Since all roads lead to Rome, sooner or later every travel enthusiast is bound to visit Italy’s capital. Nicknamed “The Eternal City”, Rome offers an insight into European ancient and modern history like no other place on earth. It is not all about the past though: today Rome is just as vibrant and fast-changing as in the times of Julius Caesar. Take a look at what’s on the menu (tip: it ain’t just pizza).
Many people know about the ancient Pantheon, but fewer have heard about the unique Dominican basilica just next to it. Saint Mary above Minerva, named after the ancient Temple of Minerva which stood nearby, is the only truly Gothic religious building in Rome. Under the church’s azure vault visitors will find the tombs of Saint Catherine of Siena and the Renaissance painter Fra Angelico. Next to the altar there is Michelangelo’s sculpture ‘Christ the Redeemer’, which depicts Jesus in the ilk of the ancient Roman gods.
Piazza della Minerva, 42, Rome, Italy, +39 06 6992 0384
Every Sunday at noon, hundreds of tourists and locals meet at St. Peter’s Square and wait for Pope Francis. The Sunday blessing is a great opportunity to see the Pope, listen to his homily and pray with him. Known as friendly and open-minded, Pope Francis always ends his Sunday blessing with Buon pranzo or Have a good lunch.” You can also go to the Latin mass at St Peter’s Basilica at 10.30am before the blessing, or just opt to visit the gorgeous Basilica afterwards.
Located near the modern town of Ostia and a few kilometres from Rome, the archaeological site of Ostia Antica used to be Rome’s river port and the first Roman colony, whose main road led directly to it. Ostia Antica was built on the remains of an Etruscan town called Veio. Its most impressive buildings include the military camp that dates back to the 3rd century BC, and the Capitolinium, where the gods Minerva, Juno and Jupiter were worshipped. The fastest way to reach Ostia Antica from the centre of Rome is via the regional train Roma-Lido, which can be taken from the metro station Piramide. Watch out for the tall buildings, from which the best pictures can be taken.
Like Ostia Antica, the Appian Way is one of the best-preserved testimonies to Rome’s ancient past. In the time of the Roman Republic, Appia Antica used to be one of the most important roads in the country, connecting Rome with the southern port town of Brindisi. When walking the Appian Way, visitors can stumble on a variety of interesting ancient monuments and buildings, such as the Catacomb of Callixtus that contains the Crypt of the Popes, and the baths of Capo di Bove with mosaics from the 2nd century AD.
If you are tired after exploring all the Roman monuments and galleries, you can have a relaxed walk alongside the boulevard of the Tiber river. This melancholic yet peaceful alley, under the shade of plane trees, provides travelers with a stunning view of St. Peter’s Basilica, best at sunset. Just before you reach the Vatican, you can cross from one side of Lungotevere to another through the Ponte Sant’Angelo, which dates back to the 2nd century AD and features ten sculptures of angels by Bernini. When walking from the Vatican toward the south, you will reach the Jewish Quarter and the romantic interior of Tiber Island.
Located near Rome’s central station of Termini, La Romana is considered by many to be the best ice cream place in the city. No matter if you go there at 2pm or at midnight, there is always going to be a queue outside. With a tradition of over 50 years, La Romana produces artisanal ice cream as well as other desserts such as cakes and pancakes. It is most famous for its melted chocolate added to every ice cream cone and zabaglione-flavored whipped cream.
La Romana, Via Venti Settembre 60, Rome, Italy, +39 6 4202 0828
Built only 21 years ago in order to accommodate the cultural and religious needs of the ever-growing Italian-Muslim minority, the Great Mosque of Rome is the biggest mosque in the whole of Europe as well as the seat of the Italian Islamic Cultural Centre. On Fridays, the center hosts a big cultural market open to visitors. During major Islamic holidays the building is visited by a few thousand Muslims, and as many as several hundred people participate in the prayer every Friday. What’s more, the mosque’s modern design incorporates elements from traditional Islamic art.
Out of the four ancient Papal basilicas, the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls is the most colorful and oriental-looking. Its construction started in the 4th century, during the reign of the emperor Constantine, but was extensively modified in subsequent centuries. In the 11th century, a Gothic baldachin designed by Arnolfo di Cambio was added right above the altar and the apostle’s tomb, while Pietro Cavallini painted an impressive golden façade. The apostle Saint Paul is buried in the crypt of the Basilica.
Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura, Piazzale San Paolo, Rome, Italy, +39 06 6988 0800