Although it was the Greeks who first brought us democracy, the alphabet, science, and philosophy, it was Ancient Rome that spread those ideas across the Old World and influenced the beginnings of the New World.
Despite the passage of time, we still use the Roman alphabet and a version of their calendar. Today, it is possible to visit the iconic sites in Rome where the Roman emperors ruled an Empire that stretched from England to Egypt.
Visit the Vatican
The Vatican City is the smallest sovereign nation on Earth, both by land and population. It is also the only case of a country within a city, which is why some people note that Rome is the capital of two countries. But most visitors today are more interested in the Vatican’s history and religious sites than its politics.
The Vatican Museums contain over 70,000 works of art, including many of the most important Renaissance and Classical masterpieces in existence. The museums are a bewildering collection of buildings and rooms, so you’re better off joining an organized Vatican City tour than attempting to see everything by yourself.
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest and most important churches in the world. It is also a stunning example of Renaissance architecture and the burial place of the Apostle Peter.
However, many visitors are more interested in the Sistine Chapel inside the Apostolic Palace, especially its ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
Admire the Colosseum
Even though it is in ruins, the colosseum is still the most famous sports stadium in the world. Whether you think of it as the terrible site where Christians were fed to the lions or the location of Bruce Lee’s battle with Chuck Norris, you’re probably familiar with this circular structure.
And the best way to fully comprehend this ancient building and its many attached buildings and rooms is by taking a guided colosseum tour.
Originally built for public spectacles and gladiatorial contests, today over 4 million visitors a year enter this ancient building.
The Colosseum was built between 72 CE and 80 CE and is sometimes known as the Flavian Amphitheater. It is the biggest amphitheater ever constructed and seated 50,000 to 80,000 people.
Gape at the Pantheon
If you’re interested in Ancient Rome, you’ll love the Pantheon. It’s the best-preserved ancient building in the city.
Its prominent dome has influenced the construction of many other famous buildings around the world, including the Rotunda at the University of Virginia designed by Thomas Jefferson and the Pantheon in Paris.
The Pantheon is around 2,000 years old and has survived almost intact due to its early conversion into a church during the 7th century. This circular temple is illuminated by a central opening in its dome called the oculus.
It is fronted by a rectangular vestibule and an impressive portico supported by 16 granite columns. Its concrete dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome on Earth.
Walk around the Roman Forum
If you enjoy exploring ruins, you’ll love the Roman Forum. This area was once the focal point of ancient Rome, but it was largely abandoned after the 5th-century fall of Rome.
The central plaza is framed by a collection of ruined government buildings. Today we use the word “forum” to mean a meeting where ideas are exchanged because the Roman Forum is where public speeches were made, and elections and trials were held.
The oldest and most important buildings in Ancient Rome were clustered around the Forum, including the famous Temple of Vesta and associated complex of the Vestal Virgins.
The Senate and the original Republican government began here, resulting in the famous Roman symbol “Senatus Populusque Romanus—SPQR”. Today, you’ll find archaeological excavations and fascinating ruins around the Roman Forum.
Visit Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli
A mere 19 miles east, northeast of the center of Rome is Hadrian’s Villa.
This is a vast archaeological site surrounding the villa that was built as a retreat from the capital by the Roman Emperor Hadrian during the 2nd century. He preferred the scenic landscape around Tivoli to the urban sprawl around the Palatine Hill.
The villa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to the site will help you to comprehend the vast wealth and power possessed by a Roman emperor.
Over the years, many artworks have been recovered from this site, including many statues and mosaics. The remaining structures and scale of the site will take your breath away.