It is nearly impossible to narrow down the abundance of historical and cultural experiences you can find in Italy’s bustling capital. However, if you only have a short time for cultural travel in Rome then these five destinations in particular provide a fascinating insight into the city’s history, art, music and architecture.
1. Capitoline Museums for classical sculpture
The Capitoline Museums are the oldest publicly owned museums in the world and should be on everyone’s list for cultural travel in Rome. The art and archaeological collections date all the way back to 1471 and feature a phenomenal collection of early statues, including the Spinario, the Esquiline Venus and Rome’s iconic emblem of Romulus and Remus.
2. The Roman Forum, for ancient and modern history
This location earns its spot on the top five list due to its complex layers of history. The site evolved from marshland to marketplace to centre of modern politics and beyond, with its Republican buildings, House of the Vestal Virgins, Basilica of Maxentius and the Temple of Venus and Rome. Most buildings were constructed during the reign of Julius Caesar and Augustus, only for many to fall as the Roman Empire did. From 1804 the site took over 100 years to excavate and Mussolini also left his mark, carving through the area with his Via dei Fori Imperiali.
3. Ostia Antica for a glimpse into a working Roman harbour
Visit Ostia Antica at what once was the mouth of the River Tibia, and take a fascinating journey into a thriving harbour town of the 4th century BC that served as a port for Rome’s grain supply. You will see the remains of docks, warehouses, a theatre, baths, shopping arcades and homes with exquisite mosaics. The site is exceptionally well preserved and often much quieter than Pompeii.
4. Museum Borghese for the spirit of Caravaggio
Cardinal Scipione Borghese was the nephew of Pope Paul V, but he was better known for his passionate patronage of the arts. His private art gallery, Villa Borghese, houses the world’s largest collection of Caravaggio artworks along with masterpieces by Titian, Raphael, Bellini, and Antonello da Messina. Complement this with a visit to Rome’s beautiful churches to see Caravaggio’s best-known work in situ, including The Calling of St Matthew and the Madonna of Loreto.
5. Tivoli for hectares of truly Italian architecture and gardens
Tivoli is half an hour out of Rome and features two must-see sites – Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este. The first comprises an awe-inspiring 100-hectare complex of fountains, Greek and Egyptian structures, statues, mosaics, a nymphaeum and a maritime theatre built in the 2nd century AD. The second, Villa d’Este, was dreamt up by renowned architect Pirro Ligorio in the 16th century for the governor of Tivoli at the time, Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. You’ll want to set aside plenty of time to explore his endless terraced gardens dotted with cascading fountains.
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