Rome is the capital of Italy and also one of the oldest cities of the ‘Bel Paese’. Food, history and art: the eternal city has it all. So much so that we struggled when it came down to selecting just a few places to visit during your stay there.
Still, here at THEN AND NOW Shop we don’t give up and we ended up putting together a list of recommendations that, if followed, will have you seeing the oldest historic sites, tasting the most authentic foods and admiring the best works of art.
We will talk about the inevitable Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Campidoglio, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, St. Peter’s Basilica and more.
The Colosseum – Attractions
The colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built and it’s situated in the centre of the city of Rome. The construction of the oval amphitheatre began under emperor Vespasian in 72 A.D. and came to an end in 80 A.D. under emperor Titus.
The Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. This name is related to the fact that all those who gave order to modify the structure were part of the Flavian dynasty.
The Flavian Amphitheatre suffered the impact of earthquakes and stone-robbers throughout the centuries but it still is one of the symbols of Imperial Rome.
During Imperial times, the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, who would visit the place to witness gladiator’s contests, public spectacles, re-enactments of dramas based on classical mythology or famous battles, and more.
Thousands of tourists each year visit the Colosseum from every part of the world.
It is not possible to visit every corner of the place due to the weakness of the structures but if you do wish to visit the rest of the Colosseum and you are a European citizen who is under 18 or over 65, you’ll be able to access the place for free. Otherwise you’ll have to pay an entrance fee.
The Roman Forum – Attractions
The ‘Foro Romano’ is very well known around the world because of its profound historical origins. The space is of rectangular base and displays the ruins of several government buildings that existed in ancient Rome. The plaza (forum) is situated in the centre of the city and sees millions of tourists each year, just like the Colosseum.
The Roman Forum is situated between two of the seven famous hills that the Roman Empire was built on. For centuries, it was the main centre of Roman public life. Here you could witness gladiatorial matches, criminal trials, public speeches and all that would happen in the matters of commercial affairs.
Based on a lake that had been drained by the Cloaca Maxima (the oldest Roman sewage pipe), the level of the centre of Roman life had been rising because of the erosion of the surrounding hills and the flooding of the Tiber River. This led, in future excavations, to the discovery of one layer of ‘floor’ on top of the other.
The Foro Romano has been, for the majority of its time, the place where Romans would celebrate triumphs.
It is possible to visit the Roman Forum by buying a ticket online as a single visit or as part of a tour (which we suggest!).
The Campidoglio – Attractions
The Campidoglio is better known in English as the Capitoline Hill. It is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and it’s located between the Roman Forum and the Campus Martius.
The Capitoline Hill was the most important part of the city in the early Roman times (it could be compared to the acropolis situated in ancient Greece).
This part of Rome also contains a few ruins but many of them are entirely covered by palaces (among which is the Capitoline Museum) that were built during Renaissance and Medieval times.
These ‘new’ buildings surround a square (piazza) that had been planned by Michelangelo Buonarroti himself.
This project was commissioned by Pope Paul III to impress Charles V with a symbol of the new face of Rome.
There is no need for a ticket if you wish to visit the Campidoglio, and it is easy to walk to other areas of the city from here.
Piazza del Popolo – Attractions
Nowadays, Piazza del Popolo is one of the most frequented squares in the city of Rome. The Italian name gives us a little hint in this sense because, if translated, it means ‘People’s Square’.
The northeast corner of the piazza is overlooked by the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. This famous square had been (throughout the whole Roman Empire and afterwards) the regular place for public executions. It stayed this way until 1826.
People’s Square displays a Fontana del Neptune (Fountain of Neptune) and a Fontana dell’Obelisco (Fountain of the Obelisk). The latter is formed by four little fountains with one lion on top of each one of them and positioned so that they can surround the obelisk.
There is absolutely no need to pay to access this square and it’s great to explore on foot while enjoying an ice cream and the view of the city of Rome.
Piazza Navona – Attractions
You might remember this square from one of the scenes in the movie starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Yes, the one where she eats the ice cream quietly sitting next to a couple of nuns.
This beautiful square is one of the most known squares in the whole city of Rome. Its shape resembles that of a classic ancient stadium.
The decision to build the piazza in a monumental style was taken by Pope Innocent X and his family (the Pamphili).
Piazza Navona had the important job of offering heat relief during the blistering Roman summers. The Empire would give order to lock the drainage exit of the three fountains; this way the water would leak out and leave the square flooded. During those times the square had a concave floor causing the water to gather in the centre, making the whole square essentially transform into one big cooling puddle.
Like Piazza Del Popolo, entrance to Piazza Navona is free of charge. We suggest you admire the beautiful fountains around you while comfortably sitting on an ancient stone bench.
The St. Peter’s Basilica – Churches
Saint Peter’s Basilica is situated in Vatican City (a walled enclave within the city of Rome) and it is very important for the Catholic Church because of the belief that within the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, the first Pope of the Catholic Church and one of Christ’s Apostles.
Audiences can reach 80,000 people and they usually gather in front of the Basilica to attend Papal liturgies throughout the year, masses (Christmas, Easter, etc.) and the eventual election of a new Pope – a monumental moment for Catholic people around the world.
The square where the Basilica is situated is called Piazza San Pietro and it is the famous square where the main character of ‘Angels & Demons’, Robert Langdon (performed by Tom Hanks), tries to save an individual of the conclave from imminent death.
If you want to access the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica you’ll need to buy a ticket and, in most cases, also book a tour.
The Trevi Fountain – Monuments
The fountain where Anita Ekberg decides to ‘have a walk’ in the Fellini’s ‘La dolce vita’. The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the entire world and the biggest one of the city of Rome.
It may not seem as big from the pictures but, to give you some figures, it reaches 26.3 metres (86 feet) in height and it is 49.15 metres (161.3 feet) wide. It is probably bigger than the room you are in right now. No, seriously.
It is tradition for those who visit the Fontana di Trevi to throw a coin in the water – this has to be done using the right hand and the coin must be tossed over the left shoulder. This tradition is said to bring fortune to whoever throws the coin.
It is currently illegal to steal coins from the fountain because they are used by the city of Rome to subsidise a supermarket for those who are in need.
The tradition began when the romantic comedy ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ first came out (the characters in the movie throw the coins in the fountain themselves).
Completely free of charge (excluding the euro you’ll be throwing in the fountain), the Trevi Fountain is definitely something to see.
The Sistine Chapel – Churches
The Cappella Sistina is probably one of the most famous and beautiful art works in the whole world, and it also holds a lot of history.
The chapel is the place where Michelangelo had shown his talent to the world by painting the whole ceiling with different scenes, among these ‘The Last Judgment’.
It was Pope Sixtus IV’s decision to have the chapel restored between 1477 and 1480, hence the obvious connection between his and the chapel’s name.
The Cappella Sistina is the area where the conclave takes place, in other words, it’s the place where the new Pope is selected.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums so access is restricted to those who have bought a ticket and/or (preferably) booked a tour.
I Pizzicaroli – Restaurants
I Pizzicaroli is a restaurant located near Piazza Navona that offers delicious Italian cuisine. All the products are delivered from Umbria and Abruzzo (two Italian regions).
Different kinds of bread, cheeses, fruits, cured meats, mushrooms, homemade desserts, wines and beers are things that you’ll be able to enjoy at this traditional restaurant.
The decor of the place makes it easy for the guests to feel at home. Brick walls and wooden beams characterise i Pizzicaroli.
The average amount of money you’ll spend sits between €10 and €20.
Ciacco&Bacco – Restaurants
By spending between €3 and €25 you’ll be able to have a meal that you may end up remembering as one of the best of your life.
Tuscany’s small shops inspired this space. Combining the names of Ciacco, a famous greedy man from Florence, and, Bacco, the Roman god of wine, the restaurant offers natural and genuine Italian food.
You can enjoy homemade desserts, wines, salads and Panini, all of which are made on-site daily.
Like in many other cities, also in Rome there is the possibility to book a sightseeing tour.
Worldwide companies like CitySightseeing are offering various tours and, one of the most popular and informative is the ‘Hop on-Hop off’ tour. This kind of tour allows the visitors to see the beauties of the Eternal City from a comfortable spot and to walk around areas where they would like to spend a bit more time.
So there it was… the list of the places that THEN AND NOW SHOP thinks you have to visit while you’re in Rome.
We suggested places where you can take in the history of the Roman Empire, where you can marvel at beautiful art, squares where you can relax and enjoy the Roman life around you and, to end, spots where you can fuel yourself with plenty of good food.
From the Team:
“Walking the streets of Rome feels like visiting an open sky museum, you are surrounded by art and history. At the same time, you can enjoy tasting Italian cuisine in one of the traditional ‘Locanda’ restaurants. So I’d suggest a comfortable and relaxed look, but with a classic style.”
Ozed – Malcom Wooden Sunglasses £130.00
We hope that this article was useful and that you’ll let us know if you decide to visit any of the areas mentioned above.