Rome- Things to see

Start off with some good guide books to research what you want to see and do in Rome.  Some good ones include Rick Steve’s Guide to Rome as well as DK.

There are more sites than you can imagine. I thought 5 days in Rome would be plenty to see the sites. Now that I have been here for 5 days, I realized I could be here a month and not see it all.

Before you go, figure out what you want to see. Do your research to narrow down the highlights you would enjoy the most. A good guide book will recommend which sites to get reservations to avoid long lines.

I went in mid-February, Rome’s winter. I figured it would be OK if the weather was bad because most of what I wanted to see was on the inside. I also figured the lines would be shorter. Well, turns on the weather was pleasant and the lines were shorter. Even so, the lines to the Vatican Museum were long. I cannot imagine how long they would be in spring and summer when most tourists come to visit.

If you like art, a MUST SEE is the Borghese Gallery (BG). And you MUST either make a reservation in advance or get a tour. BG limits your visit in 2 hours and limits the number of people permitted into the gallery. The collection of sculptures, painting…even the palace itself…is stunning. The gallery includes four exceptional Bernini sculptures that you have seen in your art appreciation classes or documentaries. You will be thrilled to see these masterpieces up close.

And you have not seen real dynastic wealth until you visit the Borghese. There is nothing like this in America.

Two more “must see” venues include the Vatican Museum including the Sistine Chapel as well as the Pantheon.

The Vatican Museum is overwhelming in its depth and breadth of is collection. I suggest you research in advance what you want to see or go on a tour. This will help you highlight significant works to enjoy so you will have focus and not spend time of stuff that may have little interest for you.

For me, the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is unlike anything I have seen. The creative way each panel tells its story with drama and feeling is truly remarkable. Even his contemporary Raphael, a great painter in his own right, found Michelangelo’s work breath-taking and beyond Raphael’s ability.

To think Michelangelo painted this ceiling in four years is hard to believe.  To create this master piece, Michelangelo had to craft his own scaffolding because nothing existed at the time that he could use…a feat in itself. Given the magnitude of this work I cannot imagine anyone else would undertake a task like this ever again. The work is truly awe-inspiring.

In a side room preceding the Sistine Chapel is Raphael’s “School of Athens.” Before you see it you will want to read about it. This is one of the great Renaissance frescos whose subjects include Leonardo di Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

You may also want to see St Peter’s. Just be ready to deal with long lines. (Or skip the lines and go on a tour.)

To avoid the long lines to the Vatican Museum, either book an advanced reservation online before your trip or sign up for a tour.

The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient Roman building. It was probably complete around 126 AD. It was originally built to worship pagan gods and converted to a church, which is why it has survived destruction like most other ancient Roman structures.

The Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. To appreciate this you need to see it from the inside (entrance is free).

You may also want to see the Coliseum (a remarkable structure for its size and design), and the Roman Ruins. Personally, these venues are not standouts for me. I have seen them before. While they are clearly important historical buildings, I prefer the paintings and sculptures.

Other fun sites include Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.

Another excellent although not as well-known gallery is Galleria Doria Panphilj. This is a little gem. The entrance is modest and hardly any tourist, so you will have an easy time enjoying the palace. Get the audio guide to learn how the history of this palace and its remarkable art collection. This palace is still privately owned and the family resides in the UK. The audio guide narrator is a descendant of the family and tells how he got scolded for riding on his roller skates on a newly furnished palace floor.

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