ROME – Fountains, Art, Galleries, Museums, Churches … and Shopping in Rome -
PLEASE READ the separate section where we have information for you on transport in Rome and lots of information about these BIG FOUR most popular sights in the City - The Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon and The Vatican.
BELOW – we have set down information about other places in Rome that you might like to visit too. As much as there are numbers of museums, galleries, churches to see, Rome is also a modern living city too, and while the number of tourists visiting the City seems to be almost greater than the number of locals – you can still find a quiet place to sit and relax and just people watch, order a coffee, pizza or gelato and while away your time. The main roads can be full of noise and traffic, but there are also the smaller laneways that have the more interesting shopping and the small cafes, bars and places to get something to eat.
Many people speak English, and maybe French and German – but it is worth learning a few words of Italian too if you can.
- The Trevi Fountain – the Fontana di Trevi -
There is something about water that is calming – be that a bath, a shower, river, lake or ocean, and also something also quite magical about seeing water cascading down over a waterfall or in a fountain.
Here in Rome one of the MUST SEE sights in Rome is the Trevi Fountain, near Barberini Metro station. This is the biggest fountain in Rome and was designed and carved from Travertine stone between 1732 and 1762. The Fountain and its sculptures extend across the whole façade of the Poli Palace building, that houses a collection of copper engravings many that date back to the 16th Century. The fountain was built here at the end of the ancient Virgo Aqueduct that brought water here maybe as early as 19BC.
The Trevi fountain looks great in the day, but is even more spectacular at night.
If you look to the top of the Poli Palace building you will see the Papal Crest of the Corsini Family from Florence. Like the famous Medici Family, the Corsini Family were patrons of the arts over many centuries. Lorenzo Corsini became Pope Clemente XII between 1730 and 1740, and he initiated the building of the Trevi Fountain.
It may seem strange that a Pope should be supportive of non- Christian Gods, Greek and Roman Gods but the sculptures that you see here in the fountain are of some of the ancient Gods of Rome.
Here you see Oceanus (Like Neptune or Poseidon) the God of water, riversand oceansin the centre standing tall above his clam shell Chariot, with the Chariot pulled by two horses – one calm, the other spirited, representing both the 'calm' and 'stormy' moods of the ocean. The horses are tended by Triton – the messenger of the sea, on each side of the main flow of water from Oceanus. On the left side stands 'Abundance' while on the right side stands 'Salubrity/good health'.
On the wall plinths you will also see statues of 'Salus' (the Greek God, Hygieia) also representing health and also Agrippa – holding his plans for the Fountain to show to Emperor Augustus.
Water brings life, vitality and health, but only if it is pure, hence the story of the fountain and its God Protectors.
The Fountain has been seen in films and photographed millions of times by those who come here, but if you love your stay in Rome and wish to return one day, it is 'good luck' to throw a coin into the fountain's water to ensure your safe return.
- Fountain of the Four Rivers – located in Piazza Navona.
This fountain was designed by Bernini for Pope Innocent Pamphilj dating back to 1651 when it was completed. The Egyptian Obelisk dates back to 81AD. The fountain has Four River Gods celebrating the Rivers Danube in Europe, Ganges in India/Asia, Nile River in Africa and the Rio de la Plata in South America that today separates Argentina from Uruguay. This is a great Piazza to spend some time in with café/restaurants on the side and also the Sant Agnese in Agone Church is here too – a church dating back to the 17th Century, another of the great churches in Rome. Make sure you see inside if you can.
- Tiber River –
This is the river that winds its way through Rome, crossed by a number of Bridges. There are cruises that will take you along the River through Rome, including Dinner Cruises. At one time the Tiber River was used for cargos being brought to and from Rome, but as boats became ships and also grew in size and the River became more silted, another port was needed and this is Ostia Antica on the coast about 15 miles downstream from Rome. This is an old Roman Town too – complete with a forum, temples, statues, piazza, Roman baths – so well worth the effort to go and see it.
- The Spanish Steps – (Nearest Metro – Spagna)
There are lots of Churches in Rome, but when it comes to 'a great setting', there is none better than the church, Trinità dei Monti , that is located at the top of the Spanish Steps. The church with its two towers on either side dates back to 1585, with the 'Obelisco Sallustiano' Obelisk in front of it located here in 1789.
At the base of the steps is the Piazza di Spagna and the Fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, built in the shape of a sinking boat, the water flowing over the sides of the boat from inside.
It is the however the sweeping wide Spanish Steps, 135 of them, built by the French that create the most interest, the steps built by the French in 1723-1725. These steps have been featured in many films, perhaps the most famous being the classic film, 'Roman Holiday' starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck that was released in 1953.
At the bottom of the steps on the right hand side there is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House. The famous English poet, John Keats came here in 1820 on the advice of his doctor to find a warmer climate for his health. He was suffering from Tuberculosis and died here the following year. In the early 1800's Rome was seen as essential to visit on the fashionable 'Grand Tours of the Continent' by English gentry, scholars and artists. Poets and writers such as Keats, Shelley, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth all came to Rome and here you can see original manuscripts, letters and memorabilia that relate back to these many English writers.
- Villa Medici –
Villa Medici Palace and Gardens with lots of statues are located on Viale della Trinità dei Monti – so not far from the Spanish Steps. It has been the home of the French Academy since 1803. To see through the Palace and Gardens and hear more of the story behind the Villa and its connections to the Medici Family and also to Napoleon – you need to book a tour on + 39 06 67 611.
- Villa Borghese Gardens –
Villa Borghese Gardens cover about 80 hectares (148 acres) of grounds, a much bigger area than the Villa Medici Gardens but very close by. Here in the Villa Borghese Gardens there are large open pathways that criss-cross the gardens for walkers, bike riders, peddle cars, Segways with a lake with row boats in summer, along with a number of statues, trees, flowers and garden areas, buildings and museums. To see inside the Galleria Borghese Villa with its great Galleries, sculptures and paintings by Rafael, Botticelli and others you need to book a tour – Tel: 39 06 0608, but the rest of the garden parklands are open for the public. There is an outdoor Arthouse Theatre here, the Borghese Gallery and Museum of Renaissance Art and also the BioParco di Roma Zoo and Zoological Museum – see www.museodizoologia.it Close by you will also find the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art on Viale delle Belle Arti – see www.gnam.beniculturali.it Tel: 39 06 322981.
If you are looking for a place to just enjoy a bit of time-out from seeing the Colosseum or other historic places, take time to come here to the gardens. Close by too just outside the Borghese Gardens there are a number of luxury hotels too.
If you like other big parks – the two to look for are Villa Doria Pamphilj and Villa Vecchia.
There are a large number of Museums in Rome and if you plan to see a number than the best way to do it is by buying a Museum Pass or pass for both Museums and also the Vatican, which will get you entry into the most popular ones. Almost all Museums charge and entry fee, and these costs can quickly mount up.
While you could attempt to see all the Museums, most people will opt to see just some of them. To me the ones highest on the list would be the Vatican Museums, the National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo; Museo Nazionale Romano; Palazzo Doria Pamphilj and for great contrast, the MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts – see www.fondazionemaxxi.it/en
- The Vatican Museums – are one of the MUST SEE places to see in Rome and we have detailed more about the Vatican on the separate section of this website.
- National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo – is the great round 2000 year old building/castle/fortress where you can see the Mausoleum of Hadrian, Papal Apartments, Courtyard of the Angel, Hall of Urns and find great views over Rome.
- Museo Nazionale Romano – (National Museum of Rome) is a classic museum with the best collection of art, sculpture, frescos, archaeological finds and antiquities from the Roman Empire. The museum is located on 3 different sites, including the Baths of Diocletian.
- Palazzo Doria Pamphilj – A MUST SEE - Via del Corso 305. See www.doriapamphilj.it A truly incredible Palace Museum to see – frescos, art, ceilings, sculptures, colonnades surrounding an internal garden. Put this one high on your list to see.
- The MAXXI museum – is housed in an amazing building with 20th and 21st Century Art and Design. Italy is renowned for its Art and Design and this museum is designed to shock, showcase and display Art in its many and varied forms.
- Museo Capitolini – Piazza del Campidoglio 1. This museum first opened in 1734, making it one of the oldest in the world. Here you can see great Roman art and architecture.
- National Etruscan Museum – Piazza di Villa Guilia 9. The Etruscan people founded Tuscany before the Roman Empire – and this museum houses a collection from that time.
- Museo di Roma – Piazza di S. Pantaleo 10. See www.museodiroma.it This museum showcases the history of Rome.
Here on these pages we have covered just some of the many museums that you could visit, but hopefully the ones we have listed here will help you find some of the most interesting.
ART Galleries - There are many commercial art galleries in Rome and almost all Museums will have a mix of sculpture, art and architecture to see –
- Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica – Via delle Quattro Fontane. This Gallery of Ancient Art opened in 1893.
- Galleria Nationale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – Viale delle Belle Arti 131. This gallery first opened in 1883 and showcases both contemporary and modern art.
- Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica – Corso Vittorio Emanuele 166/A. This museum houses a vast collection of sculpture works. See www.museobarracco.it
Decorative Rooms and Palaces - This is one of the best –
Galleria Colonna – Palace – Only open on Saturdays 9 to 1.15, but pretty amazing exquisitely decorated rooms and art to see. Located off Piazza dei SS Apostoli 66, entrance at Via della Pilotta 17. The Palace was first built here in the 14th Century and it is still the home of the Colonna family that can trace family history back 1000 years. See www.galleriacolonna.it Tel: 39 06 678 4350.
Churches and Basilicas –
Look to the skyline of Rome and you will see a number of Domes that highlight just a few of the many churches that are here in Rome. Of course the Vatican is the best known one and the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, but equally there are many other Churches that you could see, each one having its own special appeal.
Listed here is a short list of the ones that I think you should try and see –
- Sant'Ignazio – Via del Caravita, 8A. This is what they call a "church of illusions". The Church dates back to around 1626-1650 and while the Church may look just like just another church on the outside it is what is inside that makes it so interesting. Many churches in Rome have a Dome roof, but if you couldn't afford one, but still wanted the grandeur, why not paint one, and that is what they did here to 'trick the eye' into believing that there is a real dome inside. The technique is called 'Trompe l'oeil" and the effect and interior of the Church is spectacular.
- Santa Maria in Trastevere – located on Piazza Maria in Trastevere. This is one of the oldest Basilicas in Rome dating back to 340AD. Inside you will be able to see ancient Stone columns, frescos, the gilded ceiling and paintings that date back centuries.
- Basilica di San Paola Fuori le Mura – Via Ostense. Nearest Metro, San Paola.
- Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. Metro station, San Giovanni. This is the Papal Arch Basilica (most important) and was consecrated in 324AD. This is Rome's main Cathedral and even though it is in Rome it is also the property of the Holy See. This is the MUST SEE of all the churches in Rome, with its statues lining the rooftop, and an interior that is truly inspiring.
- San Luigi dei Francesi – (St Louis of the French) Piazza di Sant Luigi de Francesi (near Piazza Navona). This church dates back to 1589 and has a spectacular interior.
- Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli – located on the Piazza of the same name, near Metro Station, Cavour. This Basilica dates back to the 5th Century, and here you can see a sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo and also the chains that held St Peter when he was imprisoned in the Carcere Mamertino prison on Capitoline Hill.
Villa D'Este – Tivoli Gardens
You may well have heard the words 'Tivoli Gardens' and now you have the chance to see the real thing. It is located just outside Rome – see www.villadestetivoli.info
The Villa D'Este is a UNESCO World Heritage site, such is its importance to world culture. These gardens and the Villa date back to the 1500 and 1600's when first built for Cardinal Ippolito II D'Este. While the gardens and Villa have experienced a chequered history, even being bombed in World War II, today they have largely been restored. The Gardens are a very formal garden design with over 500 fountains of varying sizes, with hanging gardens, walled areas, hedges, statues, grottos, nymphs, stairways, ponds and other features.
The Catacombe di San Callixtus is located on Via Appia Antica 110 & 126. It is easiest to get here on a Tour. There are said to be around half a million people buried here in the 20 kilometres of tunnels with frescos, crypts of Christian martyrs and Popes to be seen.
Equally strange – is the Cenvento dei Frati Cappuccini Museum and Cemetery - Via Vittorio Veneto 27, near Metro Station Barberini. Here is where you can see the Church, Museum and Cemetery of the Capuchin Order of Monks, including the Crypt where you can see the bones of those who have died here over centuries.
SHOPPING IN ROME – Italy is the home of fashion and shoes and of course great food too –
- For high end fashion names like Gucci, Prada, Armani, Cartier and others – the best place to find them is in Via Condotti – that links the Piazza di Spagna to Via del Corso.
- For more mid-market fashion head to Via Cola di Rienzo or to Via del Corso. Just walking to some of the smaller laneways nearby will also bring you some of the best shopping surprizes.
- Outlet Stores – Valmontone Outlet stores are outside Rome, but they have a Shuttle Bus that will take you from the centre of Rome to the stores. Outlet Store Address: Via della Pace, Pascolaro. Tel: 39 06 959 9491. See www.valmontoneoutlet.com OR also head to Castel Romano Designer Outlet stores – Via del Ponte di Piscina Cupa 64. Tel: 39 0650 500 50. See www.mcarthurglen.com/it
- Porta Portese Market – Piazza Porta Portese – This is a huge Sunday market selling everything from clothes, food and everything else.
- FOOD – you will find places to eat and have a coffee wherever you go, but if looking for a big place with lots of options – head to Eataly near Metro Piramide in the 'Air Terminal Ostiense' building on Piazzale XII Ottobre 1492.
AS MUCH AS WE HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT SOME OF THE MAIN SIGHTS TO SEE IN ROME – There is so much more to see then what we have written here. It is impossible to see Rome in a day, so if you can look to stay longer and get to know more about this great city. It's worth it.