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Altare Della Patria-Piazza Venezia

The “Altar of the Fatherland” is one of the most important buildings of the neo-Roman era and it is dedicated to the first king of the unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel. Altare Della Patria is not only visible from many locations in the city, but also from the plane(!), which reveals that it is the largest and most imposing structure in Rome. Inside it, what stand out are the big statues, the huge spaces and the museum of Italian Unification (small entrance fee). But the spot that attracts thousands of visitors like a magnet is its terrace. From there, you can admire the most prominent monuments of Rome, paying a hefty price for the elevator*. The view from the top might not be that exciting, yet it still is a pleasant, alternative experience worth living. Finally, in front of the Altar you will find the bustling Piazza Venezia, a square full of life and colors, thanks to the slew of flowers that decorate its center.

Suggested visit time: 1-1.5 hours
Open: Every day 09:00-17:0
Cost: Altare Della Patria: Free *Terrace: 7€

 The know-it-all says: When the statue of Victor Emmanuel II was completed, 12 workers dined inside the horse’s belly!

Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano & Scala Sancta

The title that the church of San Giovanni in Laterano holds reveals its significance. Significance that is also portrayed in the sign that mentions that it is the “Mother and head of all churches in the city and in the world”. In the church, the coronation of the Popes used to take place until 1870, while today it is their official church. Its exterior decoration is impressive, with the Holy Door adorning its façade. From this door you can enter only if you are really lucky, as it opens every 25 years! Inside it is magnificent and all eyes turn to the 12 gigantic statues of the Apostles, as well as the ceiling. Make sure you visit it on Sunday morning, in order to attend the reverent mass. Furthermore, across from the church (NE side), there is the “Scala Sancta”, which is said to be the one that Jesus ascended when he was brought in front of Pontius Pilate. These 28 steps were transferred from Jerusalem and have been dressed with wood, so worshipers can climb them on their knees.

Note: If you would like it to be as less crowded as possible, visit it 1-2 hours before closing.

Suggested visit time: 30 minutes-1 hour
Open: Every day 07:00-19:00 (In the winter it closes 1 hour earlier)
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: In the church there is a wooden table, on which it is said that St. Peter used to celebrate Mass!

Terme di Caracalla

In a space of 100,000 m² Emperor Caracalla built probably the largest baths in history, which could accommodate up to 10,000(!) people. By dedicating such a vast area for pleasure alone, the extent and power of the Roman Empire can be comprehended. In the thermal baths, the Romans, apart from taking their bath, could also read, exercise, as well as meet new people. Nowadays, after so many destructions, only a few spots are preserved, that is why the visitor should rely on their imagination, in order to grasp the size and beauty of the structures. It is worth mentioning that the restrooms are in perfect shape, reminding something of the glory of the past. Finally, on the hill’s north side, numerous events take place during the entire summer period.

Note: If you would like it to be as less crowded as possible, visit it 1-2 hours before closing.

Suggested visit time: 1-1.5 hours
Open: Every day from 09:00 to 16:30-18:30 (depending on the period) & Monday 09:00-14:00. Closed: January 1st, December 25th, May 1st. (Last entrance 1 hour before closing)
Cost: General entrance 6€, EU citizens 18-25 years old 3€, Children-18 y.o. Free

 The know-it-all says: 9,000 workers plugged away every day for 5 years, in order to build this enormous complex!

Campo de’ Fiori Market

It is the city’s most well-known street market, which hundreds of Romans visit daily, in order to buy the essential goods for their table. On the stalls you will find dozens of local products, like pasta, cheeses, cured meats, fruit, flowers, kitchen items and more. The Campo de’ Fiori market, having a strong Italian scent, helps visitors rid themselves of their tourist identity and feel like locals. Intertwine with the crowd, try some authentic parmesan and feel like original Romans, even if for a little while. In the surrounding area you will find lots of tourist shops to drink some coffee and relax. In the evening, the square is transformed into yet another romantic piazza, with the music and nice mood stealing the scepters from the mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.

Suggested visit time: 40-50 minutes
Open: Monday-Saturday 06:00-14:00. Closed: Sundays
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: It is the oldest market in the city!

Aventine Hill & Keyhole (Knights of Malta)

If you are in Trastevere and are in the mood for a short walk, we have the best choice for you. Get across the other side of Tiber and ascend the Clivo di Rocca Savella. Through a quaint, cobblestone path you will meet the luscious green Aventine hill, which, although located very close to the center, has managed to maintain the serenity and quiet of the past. Its position offers a panoramic view of the city, with the eye wandering even farther than the Vatican. In the central street of Santa Sabina you will find the grotesque mask, while in the villa of the Knights of Malta awaits the famous keyhole. Being perfectly aligned with the Basilica of St. Peter, the keyhole offers an image of rare beauty, attracting dozens of tourists daily. The view might be exquisite but make sure you are as quick as possible, so you don’t hold up those still waiting.

Suggested visit time: 40 minutes-1 hour
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: Although St. Peter’s Basilica is 3km away, from the keyhole it seems like it is just about 1/3 of the distance. This happens because from this perspective, all the surrounding buildings are hidden!

San Pietro in Vincoli

San Pietro in Vincoli is one of Rome’s most significant churches, as it hosts two of the greatest heirlooms of world heritage. The first one is the sculpture of Michelangelo, “Moses” who has returned from Mount Sinai holding the Ten Commandments*. It is also said that the profile from the lips down is a self-portrait of the artist himself. The second important heirloom is the chains that were used to capture St. Peter in Jerusalem and Rome. It is also claimed that the two chains where united into one during their placement in the reliquary. As for the church’s interior, it is small and plain, without the excess of Laterano and the grandeur of St. Peter. Do not pass by the wonderful mural (left of the entrance) that depicts the litany against the plague, which hit the city in the 15th century.

*In his face you can see the rage he feels for the people dancing around the Golden Calf.

Suggested visit time: 40-50 minutes
Open: Every day 08:00-12:30 & 15:00-18:00
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: The dent on Moses’ knee came from a tool that Michelangelo threw!

Fountain of the Mask & Sofas (Via Giulia), Campo Marzio

A walk in the neighborhoods of Campo Marzio is a must if you want to escape the tourist paths and meet the Renaissance side of Rome. In the neighborhood you will find a great uniformity which is reflected by both the baroque buildings and its general structure. In the area, among other things, there is also the famous Via Giulia street. There, apart from the most beautiful Renaissance palaces of the city, you will see the stone “sofas” (on number 62), while a bit down the road you will meet the preeminent arch with the ivy (no262), as well as the renowned Mascherone Fountain with the largest Roman Mask in the city (no 252)! Get away from the tourist trivialities and take a walk, quiet and different from the usual.

Suggested visit time: 30-40 minutes
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: The stone “sofas” are remnants of a grand courthouse that started to be constructed in the 15th century in honor of Julius II!

Tiberina (Island of Tiber river)

The island of Asclepius, or Tiberina, as it is widely known, used to be an important medical and religious place in the ancient times. It is united by two bridges, one of which connects it with the Ghetto neighborhood and the other one with Trastevere. Nowadays, it continues to host a medical (hospital) and a religious space (church), preserving the tradition, while at the same time working as a small pleasant oasis in this tourist metropolis. It is a great place for an afternoon walk (especially when the weather is nice) among the peacefulness of the pine trees and Tiber’s waters. If you are lucky, you might encounter the festival (Lungo il Tevere Roma) that takes place on Tiber’s banks, or the outdoor cinema festival, Isola del Cinema.

Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: It is not the only island in Tiber. The second one is the mystery island (Sacra island)!

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

One of the four largest cathedrals in Rome is Santa Maria Maggiore. It is located close to the terminal station (Termini), so both the square and the surrounding area are full of people, all the time. It is a gem of a church, which has the tallest bell tower in the city, at 75 meters. It is said that it is the Popes’ favorite church, even more so than St. Peter’s Basilica! In its interior, what draw all the looks are the golden paneling of the ceiling and the 40 gigantic columns that support it. The ideal day and time to visit it is Sunday at 11, so you get a taste of the service and feel the absolute reverence of the space, as well as the ceremony. You should not disregard that entrance is prohibited to women who are not modestly dressed.

Suggested visit time: 40 minutes-1 hour
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: The world’s oldest Nativity scene is housed here!

Piazza del Popolo & Gate

The big oval Piazza del Popolo combines the French architectural style with the Roman excess. It is located next to Villa Borghese, while the gate on its north side used to be one of the main entrances of the city. At its center stands the towering Egyptian obelisk, while the fountains and various statues (the most characteristic being the ones of Poseidon and Athena) perfectly compliment the plain and delightful setting. The square is quite the tourist attraction with swarms of people gathering all day long and numerous street vendors trying to sell from gadgets and flowers to water! Do not miss the chance to capture it from every angle (see the best one HERE), but you should avoid the cafés around it, as they are nothing more than tourist traps. On its south side, a Ferrari has the engine running, waiting for the lovers of luxury and speed for a (expensive) ride.

Suggested visit time: 40 minutes-1 hour
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: The charming square was once a place of bloodshed, as it used to be one of the largest spaces for public executions!

Largo di Torre Argentina & Pyramid of Cestius

The next two More suggestions are recommended for a quick visit, as you can admire them only from the outside. In the historic space of Largo di Torre Argentina there are the ruins of four Roman temples, while nowadays it is the largest shelter for the city’s cats. It went down on history as the location where one of the greatest Roman emperors, Julius Caesar, was murdered. At a 2,5km distance you will find the 36-meter tall pyramid, which was built as the mausoleum of Gaius Cestius. One might wonder…A pyramid in the middle of Rome? It may seem odd, but it is fairly reasonable, as Egypt was a Roman province at that time. Finally, it is worth noting that the 2,000-year-old pyramid managed to be kept in such a great shape because it was located inside the city walls.

Suggested visit time: 30 minutes-1 hour
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: The huge pyramid took less than a year to be completed, as in case it took more time, Gaius’ heirs would lose his fortune!

Domine Quo Vadis (footprints of Jesus)

This is a small chapel located at the start of Via Appia and has a great history, as according to the sayings of Saint Peter, this was the place where he met Jesus, as he was trying to escape the city (during the time of persecutions). When he asked him “Lord, where are you going?” (Latin: Domine Quo Vadis), Jesus answered “To be crucified again”. This phrase was enough to convince Peter to go back to Rome. The chapel is also known for the footprints that were found on a marble plate* and it is said that they are the footprints of Jesus Christ. It is worth devoting some of your time before walking down the historic Via Appia.
*The one you will see is a replica. The original is in the San Sebastiano church.

Suggested visit time: 15-30 minutes
Open: Every day 08:00-19:00
Cost: Free

 The know-it-all says: Travelers used to come by this church to ask for God’s help, in order to return safe!


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