Carrying remains of a distant past, the streets of Rome are not as ostentatious as the ones in Vienna , nor as modern-chic as the ones in Paris. In a world where modern architecture is slowly taking over the perfect proportions, intricate and well defined personalities of former building styles, what you will find in Rome is harmony and warmth, two virtues that are still alive in this “eternal” city. When traveling to Rome, chances are you will stumble across magnificent buildings at every step, simply because no other city in the world can match its architectural beauty and richness. Consider the display below a miniature travel guide and enjoy the stories behind ten of the most appreciated landmarks in Rome:
#1. The Colosseum
The largest surviving construction of ancient Rome, the Colosseum (initially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre) is probably the most popular landmark of Rome. But few are aware of the architectural challenges that came with building such a massive structure on a very “special” terrain, chosen by Vespasian: Nero’s former artificial lake and residence. As a result, massive drainage channels became part of the building’s foundation. When completed, the immense elliptical construction with no less than 80 entrances had an impressive capacity of accommodating 55,000 spectators. Its architecture approach turned out to be a great example of simplicity and functionality, inspiring not just the construction of other roman amphitheaters, but also that of thousands of modern-age football stadiums.
#2. Piazza Navona
One of the most idyllic places in Rome–Piazza Navona has a rich history and a vibrant present. Its stadium-like shape is not accidental: the lovely square was built in 1st century AD on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. Piazza Navona is not just a wonderful place to walk around, relax and check out the street artists, but also an opportunity to take in the beauty of important sculptural and architectural creations. Bernini’s Fountain of The Four Rivers, plus two other fountains, the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and the Pamphili Palace are just some of the square’s unique attractions.
#3. Trajan’s Column
We chose to include this particular architectural landmark in our 10 must-visit symbols of Rome, as Trajan’s Column was the first to inspire many future victory columns, both ancient and modern. When in Rome, go back in time and get caught in the details of this impressive monument completed in AD 113 and located near Trajan’s Forum. Its spiral bas relief artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). The structure measures 30 meters (98 feet) in height and is believed to have been constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate.
#4. Castel Sant’Angelo
Easy to observe from far away, Castel Sant’Angelo’s figure is probably as familiar to someone traveling to Rome, as Basilica San Pietro. Originally built by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum (123- 139 AD), the building served many purposes along the decades, such as a fortress, a papal residence and even a military prison. Castel Sant’ Angelo is currently an open museum for anyone eager to know more about its history. The building consists of a square base holding a cylindrical colonnaded drum. A statue of an angel is located at the top of the fortress (built by the 18th century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt) and symbolizes the angel that, according to a Roman tale, miraculously appeared in the same spot, ending the plague in the year 590.
#5. The Pantheon
The two greatest features of the Pantheon are probably as follows: 1. It is the best preserved building of ancient Rome and 2. Visiting it is free. Shallowness aside, the Pantheon is extremely impressive, especially when inside, looking up at its dome. The architecture of this building (said to be completed in 25 BCE) is attributed to Apollodorus of Damascus and was initially dedicated to 12 gods. Its structure consists of a columned porch with eight impressive granite Corinthian columns in front and two groups of four behind, an intermediate area of brick, and the monumental dome. Hadrian’s Pantheon is currently a Christian church and one of the most thrilling ones out there.
#6. Fontana di Trevi
The legend says that throwing a coin in the waters of the Trevi Fountain will grant you a safe return to Rome. So it is no wonder that the fountain is permanently stashed with sparkling metal. Standing 26 metres (85.3 feet) high and 20 metres (65.6 feet) wide, this lovely baroque landmark marks the terminal point of a famous ancient aqueduct. The fountain was officially completed in 1762 by architect Giuseppe Pannini, but its building history is complex and goes deeper in time. As a tip, try to get there early in the morning or late at night, when it is not filled with tourists.
#7. The Roman Forum
Walking though the Roman forum is literally stepping on history. Located very close to the Colosseum, this enormous site of ancient ruins was once the center of public life in Rome. It was here that many events were held, such as public speeches, elections, gladiatorial matches and even commercial trade fairs. Today, the Roman Forum is an overwhelming “stack” of architectural details, still preserving parts of the Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito), the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and the church of San Luca e Martina. Just follow the Via Sacra- the main alley through the Forum and take your time analyzing the architectural details of a lost world.
#8. The Burghese Gallery and Gardens
Even though when it comes to art, other cities in Rome are far more “luxuriant”, The Borghese Gallery accommodates an impressive collection of sculptures and paintings. We will mentions just some of the highlights: Bernini, Caravaggio, Paolo Veronese and Raphael. The Villa was developed by architect Flaminio Ponzio, from sketches done by Scipione Borghese himself and is currently a part of the largest and the most impressive public park in Rome.
#9. Basilica San Pietro
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican is a symbol of late Renaissance and a major landmark in Rome. Its construction began in 1506, officially ended in 1626 and involved the creative works of Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Impressive inside and out, the church has a cruciform shape, with an elongated nave. With its central dome visually dominating the skyline of the city, finding it will not be difficult. And once you approach the iconic building, be prepared for an architectural spectacle of a lifetime. St. Peter’s Square is absolutely incredible, with its tall colonnades and hundreds of statues.
#10. National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
If you ever visited Rome, you are likely to recognize this building, as it is one of the most imposing architectural structures in the central area, overlooking the famous via del Corso. The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II was built in the honor of the first king of a unified Italy. What you probably don’t know is that its architecture is subject to controversy, since building the monument replaced a large area of the Capitoline Hill. Some critics even consider it pompous and too large. The marble edifice was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885 and features stairways, Corinthian columns, fountains and statues. In 2007, a special elevator was integrated, carrying visitors to the top of the monument, for panoramic city views.
We would love to read about your experience in Rome, as well as your stories about other architectural wonders of the city, so please leave a comment below and let get’s the conversation started!