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Five Things to See and Do on Your First Trip to Rome, Italy

Rome — the Eternal City, Caput-Mundi, the capital of the world. This marvelous city has been considered the center of the western world for centuries. Visitors coming to Rome are delighted by its lively atmosphere and historic charm. Walking through the city feels like you’re walking through a colossal museum. Every square, street corner, nook, and cranny breathes history. The reputation of this city boomed during the 17th century when young European travelers flocked to Rome in search of the roots of civilization. Nowadays, travelers from across the globe travel to this breathtaking city to do the same. If you’re on your way to an UpTrek art retreat in Italy and have a chance to spend more time in Rome, here are the best five things to see and do in the Eternal City.

1. Behold the Colosseum

The Colosseum is the most enduring symbol of ancient Rome. This imposing 80.000 seat stadium has survived millennia of earthquakes and stone thieves. Finished in the year 80 A.D., this dramatic arena saw tens of thousands of gladiators, slaves, and Christians die across the 500 years it was put to use when the Roman Empire was still at the heights of its power. Only during the 100-day celebration of the Colosseum’s inauguration, more than 2000 gladiators died within its walls. The Colosseum is charged with meaning and significance. Throughout the centuries, the enduring Colosseum has served as a storehouse, cemetery, church, and even castle for nobility. To this day, on every Good Friday, the Pope leads the procession of The Way of the Cross through the Colosseum to mark the plight of early Christians who died as martyrs in the arena. Visiting this monument you’ll feel the weight and solidity of history come to life.

2. Explore the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum lies right next to the Colosseum and is a mark of Roman life in ancient times. The Forum was excavated in the 19th century. Many of its buildings have unfortunately been damaged over the centuries by plundering, earthquakes, and new constructions. Nevertheless, the ruins are well-worth visiting for the key role they played in the history of the Roman Empire, and for the other-worldly atmosphere, you can experience while exploring them. The Forum is surrounded by the ruins of several important government buildings dating back to the Roman Empire. In the time of emperor Augusts (17 B.C. – 14 A.D.), ancient Rome was already home to over a million Romans. This square was not only the center of daily life in Rome, but the center of all the political, legal, and religious undertakings in all the Roman Empire. Everything from elections, processions, criminal trials, commercial affairs, and public speeches were held here. If you want to experience a magnificent view over the Roman Forum, a short walk up Capitoline hill will provide an unforgettable panorama. The site is lit up at night when travelers come to enjoy an even more impressive sight of this historic landmark.

3. Toss a Coin in the Trevi Fountain

No Roman holiday is complete without making a wish at the Trevi Fountain. This famous spot in Rome attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It is said that if you toss a coin into the Trevi fountain, you’re sure to return to Rome someday soon. If you’re looking for love, toss two coins and let the gods of fate do their magic… Tossing the third coin in the fountain is said to bring about fortune and a good marriage. The origins of this fun tradition come from an American movie called “Three Coins in the Fountain” in which three women travel to Rome in search of love. Another story goes that the tradition actually dates back to ancient Rome when drinking the water of the fountain and throwing a coin in were said to bring great riches. In either case, you can partake in this fun tradition or forget all about it and enjoy a delicious gelato while admiring the fountain’s charm. This is the most beautiful and largest baroque fountain in Rome, with a history dating back to the year 19 B.C. Its current configuration dates back to 1762, depicting the titan Oceanus in a chariot pulled by two sea-horses, framed on each side by the deities for Abundance and Health. The best way to enjoy the Trevi Fountain is to visit it both during the day, when you can see its marvelous details more clearly, and during the night when it is lit up in a spectacular way, and the atmosphere surrounding it seems magical.

4. Worship at the Pantheon

This former Roman temple that serves as a church is the best-preserved building from Roman days. It is one of the few buildings from ancient Rome that have remained completely intact. The original purpose of the building was the worship of all the gods, from Minerva (the goddess of wisdom) to Venus (the goddess of love). Stand in the same divine light that has bathed emperors, gladiators, merchants, and travelers for almost two millennia. The oculus in the center of the domed ceiling is the main source of natural light inside the temple, its original purpose being also to allow visitors to be in direct contact with the heavens. In 608 A.D. the Pantheon started to be used as a church under emperor Phocas. The church was named “Santa Maria ad Martyres” and has served as a Christian place of worship and holy ground ever since. Over time, more altars and monuments were added to the interior of the Pantheon, and many Italian kings and famous painters have been laid to rest here, including the famous Raphael.

5. Visit the Vatican and See the Sistine Chapel

Rome may no longer be the capital of the world, but it has long been the center of Christianity. The independent state of the Vatican is one of the few micro-nations in the world and is located within the city of Rome. The Vatican has been the residence of the Pope since 1377 and reached its independence as a state in 1929. This nation-state covers an area of only 108 acres (44 hectares), but within it, you can find some of the world’s most precious treasures. Visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and home to the Pope. Saint Peter’s Basilica is a marvel to witness, filled with masterpieces by great artists such as Bernini, Giotto, and Raphael. The dome of this great church was designed by the brightest star of the renaissance — Michelangelo himself. Climb the dome and look down onto the Holy Square, with two colonnades reaching like open arms to welcome tourists and devoted Christians alike, who gather in their thousands to receive the Pope’s blessings. The Vatican Museum hosts the world-renowned Sistine Chapel — an absolute highlight of any visit to Rome. Apart from the famous fresco, the Vatican Museum includes 54 richly decorated rooms full of artworks, Roman objects, and religious relics collected throughout the centuries by the popes.

All these delights are just an appetizer of the wonders that await in the Eternal City. Come to Rome. It only takes a second for this charming city to forever conquer your heart.

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