From Palatine Hill to Pantheon, here the best activities to do while in Rome.
1. Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill is a big, sprawling open-air museum. There are emperors’ palaces, manicured gardens, medieval churches, and a terrace overlooking the Forum and beyond. The admission fee is €12 ($15)—steep for Rome—but covers the Roman Forum and Colosseum, too, making it a pretty great deal. Although the Palatine has monuments from every major era in Rome’s history, the real draw is a 1st-century palace built by Domitian, a mad emperor with a very serious architecture addiction.
Built on the site of the stadium of Domitian, the Piazza Navona was built in the 15th century and has remained a popular attraction ever since. Located in close proximity to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, the square is a great place to visit whilst walking through the city center. This large square is usually full of artists and street vendors and the surrounding buildings frame the open space perfectly.
One of the most popular public spaces in Rome, the magnificent, oval-shaped Piazza Navona is lined with restaurants, gelaterias, souvenir shops, and the Museo di Roma inside the Renaissance Palazzo Braschi. The city’s Baroque art is on full display here. Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi features exquisitely carved figures representing the world’s four great rivers, and legend has it that the figure with his arms extended is recoiling in horror from the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Borromini, Bernini’s rival. Wander down the small street next to the church and make your way toward Via della Pace, one of the city’s most picturesque streets. At the end stands the church of Santa Maria della Pace, its white portico gleaming in the sun. Make time to stop for un caffè or a glass of wine at Antico Caffè della Pace, a legendary nineteenth-century haunt still as chic as ever and one of the best places for a classic Italian aperitivo.
4. Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza
Most artists and architects working in the characteristically ornate and emotional Baroque style leaned heavily on color and materials to create strong visual impressions. Not Borromini, in this magnificent church originally designed for the Università di Roma. Using simply molded stucco forms and daylight, the maestro created an interior space that’s at once intimate and infinite, simple and complex. If you’ve seen Bernini’s interior design at St. Peter’s Basilica, this is a great place to see how his rival achieves absolute architectural perfection without using scale and color as a crutch. There’s no guide. Walk in, take a seat, and take it in.
Though the name refers to a temple for all the gods, the Pantheon is actually the burial place of Rome’s kings and other prominent figures, including Raphael. The temple was built between 118 and 128 A.D. on the site of an older temple. A feat of architectural ingenuity, it was the world’s largest dome until the modern era, has been called the world’s only architecturally perfect building, and is the best-preserved monument of Imperial Rome. Walk inside and look up—the oculus in the dome is open to the sky, letting sunlight filter in.
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