The enchanting world of Italy has much to offer. Experience la dolce vita as you sip on the finest wine, savor the best cuisine, and be entertained with rich history, art and culture. When you’re exploring a country that’s as old as this one, you’re bound to find many gems and encounter opportunities of a lifetime!
When visiting the grand country of Italy, it’s only fitting to start off where the story all began: Rome. The city of Rome is thought to have been around since c. 1500 B.C., making the history of it extensive and deeply intriguing. Landmarks and historical sights are bountiful in this ancient city, and the first one you will set foot in will be the Trevi Fountain. The famous Trevi Fountain was completed in the mid-1700’s, and its masterfully crafted statues depict scenes of the mythological, with Oceanus, god of the sea, rising up over the pool. Don’t forget to throw 1-3 coins into the fountain (with your right hand over your left shoulder); according to Roman legend, doing this will guarantee your return to Rome!
Thankfully, the next must-see attraction is only a couple of blocks away! Waltz into the Piazza Novana, one of the city’s most well-known public squares. In the center, you will find many breathtaking monuments, like the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) which features gods that represented the four major rivers of each continent at the time. Other things to do in the square include purchasing goods by vendors, stopping into one of the clothing/ jewelry stores, or catching a show by one of the street performers!
After strolling through the plaza, take a turn to walk down the elegant Via Condotti. This is Rome’s most fashionable street where you can catch up on some well-deserved shopping. Luxury stores like Cartier, Gucci, Prada, and more reside here, yes, but there are also some unique options like Francesco Rogani, which sells quality leather handbags designed and made in Italy. Once you feel like the shopping has tired you out, aim for a pick-me-up at Antico Caffè Greco. This is Rome’s oldest coffee bar, having been around since 1760, and has been a favorite of many intellectuals and artists like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer, and Lord Byron, a British poet and playwright. Sit amongst oil paintings, red velvet, and gilt mirrors to be transported back in time, all while enjoying a delicious espresso!
At the end of the lavish road, you’ll find that it has led you right towards the next stop! The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) are irregular stairs that surround a boat-shaped fountain called Barcaccia, and altogether it’s a gorgeous sight! Pink flowers grow on and around the ancient steps, and it’s a nice place to relax if you need a breather after a busy day. One more place of interest in the attraction-rich area is the Pantheon, a must-visit. This mighty structure is believed to be about 2,000 years old and is regarded as the best preserved antique Roman monument. It was first constructed as a Roman temple dedicated to the pagan gods, but since the 7th century it has been used as a place of worship, as well as a burial place! The Italian kings Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I are buried here, as well as the famous painter Raphael. As you pay your respects, you can also take note of the outstanding architecture. The building has perfect proportions, which is miraculous for the time period in which it was built. The inside features a beautiful dome with engraved stone patterns, and in the center is a coffer that allows light to enter, hitting the center of the room, which then creates a godly effect!
How could you brag about visiting Rome without paying a visit to the Colosseum? Although lines are famously long to enter this iconic landmark, it’s worth it once you’re up top! The Colosseum is the largest antique Roman structure still standing today, and was built during the Flavian dynasty between 72-80 A.D. During its prime, the amphitheater could hold up to 80,000 attendees to watch gladiator fights, circuses, festivals, theatrical performances, and more. Make sure you buy a combo ticket to the Colosseum, so you can also visit the equally intriguing adjacent landmark: The Roman Forum. Here you will experience a walk back through time as you admire the ruins of what once was the center of Roman public life and government. Remains from some of Rome’s most important shrines, government houses, courts, markets, and more lie scattered about, with some full standing arches and columns still there. It was truly an action-packed center during its height, but after the 7th century, the buildings fell into ruin. It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th century that efforts were made to preserve the ancient buildings from the rubble and destruction.
After viewing all of this history and artistry, you will certainly be ready to indulge in some cuisine! For a restaurant that exudes lavishness and class, you must dine at La Pergola. The first and only three-star Michellin in Rome, a seat here will have views of the Vatican City accompanying you and your meal for a truly magical night. Celebrated chef Heinz Beck is responsible for all of the delectable gourmet goodies that emerge from the kitchen; anything you order will be a guaranteed hit!
Following your grand meal, you can go ahead and cozy up in bed, as La Pergola is actually located in Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. Book the Planetarium Suite for an experience that will take you to the stars! This suite comes with a private roof garden, a Jacuzzi, Swarovski crystal bathroom fixtures, and true to its name, a glittering fiber-optic sky above the bed, and a gliding glass ceiling in the living room that reveals the sky. You’ll sleep peacefully in the extra king-size “floating featherbed” as you drift into space!
On your next day, you’ll travel to the heart of Rome, where you will find Vatican City. Considered the smallest country in the world, it became independent from the rest of Italy after power struggles between political leaders and popes became overbearing. Today it is home to some of the most renowned pieces of art in the whole world, and remains a holy and historically significant place to visit.
Start off your Vatican exploration with the Vatican Museums. It was founded and started as an art collection by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, and was only added on to by his successors, making it one of the largest existing art collections in the world with over 70,000 pieces. Many famous sculptors, painters, and artists were commissioned to add to the decorating of the walls and halls, and just strolling through the buildings will certainly have you in a trance! Some highlights include the Sistine Chapel, of course, painted by Michelangelo, rooms fresco-painted by Raphael, The Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio, and many more. With so many different museums to explore, it can be almost impossible to cover in one day, so make sure you see the main celebrated artworks before diving into the lesser known areas.
Once you’re done admiring the awe-inspiring artwork, head outside to the front of the Vatican state, and you will find yourself in St. Peter’s Square. The large gathering place has two fountains, an obelisk, and two sets of colonnades, with each column holding a statue of a past pope or religious figure. Probably the most interesting characteristic of the square are the numerous rows of chairs that sit facing St. Peter’s Basillica. Set out for papal ceremonies, they all become full quite quickly when visitors and residents alike come out to try to get a peek of the Pope.
Take a walk into St. Peter’s Basillica for a truly fascinating sight. This building is regarded as one of the most celebrated religious buildings in the world, and inside is a marvel for fans of architecture and art. Rays of sunlight fall through masterfully placed windows to create heavenly effects, and the detail in each painting and statue is impressive. Bernini, a legendary artist of the time, created the Baldacchino, a 95 ft. Baroque sculpted bronze canopy, that became the first work in St. Peters. Michelangelo helped to construct the dome on the top of the building, which is the tallest of its kind today. Don’t miss out on a trip to the top of the dome; the aerial views are spectacular!
Cross back over the Vatican “border” to reenter Rome, where you will savor some good eats before heading back to your hotel! In the U.S., we know that New York is home to some of the best pizza in the country. In Italy, that’s everywhere, but especially in Rome at a spot called Pizzarium. Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is how you will want to order here, that way you can try different toppings! This pizza shop has been visited and recommended by Anthony Bourdain, and features some wacky, but irresistible toppings like slow-roasted pork, and octopus. Get ready to try something new!
I scream for…gelato? Yes, in Italy, you will, and thoughts of ice cream will become a distant memory as you accept this frozen treat as your go-to. Hop over to Gelataria Fatamorgana for a gelato experience that you’ve never witnessed before. With creative flavors like black rice, rose petal, and white wine, your taste buds will go into overdrive! But don’t worry, if sweet risks aren’t your thing, the classic flavors are also available here, with the option to spice it up with various toppings. When in Rome, go wild!
End your historical and cultural day with a modern twist: by clubbing! At Goa, electronic and techno music blasts through the speakers, and locals and visitors alike dance all night! Here you can support local artists as well; this club is known for hosting loved resident DJs. Make the most of your time here as you rave away! When you’re all tired out, head back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Rome is a charming place. From the ancient ruins to the brilliant paintings, and the marvelous food, this city has it all. Memories of the gorgeous landmarks, (and that tempting gelato) will surely come to mind, but don’t worry! There’s still lots of Italy to uncover; until next St. Peter’s Basillica time! A presto!
By Aaliyah Pasols