The Forum, now a historical bone yard of toppled white columns (once temples to Vesta, Saturn, Castor and Pollux, among others), was the city's religious, political and commercial centre in the days of the Caesars. Visitors can still walk along the Via Sacra as victorious generals did two millennia ago.
The Colosseum lies just beyond. When it was known as the Flavian Amphitheatre in the first century AD, more than 50.000 Romans could gather here to watch races, fights of men against animals or battles between gladiators. When it rained, a linen awning could be raIscd to protect every spectator in the arena.
Today the Circus Maximus is only a long esplanade planted with flowers. During the reign of Trajan, it was a huge amphitheatre where 180,000 Romans could gather, between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, to watch and gamble on horse or chariot races, there were wooden seats for the masses and marble seats for the wealthy.
West of this ancient district, near Piazza Navona, is the Pantheon, with its original doors, ancient granite columns and majestic interior dome. Perfectly preserved since it was rebuilt by Hadrian in 125 AD, it was first constructed in 27 BC as a temple to Venus and Mars but became a church in the seventh century. Raphael is buried here.
It is indeed an arduous task to summarize the extraordinary artistic wealth of Christian monuments, following are just a few: the S. Callisto Catacombs, the S. Sebastian Catacombs and Basilica, S. Maria Maggiore Basilica, S. Paul Outside the Walls basilica and the churches of: S. Sabina, S. Costanza, S. Agnese, S. Pietro in Vincoli.
St. Peter's Basilica and the Capitoline palaces, Palazzo Farnese, Palazzo della Cancelleria, Palazzo Venezia, the Church of S. Maria del Popolo, the Church of S. Maria degli Angeli.
St. Peter's Square, Piazza Navona, Palazzo Barberini, designed for Pope Urban V111 (it houses today a magnificent collection of 13th to 1 6th century art by masters like Titian and Raphael).
The Basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano, The Jesus Church, St. Andrew's Church by Bernini and the Palazzo del Quirinale, Italy's White House. The Trevi Fountain, with its facade and its statue of Neptune, is one of Rome's most famous and best loved sights. Two coins tossed in, while facing away, assure a happy return to the Eternal City and the granting of a wish.
Rome is full of world renowned museums and the most important are: the Vatican Museums, the National Roman Museum, the Borghese Gallery, the Capitoline Museums, the National Gallery, the Doria Pamphili Gallery, the Villa Giulia Museum.
A particular visit must be made to Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world (0,45 square km). The Vatican is within the city of Rome, with the Pope as its head of state. His home church, St. Peter's Basilica, completed in 1614, contains a 1666 pulpit by Bernini as well as Michelangelo's Pieta (1499-1500).
The Sistine Chapel, with its Renaissance ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, is part of the Vatican Museums.
The surroundings of Rome exist in her legacy of common people and customs; no other city is so faithfully and entirely projected and expressed in its surrounding neighborhoods.
One must definitely see the city outskirts: Ostia Antica, with its well preserved ruins of a monumental complex which for its suggestive greatness is comparable to Pompei; Tivoli, east of Rome, famous for Hadrian's Villa, the most important witness to Imperial Rome's splendor and wealth and Villa d'Este, known worldwide for its marvelous gardens and fountains.
She Latium region is rich in thousands of years of history and great civilizations and some of the most significant manifestations of art in the world. A first area to be visited is the Etruscan zone north of Rome: Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Tuscania and Viterbo.
Another of the most well-known and frequented tourist attractions, the Castelli Romani (castles), is a chain of villages of the local lords; nowadays they are charming places with stupendous panoramic views, richer in woods and streams than in churches and monuments.