This time out, the AIRGOFX Guide to European Travel Destinations takes you back to the savage glory of the Classical period with our Guide to Holidays in Rome. Once the absolute cradle of everything wonderful and nasty about Western Civilization, the city of Rome possesses a fascinating 3,000 plus year history and is still one of the most vibrant and formidable cities in the world.
We're going to dig right into some the city's top attractions, beginning with four spots that are traditionally at or near the top of every first time visitor's list. Then we'll discuss four lesser known attractions, locations you might not find on the standard Top 10 lists. Because the history of Rome is so rich -- almost limitless it seems -- we're going to stick to the ancient sites on our own list. But do keep in mind that there are plenty of modern attractions in the city of Rome as well, including an incredible array of dining options, cosmopolitan shops, and a night life that's unparalleled on the continent.
Now let's have a look at some of the top well-known attractions.
The Top Four Attractions to Visit During Your Rome Holiday
The Colosseum-- What's a Roman holiday without a visit to the Colosseum? It's only the largest amphitheater ever built and the historic home to everything that symbolised the glory and savagery of the Roman Empire. Located near the heart of the city, The Colosseum is must see viewing no matter how many times you've been to Rome.
The Vatican Museums-- Site of the Sistine Chapel and home to over 20,000 fascinating Christian artifacts and exquisite works of art, the Vatican Museums are filled with the treasures accumulated by papacy over the couple millennia. You'll be equally inspired and overwhelmed as you stroll through one of the most visited museums in the world.
The Spanish Steps-- Climbing from the Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti Church, the Spanish Steps are an architectural marvel in and of themselves and a spot made famous in the American film Roman Holiday.
Bocca della Verita -- One of the most provocative Roman treasures, the 'Mouth of Truth' is a huge marble mask (probably of the God Oceanus) that stands, sentry-like, at the entrance to the Santa Maria in the Cosmedin Church. Weighing over 1,300 kg, this impressive artifact attracts millions of visitors each year, many of whom cannot resist the urge to place their hand in the mysterious sea god's mouth.
Lesser Known Attractions
The Mithraeum at Circus Maximus-- Discovered in 1931, this is a temple that was once used by the Mystery Cult of Mithras and is one of the strangest sites in all of Rome. Available by advance appointment only, the Mithraeum is comprised of five fascinating chambers and a central sanctuary devoted the mysterious, bull-killing god.
Torre Argentina-- Also known as the Roman Cat Sanctuary, this archeological marvel was unearthed during the time of Mussolini's fascist rule and contains the ruins of four ancient temples as well as part of the portico where Julius Caesar was assassinated in the 1st century BCE. Over the years it has become home to some 250 cats, who are cared for by generous volunteers.
San Luigi dei Francesi-- Built by the French while they were active in Rome and dedicated to King Louis IX, this magnificent church is best known for the collection of exquisite religious artworks it contains. Chief among these works is a trio of paintings depicting the life of St. Matthew by the Renaissance Master Caravaggio.
Trastevere-- The Trastevere is a medieval neighborhood and food haven on the far side of the Tiber River. Its narrow streets, cafes, and leisurely place make it the ideal place to relax, people-watch, and be idle in Rome. Spend an afternoon in the Trastevere when you need to rest up after all the bustling you're sure to do while trying to cram all of Rome into a few days.
We hope this guide proves helpful if you choose to visit Rome in the coming months. Just remember that, as always, AIRGOFX helps you get to Rome and other destinations on the European continent. Whether you need travel money cards, an international money transfer, or simply the best available exchange rates, AIRGOFX is here to help.
This list is just a start. Think of it as a set of guidelines that will simplify your trip to Rome, but take it slow and stay open-minded while you're visiting this glorious city. Go where your instincts take you and let the city come to you. Otherwise, you'll miss everything trying to take it all in at once!