Many say Rome is not only the capital city of Italy, but the cultural capital of Europe. Rome offers dozens of sights that vary from the ancient to the modern. When every plaza is a world treasure and each building an example of Renaissance architecture, deciding what to see can be overwhelming. If you’re fortunate enough to take a Roman holiday, here are five things you really must see.
Technically its own sovereign nation, Vatican City lies near the heart of Rome. The Vatican is not only the world headquarters for the Catholic Church, but contains many museums and cathedrals. One can easily spend several days just exploring the cultural and religious treasures here.
In addition to libraries and archives, the Vatican houses the Sistine Chapel, with its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square), two historic religious sites, are also here and a crucial stop for any visitor.
Catacombs of San Callisto
The Catacombs of San Callisto are another ancient Roman religious site. According to the official tourism website of the Italian government, these catacombs are the final resting place for over half a million early Christians, including 16 popes. Found underneath the Ancient Apian Way, the catacombs are over 1700 years old and contain several crypts of early Christian martyrs.
In a city crammed with museums, the Galleria Borghese stands out. Located in a 17th century villa, this museum is a work of art in itself. A small sampling of its gems includes paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio, ancient mosaics and Bernini sculptures. Private reserved tours are available so that you can enjoy these masterpieces at your leisure.
The Roman Forum
If you want to see the glory days of the Roman Republic, there’s no better place than the ruins of the Roman Forum. This archaeological site was first built 2500 years ago and was expanded by several famous emperors like Julius and Augustus Caesar.
The forum was not just the political center of the ancient Roman Republic, but a marketplace and nexus of social life as well. The series of ruins remaining today allow you to glimpse daily life in what was once unquestionably the greatest city on Earth.
Although the Palazzo Valentini is now a government seat for the province of Rome, it was once owned by a nephew of Pope Pius V. Today, it also offers a high tech laser and sound presentation that exhibit the archaeological ruins of Rome in their past glory. Entertaining as well as educational, it’s a show not to be missed.