Atop the Quirinal Hill is the Piazza Barberini, one of Rome’s public squares that also serves as a bit of a traffic intersection. The piazza itself is pedestrian-only, making it at least possible to enjoy yet another of Rome’s public spaces, although the cars zipping around it make it slightly less than peaceful.
In the middle of the piazza is the Triton Fountain, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 1640s. The piazza itself takes its name from the Palazzo Barberini, former home to a noble Roman family, one of whom eventually became Pope Urban VIII. That palace is now home to the Museum of Ancient Art.
Another fountain by Bernini - the Fountain of Bees - once occupied a corner of the Piazza Barberini, but it was moved to another spot on the nearby Via Vittorio Veneto. One of Rome’s two Metro lines (Line A) has a stop at the Piazza Barberini.
At first glance, this ancient open-air theater appears quite a bit like a mini-Colosseum. Built during the later years of the Roman Republic, it was built nearly 100 years before the famous Colosseum. Named by the Emperor Augustus in 11 BC after his recently deceased nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the theater may be the oldest surviving of its kind in the world.
The structure’s archways and tiers comprise a semicircular design (unlike the Colosseum, which is completely circular.) The third tier was lost in reconstruction during the Middle Ages, but ornamental Doric and Ionic columns still frame the theater. In its prime the structure could hold more than 15,000 spectators and was one of the most popular entertainment venues in Ancient Rome. Live music and drama performances filled its seats until it was adopted by noble families and luxury apartments (which can still be seen today) were built atop the ruins.
It's awe-inspiring to walk through the ruins of ancient Roman temples and amphitheaters, but to bring history to a human level you've got see where those ancient people lived. You can do that at the Case Romane del Celio.
Underneath the Basilica of Santi Givanni e Paolo, the Case Romane del Celio is a network of ancient Roman houses. There are homes from different periods – one from the 2nd century, another from the 3rd century – and for different levels of society. There are beautiful frescoed walls and a small museum displaying some of the artifacts unearthed during the excavation of the site.
Among the ruins on the Palatine Hill is a structure that experts believe was built for Emperor Augustus' wife, Livia. It's known as the House of Livia, and is still being excavated.
The House of Livia was probably built in the early 1st century B.C.E., with frescoes added later in that century. Livia made this her primary residence, staying even after the emperor had died, when her son Tiberius became Rome's second emperor. The building's frescoes are wonderfully well-preserved, and feature an ancient trompe l'oeil effect with painted ceilings designed to look like coffers and painted scenes made to look like views through open windows.
The Church of St Peter in Chains, also known as San Pietro in Vicoli, is a basilica for both art lovers and pilgrims. The church was originally built in the fifth century to house the chains that bound St Peter when he was imprisoned by the Romans in Jerusalem, which eventually made their way to Rome, where they arrived in two parts. One part of the chain was sent to Eudoxia, the wife of emperor Valentinian III, and when compared to shackles held by Pope Leo I, legend says they miraculously fused together to form a single chain, which is now kept in a big bronze and crystal urn under the main altar.
The church is maybe best known for Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, a part of a never completed funeral monument for Pope Julius II. Forty statues were planned, but Julius’ constant efforts to immortalize himself with giant projects soon had Michelangelo’s attentions diverted to the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The ancient basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati is dedicated to four unnamed saints, all martyred. The name means “four crowned saints,” meaning they were martyrs.
The church was first built in the 6th century, but mostly destroyed in the 11th century. The rebuilt church was much smaller, preserving the original apse. In the 13th century, the Chapel of San Silvestro and a cloister were added – the former decorated with frescoes, and the latter with intricate inlaid stonework designs. The four saints to whom the church is dedicated are buried in tombs in the crypt.
One of the many ancient Roman ruins atop the Palatine Hill is the Domus Augustana, part of the huge Flavian Palace, built for Emperor Domitian.
The Domus Augustana – sometimes called the Domus Augustiana – was the luxurious residence of the emperor (his official name was Titus Flavius Domitianus, hence the name of the palace). The palace complex was built in the late 1st century, and the Domus Augustana was lived in by emperors until about the third century. It's fairly well-preserved.
Located at the southeastern end of the Roman Forum, the triumphal Arch of Titus stands as a memorial to an emperor's brother.
Emperor Domitian commissioned the arch in the 1st century to honor his brother Titus, with the scenes showing Titus' many victories in war. Among the scenes is the Siege of Jerusalem – you can see a Jewish Menorah being carted back to Rome among the spoils.
Triumphal arches are familiar sights in Europe today – the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is one of the most famous examples – but most were based on the design of the Arch of Titus.
The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is one of four major basilicas in Rome and was once the largest basilica in the world. It held that title until St. Peter's Basilica was completed in 1626. The original church was built in the 4th century but burned down in 1823. It was replaced with the one that stands today. It is where St. Paul is presumed to be buried, which is why it is named after him. His burial site was located outside of the Aurelian Walls that surrounded Rome at the time.The basilica's art gallery has paintings from the original church, some dating back as far as the 13th century. There are also some rare documents and engravings that were saved from the fire. The outside of the church has 150 columns and a huge statue of St. Paul. The facade is decorated with mosaics designed from 1854 to 1874.
Ancient Rome was famously composed of seven hills, but there are even more hills in modern Rome that weren't even included back then. One of them is the Janiculum Hill, or Gianicolo in Italian.
Gianicolo Hill sits on the western side of the Tiber River, near the Trastevere neighborhood, and takes its name from the god Janus – there was once an ancient cult to him located on the hill. Today, attractions on the hill include the San Pietro in Montorio church, a Bramante-designed shrine on the supposed location of St. Peter's crucifixion, and a botanical garden associated with the University of Rome. But the main draw is the view overlooking Rome – it's one of the best in the city.
By Rome's standards, the Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola seems like it isn't very old at all – only consecrated in 1722 – but that's because prior to 1650, it was a private church.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus – better known as Jesuits – and the original church on this site was built entirely by Jesuit labor in the 1560s on the foundation of an earlier building. That church, built as the private chapel for the Collegio Romano (the first Jesuit university), was expanded slightly in 1580, but by the early 1600s it was already too small for the number of students at the college. Construction on the current church was started in 1626, a mere four years after Saint Ignatius of Loyola was canonized, and it opened to the public in 1650. The interior reflects the church's Baroque style with heavy ornamentation. There is gold decoration everywhere, enormous frescoes, and Jesuit iconography and stories depicted throughout.
As a 17th century Baroque church facing Piazza Navona, the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone stands in one of the busiest areas of the in Rome’s historic city center — yet it remains a peaceful sanctuary and renowned Roman church. History tells us that the Early Christian Saint Agnes was martyred on site here in the ancient stadium built by Emperor Domitian. The structure itself was built in 1652 and meant to act as a personal chapel for the family of Pope Innocent X, who lived in the palazzo just beside it. Today it remains a beautiful chapel, known for its frescoed ceilings, many fine sculptures and altars, and impressive marble work. It is also a shrine to Saint Agnes, with her skull still on display to visitors and her body buried in the catacombs. The church’s architecture is characterized by its massive dome, Corinthian columns, and Greek cross plan.
Like most of the many churches throughout Rome, Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin has an ancient past and a fascinating story. Built on an ancient worship site that was once a great temple of Hercules, it became under care of the Byzantine Papacy. Its name “Cosmedin” is the Greek word for “beautiful decoration.”
The beautiful decorations remain — with its unique characteristics including a pre-Roman crypt, a massive bell tower, marble inlaid floors, architecture and designed by the Cosmati brothers, a beautiful altar with a rare 8th century mosaic, and frescoed walls.
The famous ‘Mouth of Truth’ or Bocca della Verità can be found in the portico of the church. The face of an unknown man or god is believed to be part of an ancient Roman temple, and is said to have once functioned as a lie detector — as it would bite off the hand of a man who did not speak the truth.
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine mountains and ending at the sea at Ostia, once the port of Ancient Rome. It is 252 miles (406 km) long. The story goes that the infants Romulus and Remus were abandoned on the waters of the Tiber, were rescued by a she-wolf, and founded Rome 15 mi (25 km) from the sea in 753 BC.
The Tiber River has also been heavy with sediment and although Romans throughout history have dredged it, the river is now navigable only to Rome and not beyond. The port of Ostia was abandoned to mud as far back as 1 AD.
One of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem houses several relics from the Holy Land brought to Rome around 325 AD. The relics are said to be parts of the cross from the Passion of Jesus Christ — carried from Jerusalem by the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, the St. Empress Helena. The church name comes from the Jerusalem soil that was laid on the floor of the basilica, as a way of moving part of the holy city to Rome. Though it was once the Palazzo Sessoriano, the palace of the St. Empress Helena, it was later converted into a small chapel.
It has since been renovated and restored over the centuries to its Baroque style facade that exists now. Today visitors can see three relics enshrined: pieces of the True Cross, a nail from the crucifixion, thorns from the crown, and small pieces of the tomb of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre. There is also a full size replica of the Shrine of Turin.
The National Roman Museum has four locations in Rome, Italy, and one of them is housed in the 19th century Palazzo Massimo alle Terme near Termini train station. It contains one of the world's most important collections of Classical art. The museum has four levels with sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins, jewels, and many other items that show the evolution of Roman art from the Late Republican age through Late Antiquity. The art depicts ancient Roman history, myths, and the culture of every day life throughout several hundred years.
Some of the exhibitions in the National Roman Museum include Greek works that were discovered in Rome such as the Boxer at Rest, the Hellenistic Prince, portraits from the Republican and Imperial Ages, and the statue of Augustus Pontifex Maximus. Other pieces in the museum depict Roman battle scenes and other parts of Roman life.