Rome and Surroundings

Located in the centre of Italy, Rome is the capital and the most populous city in the country, as well as the seat of the smallest state in the world, the Vatican. Founded in the eighth century BC, Rome became a fascinating oligarchic republic and then the capital of one of the largest empires of antiquity. Since the Middle Ages, as the Catholic Church gained power all over Europe, the Popes financed the greatest Italian masters, in particular during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. As a consequence, churches and museums in Rome host among the best Italian works of art. Witnessing such a glorious past to future humanity, Rome has been known as the “Eternal City” since the elegiac poet Albius Tibullus, I century BC. The richness of the many internationally recognized cultural hubs, combined with a favourable climate, fantastic city landscapes and marvellous food, has led Rome to attract millions of tourists every year.

14 places to visit in Rome

1) Coliseum

“Finchè esisterà il Colosseo, esisterà Roma; quando cadrà il Colosseo, cadrà anche Roma; ma quando cadrà Roma, anche il Mondo cadrà” (“Rome will exist as long as the Coliseum does; when the Coliseum falls, so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world.”) – Venerable Bede.

The Coliseum is probably the most iconic monument in Italy and one of the most famous in the world. Completed in 80 AD, the Flavian Amphitheatre, as it was called back then, became famous as the Coliseum probably because of the huge statue of Nero (i.e., colossus) which was nearby. The amphitheater could accommodate up to 50.000 spectators, who could watch gladiator games (munera), hunting simulations of wild and exotic animals (venationes), and naval battle simulations (naumachias). Nowadays, visitors can easily imagine such spectacles taking place in the arena since the largest amphitheater in the world is remarkably well preserved. The Coliseum, after having represented the power of the Roman Empire worldwide, constitutes one of Italy’s most popular attractions today.

2) Villa and Galleria Borghese

The name ‘Villa Borghese’ refers to one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Rome. Once belonging to the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the building of the Villa Borghese Pinciana was completed in 1633, including other buildings, an aviary, and orangery. During the 19th century, the park received a major redefinition and was turned to the English style with various ponds and fountains. Since 1903, the estate has been in the possession of the municipality of Rome and currently serves as a public park. The park also hosts the Galleria, a museum displaying the large private art collection of cardinal Borghese, which contains antiques, sculptures, and paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini, and Leonardo da Vinci.

3) St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums

St. Peter’s Basilica is located within Vatican City. Being the most important Catholic church worldwide, it welcomes thousands of religious pilgrims every year, but it also stands on a spectacular square designed by Bernini, one of the most famous Baroque architects in Italy. Designed by Michelangelo, the dome of the basilica is among the largest ever built. The Basilica hosts important pieces of art, such as “La Pietà”, a statue of Mary holding the body of Jesus crafted by Michelangelo in 1499, or the gigantic bronze baldachin created by Bernini in 1633, placed where St. Peter is believed to be buried. Apart from the church, it is also possible to visit the crypts with the 148 tombs (catacombs) of the popes. The Vatican City also hosts the Vatican Museums, a must-see in Rome, filled with collections from different ages and civilizations, including masterpieces by Michelangelo and Raphael, such as the famous Sistine Chapel.

4) Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is one of the most remarkable squares in Rome. Commissioned by Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D., the square owes its elongated shape to its original purpose as an athletics stadium. The square includes a number of attractions, such as the ‘Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi’ (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Bernini, the four statues representing the Donau, Ganges, Nile, and Rio de la Plata, a 16-meter high obelisk, and the excavations of the old stadium of Domitianus. Located on the square, the Palazzo Braschi hosts the “Museo di Roma” (Museum of Rome), which includes pieces of art recounting the history of Rome through the centuries. Close to the square, the “Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi” hosts some important paintings by Caravaggio. In addition, Piazza Navona is a lively square with many street performers, cafés, and terraces and it is particularly famous for its Christmas markets.

5) Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

The forum was the center of the ancient Roman Empire, where the citizens would gather to take decisions, stroll in the market and visit the temples. Examples of the most important remaining are the round Temple of Vesta, the Temple of Saturn, the basilica of Maxentius, the Regia (house for sacred functions), and the arch of Septimius Severus. It is also possible to see the remains of arches, the speaker’s platform, and the market halls. Just above the forum, there’s the Palatine Hill, where, according to the legend, the foundation of the city took place and the palaces of the emperors used to stand. This is a truly unique place and by exploring this area visitors can enjoy a special atmosphere.

6) Trastevere, Gianicolo and Isola Tiberina

Trastevere is a characteristic neighborhood located on the west bank of the river Tiber, south of the Vatican. Its name derives from Latin, trans Tiberium, ‘beyond the Tiber’, because it arose on the side of the Tiber opposite to the area where the main part of the city was developed. A maze of alleyways and medieval houses, Trastevere offers an example of the most authentic Italian atmosphere. The neighborhood is particularly lively at night, due to the many restaurants and pubs it hosts. Next to the neighborhood, is located the Colle Del Gianicolo (Gianicolo Hill), a belvedere offering one of the most charming panoramic views of the city, together with a park adorned by the statue of the freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi. At the same time, from Trastevere, it is possible to walk through a bridge on the Isola Tiberina, the only island present in the urban area of the Tiber.

7) Piazza del Campidoglio and the Capitoline Museums

On the top of Capitoline Hill is located another of Rome’s wonderful squares, Piazza del Campidoglio. Serving as the seat of the civic government since the Middle Age, the square was redesigned by Michelangelo in the Sixteenth century, thus assuming its current form. The artist also created new fronts for the surrounding buildings that now host the collections of the Capitoline Museums. Important archeological remains from the Roman age found in this area of Italy are exposed here together with a great collection of paintings from the Renaissance and the Baroque period, with artists such as Caravaggio, Titian, and Rubens.

8) Fontana di Trevi

The Trevi Fountain is the best known of the Roman fountains, made even more famous by the scenes from Fellini’s movie “La Dolce Vita”. Its name derives from the expression “Regio Trivii”, which refers to the confluence of three streets in the square, or to the triple outlet of the water of the original fountain. The fountain is divided into two main parts. The first, a wide basin with a large cliff, hosts in the center the statue of God Ocean driving a shell-shaped chariot, pulled by an angry and placid horse. The second, namely the façade, includes two reliefs narrating the legend of the fountain from the discovery of its water source to the building of the aqueduct serving the fountain. The side niches host the allegories of Healthiness, and Abundance, who witness the beneficial effects of the fountain’s water. Following the tradition, thousands of tourists every year throw their coins into the fountain, wishing to come back to visit it again.

9) Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved examples of Roman monumental architecture. Commissioned by Augustus’ lieutenant Agrippa as a temple in the honor of “all the gods”, the building consists of a cylindrical structure preceded by a portico supported by Corinthian columns. The typical original inscription dedicated to Agrippa is visible on the facade. The large circular cell is surrounded by thick walls and eight large pylons, which support the hemispherical concrete dome. In line with the classic canons of Roman architecture, the height of the building is equal to the diameter of the dome, ca 43 meters. Consecrated as a Catholic Basilica by Pope Boniface IV in 609 AD, the Pantheon was more recently turned into a memorial chapel for the kings of Italy. The building currently hosts the tomb of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I, and Margherita of Savoy, together with those of famous artists such as Raphael.

10) Piazza di Spagna – Spanish Steps

The ‘Spanish steps’ in Rome, built in Rococo style between 1723 and 1726, are the steps that lead from the Piazza di Spagna square to the French monastery church Trinità dei Monti (built between 1502–1587). They are so-called because in the 17th century the Spanish embassy was located on the square, right at the base of the stairs, though their official name is Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti. The steps are a mix of curves, vistas, and terraces at the end of which is located the Trinità dei Monti church, a gothic church with a renaissance façade and two bell towers. In front of the stairs, you will find Pietro Bernini’s fountain of the Barcaccia, referring to the little ugly boat stranded by the Tiber’s 1598 flood on this spot, which served Bernini as inspiration. During mid-April-May each year, the steps are decorated with pink azaleas, thus offering a special sight. Nowadays, the area surrounding Piazza di Spagna is a luxurious shopping area, with the street Via Condotti being the highlight.

11) Castel Sant’Angelo

Originally built by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family in the 2nd century, the Hadrian’s Mole changed its name of Castel S. Angelo in 590 when Pope Gregory I saw archangel Michael sheathe his sword on top of the building to signal the end of the plague affecting Rome in those times. The remarkable bronze statue of Archangel Michael lying on the top of the castle embodies the pope’s vision. Castel Sant’Angelo was connected to the Vatican by a tunnel in 1722, in order to act as a refuge for the Pope, as well as a treasure chamber to secure the valuable church possessions in case of an attack on the Vatican and the St. Peter’s Basilica, which had been extruded from the city walls and difficult to defend. For centuries, the castle also served as a prison and execution site. The castle is split into various levels, where one can visit the cells, the weapon collection, the Papal rooms, and a terrace offering a great view of the city.

12) San Giovanni in Laterano, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, San Clemente

Among the various Basilicas that can be visited in Rome, the arch-Basilica of Saint John Lateran is the most important one. It is the oldest basilica in the western world, the mother church of the Roman Catholic faith, and the seat of the Diocese of Rome. Founded in 324, the basilica was heavily modified during the ages, acquiring its baroque architecture in 1650 through Borromini’s reconstruction and its beautiful façade with 15 statues in 1850 by Alessandro Galilei.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is another of the four papal basilicas and the largest Marian church in Rome. Located on Esquiline hill, the church is from the 5th century and still contains many authentic mosaics which were part of the original building. The basilica is famous for its unique golden ceiling, commissioned by Pope Alexander VI and built with the first gold arriving from America. Some pieces of Jesus’ crib are said to be hosted in the Basilica and considered as a Christian relic.
Another interesting basilica to be visited is San Clemente. What makes it special is that multiple church buildings were built on top of each other over the centuries. Accordingly, it is possible to reconstruct the history of the church, from the remnants of Roman houses within the foundations, to the I century secret church aimed at avoiding persecutions, to the 4th-century pope Clemens I’s tomb, up to the more recent 12th-century reconstruction.

13) Piazza Venezia e “Vittoriano”

Next to the Piazza Venezia square, there is a majestic withe monument, the National Monument to Victor Emanuel II, more commonly known as ‘Il Vittoriano’ and ‘Altare della Patria’, or altar of the fatherland. The monument commemorates the unification of Italy in 1861 guided by king Vittorio Emanuele II. Built as a neoclassical interpretation of the Roman Forum in order to convey a message of continuity between the glory of the past and the present, the Vittoriano shows a series of stairways, Corinthian columns, and fountains, as well as many allegoric sculptures mostly representing the virtues animating the Italians during national unification. At the same time, the Vittoriano also represents a shrine of the Italian Milite Ignoto (Unknown Soldier), and stands as a lay temple, and a national symbol of Italy, thereby hosting important national celebrations every year.

14) Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo is one of the most important squares in Italy. Although alluding to the ‘People’s Square’, its name could derive from the poplars (populus in Latin) that surrounded the tomb of Nero originally situated in this area. The square hosts the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo, which includes works by Caravaggio and Raphael. On the opposite side, there lie the two identical baroque churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, which create the wonderful separation of streets known as the Trident, in the middle of which there is located Via del Corso, one of the most characteristic streets in the center of Rome. The square hosts two main fountains on the opposite side walls: the Fontana del Nettuno showing Neptune accompanied by tritons and the Fontana della Dea di Roma, focusing on the goddess of Rome and the legend of the She-Wolf suckling the mythical Twin founders of the city. In the middle of the square, there is one of its most relevant sights, the 36-meter-high Egyptian obelisk surrounded by fountains. From the square, it is possible to reach Pincio hill to enjoy a magnificent view of the square and Rome.

Our Cultural Activities

The following cultural activities are included in the price of each Erasmus course in Rome:

  • A guided walking tour of Rome
  • A 48-hour pass which includes:
    – free access to the first museum or cultural experience in Rome (among the ones available, Musei Capitolini, Mercato di Traiano, Villa Borghese, Colosseum and Foro Romano, and Ara Pacis are some of the most popular)
    – reduced tickets to all other attractions
    – free access to the city’s public transport.

About the Training Centre in Rome

All our teacher training courses in Rome will take place either in the Morning (9.00-13.45) or in the Afternoon (14.00-18.45) depending on classroom and trainer availability.

From April 10 2023 our address in Rome: Officine Fotografiche Via Giuseppe Libetta, 1 00154

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