What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome

The list of what to see in Rome is immense. Packed with tourist attractions and world famous sites, it can be hard to find all the best places to see in Rome when you’re on a tight schedule. From world renowned and bustling tourist hubs like the Colosseum, to the relatively obscure Villa dei Quintili and far more beyond, Rome simply has so much to see!

So if you’re planning to visit the Eternal City and want to make the most of your trip, then our selection of Rome’s top tourist attractions could be just the thing for you. We’ve put together an expert guide highlighting what to see in Rome, with our top ten places to visit as well as throwing in a few additional sites that didn’t quite make the cut but shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

And if that’s not enough, you can also explore our full list of sites in Rome to your heart’s content.

What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome: Editor's Picks

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1. Ostia Antica

Let’s be honest, when you were thinking of what to see in Rome, Ostia Antica probably wasn’t the first site you came across. Yet this underrated gem is one of Rome’s best tourist attractions. Ostia contains the amazingly well preserved remains of Rome’s ancient port – it’s quiet, fascinating and just brilliant to explore.

DID YOU KNOW?

Ostia Antica is an extraordinary Roman site that contains the ruins of the ancient port town that served as the gateway to Rome.

Just half an hour from central Rome by train, Ostia Antica has all the inspiration of Pompeii without the throngs of tourists. In fact, if you want to examine well preserved Roman ruins in peace and quiet with time to contemplate the ancient world, you’ll be hard pressed to find better.

Tracing its roots back to at least the 4th century BC, Ostia Antica served as Rome’s principle port for hundreds of years, a witness and monument to the rise of the ancient superpower, its dominance and eventual decline.

Ostia Antica's place in history is most notable for an attack by pirates in 68BC which led to unprecedented powers being handed to Pompey the Great, setting yet another precedent which damaged the foundations of the Republican system.

As the landscape changed over the centuries, Ostia Antica was slowly abandoned, and the site is now a couple of miles from the sea.

Today, visitors can view a great many ruins from the ancient town, including a well preserved Roman theatre, the Baths of Neptune, remains of the military camp, temples to ancient deities, the forum and even Ostia Synagogue, which is the oldest known synagogue site in Europe.

Yet Ostia Antica is so much more than these notable elements, for it contains a huge range of well-preserved more typical Roman dwellings, shops, flats and warehouses and even has a Roman public toilet. This combines to give visitors a great picture of an ancient Roman town and allows you to get a real feel for day-to-day life in ancient Rome.

There is a small museum on site which has a number of artefacts and further information on the history of Ostia Antica. At certain times during the year Ostia Antica is also the venue for concerts and other events. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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2. The Colosseum

Now the Colosseum, that crops up on every list of sites to see in Rome there ever was. And with good reason. Once the largest amphitheatre of the Empire, where gladiators, criminals and lions alike fought for their lives, the Colosseum is an absolute must for any tour of Rome, despite crowds and cheap costumes...

DID YOU KNOW?

The Colosseum is a site like no other. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, nothing represents the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire like this stunning piece of ancient architecture.

The Colosseum, or ‘Colosseo’ in Italian, was once the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. It was built in the first century AD by the Emperor Vespasian as a place for the people of Rome to enjoy. Originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian’s family name, the man who brought the Roman Empire back from the brink would not live to see its completion.

The construction of the Colosseum was very much a symbolic gesture to create a clear distinction between Vespasian and his predecessor, Nero. Nero had committed suicide after suffering military coups, partially a result of his extravagance, which included building the opulent Golden House and a vast statue of himself. By contrast, Vespasian was building the Colosseum for the citizens of Rome. As if to emphasise this point, the Colosseum was built in the former gardens of Nero’s palace over the site where Nero’s colossal statue had stood.

Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was opened with great fanfare by Titus, Vespasian’s son and successor. He marked the opening of the Colosseum with one hundred days of games, including stunning battle recreations on artificial lakes of water. The fact that the Colosseum was completed by this date was particularly impressive considering the building’s incredible complexity, vast size and the fact that Vespasian only came to power in 69 AD.

Even despite the short timescale of the build, the result was spectacular. Not only was the Colosseum able to take up to 50,000 spectators, it was also perfectly symmetrical, ornately decorated in marble and stone and an incredible feat of engineering.

The Colosseum remained the amphitheatre of Rome until the end of the Roman Empire. This was the place where gladiators, lions and those accused of crimes were put to the test, often fighting to the death.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum has suffered from various destructive forces, including extensive pillaging of its stone and marble as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes. In fact, its materials contributed to many famous Roman buildings such as St Peter’s Cathedral and the Palazzo Venezia. Yet, even though a third of the Colosseum has been lost over time, this magnificent structure remains one of the most fascinating and beautiful historic sites in the world.

A visit to the Colosseum offers a great insight into the lives of Roman citizens and those who had the misfortune of fighting there. In particular, it is now possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators of ancient Rome would prepare to fight and ponder their mortality. Also recently opened are the higher areas of the structure, from where you can take in views of the Roman Forum.

There is a museum within the Colosseum with a wealth of interesting artifacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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3. Villa dei Quintili

Of all the places to visit in Rome, Villa dei Quintili is one of the most forgotten. Yet this ancient villa, once home to Emperor Commodus (the baddie in Gladiator), is captivating. It remains in good nick all-in-all, and you can even see Commodus’ private gladiatorial training arena (not that it did him much good in the film…)

DID YOU KNOW?

Villa dei Quintili, translated as the Villa of the Quintili, was one of the most lavish homes along the famous road that leads to Rome, the Via Appia.

In 151 AD, the main part of the Villa dei Quintili was owned by the senior officials, the Quintili brothers. Consuls under the rule of Marcus Aurelius, the Quintili brothers built their luxurious villa, complete with thermal baths, in the countryside of Rome. However, when Emperor Commodus came to power the brothers fell from favour and Villa dei Quintili became his property. It is said that this infamous emperor actually executed the brothers specifically so he could get his hands on their villa.

Today, far from the intrigues and plots of ancient Rome, Villa dei Quintili stands as a slightly more serene place; indeed it has survived in an extremely good state of preservation. The original baths are still clearly discernible, as are several of its buildings.

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4. San Clemente

Ever heard of Mithras? If things had gone differently you might be worshipping the guy. A popular Roman deity, there were Mithraeum across the Empire. One example is under the beautiful San Clemente. There’s loads to see in the depths of this church – so when considering what to see in Rome, definitely check this out.

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San Clemente is a beautifully frescoed twelfth century historic basilica in Rome. However, whilst interesting in its own right, it is what lies underneath San Clemente which is a highlight to historians.

In the mid-nineteenth century, when San Clemente was excavated, it was discovered to have been built over both a fourth century church and a third century Temple of Mithras.

The former site is extremely well preserved and lined with faded frescos, whilst only one of the rooms of the Ancient Roman Temple of Mithras remains. There are also ruins of some Roman houses.

Visitors can descend under San Clemente to view these sites.

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5. Palatine Hill

Let’s face it, the Palatine Hill was the Primrose Hill of its day – where all those who wanted to see and be seen had a pad. Today it’s among the most visited of Rome’s tourist attractions and houses some of the city’s most impressive ancient sites. Don’t miss the small museum and the houses of Augustus and Livia.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is considered to be the place where Rome was born. One of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill is closely linked with the city’s history and houses some of its most ancient and important sites.

Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to Palatine Hill by a she-wolf who raised them. Here they founded a village which would become Rome.

In a dispute over who was the rightful leader of the new settlement, Romulus eventually killed his brother at the Palatine Hill. Romulus thus became the namesake of Rome. Indeed, the Palatine Hill is where the earliest huts of Rome were found, supposedly built under the remit of Romulus.

As it developed, the Palatine Hill became one of the most affluent areas in Ancient Rome and was already a coveted address by the first century BC during the Republic. This continued under the Roman Empire, when the Palatine Hill was home to Rome’s most prominent figures. It was also where the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus was born in 63 BC.

Today, the Palatine Hill offers some of Rome's best ancient sites and is a must-see, especially for history enthusiasts. Amongst the buildings excavated at the Palatine Hill are the House of Augustus, the House of Livia (Augustus’s wife), the home of several of Rome’s emperors - the Domus Augustana - and the Palace of Septimius Severus. There is also a large stadium.

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6. Roman Forum

One of the most famous places to visit in Rome, the Forum was the centre of Roman life. Today it lacks its former grandeur and needs a bit of imagination to really get the idea – until the oft-touted Roman theme park is built of course – but it does have loads to see. There are free tours you can join and these are worthwhile.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Roman Forum, or Forum Romanum, was the very centre of ancient Rome. Throughout the lifespan of Roman civilisation the Forum served as the focus of political, civic and religious life.

From magnificent temples and triumphal arches to the very seat of power in the Senate house, the Roman Forum was the very centre of it all.

The Roman Forum was the active heart of the Republic and Empire for over a thousand years and its changing nature reflected the constant shifting in the fortunes of the religious, military and political nature of the Roman world.

First built in the 7th Century BC, the Roman Forum has seen any number of buildings large and small constructed, destroyed and demolished over the years. Today much of the grandeur of the Roman Forum has been lost to the ages, as the buildings were pillaged and the material used elsewhere. Some of the key structures have survived due to their conversion to Churches or other uses, like the Curia Julia and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, but others have left just a shadow of their past glories, hinting at the magnificence of a by-gone age.

No visit to Rome is complete without a stroll around the Roman Forum and it is a must see for anyone visiting the city.

There are a large number of historic buildings or their remains in the Roman Forum, some of the notable ones are: The Temple of Saturn; the Arch of Septimius Severus; the Arch of Titus; the Atrium Vestae (once home to the Vestal virgins); the Gemonian stairs; the Curia Julia (once the site of the Roman Senate); the Temple of Caesar; the Regia (where the first kings of Rome lived and later the Pontifex Maximus); theTemple of Vesta; the Temple of Concord; the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (perhaps the best preserved structure in the Roman Forum); the Temple of Venus and Roma; the Basilica of Maxentius. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

There is a great website which has produced a 3D virtual reconstruction of the Roman Forum and is well worth a look before any visit so you can get your bearings before you go there in person – the Digital Roman Forum.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

7. Vatican Museums

You can’t come to Rome without visiting the Vatican Museums which are rightfully placed among the top sights in Rome. From frescoes by Raphael and the sarcophagus of the Junius Bassus to the famed Sistine Chapel, they house a comprehensive collection of artwork and historical pieces from throughout history.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) house some of the most impressive and important historical artefacts and works of art in the world. Originally the site of the Vatican Museums was used for papal palaces, but they are now a series of galleries in Vatican City.

From the exemplary collection of classical statues in the Pio-Clementine Museum to the beautiful frescos by Raphael in the Raphael Rooms, the Vatican Museums have an extensive array of pieces from many historic periods.

Raphael’s Rooms or “Stanze di Raffaello” are divided into several periods, such as the room of Constantine, the room of Heliodorus, the room of Segnatura and the room of the Fire in the Borgo and depict events throughout history – both real and legendary.

The Gallery of Maps is particularly interesting, its walls adorned with topographical maps of Italy created by Ignazio Danti. The Vatican Museums also house a Gregorian Egyptian Museum containing funerary pieces, stelae and statues bearing hieroglyphics, a reconstruction of the Canopus of Hadrian’s Villa and mummies as well as reliefs and inscriptions from Assyrian palaces.

It would take many visits to see everything in the Vatican Museums. Some of the highlights include Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Catholic Saint Jerome, the Roman Christian sarcophagus of the politician Junius Bassus (d 359 AD) and the Dogmatic Sarcophagus or “Trinity Sarcophagus”, dating back to the mid-fourth century AD.

However, the star attraction of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. Probably the last of the exhibitions one sees at the Vatican Museums (it is quite a walk from the entrance), the Sistine Chapel is the magnificent creation of Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. Its famous ceiling is frescoed in a multitude of colours with depictions from the Old and New Testaments showing, amongst other things, the creation of the world and original sin.

Guided tours of the Vatican Museums take place Mondays to Saturdays hourly from 9am to noon. The Vatican is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Historic Centre of Rome. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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8. Catacombs of San Callisto

Eerie, creepy yet fascinating at the same time, Rome plays host to a number of tucked-away Christian catacombs. The largest crypt belongs to that of San Callisto, which holds half a million bodies and offers tourist a glimpse of the macabre. When considering what to see in Rome, this is certainly one for your left-field list.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Catacombs of San Callisto are just one of the many catacombs of Rome, five of which are regularly open to the public. These Catacombs were used by Christians as subterranean burial places.

Built in around 150 AD, the Catacombs of San Callisto span five floors and hold over half a million bodies, making them the largest of their kind in Rome. Whilst some believe that the practice of underground burials derived from the persecution of the Christians and thus the need to keep the graves safe, others think that this was just the custom at the time and due to the fact that they owned little land.

The most famous residents of the Catacombs of San Callisto are a number of popes of the third century, but not Pope St. Callixtus after whom the catacombs are named. Instead, this pope was responsible for part of the construction and expansion of the Catacombs of San Callisto.

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9. Via Appia Antica

If all roads lead to Rome then this was the ancient world’s biggest superhighway and is a key entry on any list of what to see in Rome. Not only was it Rome’s most prominent artery, it was also the burial place of choice for many of Rome’s citizens and today you can see a host of tombs and public buildings.

DID YOU KNOW?

Via Appia Antica, also known as the Appian Way, is one of the oldest and most important roads leading to Rome. Built in 312 BC, it was slowly extended and, by 191 BC, it reached the port of Brindisi, over 550km southeast of the city (along the “heel” of Italy). Thus, Via Appia Antica became a gateway to the east.

In 66 BC, Julius Caesar became the curator of the Appian Way and, to gain crucial electoral votes, borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway.

Over the centuries, several important events are said to have occurred along Via Appia Antica and, perhaps most notably, Christian legend has it that it was the road on which Christ appeared to a fleeing St. Peter, convincing him to return to Rome thereafter being executed and martyred.

In ancient Rome,  the Via Appia Antica was a popular location for tombs and catacombs, many of which are scattered along the road today, including the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella. Christian catacombs such as the Catacombs of San Callisto and the St. Sebastian Catacombs can also be found there.

Other impressive monuments on the Via Appia Antica, which became the route to the affluent suburbs of Rome, include the Villa and Circus of Maxentius, the Villa dei Quintili and the Baths of Caracalla.

With such a clear route to so many incredible monuments, the Via Appia Antica offers tourists a great way to explore the road’s history, which is so inextricably intertwined with that of Rome. Today, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica oversees much of the site.

Probably the best way to travel along Via Appia Antica is by public transport. Indeed, it is closed to private traffic on Sundays and on holidays. For itineraries along Via Appia Antica, check the official website.

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10. Hadrian’s Villa

The private residence of one of Rome’s most famous Emperors, it turns out he liked building villas as well as walls. Nowadays the remains of Hadrian’s Villa are a bit of a trek and may not often feature among the top places to visit in Rome. But if you put in the effort, you won’t be disappointed.

DID YOU KNOW?

Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign.

Hadrian’s Villa covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest. It includes a large colonnaded swimming pool, libraries, the Palestra and the famous Maritime Theatre. Most intriguing of all are the remains of the Emperor’s small island retreat – including his personal toilet – which served as Hadrian’s private escape from the stress of Imperial life.

Not the easiest site to access, and not among the most famous of Rome’s attractions, Hadrian’s Villa is nevertheless a startling tribute to the power of the Roman Empire and the magnificence that could be brought to bear by its leaders.

Be warned, to fully explore Hadrian’s Villa will take you at least three hours and can be quite physically strenuous in the summer heat, so make sure you take plenty to drink.

What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome: Site Index

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Castel Sant Angelo

Originally the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant Angelo looms large over the Tiber making it one of the most striking sites to see in Rome. Today, it is home to a museum as well as the remains of the Emperor's Mausoleum, medieval prison cells and the papal apartments.

DID YOU KNOW?

Castel Sant Angelo in Rome was originally constructed as the magnificent Mausoleum of Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome from 117AD to 138AD. It is unclearly as to exactly when Castel Sant Angelo was built, but most sources date it to between 123 and 139 AD.

A fortress-like structure, successive Roman emperors and other leaders used Castel Sant Angelo for a variety of purposes. In 401, Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius incorporated Castel Sant Angelo in Rome’s Aurelian Walls, destroying and losing many of the contents of Hadrian’s mausoleum in the process. It later turned into a medieval stronghold and a prison.

In the fourteenth century, popes began using Castel Sant Angelo as a place of safety, an emergency shelter in times of danger. In fact, there is a corridor linking Castel Sant Angelo with Vatican Palace. Various changes were made to Castel Sant Angelo in order to meet the requirements of the popes and to further fortify this already well-defended building.

Today, Castel Sant Angelo houses a museum which tells the story of its history, from the Roman remains of the Mausoleum of Hadrian to remnants of the fortified castle, the original prison cells and the papal apartments.

Photo by Historvius

Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.

This relatively new ancient site opened to the public in 2010 and is located close to Rome’s Piazza Venezia. It contains the remains of a Roman era house - or ‘Domus’ - dating to the imperial era and probably belonging to the wealthier elements of Roman society.

Visitors can explore all aspects of the ancient house, including the structure itself, the various chambers, living areas, bathrooms, kitchens, mosaics and even decorative wall frescoes - with the additional option of seeing it all brought back to life through a virtual journey. As well as the archaeological ruins themselves, the Domus Romane comes alive through a series of sophisticated light shows that recreate what the villas would have looked like. Visitors can also expolore a range of virtual reconstructions, interactive displays and films. A model of the area as it appeared in Roman times showing the various stages of the Domus Romane completes the tour.

Even before the opening of the Roman villa, Palazzo Valentini itself was already an important site in Rome - being the Provincial Council headquarters - and dating back to the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 18th century, the palazzo was rented to Prince Ruspoli and his family and, among others, was lived in by the composer George Frideric Handel, of Water Music fame. In 1873, after the palazzo became the property of the Provincial Deputation of Rome, renovation work was carried out and new extensions were added to turn it into the Provincial Council headquarters.

However, it was when excavations were carried out in 2005 that a startling find was revealed, the remains of a 20,000 square-foot, 4th century AD Roman villa complex alongside those of a private thermal bath. It transpired that when Palazzo Valentini was built the 16th century builders filled in the site, unwittingly preserving the villa for prosperity.

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Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

While loads of people walk past this as they wander around the Forum, few tourists take the time to consider the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II when deciding what to see in Rome. This huge monument in fact celebrates the first king to rule a unified Italy and is pretty darn impressive.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is a vast tribute to the Italian king known as the “Father of the Fatherland”.

Victor Emmanuel II reigned from 1861 to 1878. He was the leading force behind the unification of Italy and served as its first king following the establishment of the unified kingdom.

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II is an ostentatious white marble structure inaugurated in 1911. A statue of the king himself sits in front of a stairway leading up to a large, ornate white marble building with Corinthian columns.

Inside the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II there is a small museum about Italian unification and visitors can also go to the top for great views. It is part of the UNESCO site of the Historic Centre of Rome.

Photo by Friar's Balsam (cc)

Musei Capitolini

Alright, if the sun is shining you might not want to be inside, that’s fair enough. But at the first sign of the merest hint of a drop of rain, head for the Musei Capitolini, one of the top sights in Rome. Located near the Forum, it contains a huge wealth of artefacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance worlds.

DID YOU KNOW?

Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) stand on the ancient Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome and host a huge wealth of artifacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods.

Among Musei Capitolini’s many wonders are collections of classical sculptures and statues, exhibits on ancient mythology, medieval and renaissance artworks as well as many bronzes and portraits.

At the centre of the courtyard surrounded by the buildings of the Musei Capitolini stands a replica statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the original can be found inside the museum.

Comprised of three main buildings, namely Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Senatorio, the Musei Capitolini are located near the Roman Forum and a short walk from The Colosseum.

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Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in the world. Though definitely one for your list of places to visit in Rome, the truth is that it doesn’t really take all that long and you have to remind yourself that you’re looking at a 2,000 year-old building to really understand the magnificence of what you’re viewing.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

Originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 25BC, the Pantheon served as a temple to the many gods of Rome. The original Pantheon was destroyed by the great fire of 80AD and the structure which stands today was completed around 125AD during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

In 609AD the Pantheon was converted to a Church and this helped preserve the building from the destruction of later times. In the middle ages the Pantheon was also used as a burial chamber for notable figures and even Italian kings.

Today, the Pantheon stands as a magnificent site in central Rome, and one of the most popular destinations for tourists. The Pantheon’s vast structure is topped by the spectacular original domed roof which contains a circular opening (oculus) at the peak. Made of cast concrete, it is a monumental engineering feat that is a testament to the technical expertise of the Roman Empire. Indeed, the roof of the Pantheon remained the largest dome in the world until the 15th century.

The Pantheon is free to visit and is a must-see for both the general tourist and the history enthusiast.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is cool. A mini pyramid just sitting in Italy’s capital, where it really has no right to be. You have to give it to Gaius Cestius, who wasn’t one of Rome’s leading lights by any stretch, yet he will be remembered. Doesn’t take long to see but a great site and among the lesser known places to visit in Rome.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Pyramid of Cestius is the tomb of affluent magistrate, Caius Cestius which was built between 18 and 12 BC.

Constructed of white marble and brick, this ostentatious 35-metre high tomb was likely built in this style due to the popularity of all things Egyptian which swept Rome after Egypt was incorporated into the Empire.

Inside the tomb contained a number of frescoes depicting scenes from Roman mythology while an inscription still visible on the exterior gives details about its construction and dedication. This pyramid-tomb was later set into the Aurelian Walls, helping to ensure its preservation through the ages.

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Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Built by Michelangelo from the surviving structure of the ancient Baths of Diocletian this site has all the ingredients you need for a great place to visit. The sheer scale of this 16th century church gives a good indication of the size of the original baths. One of the more interesting yet underrated tourist attractions in Rome.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) is a large and impressive 16th century church constructed within the remains of the Baths of Diocletian and masterminded by renowned renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Though centuries had passed since the fall of the Roman Empire, the massive Baths of Diocletian were still standing in the 16th century. Taking advantage of the huge structural shell, the new Christian basilica was built inside the great hall and frigidarium. It was to be the last great work of Michelangelo, who began the project in 1563 but died in 1564, before its completion by Jacopo Lo Duca, a pupil of Michelangelo’s.

One notable feature of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is the meridian line built into its floor and gaps in the ceiling used to measure the passage of the stars.

The sheer scale of the build is not only impressive in its own right, but also gives a good indication of the size of the original baths, of which this is only one part. Those looking to find a more unaltered view of the original baths should visit the nearby Aula Ottagona.

Photo by jimmyharris (cc)

St Peter’s Basilica

There aren’t many people who come to Rome without visiting St Peter’s Basilica – it is one of the first things people tell you if you ask them what to see in Rome. The church itself is magnificent and inside you can view a wealth of historical art as well as the tombs of many Popes.

DID YOU KNOW?

St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is one of the most important Christian sites in the world and is a church (rather than a cathedral) with a long and illustrious history.

Also known as the 'Papal Basilica of Saint Peter' and in Italian as 'Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano', St Peter’s Basilica sits over the site of the tomb of its namesake.

St Peter was one of the twelve apostles in Christianity and is believed to have been crucified at the Circus of Nero, on which St Peter’s Basilica was constructed. At that time, the Circus of Nero also had a cemetery.

The first basilica to be built over the Circus of Nero was constructed in 324 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Visitors to St Peter’s Basilica can still see the shrine in his honour. The saint himself is thought to be buried under the Papal altar.

The current form of St Peter’s Basilica began to form in the fifteenth century and was expanded and added to by various popes and architects over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Whilst much of the building was designed by Bernini, the most celebrated architectural aspect of St Peter’s Basilica is probably its vast dome. Designed by Michelangelo in the mid-sixteenth century, but not finished until after his demise, the dome of St Peter’s rises a magnificent 448 feet in height.

Inside St Peter’s Basilica, visitors can view a wealth of historical art, mostly Renaissance, and the tombs of popes such as Pope Pius XI (d.1939), Pope John XXIII (d. 1963) and Pope John Paul II (d. 2005). Many of their tombs are located in the basilica’s Grottoes.

Some of the highlights in respect of the artistic masterpieces at St Peter’s Basilica include Michelangelo’s statue Pieta, Arnolfo di Cambio’s Statue of St. Peter Enthroned, the foot of which pilgrims traditionally touch and Bernini’s golden Monument to Pope Alexander VII.

St Peter’s Basilica is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Historic Centre of Rome. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Oggie Dog (cc)

St Sebastian Catacombs

Some of the earliest of the Christian catacombs in Rome, the Saint Sebastian Catacombs are another great example of this type of early burial site. Creepy but fun, it's certainly worth a look if you haven't seen any other catacombs on your trip to Rome.

DID YOU KNOW?

The St Sebastian Catacombs (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) are fourth century AD underground Christian burial tombs. They are some of the earliest of their kind in Rome.

The many catacombs of Rome are the remnants of early Christianity, a reminder of a time when persecuted Christians would bury their dead in underground chambers outside the city walls. Several examples of these subterranean cemeteries still exist, with the St Sebastian Catacombs listed among the best known.

Comprised of four levels of burial passages, the St. Sebastian Catacombs are believed to have once held the remains of their namesake, but he is now buried in the basilica above. Creepy but fun, it's certainly worth a look if you haven't seen any other catacombs on your trip to Rome.

Entry to the St. Sebastian Catacombs also includes a guided tour.

Photo by Allie_Caulfield (cc)

The Ara Pacis Museum

A relative newcomer to the list of sites to see in Rome, the Ara Pacis Museum displays the Emperor Augustus’s Altar of Peace. Constructed in 9BC it signified the peace which Augustus had brought to the Empire. It’s an amazing site which is extremely well preserved and thoroughly enthralling.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell Ara Pacis) in Rome houses the Altar of Peace, which was built under instructions from the Emperor Augustus and sanctioned by the Senate.

Augustus decided to build the Ara Pacis to celebrate his military campaigns which resulted in the outbreak of peace in the Mediterranean.

Dedicated on 30 January 9 BC, the Ara Pacis was originally located on a site known as the Field of Mars. The altar itself is surrounded by marble walls adorned with elaborate friezes of various figures, including senate members and members of Augustus’s family. These carved figures take part in a procession celebrating the peace brought about by Augustus.

Photo by Z_dead (cc)

The Spanish Steps

Everyone goes to the Spanish Steps – walk up them, walk down them, sit on them, take a picture or two and generally just soak up the atmosphere. A focal point for Rome’s tourists, they are a staple of any list of things to see in Rome. They don’t do much though – they just sit there being sat on.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions.

A grand staircase with 138 steps leading down to the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps were designed in the 1720s by Francesco de Sanctis, an Italian architect, and completed in 1726.

They were called the Spanish Steps after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, then located nearby. A popular spot since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, today this beautiful staircase is always buzzing with tourists and leads to Rome’s most upmarket shopping area.

Photo by the Italian voice (cc)

The Trevi Fountain

The largest and most iconic fountain in the city, the Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s top tourist attractions. Resplendent with murals of fables and myths, the fountain attracts thousands of tourists, all keen to throw their coins into its waters…

DID YOU KNOW?

The Trevi Fountain (Fountain di Trevi) is an iconic eighteenth century monument in Rome. It was designed by Nicola Salvi, but following his death in 1751 it was continued by Giuseppe Pannini and completed in 1762.

A stunning depiction of several ancient deities and resplendent with frescos of legends and myths, the Trevi Fountain attracts floods of tourists, keen to throw their coins into its waters to assure their return to Rome - or so goes the myth.