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Rome Tour of Scenic & Historic Sights


Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, & St. Peter's Square

Coliseum, Palatine Hill, & Roman Forum

Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, & Pantheon

The Vatican at night.

Night view of the Vatican.

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Southern Italy pages: Rome to Rome

We were on a Globus escorted tour that included Rome and Southern Italy. An overview of the tour is given in the Introduction. The tour started in Rome where visits included the Coliseum, Vatican, and the Spanish Steps. That part of the tour is described here. We then went south to Naples, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. The sights seen are described in the page for Southern Italy (mainland). We also toured Pompeii. Although Pompeii is part of Southern Italy, it is important enough to deserve a separate page. From Naples we took an overnight boat to Sicily where sights visited included Palermo, Taormina, and Mount Etna. From Sicily we went back to Southern Italy (mainland) where we saw the Caves of Castellana and Alberobello. The tour ended in Rome. Contact Us for more information.

Brief history of Rome and the Roman Empire

What would become the Roman Empire dates from the eight century B.C. and the empire survived until the late fifth century A.D. The first settlement was on the Tiber River, which divides Rome. During much of the life of the empire there was much turmoil with different leaders ceasing power. Among them was the general Julius Caesar who was assassinated in 44 B.C. His adopted son Octavian defeated Mark Anthony in 30 B.C., and that is given as the date of the founding of the Roman Empire. Octavian ruled as Augustus from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. Other notable emperors were Nero who ruled from 37 to 41 A.D., and was emperor when Rome burned. Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117, greatly expanded the size of the empire. Hadrian was emperor from 117 to 138 and he was responsible for many building projects including the Pantheon and the wall across Britain. The Emperor Constantine ruled from 313 to 337, and he legalized Christianity which resulted in the Papacy in Rome. He also founded Constantinople, which was the eastern capital of the empire.

By the start of the third century B.C. Rome controlled all of Italy and was on the verge of becoming a Mediterranean power. By 133 B.C. Rome had defeated Carthage and controlled Macedonia, Greece, and Spain. Trajan expanded the empire to include Dacia, Armenia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia. Hadrian extended the empire into Asia and the Middle East. The glory days of the empire came to an end during the fifth century when different peoples invaded and the empire was split up.

The Vatican

The Vatican is the capital of the Catholic Church. Although it was once part of Italy, in 1929 an agreement between the Italian government and Pope Pius XI established the Vatican as a city-state. The Vatican includes the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's Square, and the Vatican Gardens. A night view of the Vatican is shown at the top of this web page. The Vatican is protected by Swiss guards, and one is pictured below.

Swiss guard at the Vatican.

A Swiss Guard at the Vatican.

Vatican Museum

Painting in the Vatican Museum.

Painting in the Vatican Museum.

The Vatican Museum dates from the thirteenth century. It is very large and consists of a number of buildings that occupy more than 13 acres. The papal apartments are found within the museum. The art collection housed there is not equaled anywhere else in the world. A painting on view is shown above. The works of numerous artists from all over the world are on display including works of the great masters Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and Picasso. The paintings of Raphael are rated second only to those of Michelangelo. The holdings are diverse. You find paintings, frescoes, mosaics, sculptures, statues, and tapestries. Not all of the works are religious in nature as there are examples of Greek-Roman art and that of many other civilizations. A work of art in the Vatican Museum is shown below. There are also maps, urns, jewelry, arms, armor, Egyptian mummies, Aztec treasures, and papal carriages. Objects from all over the world representing 3,000 years of history can be seen there.

View of upper wall and ceiling in the Vatican Museum.

View in the Vatican Museum.

The Sistine Chapel is considered the most important part of the Vatican Museum. Here you see the famous ceiling fresco paintings of Michelangelo, which took four years for him to complete. The paintings are both beautiful and amazing. The walls are also covered with beautiful frescoes painted by other talented artists.

St. Peter's Basilica

View towards the dome in St. Peter's Basilica.

View towards the dome in St. Peter's Basilica.

It took 170 years to build St. Peter's Basilica, which was dedicated in 1626. It replaced a smaller basilica which was built over the tomb of St. Peter in 319 A.D. The present basilica is very large being 636 feet (194 meters) in length. The dome has a base with a diameter of 138 feet (42 meters) and reaches a height of 435 feet (133 meters). A picture showing part of the dome is seen above. The interior of the basilica is magnificent. A stature is shown below. You can see the Pieta, which is the famous sculpture created by Michelangelo showing Mary holding the body of Jesus after he was crucified. Under the dome is the baldacchino, an attractive canopy placed over the papal altar. It is 96 feet (29 meters) high. The Vatican Grottoes are downstairs, and tombs of many popes are found there as well as the tomb of St. Peter. A climb to the top of the dome gives you a view of the Vatican Gardens and Rome .

Statue in St. Peter's Basilica.

Statue in St. Peter's Basilica.

St. Peter's Square

To get an idea of the vastness of St. Peter's Square all you have to do is consider how many people can be there at the same time: 400,000. It took seven years to build and was finished in 1667. When in the square and facing St. Peter's Basilica there is a pillared colonnade on either side. On top of the colonnades are 140 statues of saints. The papal apartments are in the building on the right with the Vatican Museum. In the center of the Square you cannot miss the obelisk that was brought from Ancient Egypt.

Coliseum

Roman Coliseum in Rome.

Inside the Roman Coliseum.

A view inside the coliseum (colosseum) is shown above. Looking at the coliseum you see the remnants of a majestic amphitheater of Ancient Rome. But it is impossible to think of a romantic past when you realize it was a place where combatants fought to the death. Those that were not victorious died. It was a place where men fought men or animals. Many animals brought from all over the world died there for cheering spectators, maybe 50,000 or more. The coliseum was built in 79 A.D. By the sixth century the sadistic shows had ceased. Later it was struck by an earthquake. The building was eventually looted of its fine materials which were used in constructing other buildings elsewhere.

Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill near the Roman Forum.

Palatine Hill Ruins near the Roman Forum.

The Forum was where the Ancient Romans went to discuss politics or religion and to shop. It was the center of Roman life. The present day ruins are pictured above. It is located in a valley not far from the Coliseum. Very little of the ancient buildings remain as the materials were looted and carried off to be used somewhere else. The Palatine Hill above the Forum was the location of early settlements. Later it was a place where you found the homes of important people like Cicero and Augustus. Temples and palaces were built there, but today you find only ruins.

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps in Rome.

The Spanish Steps.

Above you see the popular Spanish Steps. They were completed in 1725. The steps lead up a hill to the church Trinity of the Mount. At the bottom of the steps is the Fountain of the Old Boat. The name Spanish Steps came about because a Spanish Embassy used to be there. Azaleas are seen in the spring. This is a favorite place for visitors, and there are lots of places to shop in the nearby streets.

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Trevi Fountain.600

Completed in 1762 the Trevi Fountain, pictured above, is both very impressive and popular. It is said that if you throw a coin into the fountain you will be sure to return to Rome . Since everyone wants to return to this fascinating city there are lots of coins in the fountain. The Trevi Fountain was seen in the film Three Coins in the Fountain.

Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome.

The Pantheon.

The Pantheon, seen above is rated as the best of the ancient buildings remaining from Ancient Rome. It was built early in the second century A.D. as a temple to all of the Roman gods. In 609 it was given to the Pope, and since then it has been a Catholic church. The Pantheon has a very large dome, and the measurements of the building are very interesting. It has the same width and height of 142 feet (43 meters). It has walls that are 25 feet (7.6 meters) thick. Each bronze door weighs 20 tons. Prior to 1960 the dome was the largest ever built. The interior of the Pantheon is impressive, although pieces are missing having been looted by popes and emperors through the years. The tomb of Raphael is shown below. The tombs of some kings are also found in the building.

Raphael's Tomb in the Pantheon, Rome.

Raphael's Tomb in the Pantheon.

Southern Italy pages: Rome to Rome

We were on a Globus escorted tour that included Rome and Southern Italy. An overview of the tour is given in the Introduction. The tour started in Rome where visits included the Coliseum, Vatican, and the Spanish Steps. That part of the tour is described here. We then went south to Naples, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. The sights seen are described in the page for Southern Italy (mainland). We also toured Pompeii. Although Pompeii is part of Southern Italy, it is important enough to deserve a separate page. From Naples we took an overnight boat to Sicily where sights visited included Palermo, Taormina, and Mount Etna. From Sicily we went back to Southern Italy (mainland) where we saw the Caves of Castellana and Alberobello. The tour ended in Rome. Contact Us for more information.

Photos by Sunny Breeding. We sell images and prints.