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Top Rated Attractions in Rest of Italy

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St. Peter's Basilica

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.

Colosseum

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.

Pantheon

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.

Roman Forum

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.

Sistine Chapel

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.

Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano

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.

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