Rome six of the best
Established by Pope Julius II in the 16th century, expanded by sequential pontiffs, the Vatican Museums possess one of the world's greatest art collections. Displayed along approximately 7km of halls and corridors, the collection contains an eclectic mix of artefacts, from Egyptian mummies and Etruscan bronzes to ancient busts, old masters and modern paintings. Highpoints and a must see at the museums are the magnificent collection of classical statuary in the Museo Pio-Clementino, a group of frescoed rooms by Raphael, and of course the Michelangelo-painted Sistine Chapel. To truly appreciate all that’s on offer, would take several days, so if you are constrained by time, it would be wise to consider what you really wish to see before visiting.
St Peter's Basilica
Basilica di San Pietro The most outstanding cathedral, in Italy and probably the world, one hundred and fifty years in the making finally completed in 1652, built over a previous 4th century church. In 1506 Bramante came up with a design for a basilica based on a Greek-cross plan, with four equal arms and a huge central dome, but after his death in 1514 work came to a standstill. Raphael and Antonio da Sangallo tried to adapt the original design, without success, finally in 1547; Michelangelo streamlined Bramante’s original plans, although he died before completion his legacy lives on. It houses some of the greatest pieces of art in the world, including Michelangelo’s Pietà, his soaring dome, and Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the papal altar. The basilica is very popular and can be very busy, so assume you will encounter queues, but it is worth it.
Rome’s great gladiatorial arena, the arena was originally named after Vespasian's family (Flavian), is the most exhilarating of the city's ancient sights. Inaugurated in AD 80, the 50,000-seat Colosseum, Rome’s most fearful arena, although it wasn’t the biggest – the Circo Massimo could hold up to 250,000 people. Originally commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72, although he died before completion, it was then completed by his son Titus. The inaugural games lasted 100 days, most people believe that the name Colosseum is a reference to the size of the building, in fact it alludes to the Colosso di Nero, a statue of Nero which was close by.
The Pantheon is the best preserved of Rome’s ancient monuments, an outstanding 2000-year-old temple, and now church. Built by Hadrian on the site of Marcus Agrippa’s earlier 27 BC temple, and although now looking its age, it's still an thrilling experience to walk through its vast bronze doors and stare up at the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built.
The Fontana di Trevi is Rome's largest and most recognised fountain. An ostentatious baroque collection of mythical figures, wild horses and cascading rock falls, it takes up the entire side of the 17th-century Palazzo Poli .It is traditional to toss a coin into the water in the hope of guaranteeing your return to the Eternal City, this is so popular with tourists that around 3,000 euros are tossed in every day.
Designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732. The water comes from the aqua virgo, a 1st-century-BC underground aqueduct, and the name Trevi refers to the tre vie (three roads) that join at the fountain.
At the time of writing, the fountain was undergoing a major clean-up and access was limited to a fenced-off walkway, open 9.30am to 9pm.Closed?
Museo e Galleria Borghese
This museum's collection was formed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1579–1633) it’s housed in the Casino Borghese, whose neoclassical facade is the result of a 17th-century face-lift of Scipione's original villa. In its collection there are paintings by Caravaggio, Botticelli and Raphael, as well as some fantastic sculptures by Bernini.
Each visitor is admitted at specific time slots, it’s necessary to book in advance.