Walk across the millennia to the heart of an empire that ruled the world. An explorers’ guide to Rome’s finest sights.
Rome’s ancient wonders
With an early start in Rome, it’s easy to travel a couple of thousand years into the past. Most of its ancient landmarks still stand today.
The Colosseum is believed to have taken its name from a 30-metre statue of the Emperor Nero called the Colossus of Nero, which stood nearby until the 4th century. It was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, named after the family of the Emperor Vespasian who commissioned it in 72AD. It was finished just eight years later, standing 50 meters high and able to hold up to 80,000 people. It has survived earthquakes and fires over the centuries.
Arrive in the early morning to avoid long queues, or book a private tour with special access inside. If you’re pressed for time, soak up the grandeur of the Colosseum from the outside. After sunset, the walls are impressively lit against the Rome night sky.
The Roman Forum is nearby to the west. Although a little daunting, the ruins and columns preserved here tell stories of a civilisation bent on power and glory across the centuries. Worth seeing are the Tempio di Giulio Cesare, where Julius Cesar was cremated in 29 BC, and the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Miranda, a temple re-purposed into a church in the 8th century AD. The Roman Forum is massive, and you could spend at least half a day walking through.
The Pantheon is one of the most well-preserved buildings of Ancient Rome, since 120 AD. Although the outside portico of this temple-turned-church looks unassuming, the concrete dome over its rotunda has a dramatic opening to the sky called the oculus. Visiting the Pantheon at different times of the day will reward you with different moods as light pours in through the top of the dome.
Trevi Fountain & the Spanish Steps
Don’t forget to make a wish and throw some coins into the Trevi Fountain, perhaps the most famous urban fountain in the world. The stunning Baroque design is from the 18th century, but the waters supplying it come from an underground aqueduct dating back to the 1st Century BC. Rome’s Trevi Fountain underwent an impressive restoration in 2015 and is more popular and pretty than ever. More than €3,000 in coins are collected from the fountain every year and used to fund a local supermarket for those in need.
Finally, Rome’s Spanish Steps – a perfect place to take a break after a big day of sightseeing, they’re also ideal for people watching in the heart of the city, as its terraces offer beautiful views over Rome. Built in 1725, the steps connect the Spanish Embassy in the Piazza di Spagna up to the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of a steep hill. A popular meeting place, the steps were restored in 2016, with decades of wine stains removed to reveal the beautiful travertine stone beneath.
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