and has remained well-preserved as a result. The building's primary source of light is the oculus, a circular opening at the dome's apex, rimmed with the original Roman bronze used at the time of its construction. Many famous Italians are buried in the Pantheon, including the Renaissance painter, Raphael, and King Vittorio Emanuele I.
The magnanimous proportions of the Colosseum have long been a source of wonder. Originally envisioned in 70 CE, the construction of this grand structure was completed in 80 CE. At that time, it is believed that this vast amphitheater could seat upwards of 50,000 spectators at once. The Colosseum also features on the Italian version of the five-cent Euro. Deemed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum was designed to be a horse racing circuit and arena for animal fighting and gladiatorial battles, although it has also hosted significant religious ceremonies in its early days. It is a symmetrical wonder set in the historic landscape of Rome's heart. The enormous ruin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered by many to be an iconic symbol of Italy.
Designed by Nicola Salvi for Pope Clemente XII, the Trevi Fountain was completed in the second half of the 18th Century. A towering likeness of Oceanus forms the centerpiece of the Baroque fountain, with Abundance and Salubrity on either side, while the rococo-style Poli Palace provides the perfect backdrop. Tritons guide the chariot of Oceanus, and all around the water flows, its gushing sound rising to a crescendo befitting the all-consuming power it represents. Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain guarantees a swift return to Rome. Anita Ekberg's dip in the Trevi Fountain was immortalized in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and Italian actor Toto even sold it to an American, passing himself off as its owner. Featured in numerous movies since Trevi Fountain has long inspired the passions of the human race and continues to be revered the world over as one of Italy's most triumphant sculptural works.
One of the most beautiful and popular squares in the world, visiting Piazza Navona has to be in your itinerary while in Rome.The stunning buildings, fountain and the sculptures at this square have an magical appeal. The elegance and sheer beauty of Piazza Navona is bound to leave a long lasting impression on you. During the Christmas season, the square is packed with stalls selling toys, sweets and decorations for the nativity scene or Christmas tree, making it a favorite spot for children. Its unusual shape recalls the time of Domitian, who built a stadium for equestrian displays here. The Fountain of the Rivers, with the obelisk, and the Fountain of the Moor, with the God of the Sea, at the center of the square are both sculpted by Bernini.
A wide set of 138 steps begin their ascent from the Piazza di Spagna, leading up to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti where the eponymous church sits. A sterling example of Roman Baroque beauty, the Spanish Steps were built between 1723 and 1725 by architect Francesco de Sanctis, after the city received funds from French Diplomat Étienne Gueffier. The Spanish Steps are collectively known as the widest stairway in Europe and is recognized as an iconic landmark in Rome's capital, attracting locals and tourists from all walks of life. The Fountain of the Old Boat greets the steps at its base, and toward the right is located the house of English poet John Keats. While the colossal sweep of this historic stairway is enough to invite attention, it appears even more captivating when corners of the steps are intermittently adorned in colored azaleas.
A visit to Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano is a fascinating journey through time. From the upper basilica, which dates from the beginning of the 12th Century and whose apse boasts the mosaic The Triumph of the Cross, one passes into the 4th-century lower basilica, and, via a stairway, down to the Roman constructions and the mitreo, a 3rd-century temple dedicated to the God Mithra. Of particular interest are the frescoes in the chapel of St Catherine, painted between 1428 and 1431 by Masolino da Panicale, possibly with the collaboration of Masaccio.
Designed by some of Italy's most infamous master artists, St. Peter's Basilica is not only the world's largest church but is also one of its most spectacular. Originally built at the site of St. Peter's grave around 349 CE by Emperor Constantine, the basilica, as it stands today, was consecrated in 1626 at the culmination of over 120 years of construction. The original designs were laid out by Bramante in 1506, however, over the following years, the ambitious designs were altered by several renown architects including Michelangelo, Giacomo Della Porta and Carlo Maderno, each adding their own personal touch to the magnanimous design. St. Peter's Basilica now enshrines some of the world's most famed artworks including Michelangelo's Pieta and Bernini's Baldachin. The splendid facade and riches that lie within are crowned by an intricately adorned dome that is revered as Michelangelo's most grand architectural legacy. The Pope delivers the Urbi et Orbi blessing each year on the occasion of Christmas and Easter from the basilica's central balcony, attracting millions of devout pilgrims to the threshold of St. Peter's each year. He remains the only one who can serve at the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica.
Enclosed by Bernini's magnificent colonnade, this square has the largest number of visitors in the world. Millions of tourists wait here either for the Pope's Sunday blessing or to enter the Basilica. More than a square, the colonnade gives it the atmosphere of a courtyard, inviting people to enter the church. The obelisk in the heart of the square has been standing there since 1586. When a new pope is being chosen, it is at St. Peter's Square that thousands gather keenly to see the black smoke turn white and find out who the next pope is going to be. During Christmas, a nativity scene and a Christmas tree are installed, and there is a remarkable atmosphere of celebration, with the majestic dome dominating the scene behind.
Some of the world's foremost examples of Renaissance art grace the ceiling of the spectacular Sistine Chapel. Originally built in 1479 under the direction of Pope Sixtus IV, the chapel forms a part of the Vatican City's Apostolic Palace. It is here that the College of Cardinals gather to elect a new Pope and has been the host of such gatherings and other Papal functions since it was first conceived of. At the time of its construction, while the walls of the chapel were painted with frescoes by artists like Sandro Botticelli, Pinturicchio and Cosimo Roselli, the ceiling was rendered a simple, solid blue with stars. It was not until 1508 that Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Many considered this an odd choice as Michelangelo, at that time, was not known as a skilled painter. This led to speculations that Michelangelo's lofty commission was a ploy devised by rival artists Raphael and Bramante to ensure his fall from grace. Not to be deterred, Michelangelo envisioned and achieved a series of frescoes that depict scenes from the Old Testament, beginning with Creation and ending at Noah's voyage aboard his ark. Each a masterpiece in its own right, together they form a vision of unmatched artistry that draws millions of visitors to the Pope's residence each year.
A bygone beacon of the Roman Empire, the Foro Romano was the nucleus of social, political and economic life in this historic city. Located between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, it was a revered meeting place that witnessed the alpha and omega of a thriving empire. Triumphal processions raked the regal roads of this plaza, while morbid silences hung in the air after trials and executions that were carried out. Among the priceless vestiges that remain today, the most salient ones include the Regia, the royal residence, the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Saturn. Towards the northwest, the Umbilicus Urbis indicates the symbolic heart of Ancient Rome, and the northern aisle of the Basilica of Maxentius still stands in grandeur. While their transient glory is lost to the ravages of time, what is left behind is not less than awe-inspiring. Worn columns, near-crumbling facades of ancient marble and stoic triumphal arcs still dominate the ruins' antiquated skyline.