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Rome, Rome, Italy

Rome Walking Tour

Crossing the eternal city from the Vatican to the Coliseum

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 (12 votes, 1 review)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.2 miles / 8.4 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: The old adage claims that "Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam" : All roads lead to Rome...

3000 years of History are mixed in this City, which can be considered the most magnificent open air museum in the whole world:
Roman giant monuments with their terrific past, Baroque and Renaissance-style wonders and intriguing medieval streets are gathered in motley clusters surrounded by traffic jams of noisy Vespas and honking battered cars.


Rome was founded by the" Etrusques" 800 years BC. The Roman society was organized as a republic up to 60 BC and the first dictatorship of the "triumvirate" (Crassus, Pompeius, Caesar). At the death of Crassus, Pompeius attempted to eliminate Caesar who reacted and attacked Rome. The legend claims that on the way to Rome, when crossing the "Rubicon" river, Caesar was mumbling his so famous "Alea iacta est" (The die has been cast).

As an emperor, Casear, under the influence of Cleopatra, had the dream to unify Rome and the territories of the emperor Alexandre (existing Asia) to create a peaceful empire including all the known territories. After the death of Caesar, Octave became the first emperor to control all the territories surrounding the Mediterranean sea (-27).

Simultaneously, San Pietro, one of the twelve Apostles and Christ's best friend, arrived in Rome and became the 1st bishop of Rome. He died in 67 AC crucified in the Circus Vaticanus located under the existing Basilica di San Pietro and is buried on the Vatican hill.

During the peak of the empire, between 96 to 192 AC, the emperors Trajan, Nerva, Marc-Aurelius have built magnificent forums near the Coliseum. 476 is the end of the empire with the victory of the "barbarians" on the last emperor Romulus Augustule.

The city of Rome was then under the control of the popes up to the defeat of Napoleon III against the Prussians. As Napoleon protected the pope, his defeat allowed the invasion of Rome by the Italian army of the king Victor-Emmanuel II in 1870. The existing Italy was founded.


As for politics, Rome's architecture has been under the successive influence of the Roman emperors (for 1300 years) and of the Christian popes (for 300 hundreds years).
Most of the Roman remnants are located in the surroundings of the Coliseum.
The political power of the popes in Rome have led to the construction of countless churches including the Basilica di San Pietro, one of the symbols of Rome and world's biggest church.
To the exception of the Vittoriano (Piazza Venezia) and roads constructions, the outline of the centre of Rome did not change much since 1870.


If you have just one day to visit Rome this hike includes most of the wonders of Rome.

You could do the trail early in the morning (about 7am) or at night without visiting the interior of the monuments. That early or late, you'll avoid the usual compact crowd of Rome and enjoy the colour of the buildings with the gentle light of the sunrise or artificial light; great pictures warranted.


Tips: With traffic jam and scarce stations, buses are the worst way to move around in Rome. Just two Subway lines are insufficient as well. To visit Rome, wear good sport shoes and walk, it is definitely the best way...

Prices: On the hike all the visits are free except the Coliseum, Palatine Museum and Roman Forum (16.50 euros), the elevator to the Vittoriano (7 euros) and the Musei Capitolini (12 euros).

The letters SPQR written on the Roman monuments mean: Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and Roman People"). It is a symbol of the Roman republic that means that the Senate and the Romans have to share the political power. The senate is the oldest Roman political structure. According to the legend, it was founded with the city in 753 BC by the 1st king of Rome, Romulus, and 100 friends of Romulus. Senate members are always issued from the Patricians, direct family of these 100 mens.
Another more commonly accepted historical interpretation of the SPQR is "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani" meaning Those Romans are so Crazy!

Out of this hike, do not miss the "Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura" (Subway station Basilica S. Paolo), the "musei Vaticani" with the Sistine Chapel, the street "Viale di Trastevere" at night, the Tiberina island, the Bocca della Verità, the Teatro di Marcello, the Terme di Caracalla and the "Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (Subway station San Giovanni).

All museums in Rome are overcrowded.

Points of Interest

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St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

You are now standing in front of the world's biggest church: St. Peter's Basilica. Every Sunday about 150,000 Christians meet in the piazza in front of the church to listen to the pope's homily.

The construction of this basilica started in 1506 and ended in 1626 under several famous architects: Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.

St. Peter's grave is said to be located under the center of the church, and you may visit the graves of all the former popes, including St. Peter's relics, located in a giant crypt under the four-poster.

The most popular wonder is immediately on the right of the entry: the "Pietà" by Michelangelo, a white marble statue depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus. The Virgin is unusually youthful and calm compared to other pietas in which she is depicted older and distraught. Michelangelo wanted to underline the Virgin beauty rather than her sadness and Jesus seems older and smaller than Mary. The "Pieta" is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed, and you can see his name carved into the sash crossing Mary's breast.

If you wish to visit the cupola there is an elevator, but the wait is often several hours. Although the view is breathtaking, another impressive view is from the Vittoriano, which is much less crowded and offers views of this basilica.

The visit is free inside is free, and the long line usually moves faster than expected. You can expect to spend about an hour inside, but try to avoid Sundays and Christian celebrations, when the building is closed or overcrowded.
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The Bronze Door

This huge bronze door has been the official entrance to the apostolic palace since 1663, and is permanently watched by three Swiss guards. The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded in 1506 and in the 18th century several Swiss soldiers were recruited from various European courts to form the close quarters guards of the kings. Michelangelo designed the official--highly colorful--uniform, and guards also wear a long sword and a traditional halberd.

The bronze door opens to a long corridor leading to the famous steps of the Scala Regia, which was designed by Bernini to appear longer and wider than it actually is. Unfortunately this architectural wonder is closed to visitors, as is the rest of the apostolic palace where the pope lives; only official visitors are admitted inside.

On the top of the Scala Regia (the royal stairway), there is the Sala Regia (royal hall), the largest and most beautiful reception hall of the Vatican.
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St. Peter’s Square

Stop on the white flagstone and look at the columns surrounding the square and you should see that the columns are perfectly aligned. St. Peter's Square was designed by Bernini to look like two giant opened arms welcoming pilgrims to the home of their religion.

The obelisk at the center of the square was once located in the center of the Circus Vaticanus, where it is said that St. Peter was crucified. Unfortunately the obelisk was moved in 1586 and the exact place of the crucifixion will never be known.
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The Flight of the Pope (the passetto de Borgo)

Have a look on the left of the castle Sant'Angelo in front of you. The wall with several arches that you see about 50 meters above the ground is an emergency exit for the pope in case of attack on the apostolic palace. This passage on top of the wall was built by Léon IV (847-855) and renovated by Alexandre VI in 1227. It links the apostolic palace to the castle Sant'Angelo.

The apostolic palace is full of these kinds of secrets, but unfortunately this passage remains closed to visitors.
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Castel Sant'Angelo and Sant'Angelo Bridge

Built in A.D. 139 as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, this castle was transformed into a fortress by the popes during the 14th century.

You can expect a visit to the castle, including the ancient apartments of the popes (16th century) and the view from the balcony, to last about one hour.

The Romans built the first bridge in front of the castle in A.D. 134 as an access to the majestic mausoleum.

In A.D. 590, a black plague epidemic decimated the city and an angel appeared on the castle roof and put his sword back in its scabbard, indicating the end of the epidemic. Afterward a chapel was built on the roof of the castle to commemorate this miracle.

In 1667, the artist Bernini was in charge of renovating the bridge and he decided to open the parapet and to add eight statues of angels, symbolizing Christ's passion in memory of the miracle that saved the city from the devastating black plague.
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Via dei Coronari

This tour starts along the Via dei Coronari, just in front of the famous Castle Sant'Angelo.

Coronari means rosary, and the street is named after the rosaries that shops sold to visitors on their way to the Varican to visit St. Peter's tomb. St. Pater was the first bishop of Rome and died in A.D. 67 after being crucified in the Circus Vaticanus. He is buried on Vatican Hill in St. Peter's Basilica and is believed to be the owner the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

This area is filled with houses with ancient fronts and beautiful small streets, perfect for discovering the old city of Rome at your own pace.
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Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona is a large public square surrounded by stores and restaurants and one of the more crowded areas in the city. It was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian (which was built in the first century), which was the home of athletic games for many years. The circus (circle or ring) was surrounded by bars and packed with prostitutes to entertain the Romans as they watched the games. Women slaves were exhibited entirely naked, but higher-class prostitutes had private halls with paintings at the entrance depicting them.

The piazza seen today was built in the 16th century. At the end of the piazza you will find the ancient "speaking" statue. Erected in 1501, Romans could leave lampoons attached to the statue.

Pope Innocent X decided to build the central fountain, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers) in 1651 and chose Bernini to design it. The fountain represents the Nile, the Ganges, the Danaube and the Rio de la Plata.
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Pantheon and Piazza della Minerva

The Pantheon was built on the order of Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 128, and was dedicated to Mars and Venus during Antiquity; it later became a Christian church with Santa Maria of the Angels and Martyrs in 609.

Beyond the Pantheon you will find a sculpture of an elephant supporting an obelisk. This obelisk was carved in 600 B.C. and was imported from Egypt during the first century to decorate a Roman temple. During the 17th century, Le Bernin placed the obelisk on an elephant. The Latin inscription on it means: "This obelisk, symbol of the Egyptian science, is supported by the strongest ever animal, as the knowledge belongs to the stronger soul."

The visit is free and usually lasts about 20 minutes.
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St. Ignatius Church

The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. It was built in the Baroque style between 1626 and 1650 and was inspired by the Jesuit mother church, the Church of the Gesù in Rome (finished in the late 16th century).

The luxurious appearance of this church is due to the colored marble, the stucco sculptures and trompe l'oeil paintings in the pseudo-cupola and in the nave ceiling.
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Column of Marcus Aurelius

Erected in 176, this huge column depicts the victories of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180). This column is still at the same place where it was first erected. It is exactly 100 Roman feet high (about 29 meters). In 1581 it was renovated by Pope Sixtus V, who added a spiral staircase inside to reach the top.
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Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous in the world. According to legend, if a visitor throws a coin in the fountain, he or she will be sure to return to Rome. Other legends claim that two coins will lead to a new romance and that drinking water in the small fountain on the left will ensure your lover's faithfulness. About 3,000 euros are thrown in the fountain each day; the money is used to help Rome's less fortunate.

In 19 B.C. the Romans built aqueducts that supplied water to Rome and to the "thermae" of the Pantheon. The spring is located about 20 kilometers away from the fountain and its site was revealed to the Romans by a young virgin (this scene is depicted on the upper right sculpture). It took more than 20 years to build the fountain during the 18th century. The main statue in the center is of Tritons (sea gods) guiding a shell chariot, taming sea horses.
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Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna

This world-famous stairway leads to the church Trinità dei Monti built in 1725 by the king of France. The place long has been a Spanish possession since the Spanish embassy was buit near it in the 17th century.

Barcaccia Fountain, in the shape of a half-sunken ship, was built during the 18th century by Bernini's father with the help of his son.
Food/Dining
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Via dei Condotti

This busy and fashionable street is the equivalent of London's Bond Street or New York's Fifth Avenue.

Caffé Greco, the most famous café in Rome, was built at Via Condotti 84 in 1760 and attracted figures such as Stendhal, Goethe, Byron and Liszt. Today it is a great place for a coffee break or to have something to eat.
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Caffe Greco
Phone: 066 791700
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Hours
Open Daily 9am-8pm
Junction
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Via del Corso

This street 1.5km long starts from Piazza del Popolo and ends at Piazza Venezia. There are no major tourist attractions along the street itself, but the nearby area has lots of them. Goethe lived in an apartment 18 via del Corso.
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Piazza Venezia

Start your tour in the large square of the Piazza Venezia, named after the Palazzo Venezia, the former embassy of the Republic of Venice.
Viewpoint
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The Vittoriano

This huge white monument is built of pure white marble from Botticino, Italy, and was erected in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. It was inaugurated in 1911 and then completed in 1935. The construction was a bit controversial, as a large area of Capitoline Hill was destroyed along with some historic areas.

Buiried beneath the Vittoriano is the "Milite Ignoto," ("Unknown Soldier") from World War I.

If you wish, you can take an elevator to the roof where you will be treated to a wonderful view of the Roman Forum and Coliseum. The visit to the roof lasts about 90 minutes and costs 7 euros.
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Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill is the smallest but highest of the Seven Hills of Rome. During ancient times, the hill was covered with temples facing toward the Roman Rorum. From 500 to 1540, the hill was in ruins and all that remained was a pasture for goats and other animals. In 1536, Pope Paul III decided to restore the entire city to receive the Emperor Charles Quint, whose army devastated Rome in 1527.

In 1540, Michelagelo created the Piazza del Campidoglio and the surrounding buildings, with perfect symmetry; they faced the Basilica di San Pietro.

Legend claims that Rome was founded on Capitoline Hill by Romulus in 753 B.C. Romulus and his brother, Remus, were children of the god Mars and Silvia, the princess of Alba Longa who had been forced to be a vestal (young virgin girls who were guardians of the Vesta's temple). The king of Alba Longa, uncle of Romulus and Remus, attempted to kill them, but Silvia left them to fend for themselves, in the hopes that they would survive. According to the legend, they were "adopted" by a she-wolf, who nurtured them. Years later, Romulus brought together outlaws to attack the Sabine and kidnap their women and by doing so founded Rome.

The Capitoline Museum is the world's oldest museum and was founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV. One of the main reasons for the museum was to hold the bronze statues of the famous Capitoline she-wolf.
Viewpoint
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Tarpeian Rock

From Tarpeian Rock you can see the whole Roman Forum in front of you. This giant area was once the center of the world for several hundred years. Traitors to the republic were pushed off this rock in the direction of the Roman Forum as punishment.

On your right you will see Palatine Hill, which is worth a visit of its own, and beyond the Roman Forum you can see the majestic outline of the Coliseum in the distance.
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Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a top tourist destination and with good reason. It was the heart of ancient Rome. Here you will find the oldest buildings, including the former royal residency (regia) and the complex of the vestal virgins as well as the senate house, courthouses and various religious buildings.

The Forum was the city square where the Romans could gather for political, judicial and religious rituals. During the republic (509 B.C. to 27 B.C.), plebeians (poor people) and patricians (nobility) shared control of the city. As the army's power increased during during Roman conquests, Roman marshals were able to take power from the senate to form dictatorships.

A brief history:
In 750 B.C. only villages occupied by farmers were located on the Roman hills. In the tiny valley in the middle of the hills, a marsh was used as a graveyard and meeting point by the inhabitants of the villages. This marsh was the site of what would become one of the greatest forums of all time.

In 616 B.C. the Etruscans tried to drain the stagnating waters from the valley into the Tiber River and built the Cloaca Maxima, the first Roman sewer.

In 184 B.C. the satiric author Plaute described the Forum as a giant commercial quarter with prostitutes, traders and counterfeiters, with both rich and poor men.

Victories in foreign wars brought back many riches to the Roman Empire; with this wealth the Forum was transformed into the world's richest place, a sort of ancient Wall Street.

In 27 B.C. the senate elected Octavius as the Emperor Augustus with full power and he transformed the Forum using white marble.
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Arch of Titus

Built in the first century, this arch commemorates Titus' victory in the Sack of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It also inspired the design of the Arc de Triomphe, one of the more famous landmarks in Paris.
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The Coliseum

The Coliseum was completed in A.D. 80 after about 100 years of construction; it was the largest amphitheater built by the Roman Empire.

The circus (circus means "circle" or "ring") was able to accommodate up to 50,000 spectators who crowded in to watch gladiators, sea battles (they were able to fill the center with water sail ships in there), animal hunts (elephants, tigers, lions) and executions. Some 5,000 animals were killed for the inauguration alone.

By 404, gladiator fights were forbidden in the Coliseum and in the sixth century animal fights were stopped as well. Many of the stones of the coliseum were used to build San Pietro's Basilica.

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Via dei Fori Imperiali

The Via dei Fori Imperiali runs from Piazza Venezia to the Coliseum and passes the forum of Nerva, the forum of Augustus and the forum of Trajan. The road was originally named Via dell'Impero and was built between 46 B.C. and A.D. 113--over 150 years--which makes it 600 years younger than the Roman Forum.

Julius Caesar was the first to build his square in 46 B.C. He financed the construction with his own private possessions.

Augustus constructed one in 2 B.C. and paid for the construction with plunder from the battle of Filippi against Caesar's murderers.

They were followed by Vespasian (in 75) to commemorate the conquest of Jerusalem, Nerva (in 98) and Trajan (in 113) to commemorate the conquest of the Dacie (a region located near the Black Sea, around present-day Romania).

This tour includes most of the highlights of the ancient eternal city but there are many more exceptional wonders and sights to enjoy throughout Rome. It is impossible to see them all, but fun to try.
Pictures in this guide taken by: bada78, corinne-pla, meironke, gilbi

Copyright Basile Darbellay all rights reserved
Reviews
vispateresa
A very detailed description of a wonderful tour in a beautiful city! Great pictures!

by vispateresa on Sep 20, 2010

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