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Things to Do in Rome

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Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell'Ara Pacis)
13 Tours and Activities

Since opening its doors in 2006, the Ara Pacis Museum has caused more than its fair share of controversy, with its modernist glass and travertine façade splitting public opinion. The futuristic building, the work of architect Richard Meir, was one of Rome’s first major post-war architectural works and was built to house one of the city’s most significant ancient artworks.

Whatever your opinion of the museum itself, there’s no disputing the magnificence of its star exhibit – the Ara Pacis, or ‘Altar of Peace’, which dates back to 9 B.C. The elaborate Roman sculpture is a gigantic marble altar towering over 11-meters high and built by the Emperor Augustus to symbolize peace in the Roman Empire. Today, the protected monument is preserved and displayed in its full glory, with the original structure augmented by reproductions of the panels already on display in the Villa Medici, the Vatican and the Louvre.

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Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin (Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin)
12 Tours and Activities

Like most of the many churches throughout Rome, Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin has an ancient past and a fascinating story. Built on an ancient worship site that was once a great temple of Hercules, it became under care of the Byzantine Papacy. Its name “Cosmedin” is the Greek word for “beautiful decoration.”

The beautiful decorations remain — with its unique characteristics including a pre-Roman crypt, a massive bell tower, marble inlaid floors, architecture and designed by the Cosmati brothers, a beautiful altar with a rare 8th century mosaic, and frescoed walls.

The famous ‘Mouth of Truth’ or Bocca della Verità can be found in the portico of the church. The face of an unknown man or god is believed to be part of an ancient Roman temple, and is said to have once functioned as a lie detector — as it would bite off the hand of a man who did not speak the truth.

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Case Romane del Celio
11 Tours and Activities

It's awe-inspiring to walk through the ruins of ancient Roman temples and amphitheaters, but to bring history to a human level you've got see where those ancient people lived. You can do that at the Case Romane del Celio.

Underneath the Basilica of Santi Givanni e Paolo, the Case Romane del Celio is a network of ancient Roman houses. There are homes from different periods – one from the 2nd century, another from the 3rd century – and for different levels of society. There are beautiful frescoed walls and a small museum displaying some of the artifacts unearthed during the excavation of the site.

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Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme)
17 Tours and Activities

One of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem houses several relics from the Holy Land brought to Rome around 325 AD. The relics are said to be parts of the cross from the Passion of Jesus Christ — carried from Jerusalem by the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, the St. Empress Helena. The church name comes from the Jerusalem soil that was laid on the floor of the basilica, as a way of moving part of the holy city to Rome. Though it was once the Palazzo Sessoriano, the palace of the St. Empress Helena, it was later converted into a small chapel.

It has since been renovated and restored over the centuries to its Baroque style facade that exists now. Today visitors can see three relics enshrined: pieces of the True Cross, a nail from the crucifixion, thorns from the crown, and small pieces of the tomb of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre. There is also a full size replica of the Shrine of Turin.

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Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati (Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati)
12 Tours and Activities

The ancient basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati is dedicated to four unnamed saints, all martyred. The name means “four crowned saints,” meaning they were martyrs.

The church was first built in the 6th century, but mostly destroyed in the 11th century. The rebuilt church was much smaller, preserving the original apse. In the 13th century, the Chapel of San Silvestro and a cloister were added – the former decorated with frescoes, and the latter with intricate inlaid stonework designs. The four saints to whom the church is dedicated are buried in tombs in the crypt.

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Baths of Diocletian (Terme di Diocleziano)
10 Tours and Activities

Visitors to Rome are still able to visit what was once the grandest and most luxurious public bath or thermae in the ancient city. Built from 298 to 306 AD, at its largest it spanned nearly 32 acres and could accompany as many as 3,000 bathers. Bathing was a social event and ritual significant to Roman society. Rooms ranged from cold to warm to hot water, with saunas, swimming pools, and spas. Baths were not just a form of relaxation for ancient Romans, but a social and even political act where business often took place.  These massive baths were named in honor of Emperor Diocletian, who at the time hadn’t even visited Rome. The entire complex included a gymnasium, library, stadium, gardens, galleries, and walking paths. Though most of the structures were destroyed by Goths in 537 AD, some of the ruins remain. The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels was built into the central bath area by Michelangelo in 1561.

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Golden House of Nero (Domus Aurea)
10 Tours and Activities

The ancient home of Emperor Nero, also known as ‘golden house,’ the residence was built after a massive fire in 64 AD. At the time it covered nearly one third of the city of Rome and was named after the gold that covered its facade. It is estimated, however, that only 20 percent of the original structure still stands today. Remains of the frescoed walls and once gem-studded ceilings show the remains of this part of ancient Roman history.

It was designed primarily for entertainment, at one time having more than 300 rooms with no bedrooms for living and sleeping. It was once exquisitely decorated in over-the-top marble, ivory, mosaics, and grand fountains. In its prime there was also a massive garden complex with an artificial lake at its center. Its vaults once contained treasures from conquered Eastern cities. Today only around 30 rooms are open to the public, where visitors can view architecture and art from more than 2,000 years ago.

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More Things to Do in Rome

Doria Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Doria Pamphilj)

Doria Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Doria Pamphilj)

10 Tours and Activities

The Doria Pamphili Gallery, located in Rome, Italy, is one of the largest and most magnificent palaces in the center of the city. It is home to the Doria Pamphili (sometimes spelled Pamphilj) family, and some members of the family still live in one section of the palace. The original building dates back to the 15th century, though it has been renovated several times. A visit to the gallery provides a glimpse into aristocratic life in Rome. Many private rooms are now open, including a ballroom, a chapel, and living quarters, all decorated with elaborate paintings and sculptures.

The art gallery itself contains approximately 400 pieces from the 15th to 18th centuries. Some of the more famous pieces include a portrait of pope Innocent X by Velázquez and two busts of the same pope, created by Bernini. The Gallery of Mirrors is one of the most lavish rooms in the palace and includes frescoes depicting the Labors of Hercules.

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Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio)

Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio)

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8 Tours and Activities
This remarkable palace dates back to the 4th century and is home to the most well-preserved racetrack in all of Rome. Travelers who make their way to this top attraction can see where chariot races once kicked off, and get a taste for regal Rome. The complex and its buildings were built by the emperor Maxenitius, and include the tomb of Caecilia Metella and ancient catacombs. The site is particularly beautiful on Sundays when crowds are thin, but catacombs are closed. Explore the site on a Vespa tour of imperial Rome or by Segway, golf cart or bicycle. You can also visit the site as part of a private tour of ancient Rome including skip-the-line tickets to the Colosseum and Bath of Caracalla.
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Castel Romano Designer Outlet

Castel Romano Designer Outlet

10 Tours and Activities

With some of the greatest luxury clothing brands, Italy is known for its fashion and shopping. Castel Romano Designer Outlet offers some of the best brands at up to 70% off of retail prices. There are over 140 stores for both women and men. There truly is something for everyone to shop for. Brands range from Italian designers like Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, and Versace to international brands such as Nike and Tommy Hilfiger.

Designed in a boutique style, the collection of shops was designed to resemble the structure of ancient Rome, and is fun to wander and browse outdoors. There are also dozens of restaurant, bar, and cafe options, a playground for children, and events taking place throughout the year. A beauty bar with facial and body treatments makes it easy to pamper yourself after a long day of shopping.

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National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano)–Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano)–Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

10 Tours and Activities

The National Roman Museum has four locations in Rome, Italy, and one of them is housed in the 19th century Palazzo Massimo alle Terme near Termini train station. It contains one of the world's most important collections of Classical art. The museum has four levels with sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins, jewels, and many other items that show the evolution of Roman art from the Late Republican age through Late Antiquity. The art depicts ancient Roman history, myths, and the culture of every day life throughout several hundred years.

Some of the exhibitions in the National Roman Museum include Greek works that were discovered in Rome such as the Boxer at Rest, the Hellenistic Prince, portraits from the Republican and Imperial Ages, and the statue of Augustus Pontifex Maximus. Other pieces in the museum depict Roman battle scenes and other parts of Roman life.

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St. Nicholas Basilica in Carcere (Basilica San Nicola)

St. Nicholas Basilica in Carcere (Basilica San Nicola)

9 Tours and Activities

The Basilica di San Nicola in Carcere is a church in Rome with an interesting history. It was built on top of three ancient temples, and pieces of these temples were incorporated into the facade of the current church. There are columns and other sections from the Temple of Spes dating back to 250 B.C., a temple that honored Juno from the 2nd century B.C. and rebuilt in 90 B.C., and the Temple of Janus, the god of gates and beginnings, dating to 17 A.D. Unlike most churches in Rome that took columns from other ruins around the city and moved them, the columns in this church still stand in their original location.

Since the ground level was much lower 2,000 years ago, some of the ruins of these temples are now underground. Visitors can take a tour beneath the church to see these ruins, which are older than many other ruins in the city. These ruins are Republican era, making them roughly 500 years older than the imperial era ruins in other parts of Rome.

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Keats-Shelley House

Keats-Shelley House

7 Tours and Activities
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Piazza di San Cosimato

Piazza di San Cosimato

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Jewish Museum of Rome (Museo Ebraico di Roma)

Jewish Museum of Rome (Museo Ebraico di Roma)

7 Tours and Activities

Found in the basement of the Art Nouveau Great Synagogue of Rome, which was built across the River Tiber from the former Jewish ghetto in Trastevere and inaugurated in 1904, the Jewish Museum of Rome (Museo Ebraico di Roma) opened in 1960 and records 2,200 years of Jewish life in Rome. It was much expanded in 2004 and now seven ornate rooms house new displays of precious textiles, manuscripts and silverware as well as information on the Nazi occupation of Rome, liturgical vestments and tombstones moved from the catacombs underneath the city. An unusual aspect of the exhibition is the explanation of the contribution of Libyan Jews to Roman life when they were expelled from Tripoli in 1967. A further gallery displays marble fragments from the 16th–19th centuries that record elements of Jewish life, from the purchase of cemetery plots to the wills of wealthy families. The highlight of a visit, however, is undoubtedly the 3D virtual tour through the Jewish Ghetto.

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Quartiere Coppedè

Quartiere Coppedè

7 Tours and Activities
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