23819 · By Katie Shaw
To celebrate experiences that bring Italy to life, here are a few of our favourite unique activities that truly take you to the heart of this beguiling country.Read more
Founded by Romulus on 21 April 753 BC, Rome was soon the largest city in the world, peaking in power during the rule of Marcus Aurelius from 161-180 AD. At the time the city was the centre of the incredibly powerful Roman Empire, which ruled so much of the world. The city is built on seven hills (Capitolino, Palatino, Quirinale, Viminale, Esquilino, Celio and Aventino) with a wide, flat and open central area, named Camp Marzio after the ancient God of War. Originally used as a training camp for Rome's forces, this area is now home to many of the city's most famous sights.
Rome's architecture charts the passage of time as clearly as anywhere in Europe; with wonderfully preserved monuments from the early Romans and buildings with distinctive medieval, Renaissance and Baroque features. The most famous sights are a real wonder to behold - no photo can prepare you for the awesome sight of the Colosseum close up. No other city boasts as many world-class sights as Rome - not even Athens, New York or London. As well as the Roman heritage sights, Rome also boasts beautiful medieval areas, impressive city squares and of course the country within Rome - Vatican City, with the incredible St Peter's Basilica.
One of the most familiar symbols of Ancient Rome is the incredible Colosseum. An awesome sight to behold up close, the unmissable Colosseum is part circus, part sports arena. Although time, weather, pillaging and earthquakes have taken their toll on the classical ruin, it is a breathtaking sight and contains the original pathways, ramps, cells, corridors and entrance ways used by gladiators, slaves and animals to enter the arena.
The Roman Forum was the political, commercial and religious centre for the Roman Empire. Now just an impressive ruin, it is possible to make sense of what it was like in its heyday by viewing the best-preserved sections, including the beautiful Arch of Septimus Severus, which was built to celebrate the Roman victory over the Parthinians.
The stunning, curving Spanish Steps lead from the Piazza di Spagna up to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti and the Trinità dei Monti Church. Known in Italian as 'Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti', the 138 Spanish Steps are the widest staircase in Europe. The original design for the steps was chosen as the winning entry in a competition held after years of debate about how best to urbanise the steep slope leading up to the Trinità dei Monti. There is debate about which architect was actually responsible for the winning design, although it is accepted to have been either Francesco de Sanctis or Alessandro Specchi, and is often attributed to both of them.
Rome's most famous - and, arguably, most beautiful - fountain was built for Pope Clement XII and almost fills the small Piazza di Trevi. The statues adorning the fountain represent Abundance, Aquippa, Saubrity, the Virgin and Neptune guided by two Tritons. By tossing a coin - over your shoulder with your back to the fountain - you are said to be guaranteed a return visit to Rome.
Regarded as one of the world's most inspiring architectural designs, the Pantheon has a perfectly proportioned floating dome that sits on tall marble columns and is one of the best-preserved classical buildings in Rome. Built as a temple to the Gods in 120AD, the clever design includes a single light source flowing through the central oculus that was used to measure time with the aid of an internal sundial. The instruments used also showed the dates of equinoxes and solstices.