Need a little Italian sun? From Vatican City to the ancient Roman Forum, take a five-minute online vacation to explore the most beautiful things to do in Rome.
Visit Ostia Antica
Some 2,000 years ago, ancient Rome’s lively international port city was right on the beach and at the mouth of the Tiber (ostium means “river’s mouth”). In the ensuing millennia the sea has retreated several kilometres and the river has changed course dramatically. Ostia was founded in the 4th century BC, first as a simple fort, but as Rome grew, the town became even more important as the distribution point for imports from around the Mediterranean. Grain was the most vital commodity, to feed Rome’s one million inhabitants, and so huge storage bins were built here. Goods were sent up to Rome on river barges. Ostia’s heyday ended in the 4th century AD, and it died completely as an inhabited area about 1,000 years ago.
Visit San Clemente
Nowhere else in Rome can give such a clear idea of the city’s layering and millennia of cultural riches that this wonderful church. The very lowest level remains largely unexplored, dating back to Republican Rome, probably the 2nd century BC. At the deepest excavated level there are 1st-century AD dedicated to the Persian god, Mithras. Above that is a partially intact 4th-century AD basilica. When that edifice was burned in the Norman sacking of 1084, the space was filled in and a new church was built, using some of the original architectural elements. In 1857, the Irish discovered the lower church and began the long process of emptying out the rubble.
Visit Santa Maria del Popolo
Few churches are such perfect primers on Roman art and architecture. Masters from the Early Renaissance (Pinturicchio, Bramante), High Renaissance (Raphael) and Baroque (Caravaggio, Bernini) exercised their genius in all of the few churches with major chapels still intact, preserving the artworks that together tell a complete story (most Italian chapels have been dismantled, their paintings now in museums). In the Cerasi Chapel, Caravaggio and Carracci collaborated with a frescoist to create a depiction of Peter, Paul and Mary and, on the vault, their connections to the Heaven. Bernini altered Raphael’s Chigi Chapel to help clarify the interplay of its art across the small space. .
Visit the Musei Capitolini
Capitoline Hill was ancient Rome’s religious heart, and is now home to a magnificent museum. A gently stepped grade, the Cordonata leads you up the hill and provides an unforgettably theatrical experience, just as Michelangelo planned it in the 16th century. At the top you notice the outstretched hand of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as he dispenses peace from astride his horse. The sides of the star-shaped piazza are graced by twin palaces that contain some of Rome’s greatest treasures. The collections in the Palazzo Nuovo, detailed below, and in the Palazzo dei Conservatori were inaugurated in 1471 with a donation of bronzes by Pope Sixtus IV, and have been judiciously added to ever since.
Visit The Colosseum and Imperial Fora
The rich archaeological zone, rudely intruded upon by Mussolini’s Via dei Fori Imperiali, contains some of the most grandiose and noteworthy of Rome’s ancient remains. Dominating the area is the mightyshell of the Colosseum, constructed in AD 72-80 under the Flavian emperors and originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The quarter also holds other imperial wonders, such as the Arch of Constantine, the gigantic fora of various emperors, most notably Trajan’s, and the 1st century AD folly of Nero’s Golden House, now a subterranean revelation of Roman interior design. The Comune di Roma is constantly working on excavating the area and new discoveries are made every year. The Via dei Fori Imperiali is closed to traffic on Sundays to allow visitors to walk around the site undisturbed.