Things to Do in Rome - page 5
The Vatican Gardens (Giardini Vaticani) cover an impressive 57 acres (23 hectares)—more than half the entire area of the Vatican City-state—and include a Renaissance layout dotted with fountains, statues, and buildings dating as far back as the sixth century. The gardens were a humble expanse of orchards and vineyards until Pope Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed the land with a wall in 1279.
Rome’s oldest forum, the Forum Boarium was once a busy cattle market and site of several temples, the remains of which can still be seen today. Much less famous than many of the city’s other ancient sights, the Foro Boario is one of Rome’s most interesting “secret” attractions.
As a 17th century Baroque church facing Piazza Navona, the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone (Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone) stands in one of the busiest areas of the in Rome’s historic city center — yet it remains a peaceful sanctuary and renowned Roman church. History tells us that the Early Christian Saint Agnes was martyred on site here in the ancient stadium built by Emperor Domitian. The structure itself was built in 1652 and meant to act as a personal chapel for the family of Pope Innocent X, who lived in the palazzo just beside it. Today it remains a beautiful chapel, known for its frescoed ceilings, many fine sculptures and altars, and impressive marble work. It is also a shrine to Saint Agnes, with her skull still on display to visitors and her body buried in the catacombs. The church’s architecture is characterized by its massive dome, Corinthian columns, and Greek cross plan.
One of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme) houses several relics from the Holy Land brought to Rome around 325 AD. The relics are said to be parts of the cross from the Passion of Jesus Christ — carried from Jerusalem by the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, the St. Empress Helena. The church name comes from the Jerusalem soil that was laid on the floor of the basilica, as a way of moving part of the holy city to Rome. Though it was once the Palazzo Sessoriano, the palace of the St. Empress Helena, it was later converted into a small chapel.
It has since been renovated and restored over the centuries to its Baroque style facade that exists now. Today visitors can see three relics enshrined: pieces of the True Cross, a nail from the crucifixion, thorns from the crown, and small pieces of the tomb of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre. There is also a full size replica of the Shrine of Turin.
Leading from the Capitoline Hill to the Colosseum via the first-century AD Arch of Titus as it traverses the Forum from west to east, the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) was once the main thoroughfare of Ancient Rome. With its origins stretching back to at least the fifth century BC, it was later paved and later still, in the times of Nero, lined with colonnades. The street was backed by Ancient Rome’s temples, civic buildings and the palaces of the wealthy; it was here that festivals were held, where prostitutes came to solicit clients and where crowds gathered to gossip and gamble along its route. Via Sacra was also scene of triumphal processions to celebrate military victories, when slaves and prisoners were dragged to market. Today the road forms part of the open-air museum that is the Forum; over the centuries this has been ravaged by fire, plundered for its stone and used as cow pasture but still retains something of its ancient majesty among scattered boulders, shattered arches and broken columns.
Once the largest and grandest of Rome’s private residences, the ancient ruins of the Villa of the Quintilii (Villa dei Quintili) are still an impressive sight today. Located along the legendary Appian Way (Via Appia), the lavish villa includes two impressive entrances, intact mosaic tiles and marble floors, and the remains of its private luxury baths, dating back to 151 AD.
Tour the ruins on a half-day trip from Rome to admire the rooms and artifacts on display, or cycle along the ancient Appian Way to visit the ruins and other ancient landmarks, like the Caracalla Baths and the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella.
The 17th-century San Carlo ai Catinari Church (Chiesa di San Carlo ai Catinari) is dedicated to Saint Carlo Borromeo and known for its sumptuous baroque interiors. The church features stucco decorations, three-dimensional depictions of the cardinal virtues, and Antonio Gherardi's Chapel of St. Cecilia, which features a dome illuminated by hidden windows.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Rome’s Trastevere district, the Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe) is one of many important monuments found in the historic Jewish Ghetto. The collaborative masterpiece of sculptor Taddeo Landini and architect Giacomo della Porta, the fountain was built between 1580 and 1588, and stands at the center of the Piazza Mattei.
A prime example of late Renaissance art, the fountain’s design features a central pedestal depicting four ephebes perched on marble shells, each lifting turtles to the upper water basin. Today, the original bronze turtles that gave the fountain its name have been replaced by replicas thanks to a spate of thieving, while the originals are preserved in the Capitoline Museums.
Not far from the busy and popular Piazza Navona in Rome is the Church of Santa Maria della Pace (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace), which has a Baroque facade on a 15th-century church.
The front of the existing church was redesigned in the mid-17th century at the behest of Pope Alexander VII, including the lovely semicircular entrance lined with columns. The architect, Pietro da Cortona, also had some neighboring buildings destroyed to open up the little piazza around the church more.
Inside, the main attractions are artistic and predate the 17th-century work on the facade. A large Raphael fresco of the “Four Sibyls” is over the altar in the Chigi Chapel, painted in 1514. The Ponzetti Chapel contains a Peruzzi fresco of the “Madonna and Child,” and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed the Cesi Chapel.
Behind the church is the rest of the complex, including a large cloister built by Bramante between 1500-1504. Today, part of the cloister serves as an exhibition space for which tickets are required. Exhibitions rotate regularly.
The Triton Fountain (Fontana del Tritone) is not on the scale of Rome’s most famous water feature, the Trevi Fountain, but it’s well worth a visit. Located in bustling Piazza Barberini, Fontana del Tritone was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and carved by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose baroque sculptures also appear in St. Peter’s Basilica.
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The ancient Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati (Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati) is dedicated to four unnamed saints, all martyred. The name means “four crowned saints,” meaning they were martyrs.
The church was first built in the 6th century, but mostly destroyed in the 11th century. The rebuilt church was much smaller, preserving the original apse. In the 13th century, the Chapel of San Silvestro and a cloister were added – the former decorated with frescoes, and the latter with intricate inlaid stonework designs. The four saints to whom the church is dedicated are buried in tombs in the crypt.
Best known for its Cornaro Chapel—home to Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s stunning masterpiece, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa—theChurch of Santa Maria della Vittoria (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria) has one of the most ornate marble interiors in Rome. Designed by baroque architect Carlo Maderno, the church is adorned with white and gilded stucco angels and putti, as well as 17th-century frescoes.
The National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano) has four branches in Rome, but the main seat is Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, where one of the world's most important collections of classical art covers four floors, including sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins, and jewels dating from the late Republican period to the end of the Roman empire.
A lush garden overlooking Roman rooftops and domes, the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) was once an ancient fortress and now offers some of the best panoramic views of Rome. Full of orange trees, there are many benches and grassy areas to relax on and escape the bustle of the city. Views stretch across the skyline from Trastevere all the way toward St. Peter’s Basilica.
Legend says that Saint Dominic planted a single bitter orange tree in the courtyard of the nearby Basilica di Santa Sabina in 1200 AD. It is said to be the first orange tree in the whole of Italy, and today the gardens have a pleasant orange aroma from the groups of many trees.
Upon entering the gardens, visitors can see the face of Giacomo Della Porta's fountain, believed to have been made in reference to the river god Oceanus. Overlooking the Tiber River, it has been called one of the most romantic spots in Rome.
One of the many ancient Roman ruins atop the Palatine Hill is the Domus Augustana, part of the huge Flavian Palace, built for Emperor Domitian.
The Domus Augustana – sometimes called the Domus Augustiana – was the luxurious residence of the emperor (his official name was Titus Flavius Domitianus, hence the name of the palace). The palace complex was built in the late 1st century, and the Domus Augustana was lived in by emperors until about the third century. It's fairly well-preserved.
This Byzantine church set near the banks of the Tiber charms with decorative elements including a pre-Roman crypt and Cosmatesque marble floors and altar. TheBasilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin (Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin) is best known as home to the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità), located beneath its front portico.
Set on the idyllic shores of Lake Bracciano, the beautifully preserved Odescalchi Castle (officially called Castello Orsini-Odescalchi but also known as the Bracciano Castle) was built during the late 15th century by Napoleone Orsini and is considered one of Europe’s most impressive Renaissance fortresses.
Not far from the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is the little Santa Prassede, a 9th-century church with stunning mosaics inside.
The Basilica of Santa Prassede was started in the late 8th century (there’s an even older church dedicated to Santa Prassede underneath it) and completed in 822 AD. The saint entombed here, Santa Prassede (or Saint Praxedes), was the daughter of the first Roman who St. Peter converted to Christianity.
The mosaics on the interior of the church are Byzantine, dating from the early 9th century, and are reminiscent of those in Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica and the churches of Ravenna. They’re dazzling in gold and bright colors.
Among the other things to see inside the church is a bust for a tomb that was sculpted by Bernini when he was only 17 years old, and the original crypt near the altar. This is where the bones of Saint Praxedes (and her sister, Saint Pudenziana) were placed when the church was completed. There is also a reliquary containing what is said to be a piece of the pillar on which Jesus was flogged before being crucified.
Montecitorio Palace (Palazzo Montecitorio) is the seat of the Chamber of Deputies, one of Italy’s two houses of parliament. Designed by Bernini, the palazzo was completed by Carlo Fontana under Pope Innocent X in 1650. It has one of the most elegant and striking baroque facades in Rome and a splendid 20th-century art nouveau interior.
Tucked away in a piazza just off one of Rome’s busiest thoroughfares in theCentro Storico, the Baroque Basilica di Sant'Andrea della Valle was designed by Giacomo della Porta and eventually completed by a succession of other Baroque masters—including Carlo Maderno and Borromini—in 1663. It is famous for providing the setting for the opening of Puccini’s operaTosca.
The frescoed dome was the handiwork of Carlo Maderno and at 528.5 ft (16.1 m) it is the second largest in Rome after St Peter’s. Underneath this mighty cupola, the church is liberally scattered with the extravagant marble chapels and tombs of wealthy 16th-century Italian aristocrats, including the Strozzis, the Barberinis and several popes. Great names like Michelangelo and Bernini had a hand in designing these sarcophagi, and together with the gilt ornamentation and nave frescoes from the greatest artists of the day adorning the walls, plus the marble patterning of the floors, they come together in creating a highly decorative church interior awash with color.
Sant’Andrea delle Valle is within an easy stroll of the lovely ancient squares of Campo de’ Fiori—a lively morning market is held here—and Piazza Navona, famous for its Baroque fountains by Bernini.
Near the main square in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome, Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, is the Piazza di San Cosimato, where a local outdoor food market takes place six mornings a week.
The market at Piazza di San Cosimato has been there since the early 20th century, and although it’s smaller than some of the other popular outdoor markets in the city, it has a dedicated following. Some of the vendor families have occupied a stall at the market since its early days, with stalls and locations handed down through generations.
Along with the usual stalls offering fresh local produce, fresh fish and meat, and locally-made cheeses and cured meats, there is a used book seller at the market.
Take a food tour of the Trastevere district in the morning to see the market in full swing. It’s the perfect place to stock up on food for the pantry if you’re renting an apartment in the area.
The Baroque Basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte—while small—houses impressive religious artifacts and artworks worthy of a visit. The 17th-century church is home to a single nave and three chapels that include paintings by Borgognone and ornate frescoes and stuccoed angels by Marini. Of particular note are the sculpted angels on each side of the presbytery, created by Bernini.
The church's striking dome and tower, designed by Borromini, contrasts its modest interior, and serves as a beacon to those traversing Rome's top attractions. Located between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, the church is a highly-recommended stop along the way.
You can visit the church, which honors St Andrew, as part of a city walking tour of sites dedicated to Mary and different saints.
Since opening its doors in 2006, the Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell'Ara Pacis) has caused more than its fair share of controversy, with its modernist glass and travertine façade splitting public opinion. The futuristic building, the work of architect Richard Meir, was one of Rome’s first major post-war architectural works and was built to house one of the city’s most significant ancient artworks.
Whatever your opinion of the museum itself, there’s no disputing the magnificence of its star exhibit – the Ara Pacis, or Altar of Peace, which dates back to 9 BC. The elaborate Roman sculpture is a gigantic marble altar towering over 35 feet (11 meters) high and built by the Emperor Augustus to symbolize peace in the Roman Empire. Today, the protected monument is preserved and displayed in its full glory, with the original structure augmented by reproductions of the panels already on display in the Villa Medici, the Vatican and the Louvre.
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Doria Pamphilj), located in Rome, Italy, is one of the largest and most magnificent palaces in the center of the city. It is home to the Doria Pamphilj family, and some members of the family still live in one section of the palace. The original building dates back to the 15th century, though it has been renovated several times. A visit to the gallery provides a glimpse into aristocratic life in Rome. Many private rooms are now open, including a ballroom, a chapel, and living quarters, all decorated with elaborate paintings and sculptures.
The art gallery itself contains approximately 400 pieces from the 15th to 18th centuries. Some of the more famous pieces include a portrait of pope Innocent X by Velázquez and two busts of the same pope, created by Bernini. The Gallery of Mirrors is one of the most lavish rooms in the palace and includes frescoes depicting the Labors of Hercules.
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