Between galleries, churches, historic palazzi, ruins, castles, and tombs, the Eternal City has many more monuments and museums than the average visitor has time to see. The expression "Roma, non basta una vita" ("Rome, a lifetime is not enough") pretty much sums it up, as even the most dedicated of native Romans is unlikely to see it all. The following list is by no means complete, but we trust it will keep you busy while you're here:
The ruins of Emperor Nero's legendary "Golden House," which in its day took up one-third of the city of Rome, were finally reopened to the public in 1999 after 25 years of restoration work. Although only 20 percent of the palace survives (and what's left is completely underground), the Domus Aurea remains one of the most unique and impressive sites in Rome. Nero may have been demented, but he sure knew about the good life! Via Labicana 136. Tel. 06 369967700. Mon-Sun 9am-7:45pm. Booking essential. € 5.16 + € 1.03 booking fee. Metro Line B: Colosseo, or bus 87 or J4. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Centro servizi per L'Archeologia on Via G. Amendola 2 (open Mon-Sat 9am-1pm).
The granddaddy of all Roman monuments, this arena known to the ancients as the "Flavian Amphitheater" hosted 450 years of gladiatorial contests and wild beast hunts... "games," as they were called in antiquity. You can get a pretty good sense of the Colosseum just by walking around the outside, but going inside will give you a better idea of the seating areas, the structures beneath the arena floor, and the general enormity of the building. Piazza del Colosseo. 9am-sunset (until 4pm Oct-Mar). € 6.71. Metro Line B: Colosseo, or bus 87 or J4.
This is where Rome began, back in 753 BC when Romulus killed Remus. The Palatine Hill was the best real estate in ancient Rome (the emperors chose to live there, after all), and it's still one of the best locations today. The visit here is part ruin-exploration, part nature hike, so take a book or a picnic, relax in the sun or shade, and enjoy one of the most serene and splendid views over Rome. Entrances at Piazza di S. Maria Nova (Arch of Titus) and Via di S. Gregorio 30. Mon-Sun 9am-sunset (until 4pm Nov-Mar). € 6.20; includes admission to Palatine Museum, closes 80 minutes earlier than Palatine). Metro Line B: Colosseo, or bus 87 or J4, or a 5-minute walk from Piazza Venezia.
This was the downtown area of the ancient city, where you could cross paths with Cicero or Caesar himself on their way to the political, religious, and commercial buildings which are still visible here today, 2000 years later, in various states of preservation. Very evocative of the power of Rome in her Golden Age. Entrances at Largo Romolo e Remo 5-6, Piazza S. Maria Nova (Arch of Titus), and Via del Monte Tarpeo (Capitoline Hill). Open daily 9am-sunset (until 4pm Nov-Mar). Admission free. Metro Line B: Colosseo, or bus 87 or J4, or a 5-minute walk from Piazza Venezia.
Baths of Caracalla
The best preserved of the imperial bath complexes. Follow the path of the ancient bathers from the changing rooms to the caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium, then out to the exercise areas and libraries. The massive brick walls and mosaics still in existence help you imagine what a grand experience bathing in Rome would have been, even though the water hasn't been running here for about 1500 years. Via delle Terme di Caracalla. Tues-Sun 9am-sunset (until 4pm Nov-Mar); Mon 9am-2pm. € 4.13. Metro Line B: Circo Massimo or bus 628; or J3.
Very dear to the hearts of this guide-book's authors, the Pantheon is by far the best place in the city to experience the true splendor, harmony, and elegance of Roman architecture, inside and out. This 2nd century AD pagan temple to all the gods was converted into a church in 608 AD and today, nearly 1900 years after its construction, is still almost completely intact. From outside in the piazza, feel the solidity and permanence of the rectangular portico; inside, marvel at the vault of the hemispherical concrete dome, pierced by a 9m oculus open to the sky, and take in all the colors of the marbles that line the walls. Piazza della Rotonda. Open Mon-Sat 8:30am-6:30pm; Sun & holidays 8:30am-1pm. Free. Bus 40 Express, 64, 492, or 62 to Largo Argentina.
This monument hardly needs an introduction as it enjoys a great reputation as the place to go in Rome to meet those handsome young Italian men. Foreign women can almost certainly expect to be offered a rose and/or marriage proposal here. Go at sunset when the light is divine and most of the bus tour groups have left. Metro Line A: Spagna.
A delightfully extravagant Rococo creation with travertine palm trees, tritons, seahorses, and Neptune himself. Throw one coin over your shoulder for a quick return to Rome, two for a fling with an Italian, and three to marry an Italian! Best experienced in the evening. Metro Line A: Spagna, or bus 62 or 492 to Via del Tritone.
Mouth of Truth
The so-called "Bocca della Verita'," in the portico of the church of S. Maria in Cosmedin. Put your hand in the mouth of this ancient sewer cover--legend has it that liars' hands will be bitten off. Good touristy photo opportunity. Piazza Bocca della Veritˆ. 9am-1pm; 2:30pm-6pm daily. Bus 170 to Via del Teatro di Marcello (or any bus to Piazza Venezia and walk 5 minutes).
Trajan's Markets and Forum
This area immediately east of Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill was developed in the 2nd century AD and included a massive basilica, Greek and Latin libraries, a temple, Trajan's column, and a sophisticated marketplace. The column, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Roman art, and the markets, known to archaeologists as the world's first shopping mall, and in excellent states of preservation today. You can get a free view of the complex from Via Alessandrina (off Via dei Fori Imperiali), but there is an admission fee to get right down in the ruins and wander around the markets. Entrance on Via IV Novembre. Tel. 06 6790048. Tues-Sun 9am-6:30pm (until 4pm Nov-Mar); Mon closed. € 6.20.
» Museums and Galleries
ACEA (Montemartini) Art Center
Important pieces from the Capitoline collection of ancient sculpture displayed among the machinery of an old power plant. "Venus in the Boiler Room" should give you an idea of the exhibition here. Via Ostiense 106 - Tel. 06 5748030. Tues-Sun 9:30am-7pm. € 4.13; reduced € 2.58. Bus 23 or Metro B: Piramide.
Archaeological excavations throughout Rome in the 19th century uncovered all kinds of artifacts, from funerary marbles to everyday objects like plumbing components, now on display in the "City Antiquarium." Via del Parco del Celio, 22 (near Colosseum). Tues-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 9am-1pm; Mon closed. € 1.94. Metro Line B: Colosseo. Closed for restoration at time of printing; scheduled to reopen by January, 2001.
A wonderfully intimate collection of some of the most important Renaissance and Baroque paintings in the world, including works by Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio, plus amazing Baroque and Neo-Classical sculptures by Bernini and Canova. P.le Museo Borghese (Villa Borghese) Tel. 06 32810. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm (entry by reservation only at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm); Mon closed. It is advisable to book at least a few days in advance. € 6.20 + € 1.03 booking fee. Bus 116 or 910 to Porta Pinciana.
Made up of two separate buildings: the Palazzo Nuovo houses an incredibly rich collection of Roman sculpture (including the original of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius); the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Braccio Nuovo house more ancient sculpture as well as Renaissance and Baroque art. Piazza del Campidoglio. Tel. 06 67102071. Open Tues-Sun 9:30am-7pm. € 6.20; reduced € 4.13. Ticket also includes access to the recently restored tabularium, the 1st century BC Roman records hall that offers spectacular views across the Forum to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Bus 40 Express, 64, or 170 to Piazza Venezia.
Every Sunday there are guided tours, including a visit to the "Stanza del Sindaco," (the mayor's office) with its spectacular view over the Imperial Forums. Open 9am-4pm.
Torre Campanaria (Renaissance bell tower on the Capitoline Hill)
Only open on the last Sunday of the month, from 9am-3:45pm. As there is a limit of 100 visitors per day (age 14 and up only), it is necessary to make reservations.
This complex started out as the Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum, then in the Middle Ages was made into a fortress, and in the Renaissance was outfitted with papal apartments. A funerary, military, and domestic monument all in one! Great views over Rome from the top. Lungotevere Castello. Tel. 06 6819111 Tues-Sun 9am-8pm. € 5.16. Bus 64 or 40 Express to Ponte Vittorio Emanuele or Piazza Pia.
Complesso del Vittoriano
Built into the back of the gigantic "wedding cake" at Piazza Venezia, near the Museo del Risorgimento), this museum hosts some of the most important touring exhibitions of art in Europe. Entrance on Via S. Pietro in Carcere, off Via dei Fori Imperiali. Tel. 06 6780664. Open Mon-Thurs 9:30am-8:30pm. € 7.75; reduced € 5.16. Bus 64 or 40 Express to Piazza Venezia; or Metro B: Colosseo, and a short walk up Via dei Fori Imperiali.
The underground ruins of the ancient Theater of Balbus have recently been converted into a museum of ancient and medieval art. Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 29. Open Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. € 4.13; reduced € 2.07. bus 64 or 40 Express to Piazza Venezia or Largo Argentina.
Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia
An amazing collection of Etruscan tomb artifacts is on display in this 16th century villa. The detail and craftsmanship of this artwork from 2800 years ago will absolutely astonish you--you've never seen stuff so old looking so good! Piazza Villa Giulia 9. Tel. 06 3201951. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. € 4.13. Tram 30 or 225 from Metro A: Flaminio.
Explora: Il Museo dei Bambini (Children's Museum of Rome)
Exhibits for (young) children, Borghetto Flaminio, Via Flaminio, 80. Tel. 06 3613741. Admission at pre-defined times: Mon 9:30am, and 11:30am; Tues-Fri at 9:30am, 11:30am, 3pm and 5pm; Sat-Sun 10am, noon, 3pm, 5pm. € 5.16; children 0-3 free. Groups (minimum 15) € 3.62.
Picture gallery with works by Guercino, Tintoretto, Palma Vecchio, and Carracci. Via della Pilotta 17 Tel. 06 6784350. Open only Sat 9am-1pm. € 5.16. Bus 492 or 62 to Largo Chigi or bus 40 Express or 64 to Piazza Venezia, then a short walk up Via del Corso.
Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
The city's permanent collection of modern art, especially strong on 19th and 20th century Italian art. Via Francesco Crispi, 24. Tel. 06 4742848. Tues-Sat 10am-1:30pm/2:30pm-6:30pm; Sun 9:30am-1:30pm. € 2.58. Later 20th century works and temporary exhibitions also on display at the museum's satellite location, Via Reggio Emilia, 54. Tel. 06 8844930. Open Tue-Sun 19am-7pm. To Via Crispi: Bus 62 or 492 to Piazza Barberini or Metro Line A: Barberini.
Galleria dell'Accademia di S. Luca
A small picture gallery with paintings by Raphael, Bassano, Rubens, and Guercino. Piazza dell'Accademia di S. Luca 77. Tel. 06 6798850. Closed for restoration at time of printing; expected to reopen in December 2001.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj
This former noble family palace offers an incredibly rich collection of paintings as well as a real sense of the lifestyle of the Renaissance rich and famous, with access to the banquet halls and apartments, all enhanced by the lively audio guide. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj/Piazza del Collegio Romano 2. Tel. 06 6797323. Open Fri-Wed 10am-5pm. € 7.23; reduced € 5.68. Ticket includes audio guide. Guided tours of the private apartments mornings only, 10:30am-12:30pm; € 2.58. Bus 40 Express or 64 to Piazza Venezia or 492 or 62 to Via del Corso.
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna
The national Italian collection of modern art is located in the cool atmosphere of this palace in the Villa Borghese. Works by DeChirico, Carra', the Macchiaioli, and a few non-Italians like Kandinsky, Klimt, and Cezanne. Viale delle Belle Arti, 131. Tel. 06 322981. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm € 6.20. Tram 30 from Metro Line A: Flaminio.
A beautiful Renaissance palace housing works by Reni, Guercino, Titian, and Gentileschi. Most noteworthy is Borromini's fantastically illusionistic trompe l'oeil corridor in the courtyard. Piazza Capodiferro 13. Tel. 06 6861158. Tues-Sat 8:30am-7:30pm; Sun and holidays 9am-6:30pm. € 5.16; reduced € 2.58. Bus 40 Express, 64, H, 492, or 62 to Largo Argentina.
Goethe Memorial House
Italy, and Rome especially, had an incredible influence on Goethe, and in the rooms of this apartment where Goethe lived in 1700 have been opened to the public to celebrate the poet and his relationship with Italy. Via del Corso, 18. Tel. 06 32650412. Open Wed-Mon 10am-6pm. € 2.58; reduced € 1.55. Bus 62 or 492 to Largo Chigi or Metro Line A: Spagna or Flaminio.
Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Keats spent the last months of his life in this apartment, dying here in 1821. This memorial house is dedicated not only to Keats but also to the other Romantic poets who wrote in Rome, like Shelley, Byron, and Hunt. Piazza di Spagna, 26. Tel. 06 6784235. Open Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 3pm-6pm (2:30pm-5:30pm Oct-Mar). € 2.58. Metro Line A: Spagna.
Museo dell'Alto Medioevo (Early Middle Ages)
A collection of decorative arts from the fall of the Roman Empire to the early Renaissance, from sword handles to beaded jewelry. Viale Lincoln, 3 (EUR). Tel. 06 54228199. Open Tues-Sun 9am-8pm. € 2.07. Metro Line B: EUR-Fermi or bus 714 to Piazza G. Marconi.
Ancient sculpture and artifacts from the Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman periods. Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 166. Tel. 06 68806848. Open Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. € 2.58. Bus 40 Express, 64, H, 492, or 62 to Largo Argentina.
The collection, studio, and apartment of the musician and sculptor Pietro Canonica who died in 1959. Viale P. Canonica 2 (Villa Borghese). Tel. 06 8842279. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. € 2.58.
Museo della Casina delle Civette
One of the latest additions to Rome's line-up of museums, remarkable for its Art-Nouveau stained glass windows and the recently restored villa. Villa Torlonia (Via Nomentana). Tel. 06 44250072. Open Tues-Sun 9am-5pm (until 7pm in summer). € 2.58; reduced € 1.55. Bus 62 or 60 Express to Via Nomentana/Villa Torlonia.
Museo della Civilta' Romana
A fascinating museum set up during the Fascist period, dedicated to glorifying Imperial Rome. It contains a huge model of the ancient city (scale 1:250), plus plaster casts of its monuments, military operations, and more. Really gives you an idea of what it used to be like before everything fell into ruin! Piazza G. Agnelli 10 (EUR). Tel. 06 5926135. Open Tues-Sat 9am-6:45pm; Sun and holidays 9am-1pm. € 4.13. Metro Line B: EUR-Fermi or bus 714 to Piazza G. Marconi.
Museo della Comunita' Ebraica
Located inside the Synagogue in the old Jewish ghetto area, this museum houses Judaic art as well as documents and photographs chronicling the history of the Jews in Rome from the 16th century, when the Ghetto was established, to the World War II era. Lungotevere de' Cenci. Tel. 06 6840061. Mon-Thurs 9am-7:30pm; Fri 9:30am-1:30pm; Sun 9am-noon (Oct-Mar Mon-Thur 9am-4:30pm, Fri 9:30am-1:30pm, Sun 9am-noon). Sat and Jewish holidays closed. € 5.16. Bus 23 to Lungotevere de' Cenci (or Lungotevere degli Anguillara and walk across Tiber Island). Or a short walk from Largo Argentina (bus 40 Express, 64, 492, or 62).
Museo del Corso
This centrally-located gallery hosts a wide variety of exhibitions. Via del Corso, 320. Tel. 06 6786209. Open Teus-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission generally € 6.20.
Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari
Italian tools, crafts, clothing, furniture, musical instruments, jewelry, and more-- part of the EUR-wide campaign to promote Italian heritage. Piazza Marconi 8 (EUR). Tel. 06 5926148. Open Tues-Sun 9am-8pm. € 4.13. Metro Line B: EUR-Fermi or bus 714 to Piazza G. Marconi.
Museo di Roma in Trastevere
On Piazza San Egidio in Trastevere, this small space features exhibits on Roman folklore and special exhibits from time to time. Piazza San Egidio. Tel. 06 5816563. Open Tues-Sun 10am-8pm. € 5.16.
Houses Napoleon's collection of books, art, curios, and other knick-knacks. Piazza Ponte Umberto I. Tel. 06 68806286. Tues-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 9am-2pm. € 2.58. Bus 492, 70, 81, 87, or 628 to Ponte Umberto I.
Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale
On display inside the restored Palazzo Brancaccio is the most important collection of Oriental art in Italy. Via Merulana, 248 (near S. Maria Maggiore). Tel. 06 4874415. Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat 8:30-2pm; Tues, Thurs, Sun 8:30am-7:30pm (closed 1st and 3rd Mon of the month). € 4.13. Metro A: Vittorio Emanuele.
Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali
The Gorga collection of over 800 musical instruments, from ancient to modern. Rare and beautiful pieces including flutes, violins, and the especially noteworthy Barberini harp. Piazza S. Croce in Gerusalemme, 9a. Tel. 06 7014796. Open Tue-Sun 8:30am-7pm. € 2.07. Bus 9 to Santa Croce.
Museo Preistorico ed Etnografico Luigi Pigorini
Prehistoric Italian artifacts plus ethnological material from other cultures, including a real Neanderthal skull! The collection is actually quite good for what it is, but if dusty cases of unidentified stone objects (petrified gnocchi?) aren't your thing, pick another museum. Viale Lincoln 1 (EUR). Tel. 06 549521. Open Mon-Sat 9am-2pm; Sun and holidays 9am-8pm. € 4.13. Metro Line B: EUR-Fermi or bus 714 to Piazza G. Marconi.
Museo del Risorgimento
This small museum underneath the Vittoriano contains items relating to the Risorgimento, the revolution that created modern Italy in 1870. Via di San Pietro in Carcere. Tel 06 6793526. Open daily 9am-8pm. € 2.07.
This recently restored, airy and pleasant palazzo near Piazza Navona houses the Ludovisi collection of Roman sculpture. Piazza S. Apollinare 44. Tel. 06 6897091 / 06 6833759. Open Tues-Sun 9am-8pm € 5.16. Bus 492, 70, 81, 87, or 628 to Corso Rinascimento/Piazza Cinque Lune.
Palazzo Barberini (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica)
A 17th century palazzo turned picture gallery, featuring works of the Renaissance and Baroque, including paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, and Guido Reni. Special exhibitions are also held here throughout the year. Via Barberini 18. Tel. 06 42003669 / 06 4824184. Tues-Sun 9am-7:30pm. € 6.20. Metro Line A: Barberini or bus 492 or 62.
Palazzo Corsini (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica)
The overflow from the national collection at Palazzo Barberini is housed here, including the standard assortment of works by Guercino, Reni, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Carracci. Via della Lungara 10. Tel. 06 68802323. Tues-Sun 9am-7:30pm. € 4.13. Bus 23 to Lungotevere della Farnesina.
Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Three to four special exhibitions, ranging in period from ancient to modern, are on view here at any given time. Via Nazionale 194. Tel. 06 4885465. Wed-Mon 10am-9pm. € 7.75; reduced € 4.13. Bus 64, 170, 70, or H to Via Nazionale.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
The restoration of this palazzo, which contains wonderful pieces of ancient sculpture, fresco, and mosaic, has made the visit here a much more airy and informative experience. Largo di Villa Peretti 2. Tel. 06 48903500; 06 48903501; 06 48903502; 06 48903503. Tues-Sun 9am-7:45pm. € 6.20; reduced € 3.10. Any bus or metro to Termini.
Palazzo Venezia Museum
Rome's first Renaissance building, which was Mussolini's headquarters during the Fascist regime, now houses special exhibits, usually of a specifically Roman theme. Via del Plebiscito 118. Tel. 06 6798865. Open Tue-Sun 9am-2pm. € 4.13. Bus 40 Express, 64, 62, 492, 70, 81 or H to Piazza Venezia.
Scuderie Papali al Quirinale
Someone had the brilliant idea to convert the old papal stables on the Quirinal Hill into museum space, and the result has been a terrific success, as important exhibitions from all over the world are brought here throughout the year. Via XXIV Maggio. Tel. 06 696270. Mon-Sun 9am-11pm. € 7.75; reduced € 5.16. Bus 492, 62, or 175 to Largo del Tritone, or 64 or 170 to Via Nazionale (corner of Via XXIV Maggio.)
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
So what do you want to see? Egyptian mummies? Etruscan gold? Greek marbles? Medieval tapestries? Renaissance paintings? How about a moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission? It's all here in abundance, the best of the best, in the elongated complex known as the Vatican Museums, which also provides access to the famous Raphael rooms and Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. During high season, we suggest that you go in the afternoon, when the crowds are much lighter, and if possible, to avoid Saturday entirely! Viale del Vaticano. Tel. 06 69883041. Open Mon-Fri 8:45am-4:45pm (Nov-Dec 8:45am-12:45pm); Sat 8:45am-1:45pm; Sun closed (except last Sun of month, open 8:45am-1:45pm, admission free). Entry up to 1 hour before closing. € 9.30; reduced € 6.20. Metro Line A: Ottaviano or Cipro-Musei Vaticani, or bus 81 or 492 to Piazza Risorgimento.
This graceful little Renaissance villa along the banks of the Tiber (on the Trastevere side) has frescoes by Raphael, Peruzzi, and Sodoma, and is in general a very pleasant place to be. Via della Lungara, 230. Tel. 06 68801767. Mon-Sat 9am-1pm. € 4.13. Bus 23 to Ponte Sisto, or Tram 8 to Piazza G.G. Belli and a short walk north along the river.
Rome has more basilicas than you, the average tourist, have the time or interest for. (Don't worry, we haven't been to all of them either.) The good news is that even though you can't hope to see them all, pretty much any church you go to has some kind of treasure in it that makes it worth a quick look inside, whether it's the head of a saint, ancient ruins in the crypt, or a famous artist's masterpiece. Rome's churches come in all shapes, sizes, and time periods, from the 4th century to the 20th, and best of all, they're free, and a great place to escape the heat in the summer.
While most of the major basilicas are open all day from the early morning to the early evening, some of the smaller churches have limited, strange hours that change constantly. And sometimes the custodian just doesn't show up. With that in mind, mid-morning or late afternoon are good times to try for the less famous churches. And note that the larger basilicas have a dress code: those with bare knees or shoulders may not be admitted.
BIGGEST CHURCH NOT ONLY IN ROME BUT IN ENTIRE WORLD
St. Peter's in the Vatican. Also wins prize for Most Expensive Church, Church with Most Artists' Masterpieces, Church with Most Popes' Tombs, Church with Most Indiana Jones-esque Archaeological Site Underneath . . . The list of what this church has is long, so we'll cut to the chase. Go there. It's amazing. No excuse for skipping it: it's open all the time, and hey, you never know, you might even see the pope. Metro A: Ottaviano. Bus 40 Express, 62, 64.
CATHEDRAL OF ROME & MOTHER CHURCH OF THE WORLD
This hefty title goes to St. John Lateran (San Giovanni). The 17th-century Borromini-designed basilica you see here today was built over the spot where Constantine built Rome's very first church in 318 AD. Because of its primacy, San Giovanni NOT St. Peter's is in fact the technical seat of all that the Pope and the Catholic church do worldwide. Bonus feature: the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul are housed above the baldacchino. Metro A: San Giovanni. Bus 85, 87, 117.
Hands down, Santa Maria Maggiore. (First runner-up: Santa Maria in Trastevere). Everywhere you look in this magnificent church (one of the four patriarchal basilicas of Rome), there are tesserae, tiny tiles of colored marble and gold, telling Biblical stories, from the nave to the apse. Dazzling. This church is also home to the tomb of our favorite Baroque artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who died in 1680 at the age of 82. Metro A or B: Termini. Bus 70 to Piazza Esquilino or any bus to Termini.
BEST POST-FIRE REBUILDING
The blaze of 1823 almost completely devastated the original basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura (St. Paul's Outside the Walls), which dated back to the 4th century. The reconstructed basilica, full of color, preserves the original design of a vast rectangle divided in five aisles. People with a granite fetish will appreciate the 80 monolithic columns lining the central nave. Metro B: San Paolo. Bus 23 or J4.
CHURCH WITH MOST MOTLEY ASSEMBLAGE
The 12th-century basilica of San Clemente is the run-away winner here, effortlessly combining elements of a 4th-century church, an imperial Roman palace, and a Mithraeum (a cult chamber for an Eastern religion involving sacrificial bulls, a hero in a chef's hat, and scorpions seizing testicles.) Via San Giovanni in Laterano. Metro B: Colosseo or Metro A: San Giovanni. Bus 85, 87, 117.
CHURCH WITH BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS
The residents of the neighborhood where Sant'Ignazio was built didn't want a dome blocking their light, so Andrea Pozzo painted a fake dome on the ceiling, using the latest trompe l'oeil techniques. The effect is best observed from a yellow marble disc in the floor of the main nave, but from elsewhere in the church the "dome" just looks distorted. Piazza di Sant'Ignazio (near Pantheon). Bus to Largo Argentina or Via del Corso.
BEST LITTLE BAROQUE CHURCHES
Rome has plenty of big Baroque churches, like St. Peter's and San Giovanni, but some of the most amazing work of men like Bernini and Borromini is found in smaller, lesser known basilicas around the city. What makes a Baroque church a great Baroque church is a successful combination of curves, illusionistic spaces, theatricality, and movement, without being too flamboyant. There are so many worthy candidates in this category we couldn't choose just one. It just so happens that the three we've chosen are all on the same street.
Sant'Andrea del Quirinale. Not surprisingly, this "pearl of the Baroque" has the touch of the 17th-century genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The master made use of polychromatic marbles, stucco, and gilding to give the elliptical interior a typically Baroque richness. The theatrical element is provided by the stucco of St. Andrew "rising to heaven" at the base of the dome. Via del Quirinale. Bus 64, 40, 70, 170 to Via Nazionale/Via XXIV Maggio.
San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. If ever architecture could be described as tormented, this is it. Curves and countercurves. Convexity and concavity. A sense of expanding space, pushing and pulling, in a very confined interior, and you feel the tension. The intricately-coffered oval dome is dizzying. "San Carlino" is Borromini at his best. Metro A: Barberini or any bus to Via Nazionale.
Santa Maria della Vittoria. The interior follows all the rules of the Baroque—sumptuousness, gold, color—but the real treasure here is on the left before the altar, in the Cornaro Chapel. Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa is framed by "theater boxes" of excited onlookers, peeping at the near-sexual rapture of the saint. You gotta love Bernini. Largo Santa Susanna (the eastern end of Via del Quirinale).
BEST COUNTER-REFORMATION CHURCH
What's a Counter-Reformation church, you ask? It's a church that has an austere façade (in order to defend against the pesky Protestants) and an unobstructed interior (in order to gather the masses together and transmit Church doctrine better). The 16th-century Gesù has both. But just because the inside is unobstructed doesn't mean it's undecorated. In fact, the rich interior would be added a century later, in the Baroque, when the popes weren't so concerned about defending themselves against Luther anymore. Piazza del Gesù (Via del Plebiscito). Any bus to Piazza Venezia.
COOLEST CHURCH IN ROME
And the winner is…Santo Stefano Rotondo. The first thing that makes this church cool is its location. If you understand Italian and have a couple hours to spare, the amiable custodian is more than happy to tell you everything there is to know about this church. Via Santo Stefano Rotondo. Metro A: San Giovanni or bus 81.
BEST CHURCH FOR PEACE & SOLITUDE
The quiet, cool interior of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill makes it a great place to escape the tourist crowds that permeate the rest of Rome. The shady park nearby also provides a wonderful view over the city to the Vatican. Via di Santa Sabina. Metro B: Circo Massimo, or bus 95.
OLDEST CHURCH (still standing):
Though this basilica has been added onto multiple times over the centuries, the basic floorplan and wall structure of Santa Maria in Trastevere dates back to the 340s AD. The granite columns that line its nave were pillaged from the by-then defunct Baths of Caracalla in the 9th century. The apse features gorgeous and important mosaics by Pietro Cavallini. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. Bus 23, 280, or J4 to Ponte Sisto. Tram 8 or Bus H to Piazza Sonnino.
NEWEST CHURCH (worth visiting)
Most of Rome's 20th-century churches are located out of the center. There is one exception, however. Santi Pietro e Paolo in the Mussolini-era quarter called EUR. Bus 170 to Piazzale dell'Agricoltura or Metro B: EUR-Magliana.
Some on display, some not. Rome would have more relics if it had not been for the black-market trading in the Middle Ages of bones and instruments of saints' martyrdoms.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. If relics were gold, Santa Croce would be the mother lode. Here you can marvel at the items St. Helen brought in her knapsack from a 4th-century trip to the Holy Land. The inventory includes a piece of the true cross (hence the name of the church), some thorns from Christ's crown, and some soil from Calvary. Wild-card relic: one finger of St. Thomas. Metro A: San Giovanni and a five-minute walk.
San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). Most tourists are drawn here for the presence of Michelangelo's Moses, which by the way may disappoint if you've seen the Pietà or David, but for the faithful, the most important thing in this basilica is the glass box holding the chains that bound Peter in his cells in Judea and Rome. According to legend the chains miraculously welded themselves together in the Middle Ages. Metro B: Cavour.
Sant'Agnese in Agone (Piazza Navona). Apart from being designed by the Baroque master Borromini and being located on one of Rome's most important and touristed squares, this basilica also offers the attraction of the Sacra Testa (Holy Head) of St. Agnes in a side chapel. It's a pretty small skull, but then again, she was only 12 years old when she was decapitated. Go across town to the basilica of Sant'Agnese Fuori le Mura on the Via Nomentana to find the rest of her body. There are catacombs there as well. Bus 36 to Via Nomentana.
San Lorenzo in Lucina. Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. Metro A: Spagna.
SS Vincenzo e Anastasio. Piazza di Trevi/Vicolo dei Modelli. Most visitors ignore this little Baroque church as they gawk instead at the humongous Trevi fountain which dominates the square. But little do these people know that inside this church are the spleens, pancreases, and livers of all the popes from Sixtus V (1590) to Leo XIII (1903)! Metro A: Spagna.
Museo delle Anime dei Defunti. This may be the weirdest museum in Rome, devoted to the souls of the dead trapped in purgatory who keep leaving messages for the living. Inside the church of Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, Lungotevere Prati, 12. Free. Open 7:30am-11am (10am in the summer), 5pm-7:30pm. Bus 492 to Piazza Cavour.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Here lies the body of St. Catherine. After her death, it was separated from her head, which remained in Siena, the town where she was born. Piazza della Minerva, near the Pantheon (look for the elephant obelisk outside the church). Open 7am-7pm. Bus 40 Express or 64 to Largo Argentina, or 116 to the Pantheon.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. You know, some martyrs had it worse than others: first they tried to suffocate little Cecilia in the hot steam room of her own baths, then when that didn't work they tried to chop off her head, but after three strokes of the ax they could not completely sever her head from her body. She managed to stay alive for three more days, all the while singing hymns to the glory of God—one reason why she is now the patron saint of music! Bus 23 to Ponte Cestio, then a short walk west through the small streets of Trastevere.
Crypt of the Cappuccin Monks in Santa Maria della Concezione. Via Veneto. Painstakingly and artistically arranged, the thousands of bones here aren't technically relics, in that they aren't the remains of saints, but if you've only got time for one body-part church in your itinerary, make it this one. You won't be sorry. Who would have thought you could make a chandelier out of tibias? Metro A: Barberini.
» The Appian Way
Known as the "Queen of Roads" (regina viarum) throughout antiquity, the Via Appia was built in the 4th century BC to link Rome with Capua in Campania, and eventually Brindisi on the Adriatic coast.
Just outside Porta San Sebastiano at Via Appia Antica, 42, is the information office of the Parco dell'Appia Antica, which provides maps of the ancient road and organizes tours and activities for children. Tel. 800 028000. Mon-Sun 9am-5:30pm. To get to the ancient Appian Way, the easiest method is the J3 bus from Termini; alternatively you can take Metro Line A to San Giovanni and then bus 218 to the Domine Quo Vadis end of the road, or Line A to Colli Albani and then bus 660 to the Cecilia Metella end of the road.
Museo delle Mura (Museum of the Roman Fortification Walls)
The best thing about this museum is that is allows you to walk along the embattlements of a good portion of the 3rd century AD Roman walls and survey the countryside for potential Gothic invasions. Essential for all aspiring centurions. Porta San Sebastiano (Via San Sebastiano, 18). Tues-Sun 9am-7pm; Mon closed. In winter and on Sundays, the museum closes at 5pm.
Domine Quo Vadis?
A small church near Porta San Sebastiano, built on the spot where Jesus is supposed to have appeared to the apostle Peter--in flight from Rome and crucifixion--and shamed him into going back to the city. Just inside the door you'll see two footprints in the pavement, supposedly left by Christ when he had the chat with Peter.
The catacombs are subterranean systems of rock-cut hallways and niches, built to house the bodies of the dead who could not afford a flashy tomb above the ground. The most well-known are the Christian catacombs concentrated along the Via Appia Antica, although there were pagan and Jewish catacombs as well. Scholars are divided as to whether the catacombs also served as secret places of meeting and worship in the period when Christianity was outlawed.
Catacombs of San Callisto
Via Appia Antica, 110. Open Thurs-Tues 8:30am-noon, 2:30pm-5:30pm (only until 5pm Oct-Mar); Wed closed.
Catacombs of San Sebastiano
Via Appia Antica, 136. Mon-Sat 8.30am-noon, 2.30pm-5.30pm (only until 5pm Oct-Mar). Sun closed.
Catacombs of San Domitilla
Via delle Sette Chiese, 283. Wed-Mon 8:30am-noon/2:30pm-5pm; Tues closed. Closed from late Dec to late Jan.
Also worth visiting are the Catacombs of Santa Priscilla on the Via Salaria, near Villa Ada, and the Catacombs of Sant'Agnese, beneath the church of Sant'Agnese Fuori le Mura on the Via Nomentana.
Villa and Circus of Maxentius and Mausoleum of Romulus
Before Constantine knocked him out in 312 AD at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, Maxentius held the title of "emperor" for a while. Via Appia Antica, 153. Open Tues-Sun 9am-7pm (Oct-Mar 9am-5pm); Mon closed.
Tomb of Cecilia Metella
Farther down the Appian Way a squat, round structure with medieval crenellations comes into view. This started out as a funerary monument to a wealthy young lady of the 1st century BC; in the 1300's it was converted into a fortress. Via Appia Antica, 161. Open Tues-Sun 9am-7:30pm.
» Other things to do & see
A couple of off-beat selections...
Porta Portese is perhaps the longest market you will ever see. It has everything, both new and old: clothes, shoes, leather, food, bric-a-brac, and old taps. To help skip half a kilometer of the junkier stalls, we recommend you arrive at Via Ippolito Nievo. Porta Portese is only open Sunday mornings, sunrise to 1:30pm. Try to get there before 9am to avoid the worst crowds. To get here from Termini, catch bus 40 Express or 64 to Largo Argentina, then Tram 8 to Piazza Ippolito Nievo. From the Vatican area, catch bus 23 from Piazza Risorgimento, get off at Piazza G.G. Belli (Ponte Garibaldi), then pick up Tram 8.
The market at Via Sannio has mainly clothing and shoes, new and used. It is open Mon-Sat, 8:30am-1:30pm. Metro Line A: San Giovanni. Once you come out of the metro station, as you face the ancient Roman walls, Via Sannio is the street on the left just before the walls.
Besides supplying one of Rome's most spectacular views, the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo) also plays hosts to the colorful open-air Teatro di Pulcinella puppet theatre. Here, from 4pm-7pm daily, and also from 10:30am-1pm on Saturdays and Sundays, you can join excited children in these free productions (a small donation is expected). The Janiculum cannon is also sounded every day at noon.
From September until late May, you can catch one of the city's two teams, Roma and Lazio, playing nearly every Sunday at the Stadio Olimpico. Romanisti are in the curva sud, while Laziali are found in the curva nord. To get to the stadium take Metro Line A to Flaminio, then Tram 225 to Piazza Mancini and follow the crowds as the stadium is right across the river. Or take Metro Line A to Ottaviano and then bus 32 up to the stadium.