Rome: Italy’s Grand Museum
Rome: Italy’s Grand Museum
From the toppled columns of the Forum to Vatican City to the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, Rome has something to appeal to everyone.
All roads may lead to Rome, but what happens when you get there? How do you decide what to see first, how to get from place to place, whether to concentrate on one theme or risk spreading yourself too thin? How do you choose between the incredibly rich treasures of the Vatican and the ancient sights of the city that was once the capital of the western world?
Crowded one upon the other are medieval churches on top of ancient basilicas, above Roman palaces; blocks of houses and apartments incorporate ancient Roman columns and inscribed stones. Streets and piazzas follow the perimeters of long-gone ancient amphitheatres and stadiums. Rome is like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle built from the stones of two millennia.
Knowing Rome’s neighborhoods
Any city becomes more manageable when it is broken into smaller bites. Because Rome is so big, some of its sections don’t really have the feel of a neighborhood, but others seem almost like little cities of their own.
- Ancient Rome—All the big names are here: the Forum, Colosseum, Nero’s Golden House, Circus Maximus, Capitoline Hill.
- Campo dei Fiori and the Pantheon—Food shops and markets occupy Campo dei Fiori, which is surrounded by shop-lined streets that retain their Medieval feel. The Pantheon is a few blocks away, toward the cluster of ancient Roman sights.
- Villa Borghese and Spanish Steps—Rome takes on a distinctly baroque look in this quarter, punctuated by the Trevi Fountain.
- Vatican City—Literally a world of its own, the Vatican sits in splendid isolation across from the Tiber River.
- Trastevere—Also across the river from the city center, Trastevere was Rome’s artisan quarter. Its narrow streets and enclosed squares are now known for restaurants and nightlife.
Seeing the sights
No list of Rome’s top attractions is complete, so most lists break them into subjects: ancient, Renaissance, Christian, art, etc. Not all of these interest everyone, and most visitors would like to sample a little of each. Some sights are must-sees for everyone. Bring the kids into your planning, especially if they have studied ancient Rome, since they may have their own list of places they want to see.
The Colosseum leads the list as an icon whose very silhouette says “Rome.” Tickets include admission to the Palatine Hill (a peaceful place where kids can poke about in ruins to their heart’s content), and you can avoid long ticket lines by starting there and arriving at the Colosseum with tickets already in hand. Kids will be especially pleased by the costumed Roman soldiers inside.