The Roman Forum was first developed in the 7th Century BC and was the center of the Roman Empire (socially, commercially, and politically.) The site of Julius Caesar's cremation is also here, at the "Tempio di Giulio Cesare."
The Colosseum was my first sight-seeing stop upon arrival in Rome, and was easily reachable in a 10 minute walk from the hostel where I was staying. I felt it appropriate to begin here, as it is one of the most iconic symbols of Rome. It felt so crazy to be standing in a place of so much history. The Colosseum's construction began in 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD. It was built during the Flavian Dynasty, and was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater. It could hold approximately 60,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine stands between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill and celebrates the victory of Constantine over Emperor Maxentius after years of civil war in the Battle of Milvian (312 AD.) Constantine believed that his victory over Maxentius was due to help from God, as Maxentius' army was numerically superior. Because of this, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, ending the persecution of Christians during his reign, and Christianity became the official religion in the Roman Empire. However, the arch itself does not contain any direct Christian references.
The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient Roman monument, and is now a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. Light shines through the hole at the top of the giant dome. I had expected the monument to be more "set apart", but it is surrounded by other buildings and busy little alleys. It is located in a square, Piazza della Rotonda, but it is pretty small, and of course packed with tourists (and pushy people selling selfie-sticks and red roses, like everywhere else in Rome...)
Boca della Verita
Boca della Verita means "the mouth of truth." It is a mask located in the portico of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one's hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off.
Castel Sant' Angelo & Ponte Sant'Angelo
Ponte Sant'Angelo is one of the many bridges crossing the Tiber River. This particular one is a pedestrian bridge and sits directly in front of Castel Sant' Angelo. I walked over here on my way back from the Vatican one day, and enjoyed the perfect, sunny weather and listening to a great street musician playing the keyboard and singing (including his creative renditions of two of my favorite songs -"Here Comes the Sun" and "Hallelujah").
Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain is currently under renovation, so there was no water running. I still stopped by briefly to at least just admire the beautiful architectural design of Nicola Salvi, even though I couldn't throw in a coin to ensure myself a return visit to Rome ;) Hopefully, I'll still make it back without the luck of the coin, as the fountain is supposed to be completed next spring (& I should still be in Italy!)
The Spanish steps and the church behind them are also being worked on! :/
Piazza del Popolo
A large, urban plaza, whose name means "People's Square."
Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria is a monument located between Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill. It was built in honor of the first king of a unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and so is also known as Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.
Via dei Fori Imperiali & Via Alessandrina
I enjoyed walking along these two side-by-side streets that connect Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. The streets were closed on this day to vehicles (though I'm not sure why?), so they were filled instead with both tourists and local Italians walking and enjoying street musicians and the ruins. Here are the Forums of Trajan, Augustus, Ceasar, and Nerva.
Isola Tiberina "Tiber Island"
This tiny island is located on the Tiber River. It connects to the mainland by way of two different bridges, Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio. The island is near to the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere. Isola Tiberina is shaped like a boat, has many legends associated with it, and is a "place of medicine and healing." There is a small restaurant and gelato shop, a church, a pharmacy, and a hospital on the island. The island is really small, so there wasn't much to do here [as I didn't need to go to the hospital... ;) ], but I had a nice walk along the water.
Piazza Cavalieri di Malta
This square is named after the Knights of Malta. The main attraction is the secret view - You can look through a keyhole to see the dome of St. Peter's Basilica perfectly centered at the end of a hedge-lined path. (The keyhole is tiny, but I have a good zoom on my camera). I also really liked the nearby park, where I found a great panoramic view of the city.
View from the keyhole
The door with the keyhole
View of the city from a nearby park
Piazza Navona is a lively plaza. The main attractions here are the trio of fountains, though primarily the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), located in the center. This fountain has four figures, which each represent a river from a different continent - the Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio de la Plata.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo. To get here you must ascend the Cordonata stairs. The square holds three buildings, all with facades designed by Michelangelo. The central one is Palazzo Senatorio, the city hall of Rome. The other two are Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, which hold the Capitoline Museums.
The Capitoline Wolf (pictured below) is the statue of a she-wolf suckling twin human infants (...which at first I just thought was so strange...) It sits in the Palazzo dei Conservatori and was inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome:
"The legend says that Numitor, the rightful king and leader of the kingdom of Alba Longa, had twin grandsons, Romulus and Remus. Numitor was overthrown by his brother Amulius, and the twins were ordered to be cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a shepherd found and raised them. When the twins were grown and discovered the treachery of their past, they killed Amulius, restored Numitor to the throne, and decided to found a city of their own. It was determined that the city should be built on the Palatine Hill, on which Romulus was standing at the time, and that he should be its king. Romulus then set about marking the boundaries, but Remus jumped over them. When he did so, Romulus lost his temper and killed his brother. The city was then founded and name Roma (for Romulus)"
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Altar of Heaven
This is the designated church of the Italian Senate and the Roman people. There are 124 stairs leading up to it, and the inside is beautiful.
A Roman theater started by Julius Caesar that predates the Colosseum.
This plaza is named for the marble Column of Marcus Aurelius. I was amazed by the great detail carved into the entire surface.
Largo di Torre Argentina
The ruins of four Roman temples.
This fountain of the sea god, Triton, was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and is located in Piazza Barberini.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
There are many churches in Rome dedicated to Mary, but this is the largest one, and therefore earns it's name, "major." It is located in Piazza del Esquilino (a square near my hostel where I got lost 4-5 times...haha)
I didn't find 'Circo Massimo' to be very aesthetically pleasing, but it was interesting to learn that it was the first and largest stadiumin ancient Rome, and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators. Now it is a public park.