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Choosing just a few of the best churches, museums, and historical sights in Rome

Choosing just a few of the best churches, museums, and historical sights in Rome

Old Feb 10th, 2008, 09:18 AM
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Choosing just a few of the best churches, museums, and historical sights in Rome

I am continuing my planning for my April trip to Italy. My 'reluctant travel partner' is becoming a little more involved, I'm happy to say, but he will never be a full fledged enthusiastic, take some responsibility for where we go and what we do and see kind of travel partner. Despite that, he IS my travel partner, and I do not want this trip to put him off from future travels (I have many places I want to go!). With that in mind, I am planning what I think of as a 'travel light' kind of schedule, which means narrowing down the massive lists of museums, churches, monuments, gardens, historical sights, etc. For this thread I will be focusing on Rome - I will be posting similar requests for help in Venice and Florence.

For the details of us:
We will be in Rome for 4 nights, arriving on a Tuesday from Florence, departing midmorning on Saturday for home. Our current accommodations are at Hotel Lancelot, near the Collosseum, but we have an offer from Residenza Canali near Piazza Navona that we are considering for a more central location. We do not have any educational background in Roman history, art, architecture, or for that matter, Christianity. We enjoy walking, and we are 'training' to climb lots of steps. Really! We are usually not early risers. We will be taking a small group tour of the Vatican/St. Peters (early afternoon) and also of the Collosseum/Roman Forum/Palatine Hill (not sure of morning vs. afternoon on this one - depends on where we stay), probably with ContextRome. Other than museums, gardens, monuments, churches, I have interests in: eating and wandering in Trastevere, eating and wandering in the Jewish Ghetto, eating and wandering in historical Rome.

Now for the question: If you had to narrow down all of your favorites, what 2 museums, 2 churches, and 2 anything elses would you say were must sees, and why? And how would you coordinate a visit to them with the other interests I have expressed above?

Thanks again to all who have taken the time to read my lengthy posts and to offer help along the way. I hope you can all help me again.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 09:45 AM
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I love questions like this, but hopefully you'll get him into a few more than just 2 of each!

Museums: Borghese and Capitoline. The Borghese is just gorgeous and the Capitoline, I think, would interest just about anyone and wasn't as crowded as other museums.

Churches: Santa Maria del Popolo (exquisite Berninis and Caravaggios and great location) and San Prassede (for the mosaics, unbelieveable)

Anything elses: I really found the Largo Argentina area interesting in terms of history (Caesar was killed there, follow Walter's walk from the Forum!) and I was mesmerized by the Pantheon this time, and I'm still unable to say why. I also thought Palatine Hill was wonderful but I'm not sure if I would without a guide.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Museums: In order, Vatican, Capitoline, Borghese, Etruscan in Via Giulia

Roman sights: Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon (the square in front has a couple of cute cafe that do nice drinks and free munchies in the late afternoon - when you're feet won't go any further

Churches: St Peter's, Church of San Clemente (you can descend down through the various levels of previous church, each built on preceding one as far as the original Temple of Mithras - god of roman soldiers)
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:19 AM
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Just did a 4 day trip to Rome and there is a travel report under my name. We are definitely in the travel-light category. Too much of anything and we get overwhelmed and stressed.

My two favorites from our trip walking through the Colloseum and the Forum, and walking through Trasvatere. Really just walking anywhere and not having a big agenda, just tried out different neighborhoods. Walking the sites at night was also phenomenal. I did end up buying some stylish yet very thick soled shoes on day #2 And that fulfilled my shopping yen.

We only went to one museum- really are travel-light kind of people!- and it was the Vatican.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:29 AM
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First, I would really recommend switching to the Rezidenza Canali for the location. If you want to travel "light," spending time people watching around the Piazza Navonna and Piazza della Rotunda area is hard to beat.

For museums in addition to the Vatican museums (I think you mean that your tour covers the museums as well as the basilica?) the Borghese is the most obvious other must see. The Capitoline also makes sense. Or you could consider going back to the Vatican museums since they have such extensive collections that you will only see a very little on the tour. We really enjoyed the Pinacoteca with masterpieces by Giotto, Raphael, Da Vinci (unfinished St. Jerome), Caravaggio, etc., etc. It was MUCH less crowded than the Sistine Chapel and Raphael rooms.

For churches, if you are staying in the Piazza Navonna area be sure to go to San Luigi dei Francesci to see the three Caravaggios there and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with Michelangelo's Risen Christ and Bernini's elephant obelisk in front. These are so close/easy that maybe you could add a few others farther afield.

For the anything else category, I would include a trip up the Janiculum Hill for the amazing view of the city from the Piazzale Garibaldi. You can take a bus or taxi up and walk down,stopping at San Pietro in Montorio to see Bramante's Tempietto in the courtyard (maybe sneak in another church interior at this time), then into Trastevere. (you go right past another great church, Sta Maria in Trastevere so can admire at least the facade)
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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butnotrmpt
I will give you my favorites in Rome, and I did love Rome! We loved just walking from one Piazze to another and coming upon such favorites as Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps. Walking to the Vatican and spending time in St Peter's, we especially liked Michelangelo's Pieta just to the right as you enter St Peter's. It is awesome. We took public transportion to places we could not walk such as the Catacombs which we found very interesting.
http://www.catacombe.roma.it/welcome.html
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 11:12 AM
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And I sure didn't mean to leave out the Collosseum in my above favorites!
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 12:00 PM
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Can I choose three churches? I do so because they are down the block from one another and offer an interesting contrast.

Santa Maria della Vittoria
For the amazing Bernini sculpture Ecstacy of St Teresa

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
Amazing jewelbox church by Borromini

San Andrea al Quirinale
Amazing jewelbox church by Borromini's rival Bernini. The two jewelboxes are virtually the same size but entered on different axes, also decorated very differently.

It's perhaps a five-minute walk from one to the next along the same street. Check mid-day closing times carefully.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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What are his interests?
Even if they have nothing to do with churches, museums or historical sites someone might be able to find something that might interest him (hobby, work related, etc). Regards, Walter
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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Following up on Walter's question: Is he interested in food or wine? You could explore the very different regional cooking styles of Rome, Florence and Venice. All three have all kinds of wine bars.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 02:14 PM
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I want to second the recommendations of elenem. The small Borromini church Quattro Fontane is a marvel of architecture, the most sublime expression of the Baroque. While you're in the Piazza Navona check out his Sant'Angnse, a more restained church but grand in it's own right.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 02:17 PM
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If I had to make just a few choices, I love ellenem's suggestions as well.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Love this post - we leave for Rome in 5 weeks. Has anyone also checked out San Pietro in Vincoli and would they recommend it over another church? I second Santa Maria del Popolo -the art is amazing.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:31 PM
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Love reading the responses. Please keep them coming. Everyone sees things through different eyes, so the more I read the easier it will be for me to make decisions about what to see and what to leave out.

If anyone spent time on something that they feel deserves a miss, please chime in.

After reading about the Vatican museums being a zoo in the mornings, we are definitely doing our tour in the afternoon. What about for the Collosseum tour? Is that area also more crowded in the AM (by everyone who is trying to arrive early to beat the crowds )? And does anyone know what time the Collosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum close?

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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 07:21 PM
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Thanks for posting a great question!

Museums: I loved the Vatican Museums and the Borghese

Churches: San Clemente is fascinating, but bring a guide book to help you understand all the layers and St. Peter's

Favorite Piazzas: Farnese, Rotunda, and Navona

Enjoy your trip!!

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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 07:46 PM
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Two things that fall somewhere between being museums and historical sights: Ara Pacis and the Castel Sant'Angelo.

The ancient Altar of Peace was restored and "encased" in a Richard Meier-designed single-purpose structure which opened in 2006. If you go, don't miss the exhibits in the basement.
www.ara-pacis-museum.com

The Castello has a wonderful history of being altered and adapted for different purposes over the centuries. If you go, don't miss the views from the top, including the elevated walkway from the Vatican for Popes to use as an escape route in case of attack(!). Also on the roof, note the cannon balls made of marble. Ouch!

Both are located on the banks of the Tiber. If you walked along the river from Piazza del Popolo to the Vatican (which is a great walk BTW), you could stop briefly at both.



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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 07:54 PM
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A better website for Ara Pacis: www.arapacis.it.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:44 PM
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Fun question!

For museums, I'd also say the Borghese. And as you're also visiting the Vatican, and you want to do a "travel light" trip, then I'd stop at that for the museums.

For churches, in addition to St. Peter's, I love anything with mosaics, like San Prassede. I agree that San Clemente is very interesting. Saint Cecilia's, in Trastevere, has a gorgeous sculpture of St. Cecilia. The good thing about churches is that you can appreciate them, appreciate the art, and you won't be there for hours. (DH likes churches in Rome (and Venice), and he doesn't have much educational background in churches, Christianity, etc. - except what he's learned from me!)

Experiences: Spend time at cafes, especially in Piazza Navona and by the Pantheon. This is a very important aspect of enjoying Rome! Also visit the Trevi Fountain - people-watching there is as fun as looking at the incredibly gaudy fountain.

I would also STRONGLY suggest that you stay in a more central location. If you stay by the colosseum, it will be a bit of a walk to get from there to anywhere else. And the nightlife in that area, I think, is not as interesting as other places.

We stayed in Residenza Canali, and the location is wonderful. About 1/2 block from Piazza Navona, but it's on a very quiet and beautiful side street that's full of antique shops. It's also about 10 minutes away from the Pantheon, and also close to Campo d'Fiori, another fun Piazza to visit (for the market).
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Old Feb 11th, 2008, 12:28 AM
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Keep your travel "light" by killing two birds with one stone:

The Pantheon is an ancient monument and a church.

So is Santa Maria degli Angeli, built by Michelangelo into the Baths of Diocletian.
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Old Feb 11th, 2008, 05:08 AM
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Oh gosh....why'd you limit us to just two???

San Pietro in Vincoli is famous for Michelangelo's Moses. I think it would be a good idea to see it if you're going to see David in Florence (Moses is as big as David, only sitting and you can get closer) but if you are not an art fan and don't want to see St. Peter's chains, then you could easily skip this church. Bang for the buck though, for me, still goes to Santa Maria Del Popolo for all the art and the pretty church.

I agree -- Ara Pacis is gorgeous, just gorgeous. I have no other words to describe it, but it was an unexpected delight for me. This could be a "quick stop" if you are in the area. (Doesn't require a lot of time like a museum would)

If you're in Trastevere, definitely see St. Cecelia and San Francesco e Ripa for the Bernini which is just ethereal.

I visited 28 churches in Rome in a week, and can recommend any one of them based on your interests...if you know what your reluctant friend might be interested in, I can point you in the right direction.
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