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Things to Do in Rome - page 4

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Barcaccia Fountain (Fontana della Barcaccia)
22 Tours and Activities

At the base of Rome’s iconic Spanish Steps, the Barcaccia Fountain is one of the city’s most unique fountains. Designed in a Baroque style, it displays a half-sunken ship with fresh water overflowing its bow. Translated Barcaccia means ‘old boat.’ It dates back to the 17th century when it was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini. The fountain is said to be modeled after the boats left behind after the Tiber River would routinely flood. Sun and bee ornamentation is a symbol taken from the Pope’s family’s coat of arms.

Designed by Pietro Bernini, it features two heads on either end spouting water. Bernini’s son Gian Lorenzo went on to become a prominent Baroque artist with works all over the city. The travertine fountain has recently been restored after having been vandalized by football fans. It is one of the most well-known fountains in Rome.

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Aqueduct Park (Parco degli Acquedotti)
23 Tours and Activities

The Parco degli Acquedotti is one of Rome’s green spaces, and also one with major Ancient Roman structures in it. As the name tells you, a visit to the Parco degli Acquedotti means you get to see a Roman aqueduct - but in this park, you can actually see two.

Located just under five miles from Rome’s city center, the 593-acre Parco degli Acquedotti is criss-crossed by two different aqueducts, both of which were once critical parts of the Ancient Roman infrastructure. The two aqueducts in the park are Aqua Felix and Aqua Claudia. There’s also the ruins of a 2nd century palace in the park.

The Parco degli Acquedotti is largely undeveloped - so much so that livestock can sometimes be found grazing in its fields - but it’s close enough to the city that in nice weather it can be a welcome respite for both Romans and tourists to get away from the hectic city. You can reach the park via the Metro Line A, or by bus to the nearby Piazza Cinecitta.

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Farnese Palace (Palazzo Farnese)
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21 Tours and Activities

The Palazzo Farnese is a 16th century palace originally built for the noble Farnese family. Today, it serves as the French embassy in Italy, given by the Italian state in 1936 to the French for a period of 99 years.

The member of the Farnese family who commissioned the Palazzo Farnese went on to become Pope Paul III not long after, so the building got even more palatial soon after it was done. The Farnese family were well-known sculpture collectors - parts of their collection make up Naples’ archaeological museum and Capodimonte Museum today. Although the Palazzo Farnese is the French embassy in Italy, there are tours available - which is good, given the art that remains in the palace, including frescoes on walls and ceilings. Even if you don’t go inside, you can see some of Michelangelo’s handiwork on the facade. The Renaissance master is responsible for, among other things, the central window that served as a focal point and something of a stage for Pope Paul III.

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Tiber River (Fiume Tevere)
15 Tours and Activities

The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine mountains and ending at the sea at Ostia, once the port of Ancient Rome. It is 252 miles (406 km) long. The story goes that the infants Romulus and Remus were abandoned on the waters of the Tiber, were rescued by a she-wolf, and founded Rome 15 mi (25 km) from the sea in 753 BC.

The Tiber River has also been heavy with sediment and although Romans throughout history have dredged it, the river is now navigable only to Rome and not beyond. The port of Ostia was abandoned to mud as far back as 1 AD.

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Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta) and Chapel of San Lorenzo
20 Tours and Activities

Containing 28 steps in total, the Scala Santa (which translates to Holy Steps) are believed to have been carried from Jerusalem to Rome by St. Helena in the year 326. Many make religious pilgrimages to this site, as the white marble steps are said to be those walked upon by Jesus Christ during the Passion.

It is believed that the steps of Scala Santa once led to the Praetorium of the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, where Jesus was condemned. St. Helena brought them to Rome to her son, the emperor Constantine, who was building a basilica. The stairs were installed and still lead to the Sancta Sanctorum or Chapel of San Lorenzo, the private chapel of early popes. The interior of the chapel is richly decorated with frescoes depicting both the Old and New Testament.

Today the steps are protected by a wooden boards in the old Lateran palace and by tradition must be ascended on the knees. Over the centuries, several popes have participated in this devotion.

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Montecitorio Palace (Palazzo Montecitorio)
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17 Tours and Activities

The Palazzo di Montecitorio is the seat of the Chamber of Deputies, the house of Italy’s parliament. It was completed under Pope Innocent X in 1650, designed by Bernini and afterwards expanded by Carlo Fontana. It was the pope's vision to house the Pontifical Curia here, but the building ended up serving a variety of functions over the years until it became the seat of the Chamber of Deputies later on. Although the look of the building has changed over the years and it got a makeover in the Art Nouveau style in the early 20th century, the clock tower, column, window sills and the baroque Bernini façade remain the same.

A newer addition is the long salon, where informal political discussions and agreements take place, leading to it being referred to as the informal center of Italian politics. The salon’s name, Transatlantico, refers to a construction company from Palermo.

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More Things to Do in Rome

Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs (Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri)

Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs (Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri)

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20 Tours and Activities

This stunning basilica is dedicated the Christian martyrs and has been a staple in this Italian community since the late 1500s. Visitors who journey to the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli will find a remarkable interior designed by Michelangelo and a near perfect example of Roman architecture. The church is also home to a historic sun dial that predicted the exact date of Easter each year and compete with the meridian built by Giovanni Domenico Cassini in Bologna.

This popular religious journey into Assisi is the perfect way for travelers to escape the city of Rome and explore outside the urban center. The two-hour drive is scenic and takes travelers through the rolling hills of Umbria.

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Via Condotti (Via dei Condotti)

Via Condotti (Via dei Condotti)

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16 Tours and Activities

Shopaholics in Rome, head for Via Condotti, where even the window-shopping is worth the trip.

Via Condotti (its complete name is Via dei Condotti) is a street in central Rome that dates back to the ancient Roman era. It was a fashionable address as far back as the 18th century, when the Caffe Greco opened and was frequented by the likes of Goethe, Byron, Liszt, and Keats. The cafe remains open – and popular with visitors – to this day.

Most of Via Condotti is known for its fashion boutiques. Major names in fashion have shops along the street, including Gucci, Valentino, Armani, Prada, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, as well as many other designers – Italian and otherwise.

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Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin (Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin)

Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin (Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin)

13 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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Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell'Ara Pacis)

Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell'Ara Pacis)

12 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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Villa Farnesina

Villa Farnesina

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

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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Basilica di Santa Prassede

Basilica di Santa Prassede

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

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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