Top Rome Cultural Attractions

22 January 2013
Read Time: 1.6 mins

When in Rome, huh? Who can forget Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, enjoying gelato on the Spanish Steps? It's a scene few will want to emulate since hefty fines have been introduced, which deter tourists from snacking in and around the city's architectural treasures. But there are plenty of legal ways to enjoy Rome's cultural attractions. Here is our top five.

Rome The Vatican

The Spanish Steps
In Rome's Piazza di Spagna, with its fabulous shopping and a skyline featuring the towers of Trinita dei Monti, discover the Spanish Steps, made famous in William Wyler's 1953 film starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Twelve flights of 137 steps constructed in 1723 have become a popular meeting place in Rome. Admire Trinita dei Monti, Fontana della Barcaccia, Colonna dell'Immacolata and the obelisk. In May, enjoy a spectacular display of azaleas and at any time of year, remember to enjoy your snacks in the square.

The Colosseum
Undoubtedly the most impressive structure of the Roman Empire, the elliptical Colosseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, was constructed on the site of an artificial lake in the city centre in 72 AD, and not completed until 80 AD. The Colosseum was built to accommodate up to 55 000 spectators, who would come to watch a variety of popular sports and games, involving the slaughter of wild animals and slaves. A Velarium protected the audience from the sun, and man-powered mechanisms enabled cages to appear in the arena, and the space to be flooded for the presentation of mock sea battles.

The Pantheon
Constructed over 1800 years ago under order from Marcus Agrippa for the worship of all the pagan gods, the Pantheon's most famous feature is its 43- metre high concrete dome. The oculus, an opening at the top of the massive dome, and the entry door gives the Pantheon's sole light source. Instantly recognisable is the Pantheon's Portico, with its12-metre tall grey granite columns, each weighing 60 tons, imported – incredibly – from the eastern mountains in Egypt.

Ostia Antica
The well-preserved remains of Rome's ancient port town, Ostia Antica, include an amphitheatre, schools, baths, temples, and one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. Easily accessible from Downtown Rome via the Metro, Ostia Antica offers a different perspective on ancient Roman life than the wealthier town of Pompeii does, so it's worth a look. Named for the “mouth of the Tiber River” and founded in 620 BC, Ostia Antica offers rich history, despite its closure when Rome fell in 476 AD.

Vatican City
Vatican City, also known as the Holy See, is a landlocked sovereign city-state surrounded by Rome; it's the spiritual centre for Roman Catholics the world over. Visit the Vatican Library, St Peter's Basilica, the Raphael Rooms, and the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, which serves as the Pope's official residence. See the Pope on Sundays at midday in St Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer, or Wednesday morning's weekly audience in the Square.

Xanthe Coward

Xanthe's favourite travel destinations are the Greek Islands, Indonesia, Fiji and Vanuatu. With a background in performing arts, fine food, wine and good times, Xanthe enjoys travel that brings her close to the locals and their leisure activities. Being a theatre reviewer means that Xanthe will always do dinner and a show before checking out the late night city scene and still be up early to find the markets and a decent pot of chai.