Rome is a city full of history, culture and archaeological testimony that are unique in the world, and for this reason it is a destination for curious people from all over the planet. Rome, capital of Italy, is considered one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. The old town, enclosed within the Aurelian walls (to the left of the Tiber) and the Gianicolensi walls (to the right of the river), includes 25,000 environmental and archaeological points of interest. We have tried to choose 20 must-see places, that you can discover also thanks to Costa excursions.
  • Colosseum
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Pantheon
  • Piazza Navona
  • Vatican City
  • St. Peter's Square and Basilica
  • Circus Maximus
  • Imperial Forums
  • Vatican Museums
  • Castel Sant'Angelo
  • Piazza di Spagna
  • Trastevere
  • Pyramid Cestia
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • San Pietro in Vincoli
  • St. John Lateran
  • Jewish ghetto
  • Campo de' Fiori
  • Holy Staircase
  • Sancta Santorum Chapel

Colosseum

An unmissable stop on every visit to Rome that can be defined as such. Its original name is Flavian Amphitheatre from the name of the Flavia imperial family under which work began and finished for its construction. In the year 72 AD, Emperor Vespasian began the project, which was completed in the year 80 AD.  by his son Titus. Once completed, the inauguration was celebrated with extraordinary games and fights that lasted 100 days. It was the scene of fierce fights between gladiators and beasts, but also a scenario for simulations of naval battles. 52 metres high, the equivalent of a 17-storey structure, the Colosseum manages to stand thanks to the brilliant construction technique of thearch, the architectural element used by the Romans for the aqueducts. As many as 80 arches arranged over four floors create the famous elliptical shape of the Colosseum, which could contain 70,000 spectators.

Trevi Fountain

Nowhere else in the world, like in the Trevi fountain, is the wonderful and changing world of water celebrated. This work of art is much more than a sculpture: it's the triumph of Baroque aesthetics that embodies itself in natural forms and sees in the movement the soul of the world.

It was Mark Vipsanio Agrippa, the great admiral who had created the powerful Roman fleet, but also a valuable plumbing engineer in the service of Emperor Augustus, who brought the Virgin water to Rome in 19 BC. The aqueduct, built with the intention of creating free spas for the citizens, consecrated to the god Neptune, still flows entirely underground and the Trevi Fountain constitutes precisely the "show", i.e. the monumental fountain that marked the end of the aqueduct. The construction of the current Trevi Fountain is due to Pope Clement XII who in 1732 set up a competition, in which the greatest artists of the time participated, and chose that of the architect Nicola Salvi.

The fountain, attached to Palazzo Poli, is divided into the large basin with a large cliff, brought alive by the sculptural representation numerous plants and the spectacular flow of water. In the centre dominates the statue of Ocean driving the shell-shaped cart, pulled by the irascible horse and the placid horse, held back by two Tritons. The cinema has also paid tribute to it several times: one of the most famous and unrepeatable scenes and certainly that of "La Dolce Vita" by Federico Fellini, in which a sensual Anita Ekberg walked in the water inviting an incredulous Marcello Mastroianni to follow her.

Pantheon

Another symbol of Rome, it presents itself to the audience adorned with a majestic dome and the famous colonnade. The building is a monument dedicated to all deities, built by Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D. In 608 Pope Boniface IV had the bones of many martyrs taken from the Christian catacombs and placed in the Pantheon, which officially switched to Christianity with the name of St. Mary's in Martyres. The Pantheon was the inspiration of the greatest architects of the Renaissance, so much so that Raphael wanted to make it his place of eternal rest.

In 1870 it became the resting place of the sovereigns of Italy, including Victor Emmanuel II, Umberto I and Margherita of Savoy. It is the Roman monument with the highest number of records: it is the best preservedhas the largest masonry dome in history of architecture, is considered the forerunner of all modern places of worship, and was the most copied work of antiquity.

Piazza Navona

Extraordinary urban scenery, Piazza Navona is one of the most famous places in the city. Its characteristic oval shape directly follows the ancient perimeter of the underlying Domitian Stadium. Built by Emperor Domitian before 86 A.D., the site was used for gymnastics competitions and, together with a nearby Odeon intended for competitions and musical performances, it constituted a real sporting-cultural complex. 275 metres long and 106 metres wide, the stadium could hold up to 30,000 spectators. Some remains of the impressive buildings are still visible in a palace in Piazza Tor Sanguigna or in the underground rooms of the church of Sant’Agnes in Agone.

Starting in the fifteenth century, the area around the square began to develop, with the construction of churches, hospitals, hospices and noble palaces. The mediaeval houses and towers, built on the steps of the Roman stadium since the 13th century, were replaced and transformed into Renaissance buildings and then Baroque ones, in a continuous and fascinating process of stratification that conferred the current unmistakable look on the square.

The main attraction of Piazza Navona is theFountain of the Four Rivers, the work ofGianlorenzo Bernini(1651). The rivers are the Ganges, the Danube, the Rio della Plata and the Nile, represented by four giants arranged on a pyramidal rock from which a Roman obelisk rises. In front of the magnificent fountain stands thechurch of Sant’Agnes in Agonewith its concave facade, designed by Borromini to highlight the dome.

Two other fountains embellish the square, the Fountain of Neptune or the Calderari, at the northern end, and the Fountain of the Moor that faces Pamphilj Palace (south of the square), designed by Giacomo della Porta. Populated by tourists by day and by young people at night who come here to spend their evenings,it's a sight not to be missed.

Vatican City

Located in the heart of Rome, Vatican City is a state within a state: it stands on a small hill called Vatican hill and extends to the edge of Monte Mario to the north and the Janiculum to the south, on the right bank of the Tiber. From the conclusion of the Lateran treatises between the Church and the Italian State, in 1929, the Vatican City is an independent state led by the Pontiff. It is the smallest state in the world, with an area of just 0.440 km2, 140 times smaller than the Republic of San Marino. The Vatican Gardens occupy almost two-thirds of the total area. Walking through Italian or English gardens we find fountains with water games, streams, temples and caves.

St. Peter's Square and Basilica

St. Peter's Square is the beautiful jewel designed and made by Bernini in 1600. The church dedicated to the saint of the same name who gives his name to St. Peter's Basilica is an example of Baroque architecture and is the most popular daily meeting point in the world for the Catholic faithful from all over the world. It can be ideally divided into two parts: the first in the shape of a trapeze and the second, the larger, oval-shaped with an Egyptian obelisk in the centre.

These two areas are surrounded by a complex system of colonnades 4 rows topped with 140 statuesAt the centre of it all stands the great obelisk, one of the 13 present in the city: made from red granite, it is the second highest in Rome after the lateran one and the only one not to have hieroglyphic inscriptions, but Latin characters.

The two solemn, elegant fountains at the side of the obelisk, and the two colossal statues of Paul and Peter at the beginning of the Basilica sacristy complete the decoration of the square. But there is no shortage of curiosities. Looking closely at the pavement of the square, you will notice the presence of an original sundial. After the square, head to the colossal St. Peter's Basilica, a work of art not only for its grandiose architecture, and for Michelangelo's dome, but also for what it encloses inside. In fact, its rich decorations, mosaics and great works of art inside are the undisputed jewel of religious art in Rome. The most famous works you can’t miss are: Bernini's Canopy and Michelangelo's Pieta statue.

Circus Maximus

The largest building for shows ever built, having come to measure 600 metres long and 140 metres wide, with a capacity that could reach up to 250,000 people. Placed between the Palatine and Aventino hills, two of the most important of the seven hills of Rome, the Circus is directly linked to the origins of the city. Legend has it that, right here, the Rape of the Sabine Women took place: Romulus, founder of Rome, kidnapped the maidens during a great show organised especially to attract the inhabitants of the region and dedicated to Conso, the god who was entrusted with the protection of the crops, here revered with an underground altar.

Today the ancient structure of the Circus Maximus remains barely exposed, but the entire space left free here makes clear the shape and grandeur that this building was supposed to have in Roman times: a large rectangular area with a short semi-circle side and in its centre, the so-called spur. Its importance grew together with the city: it was the Tarquini who arranged in the valley some wooden seats for spectators and it was Julius Caesar who started the construction of the first stone circus. The name is due to the Latin word circus, "circle": in fact, horse races were organised inside and the race course actually had the shape of a ring.

Imperial Forums

The Imperial Forums of Rome include a series of monumental squares built between 46 BC and 113 A.D. They are considered the centre of political activity in ancient Rome, a place that over the centuries has been added to with structures and buildings. The first structure you encounter in this sumptuous complex is the Caesar's Forum. This square, wanted by Julius Caesar for propaganda purpose, was inaugurated in 46 BC and finished by The Emperor Octavian Augustus.

The square has two porches on the east and west side, while at the bottom is the temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix. Then we have the Augustus Forum with its beautiful colonnade and the remains of the temple. Of the Vespasian Forum of Peace you see very little, as it is almost totally buried under the modern road. As well as Nerva Forum built by Domitian, also buried under Via dei Fori Imperiali and with only a few portions of the foundations of the Minerva Temple visible. The most spectacular is Trajan's Forum with Trajan Columnthe perfectly preserved Emperor's Funeral Monument as part of the complex. To the side of the Trajan Column extend the Traian Markets, which was a trading place.

Vatican Museums

The origins of these museums date back to 1503, the year when Pope Julius II (recently elected pontiff) donated his private collection. From that moment on, both the pope's family and other pontiffs increased the museums’ collection until it became one of the largest in the world. The greatest museum treasures are made up of highly prized works of Greek and Roman antiquity (Laocoon, the Apoxyomenos, the Apollo of the Belvedere), as well as from the rich collection of Egyptian (mummies) and Etruscan art (Mars of Todi).

The Art Gallery also contains works by painters such as Giotto, Leonardo, RaphaelCaravaggio, a collection of modern religious art by artists such as Francis Bacon, Carlo Carrà, Salvador Dali, Paul Gaugin, Wassily Kandinsky and Vincent van Gogh. The Vatican Palaces are home to environments of unique artistic and architectural value such as the Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of Geographical Maps and Raphael's Rooms.

The Sistine Chapel is one of the most important treasures of the Vatican, Rome and the world. It is famous for its frescoes but also because it is where the popes are elected. The building was built 1473 and 1481, during the term of office of Pope Sixtus IV, after whom the chapel is named.

The architect who designed it was Giovanni de Dolci, remembered only for the design of this architectural work. What most attracts attention in the Sistine Chapel is not its its architecture, but its frescoes decorating its entire walls and ceiling. Renowned artists contributed to the extensive decoration of the Chapel, such as Botticelli Perugino and Michelangelo. All the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who took four years to paint the vault (from 1508 to 1512). The Creation of Adam is, without a doubt, the most famous image. It is located in the central part of the vault and depicts the passage of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam. On the main altar there is another masterpiece byMichelangeloThe Universal Judgement, alarge fresco that illustrates the contents of John's book of the Apocalypse.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Built around 123 A.D. as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family, Castel Sant'Angelo has an atypical destiny in the historical and artistic landscape of the capital. While all the other monuments of the Roman era have been damaged, reduced to ruins, the Castle - through an uninterrupted series of developments and transformations that seem to slip into each other seamlessly - has accompanied the fortunes and history of Rome for almost two thousand years.

From funeral monument to fortified outpost, from dark and terrible prison to gorgeous Renaissance dwelling which saw Michelangelo active amongst its walls, from a Risorgimento-era prison to a museum, Castel Sant'Angelo embodies the events of the Eternal City in these solemn Roman spaces, in its mighty walls, in its lavish frescoed halls, where past and present appear inextricably linked.

Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous squares in Rome, which has also become one of the main places for meeting and sharing. Its name stems from the presence of the Spanish Embassy, since the 17th century. The steps of the square, built in the early 18th century to connect the square with the Trinity of the Mountains Church, are the most characteristic element.

The staircase was designed by Francesco De Sanctis (1723-26), and is a masterpiece of the late Roman Baroque. In the middle of the square you can admire the Fountain of the Barcacciadesigned by Pietro Bernini for Pope Urban III. Its construction was completed in 1627 by his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Fountain of the Barcaccia is shaped like a boat and you can find engraved the emblems of the Bernini family: the suns and the bees. 

Trastevere

Trastevere is the more colourful and charming neighbourhood, where you can breathe the authentic soul of the Romans. Busy in the evening, thanks to the clubs full of Roman movida, and enchanting by day for the unexpected glimpses that open up between one cobbled street and the other. The neighbourhood is full of typical restaurants and markets in its narrow alleys that wind around the main square, Santa Maria in Trastevere. During the day it almost feels like you are in a mediaeval village: artisan shops, small shops, markets, and many people who stop to chat in the street. In the evenings the neighbourhood is transformed, and Trastevere becomes a favourite destination to spend the evenings.

Don't miss the famous St. Mary's Basilica, one of the mediaeval jewels of Rome, located in the square of the same name, one of the most beautiful in the city. The interior of this symbol of Christianity is just as inspiring: a bright apse, three aisles where the stuccoes and frescoes of numerous chapels appear one after the other.

The Cestia Pyramid

The Cestia Pyramid is the only surviving monument of a series present in Rome in the 1st century. A.D., when funeral construction was influenced by Egyptian fashion, which arose in Rome after the conquest of Egypt in 31 B.C. Caio Cestio, a Roman politician, member of the Roman priests’ corporation of the Epulones, arranged in his will that the construction of his own tomb, in pyramid form, should be carried out in 330 days.

The tomb was raised along the Ostiense Way, in the period between 18 and 12 BC, that is, between the year of promulgation of the law against the ostentation of luxury that prevented the placing inside the cell some precious tapestries, and that of the death of Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, mentioned amongst the beneficiaries of the will. The pyramid was later incorporated into the walls built between 272 and 279 on the initiative of Emperor Aurelian. The structure, 36.40 metres high with a square base of 29.50 m on the side, is composed of a core of concrete work with brick curtain wall; The outer lining consists of Lunense marble slabs. The burial chamber, about 23 square metres, with barrel vault, was walled at the time of burial, according to Egyptian custom. 

Baths of Caracalla

The Thermae Antonianae, one of the largest and best preserved spa complexes of antiquity, were built in the southern part of the city on the initiave of Caracalla initiative, who dedicated the central building in 216 A.D. The rectangular shape is typical of "large imperial baths". The baths weren't just a building for bathng, sport and body care, but also a place for walking and studying. You entered the central body of the building from four doors on the north-eastern facade.

On the centre axis, you can see sequentially calidariumtepidariumthe frigidarium and the natatio; on the sides of this axis other rooms are arranged symmetrically around the two gyms. The Baths of Caracalla are one of the rare cases in which it is possible to reconstruct, albeit in part, the original decorative programme. Written sources speak of enormous marble columns, paving in Oriental coloured marbles, mosaics of glass paste and marble on the walls, stucco paintings and hundreds of colossal statues and groups, both in the niches in the walls of the rooms, as well as in the most important halls and gardens.

San Pietro in Vincoli

San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica is a Catholic place of worship in the Old Town of Rome, located in the Monti ward, on the Oppian Hill; it is also called Basilica Eudoxiana from the name of the founder, Empress Licinia Eudoxia, wife of Valentinian III and a fervent Christian, and is best known for housing the tomb of Julius II.

The building was built with the purpose of containing the precious chains, (the vincula precisely from which the church name), that had imprisoned theApostle Peter: inside, in the shrine under the main altar, both the chains with which he was chained up in the Mamertino prison in Rome, and those related to his imprisonment in the Holy Land are kept. The building has been restored several times throughout history and the image it retains today goes back to the sixteenth-century interventions ordered by Pope Julius II della Rovere, as well as the convent attached with the splendid cloister created by Giuliano da Sangallo.

Inside you can admire one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art, an example of great craftsmanship and incomparable beauty:Michelangelo's Moses. The colossal statue (2 metres and 35 centimetres),carved in 1513 to adorn the memorial thatJulius II had commissioned from Buonarroti, portrays a majestic Moses sitting, with hisTablets of the Law under his arm, while with his other hand he strokes his long beard.

St. John in Lateran

The basilica of St. John in Lateran is the cathedral of Rome and has very ancient origins. It was Emperor Constantine who ordered its construction, in the aftermath of the victorious battle of Ponte Milvio (312) against Emperor Maxentius, as a former vow to Christ who had favoured his victory. In fact, the church was dedicated to the Saviour (Basilica Salvatoris) and only later was it also named after the Saints John the Baptist and Evangelist. Here in 1300, it was called the first Jubilee in history, and later, on the occasion of the Jubilee of 1423, Pope Martin V instituted the opening of the Holy Door for the first time in this church. The church we see today has a decidedly more "modern" appearance: the monumental facade is from 1732 (Alessandro Galilei) while the interior was remodelled in Baroque forms by Francesco Borromini, between 1646 and 1649. 

Jewish ghetto

The ghetto of Rome, also known as the Jewish quarter of Rome, is one of the oldest in the world. It is located in the picturesque Sant'Angelo ward, where the island of Tiberina is also located, formed by the wedges of the Tiber. Today it is one of the most loved areas of the Eternal City not only by residents, but also by tourists., Historically the ghetto of Rome was created in 1555 when Pope Paul IV issued a bull to revoke all rights of Roman Jews by ordering the creation of a ghetto.

This neighbourhood was born as a place of segregation, but today it is also one of the most culturally alive areas of the city. Among the must-see sites is the synagogueTempio Maggiore, which dates back to the early 1900s. The architectural style was inspired by Assyrian-Babylonian forms and its decoration was entrusted to the main Art Nouveau artists of the time.

Campo de' Fiori

With an atmosphere lively both by day, for its markets, and in the evening, for restaurants and clubs, Campo de' Fiori is one of the most typical areas of Rome. The square of Campo de' Fiori was built in 1456 by order of Pope Callixtus III in the place where beforehand there was a field of flowers, as its name indicates. After renovation of the area and the construction of significant buildings, like Palazzo Orsini, the square became a popular place for the most important personalities of the city. Campo de' Fiori became a prosperous place, full of craft shops and hotels, where in the past, twice a week, there was a horse market.

The square was also the place where executions were held, as the imposing statue of Giordano Bruno in the middle of the square reminds us. This famous philosopher was burned in the square in 1600 on the charge of heresy, and in 1889 the monument in his honour was installed. Today Campo de' Fiori is one of the most famous spots in the capital. Since 1869 every morning, Monday to Saturday, a food, flower and other produce market takes place.

Holy Staircase

According to an ancient Christian tradition, Empress St Helena in 326 had the Ladder climbed several times by Jesus on the day of his death sentence transported to Rome from Pilate's preatorium in Jerusalem. For this reason it was called Pilatus Ladder or Scala Sancta.

The staircase is located in the Holy Staircase Sanctuary, near St. John in LateranIt's a 28-step climb of white marble, covered under the papacy of Innocent VIII by wooden planks to avoid wear and tear. It was transferred to the Shrine that houses it in 1589 by order of Pope Sixtus V, while previously it was in the Lateran Palace. During the construction of the shrine, the steps were laid starting from the top, so as not to be stepped on by the workers but only by the faithful in prayer. Even today, the holy staircase is a pilgrimage destination by the many faithful.

Sancta Santorum Chapel

This is the beautiful chapel where the pilgrim, having reached the last step of the Holy Staircase, can pray through the massive railing that protects it. According to historians of the Middle Ages, it was "Rome's most revered sanctuary". It was the pope's private oratory until the Renaissance period. The chapel, as we see it today, is the result of the restoration work ordered by Pope Nicholas III in 1278, which significantly changed the original structure of the small religious building dating back to the 8th century A.D.

In fact, the ancient chapel was completely rebuilt and decorated according to the taste of the time. The best mosaic and marble artists available were called to decorate a unique place. Here, an ancient image of Christ the Redeemer, known as Acheropita, that is, not painted by human hand, is also kept: tradition, in fact, tells us that the icon was painted by the evangelist Luke helped by an angel.

Discover Rome with Costa Cuises

 

In Rome, time seems to have stopped and its monuments turn a simple walk around the streets of the city into a dive into the past. Living it will mean going back amongst the gladiators, the races with the quadriga and the philosophical debates. Living it will mean breathing a glorious past full of indelible teachings and traces. You'll also find a living city, in turmoil and that will capture you. Why not take advantage of it and make Rome your next destination for the holidays?

Depart with Costa Cruises