When planning a vacation, most people have an idea of their top 10 things to do or see on their trip. However, when traveling to Rome, Italy, there are so many incredible sights throughout the city, it would be easy to miss something truly extraordinary because there is so much history everywhere you look. This top 10 list provides our recommended can’t-miss sights in Italy’s City of Love.
No. 10 – The Spanish Steps
These famous steps are a perfect place to enjoy a packed lunch and take a brief rest. Located in the middle of the city, the steps were completed in 1725 and feature more than 130 steps. While they are beautifully constructed and it’s nice to say you saw them, it’s important to remember that the concrete staircase is probably the least impressive of all the sights on this list. If you run out of time, this sight should be the first to go.
No. 9 – The Pantheon
This beautifully constructed former Roman temple features the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome ceiling with a circular opening at its center called an oculus. The construction of the dome ceiling is a marvel of its time, and even we (non-savvy in the world of architecture and engineering) were caught by the intricacies and genius construction. The Romans used heavier material at the base of the dome and made their way up the arch with progressively lighter materials. At the base, the dome is 21 feet thick, while at its peak, the dome is only about 4 feet in thickness. The oculus itself actually lightens the overall weight at the apex of the dome, which, incredibly, ends up adding to the Pantheon’s structural integrity.
No. 8 – Trevi Fountain
This breathtaking sight is located along the city streets and is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. It is believed that the fountain’s name is derived from the Latin word Trevium, which means the crossing of three streets, which is fitting since the Trevi Fountain is located at an intersection of three local streets. As we were walking down narrow alleyways, the last thing we expected as we turned a corner was a massive, magnificent fountain practically in the middle of the road. It’s an incredible sight to behold. Legend has it that tossing in a coin is said to ensure good fortune and a fast return to Rome.
No. 7 – Roman Forum
This rectangular city of ruins is located in the center of Rome, between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills. Once important, ancient government buildings, the ruins and fragments of this formerly glorious district provided us a glimpse into the history of not only the structures, but the people who were a part of this bustling marketplace. There was an overall eerie feeling that struck when visiting these ruins and it stayed with us, even after we had moved on.
No. 6 – Vatican Museums
Though they began as a small collection of sculptures formed by Pope Julius II in the early 1500s, the Vatican Museums now include a vast assortment of multiple collections from more than a dozen various popes throughout the centuries. Located within Vatican City, this collection of museums includes a variety of famous works, including the Sistine Chapel’s The Last Judgement. Unless you are spending weeks in Rome, it will probably not be possible to see everything in these collections, but it’s still worth a stop for a few of the more famous pieces.
No. 5 – Palatine Hill
One of the oldest portions of the city, Palatine Hill stands about 120 feet above the Roman Forum and once incorporated multiple residences of wealthy officials and even emperors. The ruins of the palaces of Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian can still be seen among the ruins. Excavations have shown that people lived there as early as the 10th Century B.C. It’s a bit of a hike, but well worth the exercise.
No. 4 – Capuchin Crypt
If the creepy is cool to you, don’t miss this crypt that contains the skeletal remains of more than 3,700 bodies that are rumored to be Capuchin friars. There are six different rooms within the crypt, some of which are specifically dedicated to certain body parts, including the Crypt of the Skulls and the Crypt of the Shin Bones and Thigh Bones. The remains are displayed decoratively and are meant to be a testament to our short time among the living.
No. 3 – Colosseum
Easily one of the most impressive sights in all of Rome, the Colosseum is an ancient Roman gladiator arena. It’s worth paying extra for the tour to hear the unbelievable stories of gladiatorial combats, bloodthirsty spectators, wild animal fights, and compartments below the arena floor that held caged lions and tigers awaiting their next battle.
No. 2 – Sistine Chapel
Though we briefly mentioned the Sistine Chapel in our No. 6 entry on the Vatican Museums, we felt it worthy of a separate entry for this famous marvel of Renaissance art at its finest. If you can’t make it through all of the Vatican Museums, swing by the chapel at the bare minimum. The Sistine Chapel can only be viewed by tour, as it is inside the official residence of the Pope. The famous ceiling, known for “The Creation of Adam,” is much more intricate than you ever imagined. No photos allowed, unfortunately, but we may or may not have seen people surreptitiously snap a few shots with their flash off.
No. 1 – St. Peter’s Basilica
While the Basilica itself is a dazzling sight to see, the real magic here happens on Wednesdays when the pope addresses the people in St. Peter’s square. Whether you are Catholic or not (we are not), there is still an incredible power in the knowing that you have been personally blessed by a pope. As we stood in St. Peter’s Square among thousands of others, the pope said, “I wish to welcome the people from the United States of America. I hope you enjoy Rome, and may God bless you all.” It still gives me chills when I think about it.