Santa Maria in Trastevere is the first Roman church to be consecrated to the Madonna. Its foundations were laid in approximately AD 400, when Christianity was only just beginning to take root in Europe. The present edifice is dated 1300 and contains beautiful mosaics by Pietro Cavallini, especially those dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary. There is a magnificent life-size icon, La Madonna della Clemenza, from as early as the 7th Century. The nave is formed from granite columns taken from ancient Roman edifices. The 12th-century mosaics of the façade, depicting the Madonna and child and ten women holding lamps, are not to be missed. The portico was renovated in the 18th Century by Carlo Fontana and the balustrade is decorated with statues of Popes, baroque additions which do not detract from the church's original medieval aspect.
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. Toward 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.
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. 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.
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 his own personal touch to the magnanimous design. St. Peter's Basilica now enshrines some of the world's most famed artistic pieces 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 the St. Peter's Basilica.
During the Christmas season Piazza Navona 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.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj built in the 17th Century was once the home to Roman royalty. It now houses one of the most prestigious art collections in the city. This collection features some of the most iconic artworks from Renaissance era. Amongst the most celebrated masterpieces found here are - Titian's Salomé with Head of John the Baptist (1515), Raphael's Saletta del Cinquecento and Mary Magdalene by Caracci, to name a few. Other artists showcased here are Caravaggio, Guercino, Duquesnoy among others.
Capitoline Hill is located near the Foro Romano and Campus Martius. The hill is one of the seven hills that were located in the ancient city, and was the center of all the activities of the empire. The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the most revered temple at that time stood here, and its ruins are still visible. Housed here are the Musei Capitolini and City Hall.
Sant'Ignazio Church was built in the first decade of the 17th Century to pay homage to the founder of the Jesuit Order. The magnificent splendor of this chapel is typical of the period. Inside, you can admire the precious stones, gilding, marble and stucco work. For the frescoes they called upon the artist Andrea Pozzo, who designed the trompe l'oeil effect ceiling featuring a cupola. A cupola was designed but never built, due to the proximity of the monastery of Dominican friars, as it would have blocked the light in their living quarters.
The ancient buildings that can be seen here were discovered during excavation work in the 1920s. The four temples from the Republican era were named A, B, C and D. Temple C is the oldest, Temple A is from the 3rd Century BCE, and some of the flooring and mosaics of Temple B are still visible. Though Temple C was built in 100 BCE, the mosaic decorations were added during a later period. Currently, this historic sight is a no-kill cat sanctuary that houses abandoned cats from the area. Stray cats are taken in, given shots, sprayed and given a home at the sanctuary where they now abound. Whether you are a history buff or a cat lover, this is one sight you have to see.
Commissioned by Prince Maffeo Sciarra for the production of operettas and light comedies, this theater was constructed entirely of wood in 1871. It was rebuilt in stone at the beginning of the century and owes its present appearance to the architect Piacentinin who was responsible for its restoration in the 1950s. The stage has played host to many famous Italian actors including Fregoli, Petrolini, Visconti and Gassman. Today the Quirino is managed by the Italian Theater Board and mainly offers high-quality classical and contemporary theater productions. A particularly interesting initiative is Dopo il sipario during which the audience can talk and mingle with the actors. The theater also houses seminars, meetings, conferences and art exhibitions.