Colosseum: Competition for the most extraordinary monument in the Eternal City is fierce, but the Colosseum is one of the strongest contenders. Visitors are swept away by the sheer size and the sense of gruesome and significant events that took place here. This was where gladiators fought to the death and prisoners were eaten by lions. Two thousand years on, it still draws the crowds.
The Pantheon: This Roman temple, dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, has been standing for almost 2,000 years, with its current form dating from around AD120, when the emperor Hadrian built the Pantheon over Marcus Agrippa’s original (27BC). The earliest use of the Pantheon is a mystery; all we know is it was classified as a building of prayer. The number of people who worshipped there is unclear because the building’s structure is so different from other Roman temples.
Trevi Fountain: The city’s largest and most beautiful fountain dominates Trevi Square and was immortalised on the big screen by Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The baroque design depicts Neptune’s chariot being led by Tritons with sea horses, one wild and one docile, representing the moods of the sea. Tradition dictates that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you ensure your return to the Eternal City; if you throw a second coin, you’ll fall in love with an Italian, while a third coin will have you marry.
Piazza di Spagna: A tourist magnet for foreigners since the 18th century, this square is one of Rome’s most popular meeting places. At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Fontana della Barcaccia, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the shape of a small boat; it was inspired by the flooding of the River Tiber in 1598, when a boat became stranded here after the water subsided. The monumental staircase, the famous Spanish Steps, along with an obelisk and a beautiful French church, provide the perfect photo opportunity. Rome’s smartest shopping strip can also be found opposite the steps on Via dei Condotti.
St Peter’s Basilica: In a city packed with churches, St Peter’s Basilica, nestling in the heart of Vatican City, is the pinnacle. The huge building, which is the centre of Christianity, stands on the traditional site where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried. St Peter’s tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica. It’s a monument to centuries of artistic genius, while the opulence of the building’s interior bears testimony to the wealth of the Catholic Church in the 16th century. It’s the largest church in the world, with around 20,000 people visiting on a busy day. The building’s interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by famous artists, including Michelangelo, Bernini and Canova. Entry is free, but a strict dress code is enforced.