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.
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.
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.
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.
Construction of this palace begun in 1455 for the Venetian cardinal, Pietro Barbi, who made it his residence. Construction of the first palace was completed shortly before his election to the Papacy in 1464 when he adopted the name Paul II. He then decided to amplify the palace and make it a dwelling worthy of a pope. The work continued until 20 years after the Pope's death and it underwent architectural transformations on several occasions over the centuries. In 1916 it was confiscated by the state of Italy which decided to make it the Palazzo Venezia museum, a role it still plays, as well as being the library of the National Institute of Archaeology and History of Art. During the Fascist regime, the palace was made famous by newsreels of the time, showing Mussolini speaking to the crowds below from a window in the palace.
Palazzo Valentini is a majestic building known for being the official base of the administration of Rome wherein you can admire the quaint style of architecture, the beautiful paintings, columns, and artifacts as well as the well-equipped library that is a treasure trove of sorts. It was built in the 16th Century under the guidance Cardinal Michele Bonelli who was the owner of the area. Over the ages, the structure has undergone a number of renovations and today is one the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
The beautiful church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built on the foundations of the temple of Juno, is located on top of the Capitoline hill, near the Campidoglio. It is reached by more than 100 steps, which, according to tradition, one must climb on one's knees in order to obtain pardon for one's sins. The interior of the church is magnificently decorated with paintings by Pinturicchio, and the ceiling bears frescoes recording the battle of Lepanto. It is said that the statue of the baby Jesus, carved from a tree trunk from the garden of Gethsemane, has miraculous powers. However, the original statue was stolen and never recovered.
Church of the Most Holy Name of Mary at the Trajan Forum was built over the site of a small church belonging to the order of the Compagnia di San Bernardo. The new church passed into the hands of the Company of the Most Holy Name of Mary, which is how it got its name. It is easy to find because of its location next to the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto. The church was built upon the occasion of the Christians' victory against the Turks, which took place on the September 12, 1683, and this is also the day that the festival of Santissimo Nome di Maria takes place. The church is built in an 18th-century Baroque style on an elliptic plan, and is made up of seven chapels. The interior is richly decorated with stucco-work, marble, and medallions showing scenes from the life of Mary. The main altar holds a very famous image on wood of the Virgin with Child.
Popular among locals as Il Milite Ignoto 'The Unknown Soldier', Complesso del Vittoriano is a museum that houses the bodies of various soldiers who fought in the World War I. After efforts of more than 20 years put into constructing this monument, it was finally completed in 1911. The architecture and exterior of the museum is of equal importance. The front facade of the museum is embellished with statues representing the various regions of Italy. The fountains of the two seas, greets visitors who enter through the gates. Do pay close attention to the inscriptions on various artifacts.
Near the Piazza del Popolo, the Church of the Gesù, Frascati, Rome's first Jesuit church, served as a model for later churches. Its appearance was changed in the 17th Century, when its original austerity ceded to Baroque decoration. Designed by Andrea Pozzo, the chapel of Sant' Ignazio, with its columns in lapis lazuli and its gilded friezes, is typical of Baroque taste. Bernini is represented by a statue dedicated to San Roberto Bellarmino, a great theologian of the counter-Reformation. Do not miss the allegorical frescoes of the nave, with stuccoes by Antonio Raggi, designed by Giovan Battista Gaulli, known as Baciccia, and responsible also for the paintings in the vault, the dome and the apse.