The result of 3000 years of ad hoc urban development, Rome‘s cityscape is an exhilarating spectacle. Ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon recall the city’s golden age as caput mundi (capital of the world), while its many monumental basilicas testify to its historical role as seat of the Catholic Church. Lording it over the skyline, St Peter’s Basilica is the Vatican’s epic showpiece church, a towering masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Elsewhere, ornate piazzas and showy fountains add a baroque flourish to the city’s captivating streets. An open-air museum, the city has an ever-growing list of spectacular (and visitable) archaeological sites and monuments, gilded churches filled with paintings by Italy’s top master artists, exquisitely sculpted fountains, and beautifully manicured public parks.
But you don’t get to be the Eternal City without keeping some pace with the modern world. Sure, the warmest of the European capitals has plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel—but when you visit Rome, the most irresistible quality may be how its modern-day trattorias and sleek coffee bars happily co-exist with ancient treasures, and how even hallowed spots like the Pantheon come to life with chatter and espresso drinkers at all hours.
Between the art, the architecture, the history, the food, you will be busy for days. But here are some top picks: Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, Villa Doria Pamphilj, Colosseum, Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo, Palatine Hill, Monti, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Janiculum Hill, San Zeno Chapel, Domus Aurea, Testaccio Market, Capitoline Museums, Baths of Caracalla, Jubilee Church, Santa Maria del Popolo, Villa Farnesina, Pigneto, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Stadio Olimpico, Palazzo Massimo, Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini, Cinecittà