Rome is magnificent and brutal at the same time, with astonishingly ancient sights and modern vibrancy. Ogle the Sistine Chapel, lick gelato in front of the Pantheon, and walk the dusty Roman Forum — with links to free audio tours and videos.Less
"The Heart of Rome" — a neighborhood stretching east to the Spanish Steps — begins at this market square. This area has narrow lanes, intimate piazzas, fanciful fountains, and some of Europe's best people-watching. During the day, you'll see bustling market action, sun-baked piazzas, and trendy fashion boutiques. But a stroll in the cool of the evening is made memorable by the romance of the Eternal City at its best, including the Trevi Fountain. Explore with my free Heart of Rome audio tour.
For the greatest look at the splendor of ancient Rome, antiquity's best-preserved interior is a must. Built two millennia ago, this domed temple — located in the very heart of Rome — served as the model for Michelangelo's dome of St. Peter's and many others. Engineers still admire how the Romans built such a mathematically precise structure without computers, fossil fuel-run machinery, or electricity. (Having unlimited slave power didn't hurt.) Learn more with my free Pantheon audio tour.
This remarkably intact, 2,000-year-old stadium is the classic example of Roman engineering. Used as a venue for entertaining the masses — including those famous gladiator fights — this colossal structure is one of Europe's most recognizable landmarks. Whether you're playing gladiator or simply marveling at the remarkable ancient design and construction, the Colosseum gets a unanimous thumbs-up. Book ahead online to save time, and learn more with my free Colosseum audio tour.
The Forum was the political, religious, and commercial center of ancient Rome — the place for processions, demonstrations, elections, speeches, and parades by conquering generals. As Rome's empire expanded, these few acres of land became the center of Western civilization. While only a few fragments remain, my free audio tour helps resurrect the rubble as you do the "Caesar Shuffle" amid the half-broken columns, arches, and basilicas. To save time, book ahead online.
Some of ancient Rome's most famous art is housed in two palaces on top of the Capitoline Hill, facing a square designed by Michelangelo. This hilltop is the smallest, tallest, and most famous of Rome's seven hills — home of the ancient Temple of Jupiter and the center of city government for 2,500 years. In the museum, you'll see the Dying Gaul, the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, and Marcus Aurelius on horseback, plus the underground Tabularium, with its panoramic overlook of the Forum.
St. Peter's — centerpiece of the tiny independent country of Vatican City — is the greatest church in Christendom. Built on the memory and grave of the first pope, this is where the grandeur of ancient Rome became the grandeur of Christianity. Follow my free audio tour, beginning on the vast, oval-shaped St. Peter's Square, then through the glorious interior — with evocative sunbeams, holy tombs, works by Michelangelo and Bernini, a climbable dome, and occasional pope sightings.
The glories of the ancient world displayed in a lavish papal palace, decorated by the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael...the Musei Vaticani. Book well ahead and plan for crowds as you traverse four miles of some of the greatest art anywhere: Greek and Roman statues, Christian frescoes, Renaissance paintings, sumptuous halls, and more — culminating in the Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel. For a focused visit to the exhausting collection, use my free Vatican Museums audio tour.
The grand finale of the Vatican Museums is the personal chapel of the pope and the place where new popes are elected: the Sistine Chapel. During his prime, Michelangelo frescoed the chapel's ceiling with the entire history of the world until Jesus, including the iconic "Creation of Adam." Two decades later, he painted the dark, chaotic "Last Judgment" — the single greatest work of art by one person. For help understanding what you're standing under, listen to my free Sistine Chapel audio tour.
This plush museum, filling a cardinal'’s mansion in Rome's lush Villa Borghese park, features art commissioned by a luxury-loving family displayed in the very rooms for which it was created. The world-class Baroque sculptures includes Bernini'’s “David” and his statue of Apollo chasing Daphne, alongside paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Rubens. The museum'’s mandatory reservation system keeps crowds manageable. Watch this video tour, and find a self-guided tour in my Rome guidebook.
Built in 1555 at a frequently flooded bend of the Tiber River, Rome's ghetto was the forced home of the city's Jewish population for more than 300 years (ending with Italian unification in 1870). While that original ghetto is long gone, this area is still a lively center of Jewish life — with a synagogue, a museum, traditional bakeries, Judaica shops, evocative monuments, kosher restaurants selling deep-fried artichokes, and more. My free Jewish Ghetto audio tour narrates a fascinating walk.