(Lazio) - Rome (Roma) is a vast city but the centro storico is relatively
small, defined by the twisting River Tiber to the west, the sprawling
Villa Borghese park to the north, the Roman Forum and Palatine to
the south, and the central train station, Stazione Termini, to the
east. The Vatican City and the characteristic area of the Trastevere
are on the west bank on the Tiber. Rome’s best known geographical
features are its seven hills: the Palatine, Capitoline, Aventine,
Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal and Quirinal. Two other hills, the Gianicolo,
which rises above Trastevere, and the Pincio, above Piazza del Popolo,
were never actually part of the ancient city.
Roma, non basta una vita (Rome, a lifetime is not enough) goes the
popular saying. Rome reputedly contains more than 900 churches, then
there are the monuments and museums. The Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill,
Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, exterior of the Colosseum
and Castel Sant’Angelo, the Mouth of Truth, Piazza Navona and
St Peter’s Basilica are all free. You’ll find Michelangelo
in San Pietro in Vincoli, St Peter’s Basilica, in Piazza del
Campidoglio, and you can find also Bernini and Caravaggio.
The elegant Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo in
1538 and is bordered by three places: the Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo Senatorio
and Palazzo dei Conservatori. The Campidoglio is now the seat of the
city’s municipal government and home of the Capitoline Museums.
The Vittoriano overshadows Piazza Venezia. This white, monolithic
monument commemorates Vittorio Emanuele II and the united Italy. It
incorporates the Altare della Patria, the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Basilica San Marco was founded in the 4th century in honour of St
Mark the Evangelist. The first Jesuit church in Rome was Chiesa del
The Fori Imperiali – of Trajan, Augustus, Caesar, Nerva and
Vespasian – were built between 42 BC and AD 112. The most extensively
excavated of the Imperial Forums is Foro di Traiano. The Colonna di
Traiano was erected to mark Trajan’s victories over the Dacians.
Just to the southeast of Trajan’s Forum and markets are the
Foro d’Augusto and the Foro di Nerva.
The ancient Roman commercial, political and religious centre, the
Roman Forum stands in a valley between the Capitoline and Palatine
To the north of the Forum is the Basilica di SS Cosma e Damiano. In
the apse are 6th century mosaics which are among the most beautiful
The Palatine (Palatino) was the mythical founding place of Rome. Wealthy
Romans built their homes here during the era of the Republic and it
later became the realm of the emperors.
Construction of the Colosseum was started by Vespasian in the grounds
of Nero’s private Domus Aurea. The massive structure could seat
more than 50.000. On the western side of the Colosseum is the triumphal
arch built to honour Constantine following his victory over Maxentius.
The largest and highest of Rome’s seven hills is Esquiline (Esquilino).
One of Rome’s four patriarchal basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore
was built on Esquiline Hill in the 5th century. At the base of Esquiline
Hill, near the Colosseum and Caelian, is the Basilica di San Clemente.
The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano was the first Christian basilica
constructed in Rome. It’s Rome’s cathedral and the pope’s
seat as Bishop of Rome.
Celio (Caelian Hill) is accessible either from Via di San Gregorio
VII to the west or from Via della Navicella to the east. The Villa
Celimontana is a large public park on top of the hill. The Chiesa
di Santa Maria in Cosmedin is regarded as one of the finest medieval
churches in Rome.
South of the Circo Massimo is Aventine Hill.
Separated from the historic centre by the river, Trastevere is one
of the most picturesque parts of Rome. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
is a true Roman square.
Piazza di Campo de´ Fiori is a lively square with a colourful
flower and vegetable market. Nearby, in Piazza Farnese, is the Palazzo
Farnese. South of Piazza Campo de´ Fiori and Piazza Farnese
is the Palazzo Spada.
The Piazza Navona contains three fountains, includine Bernini’s
masterpiece in the centre, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.
The Pantheon is the best preserved building of ancient Rome. It is
considered the most important achievement of ancient Roman architecture.
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous monuments. The
famous custom is to throw a coin into the water to ensure you return
to Rome. Toss a second coin and you’ll fall in love with an
Italian. Chuck a third and be happy you’ve donated to charity.
The piazza, church and famous Spanish Steps have long provided a gathering
place for tourists.
Vast Piazza del Popolo was laid out in the early 16th century at the
point of convergence of the three roads – Via di Ripetta, Via
del Corso and Via del Babuino – which form a trident at what
was the main entrance to the city from the north. In its centre is
an obelisk brought by Augustus from Heliopolis. To the east is a ramp
leading up to Pincio Hill, which affords a stunning view of the city.
The Vatican City is the smallest independent state in existence. The
Vatican has its own postal service, currency and army of Swiss Guards,
responsible for the pope’s personal security. Piazza San Pietro
is considered a masterpiece. In the centre of the piazza is an obelisk
brought to Rome from Heliopolis in ancient Egypt. St Peter’s
Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) is the biggest in the world. The
interior can hold up to 60.000 people. The Vatican Grottoes (Sacre
Grotte Vaticane) below the church are the resting place of numerous
popes. The incredible collection of art and treasures accumulated
by the popes can be seen at the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel
comes towards the end of each itinerary. The buildings that house
the Vatican Museums are known as the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano.
Other famous museums are the Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Museo Chiaramonti,
Museo Pio-Clementino, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Galleria delle Carte
Geografiche, Galleria degli Arazzi.
The Sistine Chapel (Capella Sistina) is used for the conclave that
elects the popes. It is best known for two of the most awe-inspiring
acts of individual creativity in the history of visual arts: Michelangelo’s
frescoes on the barrel-vaulted ceiling, and The Last Judgement on
the end of the wall.
Castel Sant’Angelo was converted into a fortress for the popes
in the 6th century AD. The Villa Borghese is a beautiful park northeast
of the Piazza del Popolo. The Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia
is situated in the villa of Pope Julius III, at the northern end of
the Villa Borghese. This museum houses the national collection of
The Palazzo del Quirinale is the official residence of the president
of the Republic. The archaeological collection of the Museo Nazionale
Romano is among the most important in the world. The catacombs are
underground corridors and passageways that were built as communal
burial grounds The best known are the Christian catacombs along the
Via Appia Antica.
The EUR, Esposizione Universale di Roma, has become the name of a
peripheral suburb south of Rome, interesting for its many examples
of Fascist architecture.
A tour of Etruria which extended into northern Lazio is highly recommended.
The ruins of Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa), near Tivoli, and
of the ancient Roman port at Ostia Antica, are both easily accessible
from Rome, as is the medieval town of Viterbo, north of the capital.
There are some hill-top towns to the southeast of Rome such as Anagni,
Altri and those included in the Castelli Romani in the hills just
past Rome’s outskirts.
The Romans founded Ostia Antica, a port city at the mouth of the River
Tiber in the 4th century BC. The ruins of the city provide a fascinating
contrast to the ruins at Pompeii, which was a resort town for the
Tivoli was a resort town of the Romans and became popular as a summer
playground for the rich during the Renaissance.
Lazio has several important Etruscan archaeological sites. These include
Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Veio and Tuscania.
Civitavecchia is the main point of departure for the daily ferries
to Sardinia. Viterbo remains Lazio’s best-preserved medieval
town. Viterbo is famous for its therapeutic hot springs. Viterbo’s
thermal springs are about 3km west of town.
There are several large lakes just to the north of Rome. Lago di Bracciano
is 40km north of Rome. Visit the medieval town of Bracciano and on
the northern edge of the lake Trevignano Romano. South of Rome and
past the periphery of Rome are the Colli Albani (Alban Hills) and
the 13 towns which make up the Castelli Romani. Castel Gandolfo and
Frascati are perhaps the best known. The other towns in this group
are Monte Porzio Catone, Montecompatri, Rocca Priora, Colonna, Rocca
di Papa, Grottaferrata, Marino, Albano Laziale, Ariccia, Genzano and
The town of Palestrina is dominated by the massive Santuario della
Fortuna Primigenia. Anagni and Alatri are medieval towns and are in
an area known as the Ciociaria.
Beaches close to Rome include Fregene, the Lido di Ostia and the long
stretch of dune-lined beach which is between Ostia and Anzio. Sabaudia
has sand dunes and the Parco Nazionale del Circeo. The small coastal
town of Sperlonga has two long, sandy beaches on either side of a
rocky promontory jutting out into the sea.