Things to see in Rome

Tourist information

Azienda di Promozione Turistica di Roma (APT)
Via Leopardi 24
Tel: 06 0608.
Website: http://www.turismoroma.it
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1800.
There are other information points at Fiumicino Airport (Terminal C International Arrivals, open daily 0900-1830) and Termini Station (next to platform 24, open daily 0800-2030), plus other green information kiosks near major tourist sights (open daily 0930-1900), including Piazza Navona off Piazza delle Cinque Lune. Another useful source of information is the Anglo-centric Enjoy Rome (tel: 06 445 1843; www.enjoyrome.com), near Termini Station.

Passes

The Rome tourist board offers the Roma Pass (www.romapass.it), which includes free access to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visits, and discounts thereafter, and free travel on public transport. It's valid for three days. Buy it from any tourist information point, participating museum or site.

The Roma Archeologia Card allows entrance to the Colosseum, Palatino, Terme di Caracalle, Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Terme di Diocleziano, Crypta Balbi), the tomb of Cecilia Metella and Villa dei Quintili. The pass is valid for seven days from the first day of use and can be purchased at any of the participating monuments or museums.

Basilica di San Pietro (St Peter's Basilica)

St Peter's Basilica lies above a shrine said to mark the burial ground of the saint. Pope Julius II and his architect Bramante pulled down the original structure in 1506, in order to build the new basilica. Construction lasted 120 years, during which time Alberti, Bramante, Raphael, Peruzzi, Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo struggled over this enormous edifice. Inside you’ll find Michelangelo's Pietà (1498/9) and Arnolfo da Cambio's bronze statue of St Peter (1296), which is famed for its foot worn to a nub by pilgrims' kisses. Extras include entry to the dome, the Vatican Gardens, and the Vatican Grottoes, containing papal tombs.

Opening Times: Daily 0700-1900 (Apr-Sep); daily 0700-1800 (Oct-Mar).
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazza San Pietro, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 6988 3731.
Website: www.vatican.va
Cappella Sistina & Musei Vaticani (Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museums)

A glimpse of Michelangelo's depiction of The Creation is worth the queues you have to negotiate to visit the Vatican Museums. Built as a private chapel for the popes, Pope Julius II commissioned the precocious artist to paint the ceiling frescoes and work was completed in October 1512. Although eclipsed by Michelangelo's artistry, the Renaissance paintings that line the walls are also masterful works, including some by Michelangelo's own teacher, Ghirlandaio. Highlights of the vast museum include Raphael's Rooms, the Etruscan Museum and the Pio-Clementino Museum, which includes the classical masterpieces Laocoön and the Apollo Belvedere.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0900-1800 with last entry at 1600, Sun 0900-1400 with last entry at 1230.
Admission Fees: Yes (except the last Sunday of the month).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Viale Vaticano 100, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 6988 4947.
Website: www.vatican.va
Colosseo (Colosseum)

Near the fourth-century Arch of Constantine stands the gigantic Colosseum - 186m (620ft) long and 153m (510ft) wide. Emperor Vespasian began construction in AD72 and work was completed eight years later by his son Titus. To mark its inauguration, Titus staged a run of games that lasted 100 days, during which 5,000 animals were slaughtered. Explore the massive amphitheatre (seating 50,000) and the skeletal remains of underground chambers where gladiators and beasts were held beneath the long-vanished arena floor. The ‘games' were finally outlawed in the fifth century and the stadium pillaged for marble in the Middle Ages.

Opening Times: Daily 0830-1815 (Apr-Aug); 0830-1800 (Sep), 0830-1730 (Oct), 0830-1630 (Mar), 08.30-16.00 (Nov-Feb).
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 3996 7700.
Website: www.pierreci.it
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)

It is said that a virgin discovered a three-way (tre-vie) spring here, causing the Trevi fountain to be built. The baroque extravaganza was designed by Nicolò Salvi for Pope Clement XII and completed in 1762. It's pure melodrama, with statues (representing Abundance, Agrippa, Salubrity, the Virgin and Neptune) with a Renaissance palace for their backdrop and craggy rocks in the foreground. Later the extraordinary, foaming fountain achieved iconic status when Anita Ekberg frolicked here in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1959). Try and come here early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazza di Trevi, Rome, Italy
Foro Romano (Roman Forum) and Palatino (Palatine)

Today the Roman Forum is a vast expanse of tumble-down, marble fragments, columns and floor layouts. But with a little imagination, you can envisage the political, commercial and social heart of ancient Rome. A bird's-eye view is gained from behind Piazza del Campidoglio. Grab an audio guide to help make sense of it all. Among the best-preserved monuments are the Arch of Septimius Severus (AD203) and the remains of Caesar's rostra, from where his great speeches were declaimed. Above it all is the Palatine hill where once the spectacular palaces of the Roman emperors overlooked the Forum.

Opening Times: Daily 0830-1815 (Apr-Aug); 0830-1800 (Sep); 0830-1730 (Oct); 0830-1630 (Nov-Mar), last entry one hour before closing time.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Largo Romolo e Remo 5-6 & Via di San Gregorio 30, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 3996 7700.
Website: www.pierreci.it
Pantheon

The Pantheon is the best-preserved of Rome's ancient monuments. Thought to have been built by Hadrian between AD119 and AD128, this was once a Roman temple. It was converted to a Christian church in AD608. The radius of the dome is exactly equivalent to the height and a 9m (30ft) hole, known as the oculus, allows light into the building. Once the interior would have been decorated by statues of deities - now it houses the tombs of kings Vittorio Emmanuele II and Umberto I, and the painter Raphael. The vast brass doors belonged to the original Roman building.

 

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0830-1930, Sun 0900-1800.
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 6830 0230.
Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and Keats-Shelley Memorial House

The Piazza di Spagna district is little changed from 18th-century prints depicting the area - and is still dominated by the elegant sweeping staircase known as the Spanish Steps. These were designed in 1723-26 by Francesco de Sanctis to link Via del Babuino with Via Felice - the first great street planned by Sixtus V (1585-90). Reminiscent of the grand ascent to the Sacré Coeur in Paris, the steps lead up to the 16th-century Trinità dei Monti. From here, spectacular views over the city rooftops more than warrant the steep climb. The Spanish Steps acquired their name from the neighbouring Spanish embassy but the area is more intimately associated with England - even becoming known to the rather provincial Romans as er ghetto de l'Inglesi (English Ghetto, in Roman dialect). The tourists on the Grand Tour of the 18th and 19th centuries (including Keats, Shelley, Byron and the Brownings) helped establish the district's reputation as a cosmopolitan artistic quarter. At the foot of the steps lies the boat-shaped Barcaccia Fountain, designed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo. To the right stands the modest Keats-Shelley Memorial House, in the building where 25-year-old John Keats died of tuberculosis in 1821. Exhibits include pictures and prints, private letters, an urn bearing Shelley's ashes and a lock of Keats' tawny red hair.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0900-1300 and 1400-1800, Sat 1100-1400 and 1500-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazza di Spagna 26, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 678 4235.
Mercati e Foro di Traiano (Trajan's Forum and Trajan's Markets)

Inaugurated in AD112-113, Trajan's Forum was the last built and most impressive of the Fora. The complex contained a main square, a basilica and two libraries, and was completed by the markets of the same name, a sort of Roman, and remarkably well-preserved, equivalent of a shopping mall. The markets contained about 150 small shops spread over six storeys. The building now houses the impressive new Museum of the Imperial Fora, containing ancient artefacts discovered in the surrounding forums. Trajan's column (which stands 38m/125ft high) is a remarkable example of Roman art, and was probably set between the two libraries on a base containing the burial urns of the Emperor and his wife. Its beautifully carved reliefs tell the tale of Trajan's war campaigns in Dacia (now Romania). On the top of the column stood a statue of the emperor. This was removed by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 and replaced with a statue of St Peter that faced in the direction of the basilica dedicated to the saint that was being built at the time. The Imperial Fora (the forums of Caesar, August, Nerva and Vespasian) can be seen from the Via dei Fori Imperiali for free.

Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Via IV Novembre 94, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 0608.
Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums)

The oldest public collection in the world, the Capitoline Museums are made up of two separate buildings: the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. They house ancient and baroque sculptures, from the fifth-century-BC wolf suckling Romus and Romulus to Gian Lorenzo Bernini's wild head of Medusa. There's the original of the second-century-AD equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, a copy of which stands in the middle of the Piazza del Campidoglio, and a fine array of Renaissance and baroque art by Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio, as well as the country's most important collection of Roman sculpture.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-2000.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 8205 9127.
Villa & Galleria Borghese

Just to the east of the Spanish Steps lies an unexpected expanse of bucolic tranquillity - the sculpture-scattered parklands landscaped in the 17th century for Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V). Villa Borghese includes the city zoo, Piazza di Siena horse-jumping arena, mock ancient temples, and an artificial lake. The park also harbours Rome's most glorious gallery, the Casino Borghese, a treasure trove of sculpture and antiquities, with breathtaking Roman mosaics and masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian and more, all housed in rococo splendour.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0830-1930.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5 , Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 32810.
Villa Giulia

Near the Galleria Borghese is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco (National Etruscan Museum) in Villa Giulia, with its remarkable sarcophagus of the reclining Bride and Bridegroom from Cerveteri, and the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern Art), featuring Italian art of the 19th and 20th centuries housed in a massive neo-classical palace built in 1912. Lesser-known venues include the modern art museum Carlo Bilotti; a delightful small scale children's cinema Cinema dei Piccoli; the Casa del Cinema; the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre, which puts on plays in summer and features some original-language productions; Teatro dei Burattini San Carlino, a puppet theatre; and games centre Ludoteca. The Villa Borghese Card offers reductions and free entry to special events.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0830-1930.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 322 6571
Campo de' Fiori

From Monday to Saturday, each day at dawn, stall holders at Rome's best-known and most picturesque fruit and vegetable market set up their wares at Campo de' Fiori. This down-to-earth square is surrounded by tumbledown orange-ochre facades, and is the only major piazza in Rome that is not overlooked by a church. It's a very different proposition to the more grandiose piazzas in other parts of the centro storico (historic centre), and is one of Rome's liveliest nightlife haunts (avoid after big football games). Come sunset, some of the city's liveliest wine bars and trattorie spill their tables out onto the cobbles, as locals and visitors alike flock here to eat and drink beneath the stars.

Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Campo de' Fiori, Rome, Italy
Galleria Doria Pamphilj

Galleria Doria Pamphilj harbours some of the extraordinary wealth of the Doria Pamphilj family, a pillar of Rome's papal aristocracy. Think gold, mirrors, red velvet and gilt, and walls covered in art, including paintings by Correggio, Caravaggio, Titian, Velázquez, Brueghel, and Dürer. The free audio guide features the voice of Jonathan Doria Pamphilj. This modern-day prince brings the palace alive, recalling childhood memories of roller skating along the parquet floor of the 18th-century ballroom - tiny indentations prove the truth of his tale. The rambling palace is still occupied, though the private apartments are closed to the public.

Opening Times: Mon-Sun 1000-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Via del Corso 305, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 679 7323.
MACRO (Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma)

Rome's municipal museum of modern and contemporary art is located not far from Piazza Fiume north of the city centre in a converted former Peroni brewery. The venue has recently had an extension of 10,000 sq m (107,639 sq ft) designed by French architect Odile Decq, with the courtyard between the brewery buildings topped by a graceful modernist glass pagoda. The venue pulls in big international names as well as young and local artists. Some shows are also displayed at another venue in the former slaughterhouse in Testaccio, MACRO Futura.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-1900.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Via Reggio Emilia 54, Rome, Italy
Telephone: (06) 6710 70400.
Piazza Navona

This dramatic piazza, lined with cafes and restaurants, lies at the heart of the centro storico (historic centre). Its oval shape follows the form of the former stadium, built in AD86 by Emperor Domitian. During the Renaissance, the site was flooded to stage mock naval battles. The piazza gained its current form in the mid-17th century, when Pope Innocent X commissioned Borromini to design the Church of Sant'Agnese. In front of the church, Bernini built the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), adorned with powerful figures representing the four great rivers (the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata, or River Plate) which in turn represented the four areas of the world known in Borromini's time (Africa, Europe, Asia and America respectively).

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Address: Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy
Edited by Tina Banerjee
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