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About Rome

Tips and tricks to know about Rome

Tips and tricks to know about Rome, the most important churches and museums you will not regret visiting

Rome is an open museum and it has many ways of seducing its travelers. It captivates you with its historical and religious heritage. If you are wandering through Rome’s maze of streets you will stumble in a basilica or a medieval church, which you can’t help but enter and contemplate or even say a prayer.

If you happen to visit the Pantheon you will notice also that a few meters on the back there is an amazing medieval church called “Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, built on the temple of the roman patron goddess Minerva. It looks like it is small and simple from the outside but it is a luxury museum inside, with its rich art masterpieces and home to the tombs of two Popes - Paul IV and Urban VII, as well as the sculptor Andrea Bregno and others.

In the middle of the square, before entering the church,you will notice the ancient obelisk arranged over the Elephant also called “il porcino” the “little pig” due to its diminutive size, sculpted by Bernini. Because some of the Dominican friars were concerned that the Elephant would not carry the heavy obelisk and might fall over and Bernini knew there was nothing to be concerned of nevertheless, he decided to sculpt a long saddle-cloth, covering the elephant, which reaches all the way to the base of the statue. In the end, as a revenge Bernini designed the elephant to be placed with its backside facing the Dominican monastery.


The highlights inside the church.

The magnificent frescoes of the "Annunciationand the "Assumption of the Virgin" by Filippino Lippiin the Carafa chapel.
Michelangelo’s sculpture “Christ bearing the Cross” or the “Resurrected Christ”. The statue measures about 6 feet and was carved from a single block of marble. Initially was designed to be completely naked but later on it was covered with a drapery in bronze. The Savior here is represented while embracing the symbols of His passion. Here the cross is not merely a decorative element but it appears to hold the whole figure of Christ the same way the Christians hold on to faith.
The tomb of Santa Caterina da Siena. She is a saint, a mystic and a doctor of the Church, as well as a patroness of Italy and of Europe.


The tomb of Fra Angelico, an early Italian Renaissance painter, described by Vasari in his “Lives of artists” as a rare and perfect talent.





Saint John in Lateran

Within a walking distance from the Colosseum you will find the mother of all churches, the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, built by the Emperor Constantine in the IV century A.D, dedicated to the Most Holy Christ the Saviour. This was the official seat and residence ofthe Popes until the 15th century when the papacy moved to Avignon, (France 1304-1377).

Constantine also built the first Baptistery in Rome, on the northwestern corner of the church, which still continues to stand in its original octagonal design.

The most important architects worked in the project of this Basilica such as: Carlo Maderno (on the Façade), Francesco Borromini, Domenico Fontana and Alessandro Galilei.

The Basilica has five doors (one for each nave), the central door once belonged to the Curia (the Roman Senate in the Imperial Forums). The rightmost one is the Holy door which is open by the Pope during the Holy year, every 25 years.






The Holy stairs in St. John in Lateran.

Once you visit the Basilica you can’t leave without climbing the Holy Stairs which end by the Papal Chapel of Sancta Sanctorum. According to the Cristian tradition, the devoted Empress St. Helen in the year 326 A.D had the Holy Stairs (climbed by Jesus on his death sentence) transferred to Rome from Jerusalem.

Sancta Sanctorum used to be the private chapel of the Pope from the medieval times until the Renaissance.Located on top of the last step of the Holy Stairs it is beautifully decorated by frescoes and it houses many relics including one of the most precious icons of the Christianity with the Image of the Most Holy Saviour, it is referred to as Acheropita, not made by human hands. Painted on a wooden panel, the image of the Saviour is represented sitting on a throne, blessing with his right hand and holding the scroll of the Gospel in his left hand. The origins of the image remain unknown.


Saint Paul outside the walls

Built on the remains of the Apostle Paul on the 4th century A.D, the Basilica of St’ Paul outside the walls is part of the four major basilicas in Rome. The interior of the basilica today showsbeautiful marble columns and golden mosaicsalong with different portraits of the Popes,however, after the fire of 1823 only a few medieval parts have remained intact such as the large 12th century chandelier, the marble tomb stone under which the remains of St. Paul lay and a few mosaics of the 13th century.



St. Mary Major

The Basilica of St. Mary Major known in Italian as the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is also part of the four major churches and the largest Roman catholic church dedicated to Virgin Mary. The Basilica was built by Pope Sixtus the III in commemoration of the Council of Ephesus proclaiming Mary as the Mother of God. In its magnificent interior you will find incredible frescoes of the 16th century by Giuliano da Sangallo. Different architectural styles are blended here from medieval elements such as the marble floor by the altar, to the golden Renaissance ceiling and the tallest bell tower in Rome, up to the Baroque Façade of the 18thcentury. The Basilica is also the burial place of different Popes including Pope Clement VIII, Pope Paul V and Pope Pius V. A special burial place next to the altar was reserved for the baroque genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini.



Caravaggio’s works in Rome (1571 -1610)

Michelangelo Merisi in art Caravaggio is one of the most talented Italian painters. His works are easy recognizable based in: the tragic realism, the humanity of the characters, the contrast between light and shade. You can find Caravaggio’sworks in churches, museums and private villas. Where to see Caravaggio’s paintings for free:

In the Church of St. AgustineThe Madonna of the Pilgrims
In the Church of St.Mary of the People – The conversion of Paul and the Martyrdom of St.Peter
In the church of St. Louis of the French there are three paintings centered around the life of St. Mathew:  The Calling of St. Mathew; The Inspiration of St. Mathew; The Martyrdom of St Mathew

If you would like to see more of this artist where you need to pay a ticket here is a list of the museums housing his works: Boghese Galleryalone diplays 6 Caravaggio paintings; Palazzo Barberini 3; Galleria Doria Pamfili 2, Capitoline Museums 2, Vatican Museums/Pinacoteca Vaticana 1, Corsini Gallery1. There is also the only fresco ceiling painted by Caravaggio, in Rome at Casino of villaBuoncompagni Ludovisi, not in a great shape but still very much worth seeing, depicting Jupiter Neptune and Pluto.


Raphael (1483 -1520) and his art in the eternal city

Considered by the art critiques as the Prince of the painters, Raffaello Sanzio originally from Urbino, moved to Rome when he was in his mid20s and spent the rest of his short life creating Renaissance masterpieces that would influence generations to come.

The Raphael rooms

I would start to list the works of the artist from the frescoed Raphael rooms in the Vatican museums (near the Sistine chapel), since it was due to the Pope Julius IIwho was the first one to give him an opportunity to show his talent to the world. The artist and his studentsworked in the private rooms of the Pope until his death. The rooms are: La Stanza della Segnatura with hisiconic School of Athens, La Stanza di Costantino, La stanza di Heliodoro and La Stanza dell’incendio.

In the Vatican Pinacoteca you can admire theTransfiguration, his last painting that appears to be the spiritual testament of his life. Giorgio Vasari describes this work as “the most famous, the most beautiful, the most divine”.

Villa Farnesina

Agostino Chigi, the wealthy banker of the Pope spared no expenses in building his villa retreat and he decided to engage Raphael in decorating its interiors.Raphael frescoed the entrance hall with the Story of Galatea that comes from Homer’s Odissey. The other stunning fresco is the Loggia of Psiche with its illusionistic pergolas of fruits and flowers.


In the Chigi chapel in Santa Maria della Pace,Raphael painted the four sibyls (the Cumaean, the Persian, the Phrygian and the Tiburtine).


La Fornarina in the Galleria nazionale d’arte antica at Palazzo Barberini

This intimate portrait, one of the greatest in the Renaissance art depicts the daughter of a local baker and Raphael’s lover at the time of his death in the year 1520.





Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)

The Italian sculptor and architect was the genius who left a mark in the baroque era with his impeccable style and high level of perfection. The greatest collection of Bernini’s art, architecture, funerary monuments, statues and the impressive Baldachin located underneath the dome of St’Peter’s is concentrated in the St Peter’s Basilica where under the Pope Urban the VIII Barberini he worked with hundreds of assistants to give shape to the interior as well as the big square that we see today.

Here is a list of his most important works divided by types of art. (the ones without an admission fee requiredare signed by *)

Fountains *

The fountain of the 4 Rivers in piazza Navona

Fountain of the Moor, Piazza Navona
Fontana del Tritone, Piazza Barberini
Fontana of the Bees, Piazza Barberini
Fontana della Barcaccia, (possibly assisting hisfather Pietro) Piazza di Spagna



The two angels with the symbols of the passion of Christ*, in the Church of S. Andrea delle Fratte, Via di S. Andrea delleFratte 1
Ecstasy of St Teresa *, Church of S. Maria della Vittoria, Via XX Settembre 17
Equestrian statue of Constantine*, portico, St Peter's Basilica
St Longinus*, St Peter's Basilica

The Elephant in piazza della Minerva*

Also the Galleria Borghese alone houses the most beautiful statues ever made by the sculptor such as:

Apollo and Daphne, David, The Rape of Proserpine,  Aeneas Anchises and Ascanius etc.


Those who wish to pay their respects to the artist himself can visit his tomb at the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore





Michelangelo Buonarrotti (1475-1564)

A leading Renaissance italian sculptor, painter, architect and a poet is universally recognized as one of the greatest artists of all time. During his long life and careerhe worked in Florence and in Rome. His most important works in the capital are:

The Sistine Chapel (fresco) Ceiling: Vatican Museums.
The Last Judgement (fresco): Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums.
The crucifixion of St’Peter (fresco) in the Cappella Paolina, Vatican Palace
The Pietà (statue): St. Peter’s Basilica
The Moses (statue) for Julius II's Tomb: Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli.
The Risen Christ (statue): Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.


His architecture

St’Peter’s Basilica; he was appointed to be the principal architect of the building in 1546
The Vatican Dome, built by Michelangelo up to the drum base and completed after his death by his pupil Giacomo della Porta
Piazza del Campidoglio with its grand ramp staircase
Santa Maria dei Martiri in Piazza della Repubblica
The Palazzo Farnese Façade



Michelangelo is buried in Florence in the Basilica of Santa Croce.