Auditorium Parco della Musica
Via Pietro de Coubertin, 30, Parioli
While a decidedly modernist building may seem out of place on a Roman itinerary, this Renzo Piano-designed (The Whitney in NYC, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris) performing arts venue is well worth a visit. Situated away from the city center, the cluster of three concert halls, including an open-air amphitheater, is built on lush park grounds a stone's throw from the Olympic village erected for the 1960 games. Come here to experience everything from opera to chamber music to film in a beautiful space that’s frequented predominantly by locals.
Basilica San Clemente
Via Quattro Novembre, 94, Monti
Named after Pope St. Clement, the basilica is a layer cake of Roman history and architecture—a private home turned Christian church in the second century, which morphed into a Mithras temple in the third century, and its current incarnation as a Medieval temple after that. While it may not look like much on the outside, inside it’s done in breathtaking twelfth-century mosaics with multiple chapels and fascinating little nooks making up a sort of architectural treasure hunt.
Piazza Pitti, 1, Uffizi
During the Renaissance, landscaping was considered just as important as the architecture. Behind the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens are a maze of grottos, fountains, and tree tunnels that set the tone for an Italianate style rapidly adopted by the palaces of Europe. Don’t miss the cerchiate grande—a long avenue of trees planted in 1612 that have grown into each other, forming the loveliest tunnel of shade.
Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola
Via del Caravita, 8a, Colonna
While opulent churches are plentiful here, and you should definitely take the opportunity to pop into any you come by, Sant’Ignazio deserves a designated visit. Built in the 1650’s, this Baroque church’s elaborate trompe l’oeil frescos took painter Andrea Pozzo years to complete—most labor intensive of all being the faux dome, which looks incredibly real from the right angle, and the beautifully restored vaulted ceilings.
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, Monti
Inarguably one of the world’s most impressive archeological wonders and the site of so many of Imperial Rome’s goings on, the Colosseum (one word: Gladiators!), Roman Forum (the apex of ancient Roman life, teaming with incredibly well-preserved structures from as far back as the sixth century BC), and Palantine Hill (the most frequented of Rome’s seven hills, plus killer views of the city and former chariot racing venue, Circus Maximus) trinity is essential. The Colosseum is breathtaking year-round, while the neighboring forum and Palentine Hill are especially stunning in spring and summer when the native wildflowers are in full bloom. You can certainly walk around on your own, though we recommend hiring a knowledgeable tour guide to lend some historical context and to help navigate, as you can easily take a wrong turn and miss out on some of the really good stuff.
Fattoria di Fiorano
Via Fioranello 34, Fiorano
Discovering a winery—much less an organic one—in a bustling city such as Rome feels a lot like stumbling on a hidden treasure, and this family-owned spot truly is a gem. The ancient land surrounding the winery is perfect for walking or biking (the preferred way to get to the winery); take a tour of the grounds and hear all about the land’s fascinating history. And it’s not all wines either: The farm also produces olives, cheeses (from the resident goats), fruit, and herbs—all of which is worked into delicious homemade meals at the on-site restaurant.
Giardino La Foce
Strada della Vittoria 61, Val d'Orcia
This was once the home of Iris Origo, author of War in the Val d’Orcia (required reading if you’re going to spend any real time in the valley). Today, the spectacular palazzos, olive groves, and gardens are run by her two daughters, Donata and Benedetta. If you don’t stay in the bed and breakfast at La Foce or rent one of the villas, make time to tour the gardens. It’s the Versailles of Tuscany. “The regular guided tours give you a chance to peek into this spectacular English garden and hear about its minor but fascinating role in World War II,” says Voigtmann. Images courtesy of Laura Arcelli.
Piazza del Duomo, Florence
The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral is the defining landmark and compass of the city. It represents the immense wealth of Florence through the ages, thanks in large part to a thriving banking and textile trade. Built across two centuries by several different architects and with masses of funding from the city’s wealthy patrons and political class, the dome was added by Brunelleschi and is the first octagonal dome in the world built without wooden joists for support. The exterior is a mosaic of vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble in red, white, and green, all dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Several of the works inside honor the great citizens of Florence, including Dante and Ghiberto, as well as details of religious narratives.
Piazza della Rotonda, Centro Storico
What’s so fascinating about the Pantheon, other than the fact it’s so well preserved for an ancient building, and still very much in use as a church, is that unlike so many historical structures, it’s very accessible: Keep an eye out while walking up to the Piazza della Rotonda, the close to two-thousand-year-old domed structure (its exact age is an architectural mystery) blends in so perfectly with the neighborhood that you can almost miss it. Inside, the Panini-painted interiors, breathtaking oculus, and the tomb of famed Renaissance painter Raphael are a thrill to explore whether you’re an art-history buff or not.
Piazza Navona, Centro Storico
If there's one tourist-filled, street performer-crazed, artist-saturated, epic spot in the Emerald City that exudes all its craziness–and baroque beauty–in its glory, it is the Piazza Novana.
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