Roman architecture and engineering are among the most lauded in the world and have had a major impact on art, building practices and urban planning across the centuries. From the Colosseum to the Maxxi, we’ve compiled a list of some of the architectural wonders in the Eternal City – both ancient and modern – to guide you.
The contemporary Ara Pacis Museum is a fascinating sight because it fuses old and new in an innovative way. The museum was designed by American architect Richard Meier in 2006 to contain the ancient Ara Pacis, or altar of peace, which dates back to 13BCE. The intricately decorated altar, covered in friezes depicting figures, battles and processions, is enclosed in a cleverly contrasting contemporary steel and glass structure.
Rome’s Palace of Justice, the seat of the Supreme Court of Cassation – the highest court of appeal in Italy – is an enormous building in the Prati district that dominates the banks of the Tiber River. It is often referred to as Il Palazzaccio, a pejorative name that roughly translates as “bad palace”. Its large size, ostentatious decorations and lengthy construction period seemed to suggest corruption when it was opened in 1911. Inspired by Renaissance and baroque architecture, it remains one of the most impressive buildings in the city.
Another building that Romans love to hate is Il Vittoriano, in Piazza Venezia. Dubbed the Wedding Cake for its gleaning white marble and tiered levels, this large altar was built between 1885 and 1925 to honour Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. Replete with stairs, columns, fountains and sculptures, it was controversial because it destroyed the area of the Capitoline Hill and dominates the skyline. Nevertheless, it lies at the heart of Rome and is a focal point of the city.
Often referred to as the Square Colosseum, Rome’s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is an excellent example of the Rationalist architecture that dominated the city during Fascism in the early 20th century. Built in the neoclassical style, it is located in the city’s southern EUR neighbourhood, which was designed to host the 1942 World’s Fair. The event never took place because of the Second World War, but the buildings pay tribute to this period in the city’s history. Today the building is leased by the Fendi fashion house.
Few people realise that in addition to Roman antiquities, Rome also has its own ancient pyramid. Located between the Testaccio and Ostiense neighbourhoods, the Pyramid was built between 18BCE and 12BCE as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a magistrate in ancient Rome. With its sharp point, it closely resembles the Nubian pyramids along the Nile Delta in Egypt and includes an interior burial chamber that originally featured frescoes. The pyramid was incorporated in the Aurelian walls, which has helped preserve the structure to the present day.