Rome, the capital of Italy, is renowned for its history. The city is located on the river Tiber and although we have archaeological evidences of human occupation from 14000 years, the legendary date of Rome's foundation is 21 April 753 BC. If you plan to visit Rome, you can freely choose the month you prefer, in fact the city weather is usually mild and even in winter the average temperature is 13 Â°C. In summer sometimes it can be hot but it's easy to find parks or green spots where you can rest.
Since this capital is inhabited from 753 BC and was never really abandoned, a tourist can find monuments and architecture examples of all times such as Medieval, Baroque and even Fascist.
Here I want to share a list of spots where you can enjoy a cultural visit or simply relax:
1. Colosseum. Obviously if you plan to visit Rome you cannot skip the Colosseum, also known as Flavian Amphitheater. You'll be fascinated when you arrive by metro at the Colosseum stop and, thinking the monument is only close to the metro, you'll find it in front of you at the moment you step out the station. Romans dried up the Domus Aurea lake in order to have enough space for this masterpiece and the nickname Colosseum probably derives by an ancient statue of Nero that was close to the Amphitheater. The statue probably was removed to use again the bronze in the Medieval Times. The monument, as you can see, is damaged and, thanks to medieval sources, we know that part of it fell down because of an earthquake.
2. Roman Forum. This area is very close to the Colosseum and it consists in an open rectangle surrounded by ancient temples and ruins and was the ancient heart of the city. While you take a walk in this fascinating area you'll admire the ruins of the Regia, the former ancient royal palace and the complex of the Vestal Virgins where it's still possible to see statues of young Vestals. In medieval time several building were converted in churches. Personally, the building I prefer is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina that was used as a church and as a location for wedding shooting for a long time.
3. Domus Aurea. I really hope you'll find this beautiful villa open when you visit Rome because nowadays this monument is often closed. This villa was built by Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 BC. The building was rich and magnificent but it was stripped of the marble and jewels right after Nero's death.The villa ended up being filled with earth and other buildings were erected where the Domus once was. The villa was rediscovered by a young Roman in 15th when he fell through a cleft and discovered the magnificent painting hidden underground. In modern times, maintaining this masterpiece is a problem due to funds lacking and damages. The trees of the park that now is visible where the underground Domus is are slowly destroying the vaults of the galleries and in 2010 collapsed a big area forcing the authorities to close the monument.
4. Catacombs. Spend half a day outside the city center and take a bus to Via Appia where you can visit several ancient catacombs. It can sound creepy to visit an underground cemetery, but if you want to see the first examples of Christian art, you can skip this visit. When I was in Rome I was only able to visit San Callisto Catacombs since in January the others are usually on maintenance but this immense underground collective tomb is one of the best you can visit. San Callisto Catacomb started as a private tomb but, due to lack of burial space, it was enlarged and it became of of the biggest cemeteries in Rome. You'll find beautiful frescos that can be dated at the 9th century and this is also the original tomb of Saint Cecilia. The catacombs located in Via Appia are quite easy to reach with a bus that departs from several spots in the city.
4. Piazza di Spagna. This is , in my opinion, the most crowded spot of Rome. The main attraction are surely the Spanish Steps that is the longest and widest staircase in europe. In the square, at the base of the famous staircase, you'll find a beautiful fountain called La Barcaccia and credited to Pietro Bernini.
If you are asking yourself why all people goes there I'll tell you only the nale of the street and explain it in the next point: Via Condotti.
5. Via Condotti. This is shopping addicted paradise, since you can find all the most famous brands here. This expensive street was named after the conduits that charried water to the Baths of Agrippa. If you feel a little tired you can rest at Caffe Greco, the most famous bar in Rome that attracted important figures as Stendhal, Goethe, Byron and Keats. The first famous store was Bulgari atelier in 1905 but now you can find even Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and many others.
6. Fontain of the Four Rivers. I think this is the most beautiful Roman Fountain after the Trevi one. Situated in the outstanding Piazza Navona, was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and it expresses all the dramatic and extreme movement effects that Baroque Artists loved. The fountains not only were a symbol of the papal power but where also an important water supply. Each river god symbolizes something: Ganges carries an oar symbol of navigability, Nile's head is draped since no one knew its source, Danube touches the Papal coat of arms because is the closest to Rome and Rio de la Plata sits on coins to show how rich America was. All the gods convert to the obelisk at the centers that stands for the Papal power.
7. Trevi Fountain. This is the symbol of Baroque in Rome. Located at the junction on "tre vie", this super masterpiece stands at the final point of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, now known as Acqua Vergine. Aqua Virgo was the main aqueduct in Ancient Rome and the legends says that the water sue was spotted outside Rome with the help of a maiden. When Goths entered in Rome, they were able to gain Rome's surrender when they destroyed the aqueduct and the citizens were now forced to drink Tiber's polluted water. The Roman tradition of building fountains at the end of a water source was adopted by Popes in order to gain popularity and it was Pope Nicholas V that reconstructed the ancient aqueduct and built a simple basin to show the end of the water source. The first sketch of this fountain is surely the Bernini's one, but it was Salvi who won the contest organized to choose the best architect. The work began in 1732 and ended in 1762 when Clement XII, the Pope who wanted this masterpiece, was already dead. The fountain has been restored in 1998 since it needed to be cleaned.
8. Gardens. After spending an entire day visiting the city, the ideal place to relax a bit is surely Villa Borghese gardens that is the second largest park you can find in Rome.
Lush gardens and beautiful lakes will give you a peaceful sensation and it'll be easy to take a nap if you are tired.
9 Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. A long name for a small church located in Via vent, one of the most famous and expensive streets in Rome. This church was ordered by Pope Urban VIII as a gift to his brother who was a Capuchin friar. To be honest, the church is not outstanding, but the capuchin crypt is superb, maybe a little creepy but it's worth a visit if you don't risk an heart attack when you see bones. Antonio Barberini in 1631 ordered the remains of hundred of friars to be exhumed and arranged in the crypt as a sort of decoration. This burial spot now contains the bones of over 4,000 friars and some of you'll se that some of them where buried still dressed in the Franciscan way. In one of the chapels there is a plaque where you can read a memento mori written in three languages and means "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be". A suggestion: go when it's still day outside because there is very poor illumination in the crypt and if you remember, look at the lamps and you'll be surprised to see that some of them are made of bones.
10. Vatican. Even is the Vatican is technically a city state, but you can reach it with the metro and it's very small. Here you can find the Vatican Museums, one of the greatest museums in the world. You'll find artifacts of all ages and included in the visit there's also the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo and many other important artists. The museum is a little expensive but you won't regret it and, if you don't want to wait hours to get your entrance ticket, I suggest you to book in advance. The real jewel of the Vatican is St. Peters Basilica. The tradition stands that St Peter is buried here and, if you book the visit for the basilica's underground (which I personally recommend you) you'll be able to see the holy relics. The church was designed by Michelangelo but inside the church there are several pieces of art that will catch you attention like the PietÃ by Michelangelo and the Bernini's Baldacchino. If you arrive from Via della Conciliazione you are now able to see St. Peter's Basilica from a great distance since Mussolini demolished a lot of palaces in order to build this big street; in the ancient times, however, the streets a person had to take to reach the basilica were narrow and you didn't see the gigantic elliptical square and Basilica until the very final minute which gave someone the idea of Papal power.
11. Gastronomy. Everyone has to eat between a museum and a cathedral, so why not try some typical dishes? You can't absolutely miss the "Spaghetti alla Carbonara" which ingredients are bacon, eggs and pecorino. Also the "gnocchi di semolino alla romana" are very tasty. If possible, choose small restaurants that are usually cheaper and have a lot of traditional dishes in the menu.
12. Nightlife. Rome as a very active nightlife and it's very difficult to choose between disco, pubs, irish pubs etc. There are also several gay friendly pubs, the most famous one situated near the Colosseum. Campo de Fiori is one of the most crowded areas but be careful, it's easy to meet bad people.
13. Villa Adriana. This superb gigantic villa is located in Tivoli but it's easy to reach with the train. I suggest to keep your day free because the domus is so big you'll spend hours trying to visit every spot. Designed for the Roman emperor Hadrian who couldn't stand the resident in the city centre, thi villa is huge, covering almost 1square kilometer with the imperial residence, gardens and service areas.
14. Vatican Necropolis. This burial place lies under the Vatican City and specifically under the basilica. Not only you'll be able to admire St. Peter's relics but during the archaeological excavations it was possible to discover a beautiful imperial necropolis. It's the burial site of the Julii family and, as you proceed in this humid underground, you'll admire the ruins of the Circus of Nero, the place where the Saint was probably killed. It's essential to book in advance since the site is under restore and only limited visitors are allowed. During this underground journey you'll be escorted by a competent guide that knows the history of every stone you can see there. The necropolis is very humid but it's necessary to maintain this condition to preserve the beautiful frescos.
15. Baths of Caracalla. Ancient ruins and a green scenery, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. This place was more a lesser center than a simple bath since it had also a library and several shops. If you are interested in this visit, book in advance since only few groups are allowed access in order to preserve the mosaics.
Obviously I could not list all the things you can do or visit in Rome since this city is so rich in history you could spend a month to visit all. I chose to write about spots that usually are not listed because I went to see them and I assure you that this almost unknown places can be more beautiful than the famous ones.
If you'll spend several days in this city, take a walk in the evening and you'll notice that there's history everywhere and also many restaurants or pubs are located in ancient buildings. Leaving this city at the end of the journey gives everyone a great sense of nostalgia and the wish to come back and visit Rome again soon.