Reputedly constructed to honor all pagan gods, this best-preserved building of ancient Rome was rebuilt in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian. The vast dome of perfect dimensions—142 feet high by 142 feet wide—was the largest freestanding dome until the 20th century.
Though its population numbers are just shy of a thousand, the Vatican—home base for the Catholic Church and the pope—has millions of visitors each year. Savor Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, attend Papal Mass, and marvel at St. Peter’s Basilica, embraced by the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square.
Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world. One of the “new” seven wonders of the world, the mammoth amphitheater was begun by Emperor Vespasian and inaugurated by the next emperor, his son Titus, in year AD 80. For “the grandeur that was Rome,” this yardstick of eternity can’t be topped.
You couldn’t concoct a more Roman street scene: cafés and crowded tables at street level, coral- and rust-color houses above, most lined with wrought-iron balconies, and, at the center of this urban “living room” Bernini’s spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers and Borromini’s supertheatrical Sant’Agnese.
Set between the Capitoline and Palatine hills, this fabled labyrinth of ruins variously served as a political playground, a commerce mart, and a place where justice was dispensed during the days of the Republic and Empire (509 BC to AD 476). Once adorned with stately buildings, triumphal arches, and impressive temples, the Forum today is a silent ruin—sic transit gloria mundi (“so passes away the glory of the world”).
Catch an emperor’s-eye view of the Roman Forum from beside Michelangelo’s Palazzo Senatorio, situated atop one of the highest spots in Rome, the Capitoline Hill. Next door you’ll find the Vittoriano, the Capitoline Museums, and beloved Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
One of the few fountains in Rome that’s actually more absorbing than the people crowding around it, the Fontana di Trevi was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732. Immortalized in Three Coins in a Fountain and La Dolce Vita, this fountain may be your ticket back to Rome—that is, if you throw a coin into it.
The Spanish Steps
Byron, Shelley, and Keats all drew inspiration from this magnificent “Scalinata,” constructed in 1723. Connecting the shops at the bottom with the hotels at the top, this is the place for prime people-watching. The steps face beautiful sunsets.
Only the best could satisfy the aesthetic taste of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and that means famed Bernini sculptures, great paintings by Titian and Raphael, and the most spectacular 17th-century palace in Rome.
Just across the Tiber River, this charming neighborhood is a maze of jumbled alleyways, cobblestone streets, and medieval houses. The area also boasts one of the oldest churches of Rome—Santa Maria in Trastevere.