When in Rome: Making the most of your visit to the Italian capital
As the former nerve center of the Roman Empire and one of the most sacred sites in Catholicism, Rome's treasure trove of ancient monuments and legendary works of art might make it seem like a giant museum. Foodies will be delighted to know that the Italian capital's cuisine is equally rich. Any way you look at it, the Eternal City is a feast for the senses.
Q: What is there to do in Rome?
A: Art and architecture account for the bulk of the attractions in Rome, a city brimming with ancient wonders that evoke a once-mighty empire and churches filled with masterpieces by the most celebrated Italian painters and sculptors. Must-sees include the iconic amphitheater known as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, once the political epicenter of the Roman empire. The Pantheon, a Roman temple-turned-church, is not to be missed. Rome's historic squares, which include the Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo, are great places to catch your breath and do some people-watching. Don't leave without tossing a coin into the famous Trevi Fountain; legend has it that doing so guarantees your return to Rome.
- The Colosseum: Many a gladiator battled for his life in the Colosseum, which dates to the first century. As you tour the ancient arena, note the different styles of arches on each of its three levels.
Q: Is the Vatican in Rome?
A: The seat of the Catholic Church, Vatican City occupies some 100 acres within the city of Rome. It is, however, a sovereign state – the smallest in the world. Its head of state is the pope. St. Peter's Basilica, the most important place of worship for Catholics, dominates Vatican City.
- St. Peter's Basilica: There is no greater Catholic monument than St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world, which encompasses 18,000 square yards. Raphael, Michelangelo and Bernini are just a few of the renowned Italian artists who left their mark on the basilica, which stands upon the tomb of Saint Peter. There is no charge to visit.
Q: Who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome?
A: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, which is covered by a fresco that depicts stories from the Old Testament's Book of Genesis, was painted by one of the most famous artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo, in the 1500s.
Q: Where can you see art by Caravaggio in Rome?
A: Works by Michelangelo Merisi, or Caravaggio, a key figure in the Baroque art movement, are found in churches and museums throughout Rome. The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi is home to three paintings by Caravaggio that depict Saint Matthew. They include "The Calling of St. Matthew," considered one of his greatest works. You can see other works by Caravaggio at the Capitoline Museums and the Vatican Museums.
- The Vatican Museums: With a staggering 1,400 rooms, the Vatican Museums harbor one of thelargest collections of art in the world. It's impossible to see it allin a day, so you'll want to prioritize the highlights, which include the Sistine Chapel and rooms decorated by Raphael.
Q: What is the weather like in Rome, Italy?
A: Temperatures in Rome are, generally speaking, warm and mild. Summer days can be stifling, with average highs in the 80s from June through August, though evenings are pleasantly cooler. Winters are warm, with averages in the 50s. The rainiest months are November and February, while December and January tend to be the coldest.
Q: What is there to do in Trastevere, Rome?
A: Trastevere's name means "across the Tiber," which describes the neighborhood's location in relation to the heart of Rome. Once a working-class district, it now draws an international crowd with its collection of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Here you can walk 20 minutes to the top of Janiculum Hill for a stunning view of the city. Churches worth perusing in Trastavere include the basilicas of Santa Maria and Santa Cecilia.
Q: What should I eat in Rome?
A: Because pizza and pasta are among the city's signature dishes, Rome is not the place to forgo carbs. Its pizza is distinguished by paper-thin crusts. When it comes to pasta, you might find that simple is better when you try cacio e pepe – spaghetti-like pasta served with a sauce that consists of pepper and cheese. Artichokes, prepared many different ways, are also a staple of Roman cuisine. More adventurous eaters might want to explore the side of the menu that features offal – animal parts like tripe and hearts – which is another defining element of Roman cuisine. For dessert, authentic gelato, or Italian ice cream, is the way to go.
Q: How do I get from Rome to Florence?
A: The Tuscan city of Florence, a major artistic center considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, is an hour and a half away from Rome by high-speed train. You have a choice of two companies: the state-run Trenitalia, which operates the Frecciarossa or Frecciargento with service between Rome and Florence, and the privately-owned Italo. Alitalia also offers flights between Rome and Florence that are just under an hour long.