Between 1538 and 1564 the Florentine artist Michelangelo designed the new layout of piazza del Campidoglio. The geometric design of the paving is also the work of Michelangelo. On the square stand the Palazzo Senatorio, which nowadays houses the Town Hall (started by Michelangelo, it was completed by Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi), the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo, which make up the Capitoline Museums. The last two palaces stand on either side of Palazzo Senatorio, thus creating a central trapezoidal piazza. The gigantic Corinthian columns are the most striking architectural feature. Since 1538 a bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, emperor in the second century BC, stands in the middle of the square although nowadays, a replica has replaced the original.
The Roman forum, also known as Forum Romanum or Forum Magnum, is situated between the Palatine and the Capitol. Following the victory over the Carthaginians, Rome became the capital of the Mediterranean and a centre in keeping with the new commercial, political and religious needs of the times. In the Forum you can see the Arch of Titus, erected by Domitian in 81 AD to celebrate his victory over the Jews; the gigantic temple of Venus and Rome built by Hadrian over the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea, the Basilica Emilia, where the courts of law were located and the political and economic activity of the city took place; la Curia Julia, the seat of government which later became a church, the basilica Giulia, the largest building, the Temple of Castor, the House of the Vestal Virgins, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the Cipollino columns, 17 meters high and the Arch of Septimus Severus from the year 203 AD.
The Imperial Forums are amongst the monuments, which best represent the greatness of the Roman Empire. The Roman Forum was not part of the Imperial Forums. The Imperial Forums consist of a series of monumental public squares built between 46 BC and 113 AD by the Roman emperors; they were built as the Roman Forum had become too small. Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian, Nerva and Trajan all constructed a forum bearing their names.
Forum of Trajan and market; Columna Trajana
The forum of Trajan is the last and the most important of the forums (300x 90 meters). The forum is a vast square with a portico; in the middle stands an equestrian statue of Trajan and the column of Trajan, a spectacular work of art erected in 113 AD to celebrate Trajan’s victory in Dacia, (modern day Romania).
El Vittoriano is the national monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II Prince of Savoy, first King of Italy; its construction started in 1885, but it was not completed until 1911. It is characterised by its classical architecture, its colossal size (a height of nearly 80 meters) and white marble. Admire the majestic marble staircase. On the upper part, look for two inscriptions that represent the central theme of the monument: "PATRIAE UNITATI" (for the unity of the Country) and "CIVIUM LIBERTATI" (for the freedom of the citizens).
Italian cities and regions play an important role in this impressive building: the Italian regions (sixteen at the end of the 19th century) are represented by sixteen statues made by sculptors from each of those regions.
You can reach the terrace via the lift or by climbing the 196 steps; from there, you will enjoy a unique panoramic view of Rome.
Six groups of sculptures represent allegories of Italian values: sacrifice, thought, action, strength, law and harmony.
The construction of the Colosseum, which ancient Romans called "Anphitheatrum Flavlum", was ordered by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and it was inaugurated in 80 AD by his son Titus.
It was built on the site of Nero’s Domus Aurea, a palace built in 64 AD after the notorious fire. According to the legend, the name Colosseum comes from the colossal statue of Nero that stood nearby. The Colosseum, elliptical in plan, has a circumference of 527 meters and a height of 57 meters.
The exterior is made up of 80 arches divided in three orders. The arches on the outside are made of travertine marble, with Doric columns on the first floor, Ionic columns on the second and Corinthian columns on the third. Inside tufa, bricks and concrete were used. In each of the arches there was a statue representing the emperors and gods.
The Colosseum hosted games and shows such as hunting, re-enactments of famous battles and Greek mythology, etc. It could accommodate 60.000 spectators.
Arch of Adrian and Constantine
Near the Colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine, a triumphal arch of 24 meters in height. This arch teaches us much about the history of Rome, as the decoration of the bas-reliefs is very expressive. Initially the arch was thought to be dedicated to the Senate to celebrate Constantine’s victory in the battle of Ponte Milvio (312 AD), but the restoration carried out in 1987 has shown that the arch was built under Hadrian and it is in the 4th century that the dedication to Constantine was added.
This very large square - 240 x 65 meters- is one of the most spectacular examples of baroque art. Throughout history, shows and celebrations have been performed on this square. There are three fountains on the square: ‘’Fontana del Nettuno o de los Calderones’’, at the northern end and ‘’Fontana del Moro’’ designed by Giacomo della Porta (1586) at the southern end. The central fountain is ‘’Fontana dei Fiumi’’, or Fountain of the four Rivers (of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata) by Bernini commissioned by Innocenzo X (1651). The name of the square comes from the latin word "in agone" which was later converted into "nagone" and finally "navona".
Opposite the Fountain of the Rivers stands the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which dates from the Middle Ages. It was designed by Girolamo Rinaldi and completed in 1652 by Borromini who gave the characteristic verticalism, the twin bell towers and the dome. Inside, admire the rich decorations of gold and marble.
Plaza del Popolo and Church of Santa Maria del Popolo
This stunning square, designed by Valadier (1811-1816), was built to celebrate the greatness of the power of Rome. La Puerta del Popolo is the Renaissance gateway through which you enter the city and from there you can choose one of the three streets that begin here: via del Corso, via del Babuino and via Ripetta. It is a trident of roads that branch off from the twin churches which delimit the square: the church ‘’S.Maria dei Miracoli’’ (1675-79) and the church of Montesanto, (1662-75). Their construction was started by Carlo Rainaldi and completed by Bernini and Carlo Fontana. The square is dominated by an Egyptian obelisk, obelisco Flaminio, a granite monolith 24 meters high dating from 1200 BC.
At the end of the square and before the triumphal arch is the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which was built between 1475 and 1477 during the papacy of Sixtus IV Della Rovere by Andrea Bregno. The Cerasi chapel has canvasses by Caravaggio such as “The Conversion of Saint Paul” and “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter”. The frescoes on the vault such as “The Nativity” are by Pinturicchio. Another important chapel is the Chigi Chapel designed by Raphael and decorated by Bernini; note the dome and Raphael’s mosaics, “Creation of the World”.
In 13 BC, the Senate voted to build an “Ara” (Altar) in the area of Campo Marzio to celebrate the victory of Augustus and subsequent peace. The Senate ordered that the sacrifice of a sheep and two oxen be performed each year by judges, priests and Vestal Virgins.
The inauguration of Ara Pacis took place on 30 January 9 BC.
The Ara is characterised by its classicism and its rich decorations in relief that represent allegories about the origins of Rome.
Piazza di Spagna
This Square symbolises the elegance and majesty of the rococo architecture with its monumental staircase of 134 steps that climbs towards the church of “Trinita dei Monti”, designed by Francesco de Sanctis (1723-1726). It was built to connect the Spanish embassy (hence its name) with the church of “Trinita dei Monti”. The Fountain “della Barcaccia”, by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo, stands at the bottom of the stairs and in the middle of the square: the fountain owes its name to the fact that it resembles a sunken ship.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the city, with a central figure of Neptune, God of the Sea, riding a chariot pulled by sea horses and guided by two tritons. On both sides are two niches with two statues representing abundance and health. In the history of the cinema, the Trevi Fountain has featured in many films, such as “La Dolce Vita”, by Federico Fellini. It was restored in 1998.
The most important symbol of Ancient Rome is undoubtedly the Pantheon, built as a temple to all gods. The Pantheon dates from 27 BC and was originally built by Marcus Agrippa. It was later reconstructed according to its original design during the reign of Hadrian, including the text of Agrippa’s original inscription that can still be read. It was converted into a church in 609 AD. The majestic pronaos is decorated with sixteen gigantic granite columns 13 meters high. The brick vault is one of the largest in the world with a diameter of 43.30 meters. Raphael was buried here in 1520.
The Quirinale Hill was a residential centre during the imperial era. Public buildings and places of worship were also located here.
In the 4th century BC, the temple of the god Quirinus, from which the hill takes its name, was built. The temple of the goddess of health was also built to bring prosperity to the state.
Since 1946 the administration and secretariat of the presidence of the Republic of Italy are based in the Palace of the Quirinale.
The ruling class resided on this hill during the period of the Roman Republic (510 BC – 44 BC). Nowadays you can visit the remains of the palaces of Augustus, Tiberius and Domician on the Palatine.
Baths of Diocletian
This complex was built by Emperor Diocletian to accommodate about 3000 people. The baths occupied 13 hectares and part of this area was used to build the Basilica de “Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri”, the church of “San Bernardo alle Terme” and part of the National Museum of Rome; but most of the complex disappeared and nowadays you can admire the remains in the surrounding streets. The baths were positioned to face south-east so as to heat naturally the water for the hot baths and keep cool the water for the cold baths (located on the opposite side).
Baths of Caracalla
The baths of Caracalla were built over 5 years, between 212 and 217 AD, in record time if one considers the high number of baths built here. Some of the large marble baths were moved to the centre of Rome to be used as fountains. The baths are decorated with impressive mosaics and works of art such as Hercules Resting. The water was heated in enormous ovens, outside as well as inside, although the system was improved with the use of underground heat.
The catacombs were built as official cemetery for the church between the second and fourth centuries. This is where martyrs and popes were buried. The catacombs consist of underground tunnels of about 22km; there are numerous crypts, small churches and works of art. On the walls are niches for the dead who were wrapped in sheets or shrouds. The niches were then closed with slabs of marble or with tiles of mortar where the name of the buried was written, together with a Christian symbol.
The aquaducts represent Roman architectural genius at its best. Rome has always needed water for its numerous fountains, baths etc; the city was even called ‘’Queen of the water’’.Each aquaduct had a reservoir to collect the water at the start of the aquaduct, and to reach Rome the route had to be planned carefully (from the top of the mountain to the valley) to minimise as much as possible the difficulties of the terrain, taking the canal underground to get around the small hills that the terrain might present and building a complicated system of bridges to avoid steep slopes (what we now call aquaducts are the remains of those bridges which are still standing). During the reign of Constantine 11 aquaducts already existed and brought water to the baths, fountains and lakes. The only aquaduct that remains in working order is the “Aqua Virgo” which comes out at the Trevi Fountain.
Eur is a construction which dates from the facist era and was built for the Exposición Universal de Roma in 1942, though it was never celebrated. Nowadays major museum institutions are based here. Most interesting about the EUR is the model of imperial buildings, based on the model of Ancient Rome, designed by Mussolini and which would have been the urban model of the future, had facism prospered in Europe.
There is a multitude of churches in Rome; all are important and with unique characteristics. The highlights are:
This church, and the convent, were built between 1479 and 1483 although it was restored in the 19th century. The façade of the church is in the Renaissance style. Inside is one of the most famous paintings by Caravaggio, ‘la Vergine dei Pellegrini” .
Address: Piazza S.Agostino
Opening times: 7am-1pm and 4.30pm-7.30pm; Sundays 3.30pm
To get there: stop Corso Rinascimento just before Plaza Sant'Apollinare. Bus 87 from the Colosseum, 492 from Termini.
Sant’Andrea della Valle
The construction of this church was started by Pietro Paolo Olivieri in 1591 and was completed in 1650 by Carlo Maderno. The façade is by Carlo Rainaldi (1665).The dome is the largest after Saint Peter in Rome and was designed by Carlo Maderno (1625). The internal structure is similar to that of the Church of Jesus, with a latin cross plan, a nave with a barrel vault and eight chapels. The most important works of art are “History of Saint Andrew’’ and “Glory of paradise” by Lanfranco. The frescoes are also of great beauty: “Martyrdom, Crucifixion, Burial of Saint Andrew’’, all by Mattia Preti are in baroque style.
Address: Piazza S.Andrea della Valle
To get there: bus 64 from Termini, stop Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in front of the church.
Chiesa del Gesù
The Church of Jesus (its full name is Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all'Argentina , or Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), is the founding church of the society of Jesus. Here lies the tomb of its founder, Ignacio de Loyola (who died in 1556) . It was built by Vignola between 1568 and1584 according to the wishes of Ignacio de Loyola himself. Its sober façade in travertine is by Giacomo Della Porta. Inside is a single nave with large side chapels. In the central nave you can admire the bright frescoe ‘’Triumph of the name of Jesus’’, by Giovan Battista Gaulli, known as el Baciccia, which is famous for its extraordinary effect of aerial perspective.
Metro, Stop Colosseum (line B). Then bus 87, stop Corso Rinascimento. Or stop Plaza Venezia with buses: 60, 84, 85, 175, 810, 850.
Santa María Maggiore
The basilica was founded in the 5th century. The belfry is the last exemple of the Romanesque style in Rome. The internal structure in the early christian style has remained intact since the 5th century. Its original structure was modified over the centuries, with the addition of the central nave, chapels and apses. Inside are golden mosaics of great importance, such as “The coronation of the Virgin” by Torriti.
Opening times: from 7am until 8pm
Address: Piazza de Santa Maria Maggiore
To get there: Metro, stop Termini take Via Cavour for 200mt as far as Largo Esquilino.
San Giovanni in Laterano
The church stands over the remains of a former basilica built by Constantine and later donated to Pope Melchiade. The complex included also a palace, Constantine’s summer residence. It is considered one of the most famous churches in Rome, after Saint Peter’s Basilica. The church has five naves. Several architects were involved in its construction, the most important being Borromini who gave its modern aspect. The central doors are made of bronze and date from the first century BC. The facade is by Alessandro Galilei (1691-1736) and has huge columns and pillars and a railing above with 15 statues of Christ and the Saints (1735). Inside, admire the coffered ceiling by Daniele da Volterra (1564-1572). The bell towers date from the 13th century.
Opening times: 7am-7pm (6pm in winter)
Address: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4
To get there: Metro, stop San Giovanni; 5 minutes’ walk across the walls.
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