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Best Historic Locations in Rome

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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.

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.

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, all but the apse, totally destroyed by fire, has been reconstructed to look exactly as it did in the 4th Century. The Roman artist Pietro Cavallini helped with the 13th-century restoration of some frescoes and the mosaic decorating the facade, which unfortunately have not survived. The library and gallery annexed to the basilica complex are well worth visiting. The library holds an extremely rich collection of original manuscripts, including the Bible that belonged to Charles the Bald, a magnificent original illuminated manuscript from the 9th Century. The gallery has precious 15th-century panels and two frescoes transferred onto canvas by Giovanni Lanfranco. This church is also one of the jubilee basilicas.

Reorganization of Piazza del Campidoglio began in 1539 as part of a plan undertaken by Pope Paul III. It was the first square created as part of a plan conceived by Michelangelo in which a space was created between Palazzo Senatorio and Palazzo dei Conservatori bounded by a new symmetrical building. The square is in the shape of a trapezoid with the Palazzo Senatorio on the longer side (the seat of the city council's administrative offices) and the Capitoline Museums on either side. Michelangelo also designed the monumental flight of steps that leads to the square on either side of which were the Dioscuri designed by Giacomo della Porta. The pavement in the center designed by Michaelangelo on which stands the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, survived the Middle Ages as it was thought, that it represented the Emperor Constantine, the protector of the Christian religion.

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.

Also called Madonna dei Monti, the church of Santa Maria ai Monti celebrates the Virgin Mary. It was constructed under Pope Gregory XIII. A photograph of the Virgin had astonishingly appeared in a convent nearby. Every year, on April 24 a procession carries this image across the town. Inspired by the church of Gesú, the church has a similar form and its corners have statues of the prophets and the ceilings and walls contain murals and paintings by master artists of those times. The dome has a great structural beauty which leaves one awestruck.

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.

This church is an impressive structure and attracts many for its miraculous properties. The image of Mother Mary that is kept here is believed to have cured a child of his deformity. It was constructed in 1610 CE by Octavian Matte and designed by Francesco da Volterra. The beauty of the structure lies in its simplicity. There is artwork in the main hall, carried out by Carlo Saraceni and Gerrit Honthorst. The church was also used as a medical facility to treat wounded soldiers in the war against France.

Ponte Sant'Angelo is one of Rome's loveliest and most well-known bridges. It is immediately recognizable by the statues of angels and the magnificent view of Hadrian's Mausoleum (more commonly known as Castel Sant'Angelo). The bridge is one of the oldest; built at the start of the 2nd Century on Hadrian's orders to be the main access to his mausoleum, however, it has since been restored. For example, Bernini designed the statues during the Baroque era and his pupils sculpted them. The angels hold the symbols of the Passion as one holds a crucifix, another with a shaft and yet another with nails and a whip. Note the angel bearing the cartouche and another with the crown of thorns: these ones are more modern copies, because the original ones by Bernini were transferred to Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.

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.

Il Vittoriano a fine white marble structure built under the auspices of newly installed King Victor Emmanuel and was inaugurated in 1911, a symbol of Italian unity. It has been the centerpiece for many important processions and moments of glory since Italy's reunification, including the parades of Mussolini that took place outside it. The statue of Emmanuel stands tall in front of this magnificent building along with the tomb of the unknown soldier nearby. The whole edifice has a massive and grandiose appearance covered in marble and atop sit two quadrigae of the goddess Victoria. Today, it houses an interesting museum which details the international and domestic intrigue which resulted in the Risorgimento, or the Reunification of the Country. Open hours vary by season. Call before visiting.

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.

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