Art and History in Rome: What not to Miss

Rome, a modern city built around a massive piece of history, is known the world over for its archaeological sites, its art, and its architecture. With so much to see, it’s a good thing the city is so compact. Many of the major sites 

are built within the extending ring of the city, but it’s still important to go into a city like Rome with priorities and a detailed plan. It’s far too easy to drown in the multitude of vital historical sites, and find yourself missing the most crucial is the rush. Here are just three to put near the top of your itinerary.

St. Peter’s Basilica

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This spectacularly domed homage to St. Peter is a feat of carefully designed lighting and architecture. Its many windows highlight the gilded walls and rich décor on bright days. The church, which took more than a hundred years to construct, was completed in 1626 and bears the work of many successive artists including Raphael Sanzio, Giacomo della Porta, and Michelangelo. The extensive work of talents such as these makes it not only one of the most important religious sites for the Catholic Church, but practically speaking, an art gallery.

While some may argue that it’s easy to get worn out visiting church after church in Rome, this is sure to be the exception. Whether you stay for an hour or 20 minutes, a visit to the Basilica is a must. Its location in the papal enclave makes it an easy stop on the way to the Cupola Di San Pietro or the Sistine Chapel.

Gallery of Maps

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The Sistine Chapel is by far the most popular sight most plan to catch while staying in Rome. Anything painted so ornately as to nearly blind Michelangelo is certainly worth braving the Vatican’s crowds to see. But while the famed ceiling is a given necessity, the hall leading through the Apostolic Palace to that crowded chamber is perhaps the true gem.

Many visitors rush through the Gallery of Maps to get to the Chapel at the end of this long hallway – a mistake. You won’t beat the crowd, and there’s usually already another larger one waiting at the end. More importantly, you’ll miss what is perhaps an equally amazing display of lavishly framed maps and paintings covering the walls and ceilings of the corridor, windows looking out across the surrounding gardens and city. The detail in the map work is astounding, particularly notable in the portrayal of oceans and seas. It speaks to the history and development of cartography, an especially vital interest during a time when exploration was so fraught with unknowns and dangers.

Ponte Sant’Angelo

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Part of the charm of the Pont Sant’Angelo is that, like the Gallery of Maps, it’s something you’ll see while walking to other places around the city. The name translates to “bridge of angels” and it’s an appropriate title given the stone carvings lining this ancient viaduct.

To walk across the Tiber on a bridge dating back to 134 AD is an experience students and tourists alike shouldn’t miss. It connects the Castel Sant’Angelo and the mausoleum of emperor Hadrian of Rome. Not only does it afford you a beautiful view of the water, but as it’s an integrated part of the cities other museums. As such, this piece of history lacks the crowds and cameras you can expect at other places around the Vatican and the surrounding city. Examine each angel as you walk across, as each is meant to be representative of a different biblical trial.

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