There are so many landmarks in Rome it’s almost impossible to list all of them, but there are certain landmarks that make Rome such a popular place for tourists. Who can travel to Rome without stopping to see the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain? With a past that stretches back thousands of years it’s no wonder that the city of Rome is packed with some of the most historically, culturally and artistically significant landmarks in the world.
The Colosseum is probably the best noted landmark in all of Rome, Italy. Built in the Roman Empire between 70 and 72 AD the Colosseum was originally called the Amphitheatrum Flavium. It was the largest amphitheatre of its kind in the empire and could seat 50,000 spectators. Most people know that gladiators fought for audiences within the Colosseum but there were other public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and theatrical dramas. It is estimated that somewhere around 500,000 people died and more than a million wild animals were slaughtered. Eventually the building was no longer used for entertainment and served as housing, a venture for workshops, home for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine. Today the Colosseum is a landmark viewed mainly by tourists but it does serve a part in some Roman Catholic celebrations. The Colosseum lies partially in ruin due to earthquakes and stone robbers but a remarkable portion of the original structure remains standing.
The Pantheon was built around 27 BC for Marcus Agrippa but it was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD. It was rebuilt but only to be ravaged by fire again in 110 AD. The Pantheon immediately was rebuilt once again. Originally the Pantheon was designed to serve as a temple to all of the gods worshipped by Romans at the time and has been continuously used throughout its history, most famously being used as a tomb starting in the Renaissance. The Pantheon is still being used today by the Roman Catholic Church and masses are said there regularly. The rotunda with its dome is the oldest large scale dome in Rome. Attached to the rotunda is a portico which is one of the best preserved buildings in the city. If you’re so inclined, see if your visit coincides with a holy day and experience a Roman Catholic mass in Rome in the middle of the Pantheon, an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Trajan’s Market or Mercatus Traiani is a collection of ruins located across from the Colosseum. The Trajan’s Market was built between 110-110 AD by the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus. The structures are not as they originally were built as additional levels were added and defensive structures were built. The Market is actually a good example of ancient roman city living, which is strikingly similar to modern living in many ways. The bottom level originally houses shops, taverns, and food markets. The next floor housed businesses and above them were homes of roman citizens. Two large halls have been discovered and it is assumed that they were used for public displays such as concerts or theatrical presentations.
Rome is full of fountains, it’s like bars in Wisconsin, there’s one on every corner. So why is the Trevi Fountain so special? One reason is it’s the biggest fountain in the city of Rom at 85 feet high and 65 feet wide. Completed in 1762 it’s a relatively new structure compared to some in the city but its creation actually began in the early 17th century. Tradition at the time was to have a fountain mark the end point of all aqueducts, the Trevi Fountain stands at the terminus of the Acqua Vergine. The Trevi Fountain comes with a few traditions, one is throwing coins into the fountain. The original legend says you have to throw your coin with your back to the fountain, using your right hand and tossing the coin over your left shoulder, this will ensure a return to Rome. The new legend states that throwing one coin means a return to Rome, two means a new romance and the third will lead to marriage. If you’re curious, as I was, the coins are collected every day and donated to a supermarket that serves the poor and the Italian Red Cross and a few other local charities. In 2009 currency approximately $4000 U.S. dollars are collected each day from the fountain.
The Vatican or the Holy See has served as a papal residence from the 5th century. The building itself is located within Vatican City which is its own sovereign city-state. With a population of only 900 and covering only about 110 acres it is the smallest country in the world. Although the Holy See has been in existence since the 5th century it wasn’t until 1929 that Vatican City became its own city-state. Half of the space in Vatican City is covered by gardens which are littered with fountains and statues that were created by some of the best known artists in the world. Visiting the Vatican Museums is a must for any tourist as that is where the famed Sistine Chapel resides. In addition to the Chapel there are hundreds of priceless works of art, the likes of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. It’s a magnificent collection housed in one miraculous location. If you’re interested in seeing the Vatican Library and the Secret Archives, and who isn’t, you have to acquire the proper academic credentials as it is not open to the public.
There are so many more landmarks to see in Rome, all the piazzas, palazzos, cathedrals in addition to the stunning gardens that have been preserved for thousands of years. Everywhere you turn in Rome something reaches out from the past to make its presence known, the city is one of the best ways to connect to the past through its remarkable landmarks.
Photo credit: juanRubiano