To get the most from a visit to Rome, first-time visitors should plan what they want to see in this breathtaking city. Roman history, fine art, ancient monuments, and glorious palazzi are packed into this hilly city, which is not only the capital of Italy, but also the seat of papal power and the former hub of the Roman Empire.
Most of the attractions are in three distinct areas: the Imperial Forum and Coliseum, the Villa Borghese, and the Vatican City. You’ll find a good choice of cheap hotels in Rome near these major sites, starting at around $69.
What to See and Do in Ancient Rome
The hub of Ancient Rome is the Roman Forum, now a site of ruined temples, law courts, and places of business. Trajan’s Markets give you an inkling of the splendor of this 2nd century marketplace, where the finest silks, spices, and produce were traded.
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There are two triumphal arches: The Arch of Titus commemorating the victory over the Jewish Revolt in A.D. 70, and the Arch of Septimus Severus, celebrating the victory over the Parthians in A.D. 203. Other highlights include the 4th century shell of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius; the Temple of Romulus, now partly incorporated into a church; the Temple of Vesta, and the Houses of the Vestal Virgins. The Temple of Venus and the Church of Santa Francesca Romana are worth visiting before exploring the massive Coliseum, the Farnese Gardens, and the attractions on nearby Palatine Hill. Further north, the Pantheon is the best-preserved monument in Rome, built by Agrippa around 25 B.C.
What to See and Do in Villa Borghese
The parks and gardens of the Villa Borghese are a quiet place to escape from the busy city. Designed for Cardinal Borghese in 1605, the landscaped park has dramatic water features, a lake, and various pavilions and follies connected by broad paths beneath shady pine trees.
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The grand villa was built for entertaining and contains fragments of a third century mosaic of gladiators, a collection of sculptures including Bernini’s David, and world-famous artworks by Canova, Raphael, Rubens, and Titian. Tickets start from $10.60. The Villa Borghese is surrounded by other museums, art galleries, the Villa Giulia, a zoo, and a replica of Shakespeare’s thatched Globe Theatre
What to See and Do in Vatican City
The marble-encrusted St Peter’s Basilica is at the heart of Vatican City. As the focal point of Catholicism, pilgrims and tourists flock to the area, so it’s worth getting a Skip the Line ticket to save hours of waiting. Highlights include the Treasury with its priceless ecclesiastical exhibits, the 13th century bronze of St Peter, the magnificently painted dome which spans 448 feet, and the famous Pietà by Michelangelo.
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The Vatican Museums house one of the greatest collections of artworks in former papal palaces. Must-sees include the frescoed Sistine Chapel, the frescoed Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartment, and the many galleries dedicated to paintings, tapestries, and maps.
Guided tours are the best way to enjoy these sites, and you can easily book tickets online as part of your trip planning