Having wanted to explore Rome for as long as I can remember, my excursion to the city was a dream come true. I had plans of where I wanted to go and had an itinerary of what I wanted to see but, over the seven days that my boyfriend and I visited, we completed that list and much more. Below is a list of my top five attractions.
Palazzo Massimo- Museo Nazionale Romano
Built by Massimiliano Massimo between 1883 and 1887, the Palazzo was obtained by the Italian Government in 1981 to become one of four sites hosting the collection of the National Roman Museum. The house contains an impressive array of sculptures, bronzes, ivories, paintings and mosaics.
A must-see are the Hellenistic Bronzes, including pieces from the Nemi Ships. Built during the reign of Emperor Caligula (Born: 12AD – Died: 41AD), these ships never sailed and acted more as a setting for lavish banquets. The jewel in this collection is the Portonaccio Sarcophagus, one of 25 sculpted in the late 2nd century AD, depicting a Roman battle (This can be seen by scrolling through my Instagram post above.)
Tip: As mentioned above, the Palazzo Massimo is one of four sites hosting the collection of the National Roman Museum. If you are keen to visit all four museums, you can get a weeks pass for 12 euros.
The Vatican is recognised as an independent country with its own post office, chemist, and train station. There are a total of 42 museums and galleries containing ancient sculptures, paintings by renaissance masters, and modern art. Visitors can spend some time in the beautiful Gallery of Maps before exploring the Gregorian Egyptian Museum and there truly is something for everyone. My highlight was walking through the Rafael Rooms. Named after the artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520) and containing his work Transfiguration, the painting he produced in the years before his death, these rooms were magnificent to behold. Of course, the Sistine Chapel is a must and it’s worth spending some time to absorb Michelangelo’s work.
The Baths of Caracalla
Dating back to the 3rd century, these public baths were the second largest in Rome. At the height of their operation in the 5th century, they were referred to as one of the seven wonders of Rome accommodating up to 8,000 visitors a day. The site remained popular until the siege of Rome in 537 under King Vitigis (Born: Around 500AD – Died 542AD) of the Ostrogoths where the city’s water supply was cut off. Whilst it was never used for the purpose of bathing again, it was repurposed as a burial site, quarry, and vineyard in the centuries following its closure. Walking through the ruins, it’s easy to imagine what it would have looked like in its heyday with some of its mosaiced floors remaining along with the small holes left in the brick. Used to support steel beams holding marble slabs in place, the walls would have been completely covered. An added bonus is that we visited on International Woman’s Day meaning the museum was free to me.
The Borghese Gallery
Situated in the Villa Borghese Gardens is the Borghese Gallery. Constructed for the use of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577 – 1633), nephew of Pope Paul V (1550 – 1621), it contains a large proportion of artworks and sculpture owned by the family. By walking through the rooms, visitors can trace the development of artistic styles from the Medieval period to the Renaissance and onwards into the 18th and 19th centuries. The cardinal was also a patron of Baroque sculptor Bernini (1598 – 1680) with the museum housing what many consider to be his crowning achievements in sculpture. Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius Fleeing Troy (1618/19), Rape of Proserpina (1621/22), Apollo and Daphne (1622), and David (1623/24) are the defining artworks of his career and are magical to look at.
Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
Construction of the Roman Colosseum started in 72AD under the emperor Vespasian (Born 9AD – Died 79AD) and was completed in 80AD by his successor Titus (Born 39AD – Died 81AD). Known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the Dynasty under which it was constructed, it would host gladiatorial contents, animal hunts, executions, battle re-enactments and plays based on Roman mythology.
Opposite stands the Roman Forum a space which would have been used as a marketplace for the selling of goods. It may have been used for social gatherings, as a space for political debates, and as the setting for law courts. This Forum later became a center for religious ceremonies. Many temples were built there, the ruins of which, can still be seen today. It is located underneath and can be viewed from Palatine Hill, one of the seven Hills of Rome.
Of course, these are some of the most famous archaeological sites in Rome which definitely live up to the hype. They are beautiful examples of Roman architecture which give an insight into the ways in which the ancient Romans lived.
Of course, these are just a few of the cultural gems in Rome and it was hard to pick just five. From the Trevi Fountain to St. Peter’s Basilica every corner is packed with history.
Tip: On the first Sunday of every month, state owned museums are free. However, I would advise to book in advance as it gets extremely busy!
If you would like to see more photos of my adventure in Rome and keep up to date with my travels, please give my Instagram a follow.
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