Take a journey around the iconic sights of Rome without leaving your living room on our virtual tour of the historical centre and the Colosseum.
While exploring Rome’s astonishing historical sights in real life might be off the cards for now, you can still learn the fascinating stories and history behind some of the most popular attractions via your computer screen.
We’ll start the tour at the one of Rome’s, and the world’s, most popular attractions – the Colosseum. Admire the incredible exterior with a walk around the outside of the amphitheatre before heading indoors to walk in the steps of gladiators. Don’t worry about waiting in line on a virtual tour!
Built between 72 – 80 AD, the Colosseum was a giant stadium where up to 80,000 spectators watched violent fights and public events. While mostly associated with gladiatorial battles, for over 400 years the Colosseum was also the stage for spectacles including executions, animal hunts, battle re-enactments and theatre.
The Colosseum fell into disrepair with the decline of the Western Roman Empire and was frequently raided for building materials. Two thirds of the Colosseum was stolen or destroyed in the middle ages including the decorative materials and marble chairs. Parts of the Colosseum were used to construct other famous monuments and buildings in Rome including St Peter’s Basilica and Palazzo Venezia. It wasn’t until the 1990s that serious restoration efforts took place to welcome visitors. The Colosseum now attracts more than 7 million visitors a year and is a must-see destination for any traveller to Rome.
Passing the Arch of Constantine of your left, follow the ancient Via Sacra to the Roman Forum. This sprawling stretch of ruins was once the epicentre of Ancient Roman daily life where the commercial, religious and political buildings and monuments were situated.
The Roman Forum was reconstructed several times and the architecture of the area reflects the changes in styles over time. Often new buildings were constructed over the sites of old ruins, creating a fascinating layering of history to be uncovered by archaeologists. Excavations in and around the Roman Forum continue today, revealing interesting insights into Roman life.
Wandering to the left of the entrance of Roman Forum will take you up Palatine Hill, the spot where Romulus founded Rome after murdering his twin brother. The site is now home to exceptional ruins including of the Imperial Palace (Domus Flavia) and offers spectacular views of the Roman Forum and present-day Rome.
Piazza di Spagna & the Spanish Steps
Next up is one of Rome’s most famous squares, Piazza di Spagna, and the picturesque meeting place the Spanish Steps. Named for the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See that occupies the square, the Piazza di Spagna also contains the former house of English poet John Keats, now a museum, and the fountain La Barcaccia by sculptor Pietro Bernini. From here you can climb the 135 steps of the Spanish Steps to reach the Church of Trinità dei Monti and admire the views of Rome.
Meander Rome’s charming cobblestone streets to arrive at one of Rome’s best-preserved ancient buildings, the Pantheon. Completed sometime around 125AD under emperor Hadrian, incredibly the building has survived mostly intact. While the original use is not certain, it was converted to a Catholic Church and remained in use for centuries, saving it from plundering for building supplies like many other ancient Roman buildings.
The ceiling of the Pantheon features the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, an inspiration to Brunelleschi and his dome in Florence. The building houses the tombs of several Italian monarchs and the famous Renaissance painter Raphael. Explore inside and marvel at the impressive interior.
Not far from the Pantheon is the impressive Baroque fountain Fontana di Trevi. With original designs by artist Nicola Salvini, the fountain was completed under the instruction of architect Giuseppe Pannini in 1762. The fountain marks the arrival of the ancient Acqua Vergine aqueduct, but the water that flows through it nowadays is recycled in a closed-circuit system. Throwing a coin into the fountain is said to secure your return to Rome, with around €3000 collected in the fountain daily and distributed to a Roman charity for the homeless.
By now your legs must be getting tired and you it’s almost aperitivo time! Arriving at Piazza Navona, take a seat at one of the bars that fill the square and admire the stunning surrounds as you sip on a spritz.
Piazza Navona contains three fountains, the most impressive of which is the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers) sitting in the centre of the square. The fountain was designed by famed artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (the son of Pietro Bernini who designed the Baracaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna). It represents the four major rivers on the continents where the Holy See had influence at the time.
While this virtual tour has been fun, nothing beats meandering the cobble streets of Rome in real life! We hope you can join us soon!
Related article: A Budget Guide to Rome