The Appian Way Regional Park is a protected area of around 3,400 hectares, linking the center of Rome to the Alban Hills. One of the earliest and most important of the ancient Roman roads, the Appian Way boasts impressive pine forests, tombs, and monuments commissioned by the emperors as well as the Park of the Aqueducts. An ideal spot for a bike ride.
The Roman Forums and the Sacred Way is where one of the most advanced societies man has ever witnessed began. The ancient Roman senate and religious buildings stand alongside incredible freshly restored highlights, such as the House of Augustus and the House of Livia on the Palatine Hill and the recently cleaned Colosseum, all available with a single archaeological ticket.
The entire historical center of Rome is UNESCO-certified. The holy site of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican City was consecrated in 1626 and is the largest church in Christendom, built by Donato Bramante, Carlo Maderno, Michelangelo, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It contains Michelangelo's magnificent 136-meter-high dome, his "Pieta" statue, the sacred ancient burial ground and tomb of St. Peter, and capacity for 60,000 people.
Whether you are Catholic or not, attending the weekly ritual in St Peter's Square at the Vatican City is an interesting cultural experience. See the Pope, the local crowds, and the famous Swiss Guards. The event is free every Wednesday at 10 a.m. Tickets to guarantee a seat can be obtained from the Swiss Guards.
Best Day Trip
Visit Ostia Antica, and have the ruins all to yourself. Located 30 kilometers southwest of Rome, it is bigger than Pompeii and allows visitors to enter a world of bakeries housing 1,800-year-old mills made of volcanic stone, fishmongers, and restaurants dating back 2,000 years. Standing eerily empty but well preserved, and a short train ride away, it is very much worth the effort and has its own museum, too.
Off the Beaten Path
Villa Maxentius is one of the most beautiful Roman ruins to visit. Once the plush mansion of the Emperor Maxentius, it boasts three major ruins: the palace, the circus, and a mausoleum. It is a green oasis in the center of Rome on the Appian Way, and best of all, it is completely free. Take a picnic!
Most Iconic Place
The Pantheon is unmissable. The best-preserved ancient Roman temple in the world, and the largest concrete dome in the world at 43 meters in diameter, it dominates the Roman skyline. Go early to see the light bursting through the oculus or in the evening to watch the guards closing the doors. Better still, go when the red rose petals are dropped through the oculus every year for Pentecost.
Palazzo Valentini is the next best thing to a time machine, transporting visitors 7 meters beneath street level to see the ruins of two lavishly decorated ancient Roman houses. The houses were discovered beneath a Renaissance palace, which has been the base of the provincial and prefectural administration of Rome since 1873. With original marble floors, bathrooms, and mosaics, it's a true look at the lives of Roman nobility.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Neighborhood to Explore
Monti's bistros and boutiques are tucked behind the wings of archaeological sites like the Trajan Markets and Nero's Domus Aurea palace. Wine bars, vintage markets, and postcard-worthy buildings and balconies await you after a morning of walking around Rome's main sites.
Everywhere in Rome is good for people-watching but especially Piazza del Fico in the evening to watch the locals playing chess and smoking cigars or the Borromini Terrace overlooking Piazza Navona.