It doesn’t matter if you “do as the Romans do,” if you’re a first-timer yearning to fully experience the city, a day (or even two) is simply not enough.
This is one of the things you realize in the heart of the Italian capital. You map out your destinations, you plan your schedule to manage your time, and you try your best to see it through. But the city—this city—will derail you. Whether through the wonders of its construction, the hearty aroma of its dining establishments, the flamboyant showmanship of its people, or the relics of its glory days, Rome can master your senses, force you to slow down and take it all in. You do not come to conquer Rome; you come and it conquers you.
Don’t feel bad about it. Rome is about 500 square meters. And, nearly every corner it takes up in the Lazio region can leave quite an impression. It’s also over 2,500 years of age, so old that people saw it fit to be called “the Eternal City.” Every year it spends existing is but another chapter in its already long and decorated history. A proper tour of Rome would require you to do the things that would consume much of your time. It would require you to probe, to walk and to savor. That’s the bad news.
The good news is this: if you’re in the right place at the right time, a day in the Italian capital is enough to give you an experience that would last a lifetime. And for this issue of asianTraveler, we want you to feel that, so we’re listing down the Roman destinations you simply have to see.
A warning: chances are you wouldn’t be able to visit them all in one go. But a trip to one or two of these sites can be enough for a very memorable journey.
St . Peter’s Basilica
Technically, the St. Peter’s Basilica is not a Roman attraction. It is, after all, located within Vatican City. But most tourists traveling through Rome simply find it difficult to ignore.
How can they? By area, the place is the largest Catholic church in the world. And its ornamentations match the grandeur of its size. Designed mainly by Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it is considered as one of the most prominent examples of Renaissance architecture. Among the sculptures found inside is Michaelangelo’s “Pieta,” a glorious synopsis to the artistry housed in the massive structure.
Those entranced by Roman architecture simply shouldn’t miss a visit to the Pantheon when given a chance. Behind its walls is a remarkable marble interior alluding to the glory days of the empire. Meanwhile, its ceiling, one of the biggest unreinforced concrete domes in the world, is a hypnotic sight to behold.
Like most of the iconic buildings of Rome, the Pantheon is ancient. It has lasted for thousands of years but unlike its kin, its age is far from apparent. It was built during reign of Augustus in 126 AD thanks to the former Roman General Marcus Agrippa yet it remains as one of the best preserved of Rome’s old temples.
Altare Della Patria
It may not be as old as the Coliseum nearby nor is it as popular, but Altare Della Patria is a structure that demands attention. With glaring white walls and a prominently grand exterior, the monument was designed originally to commemorate King Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy, the first king of unified Italy. By virtue of this, the place is among the hardest to miss in Rome.
Due to its initial construction back in 1885, a number of demolition projects occurred, affecting areas which included a medieval district around Capitol. Because of this, the building was, for a time, highly derided. Those who visit the place, however, can be rewarded by a sweeping panoramic view of Rome.
Because of its prominence, almost everyone in Rome knows how to get to the Coliseum. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was built sometime between 70 and 80 AD. It is located near the Forum, and found along the route of most tour buses in the city.
Standing near the Coliseum can be overwhelming. Even in its partially ruined state, this hulking UNESCO World Heritage Site is a formidable vision of concrete and stone. It is a grand vision in the day and, at night, this disconcerting grandeur seems amplified. In certain corners, its details blur into the dark, creating a massive, and at times, disorienting illusion. Ruined yet relevant, the Coliseum is a summary of the Roman experience. It is a relic of a time gone by, but like the city itself, it remains as a formidable attraction.
So you’re touring through Rome and you’re running out of time. What can you do? Wish for another trip, of course. Legend has it that those who toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain would be granted return visit to the Italian capital. But even those not given to superstitions can find something to admire in the area. Initially designed by Nicola Salvi in 1762, the Trevi is the largest baroque fountain that can be found in the city. It is also among the most elaborate, with a sculpture of Oceanus standing right in the heart of a heavily detailed masterpiece.
This is among the most popular attractions in Rome. Some say that it’s because of the artistry, some say that it’s because of the exhilarating show of life surrounding the area, but others believe that most of the people are there to make a wish; they toss coins longing to return. Rome, after all, was not built in a day, and it simply requires more time to fully explore it.