For anyone with a passion for archaeology, history and art, all roads must inevitably lead to Rome. The Eternal City is eternally fascinating to those with a desire to come face to face with the 3,000-year span of history that has shaped the world.
The sheer size and scope of the culture of the Italian capital is best consumed in easily digestible chunks to reduce the risk of becoming overwhelmed. The ideal way to get a meaningful (and memorable) overview is to join a Rome tour, led by an experienced guide. While there are countless itineraries that can be enjoyed, one that includes the following sites will provide a broad historical spectrum and include elements of art, archaeology and architecture.
Here are just a few of our favourite places to visit on a Rome tour.
So much has been said about the architectural splendour of the Pantheon, but it's impossible to truly appreciate its spiritual substance and tenor except in person. While it's actually the third pantheon to occupy the site, it is itself almost 2,000 years old, built between 118-128 AD. Its dome measures a mammoth 43 metres in diameter and held the honour of being the largest, until the construction of Brunelleschi's Florence Duomo. Apart from remaining the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, the most astounding feature is the oculus (known as the ‘eye of the Pantheon') in its centre, which is open to the sky and measures more than eight metres across.
Undoubtedly, the most famous ceiling on the planet belongs to the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican City. With work beginning in 1508, Michelangelo's exquisite frescos took more than four years to complete. He endured the difficult conditions (although not on his back as is often thought) to create what is considered one of the most remarkable masterpieces of the High Renaissance period. Michelangelo's frescos on the ceiling of the chapel (which also relate to those around its walls) are centred on scenes from the Old Testament and are very well preserved, having undergone restoration during the 1980s and 1990s.
Almost certain to be on the itinerary of any Rome tour, the Spanish Steps are one of the city's finest examples of Roman Baroque design. The ‘Scalina Spagna’ were constructed between 1723-1725, with the purpose of creating a link between the church of Trinità dei Monti and the Piazza di Spagna. They have been a renowned meeting place for centuries and, today, are an iconic landmark of the city. The scale of their design makes them the widest staircase in Europe, and the 138 steps are of varying heights, lengths, aspects and angles. Featuring in countless images and films, the steps are a lovely place to sit, ponder and enjoy the views over the city.
Victor II Emanuel Monument
This massive monument has been somewhat divisive over the years. Completed in the early 20th century as a homage to the first king of the unified Italy, its bright white marble exterior is certainly not universally admired by locals, but there's no denying its stately presence and grandeur. Those who do more than simply ogle its vast size from the outside will discover the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the very interesting Museo del Risorgimento (Italian Unification Museum) within. In recent years the addition of a glass elevator has increased its popularity – offering amazing views over the Forum and the rest of the city.
While there are so many more ‘unmissable’ sites and attractions to see on a Rome tour, these four are among our favourites of the best known city gems.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Rome tour itineraries and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery classes.