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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Located on the Campidoglio square, the palace of the conservatives dates back to the 14th century. The architecture of the building is imposing with a porch on the ground floor and a row of large cross windows on the main floor. It now forms a venue for ‘Capitoline Museums’ the most visited museums in Rome exhibiting antique sculptures and historical collection of art from the Roman era. The courtyard of the palace is also an attractive point displaying fragments of the colossal statue of Constantine.
Waldensian Evangelical Church (Chiesa Evangelica Valdese) is a beautiful Waldensian church built in the 19th Century. The church has a striking, Renaissance exterior with intricate artwork on the entrance that is simply impossible to miss. The interior of the church is as artistic as its façade with well-laid out columns, coffered ceilings and stained-glass windows pouring in ample of sunlight illuminating every corner. The organ of the church is worth your appreciation, it dates back to the 18th Century; the dual-keyboard organ can hit up to 61 notes and choirs and concerts revolve impeccably around the organ.
The need to renew the ancient administrative and judicial structures introduced an initiative to construct an impressive architectural complex. Constructed by a Roman politician Julius Caesar in 46BC, it is considered as a major attraction today for the civilian life and a common gathering place for the people. The Forum features a real picture gallery showcasing paintings of the best Greek painters as well as numerous sculpture works and artifacts.
The Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) are archeological and art museums located in Piazza Campidoglio at the top of Capitoline Hill. Michelangelo redesigned the buildings making generous use of giant order columns, a novelty at the time. The museums are made up of the Palazzo Senatorio, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino, and the Palazzo Nuovo, all linked by an underground gallery beneath the piazza. A massive collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian sculptures and artifacts are housed at the museums, in addition to more modern pieces. The 1st Century BCE Greco-Roman sculpture Lo Spinario, in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, is one of the collection's most impressive works.
Biblioteca Casanatense is a historic library founded in the year 1701. It has a vast collection of 6000 manuscripts, 4,00,000 volumes and 2200 incunabula. Several activities and events are held at the library and facilities such as reading rooms, books on loan, rooms on rent are extended by the library. A guided tour is arranged to explore the modern library, historical area and exhibitions.