Blessed with an extensive collection of churches, ruins and artworks: the cultural city of Rome almost certainly requires more than a week to explore. Trying to decide on which sites to see and which places to visit can be very difficult, especially knowing that wherever you go, there will be that inevitable wait in the scorching sun. With this is mind, here is a list of the Top 5 must see places…
I will never forget, nor get bored of, stepping off of the Metro B at ‘Colosseo’ and being cast in the shadow of the Coliseum. Suddenly, with your jaw on the ground, you are transported back to ancient Rome and left in disbelief as to the complexity and scale of such a building. This feeling is reciprocated throughout your time exploring the city, with each ‘via’ (street) leading to another incredible feat of historic human architecture. On the first and last Sunday of the month, many of the city’s ruins are free to access.
I spent almost 3 months in Rome and, in that time, I must have walked down every cobbled street, entered every church and visited all of the top tourist attractions. It took the whole 3 months, however, to finally feel satisfied that I had experienced Rome and all of its offerings. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to spend just a weekend or a week there, knowing how much there is to see! A friend, an art historian who spent only a weekend in Rome, told me of the struggle when attempting to cram as many cultural activities in as possible, rushing around all day in the heat to get a brief glimpse of the ancient ruins and artworks.
Compiling this list was quite difficult, given that I fell in love with this city, meaning I love everything about it! But, putting my ‘love life’ aside, here is a list of places that must be visited for those travelling to Rome, for either a few days or a few weeks.
Rome is home to some of the most breath-taking historical artefacts in the world, and many take the form of architectural gems that we have only ever fantasised about through films and in our dreams.
In my eyes, the Pantheon was the most remarkable, engulfing you in such a sensational experience from the moment you funnel your way down the surrounding narrow streets and reach the piazza. An extraordinary piazza, at that, where this ancient church dominates the square with its Corinthian columns and intimidating concrete structure. Inside is, unsurprisingly, breath-taking. Still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, the perfection of its precision is hard to consider real,especially when taking into consideration the era as to when it was built (126AD). The eye is fixated on the softly curving ceiling and the beams of sunlight from the openings.
2A. Piazza Navona
I first stumbled across this Piazza after taking a wrong turn and getting lost. I had heard about Piazza Navona from friends and I didn’t realise that my poor navigational skills had led to it, until I returned home and spoke endlessly about this amazing square. It is situated close to the Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi and not far from the Pantheon. Built on the site of a former stadium, it retains its open and spectacular showground spirit. With ornately sculptured fountains lining the centre, such as La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, and a couple of beautiful churches, you get a real sense of romanticism as soon as you step foot onto the cobbled paths.
The spectacle aspect of its origins still remains, with a variety of entertainment acts that are sure to please everyone’s tastes. From classical music to a symphony orchestra and opera singers to bizarre and funny circus performances, Piazza Navona is somewhere you can spend endless hours, day and night.
2B. Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi
It is easy to walk past this hidden masterpiece and, like many tourists, I wasn’t aware of this particular church and the art it houses until being informed by an Italian friend. From the exterior, the Saint Louis of the French church is not the prettiest in comparison to others in Rome. However, the beauty lies within, as the saying goes.
Like each of the hundreds of churches throughout the city, the interior is coated in gold and lined with rich marble. This church is particularly special, thanks to its collection of world-renowned paintings by the baroque master, Caravaggio.
- Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese is a landscaped garden, close to the Piazza del Popolo. It boasts 148 acres of lush parks, boating lakes, ancient buildings, a hydrochronometre as well as a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre! Perfect for a family day out, a romantic stroll or even a relaxing walk alone, the gardens offer a beautiful experience away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and tourists.
You can hire a host of various vehicles to explore the grounds, bicycles, Segways and electric chuckle-vision bikes! After a day of shopping along Via del Corso, it is nice to take a break and have a bite to eat, shaded by the tree canopies.
Metro line A- Piazza del Popolo. Two-minute walk, head towards the greenery!
- Spiaggia Capocotta
Rome isn’t often associated with beaches. However, much to my surprise and excitement, a 90-minute journey on public transport leads you to a wonderful stretch of coastline. If you are in Rome for more than a couple of weeks, travelling to the beach is something that I would strongly advise. Not only is it a nice break, away from all of the overcrowded tourist sites in the city, but there’s nothing better than relaxing on the soft sand with a cocktail, listening to some exotic tunes and bathing in the warm sea.
My beach of choice is Capocotta. Situated at the end of the stretch of coastline, known as Ostia, it boasts the best opportunity to avoid the tourists and mingle with the locals. The further along Ostia you travel, the better-quality beaches you will find. Along these beaches, you will find a clean, accessible and inclusive environment where beach bars blast out chilled music and families play alongside groups of young people, of all genders and orientation. Reminiscing about Capocotta now, I can’t help but feel relaxed! Just be careful not to cross over onto the nudist beach…
Metro B to Piramide- Train to Ostia- Alight at final station, Cristoforo Colombo- Bus to Capocotta.
- Lago di Bracciano
For those who have the luxury of spending more than 2 weeks in Rome, take a trip to Lago di Bracciano. It is a day out that won’t disappoint, one where you get to experience the ‘true’ Italy, away from the tourist centres and into the glorious nature park. The journey takes you around the countryside on train before an interesting ride on a rickety bus to the lake. Nonetheless, it is certainly a completely different and special experience. The food along the lake is extremely tasty and the freshness of the air while bathing under the sun on the volcanic black beaches, adds to this unique experience.
Take a train from Stazione Termini. Use TrenItalia to book your seat on the comfortable and air conditioned trains.