Purchase tickets for popular attractions like the Colosseum ahead of time. (Photo: Images )
Rome's top landmarks are as storied as the city itself, relating a history that dates back to 753 B.C. and detailing moments that changed the world, like the rise and fall of the ancient Roman Empire and the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of Rome's top landmarks, deemed so by established travel guides like Frommer's and Fodor's, remain easily accessible via the city's tram, bus and underground metro system.
Erected in 125 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon was built to honor and worship the gods of ancient Rome. Constructed of concrete, the 142-foot-tall structure features 20-ton bronze doors and a domed roof with an 18-foot opening which streams in light.
Once home to ancient chariot races, the sprawling Piazza Navona now features outdoor cafes, street performers and vendors. The historic piazza is also lined with terra cotta buildings with wrought-iron balconies; Sant'Agnese in Agone, a 17th-century Baroque twin-towered church; and two 17th-century fountains by Bernini, the Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Fountain of the Moor.
One of Rome's most iconic sites, the Colosseum dates back to 80 A.D. Visitors may tour the amphitheater which used to host violent gladiator fights, battles with lions and mock naval battles during which the arena was flooded with water. The ancient three-story stone and concrete structure, which used to seat 50, 000 spectators, features 80 arched entrances supported by columns.
The Roman Forum served as the city center for ancient Rome, highlighted by temples, covered markets and the meeting site of the Roman Senate. Tourists can make their way through the remnants of the past, including such ancient ruins as towering columns, archways and ornately-designed marble floors.
Trevi Fountain displays an elaborate Baroque design featuring a massive statue of Neptune made of white marble, clamoring through the sea on a chariot led by sea horses. The myth surrounding the 1732 fountain states that visitors must toss a coin into the fountain to ensure a return visit to the Eternal City.
The Spanish Steps
Built in 1725, the Spanish Steps draw hordes of tourists interested in people watching and sunset views. A host of high-end hotels and Via dei Condotti, Rome’s bustling shop-lined street, sit at the top of the stairs while the Piazza di Spagna lies at the bottom.
Perched along the banks of the Tiber, Castel Sant'Angelo (castelsantangelo.com) was originally constructed as a mausoleum for Hadrian. Erected in the 2nd century, the massive circular structure wound up serving as a fortress, citadel, dungeon and papal residence throughout history and presently serves as a museum.
The Vatican (vatican.va) is a sovereign state located in Rome and serves as the home for the Roman Catholic Church and its pope. Visitors may tour St. Peter's Basilica, the massive and ornate Catholic cathedral, and, in the pope's Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel with the famed ceiling fresco which took Michelangelo four years to complete.
Catacombs of St. Domitilla
Entering through a 4th-century church, the Catacombs of St. Domitilla (domitilla.info) features 10-plus miles of underground tunnels lined with more than 150, 00 burial spots. The catacombs include exposed bones and a 2nd-century fresco depicting the Last Supper. Tours last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
Located inside Villa Borghese Park, Galleria Borghese (galleriaborghese.it) houses works of art from Cardinal Scipione Borghese's private collection, accrued during the 17th century. The gallery features works from such luminaries as Raphael, Bernini and Caravaggio. Call ahead for reservations as guests are permitted in two-hour intervals.