Rome Sightseeing Notes


This is a web page made up of my notes from researching a trip to Rome in the spring of 2007.

Rome is a daunting city. Rome has some of the oldest and best preserved ruins and Imperial era buildings in the western world. In addition to this there are churches from the Gothic, Byzantine and Renaissance eras. There are unique and beautiful gardens, piazza and buildings. The only way to truely see Rome would be to live there for an extended period of time. For a short visit of a week the possibilities can be overwhelming.

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel, has changed it's hours as of January 2007. General admission hours start at 10:00. Tours and reserved tickets allow people to get in at 8:30. One web site where tickets can be purchased is:

Guided Tours

In general I have a bias against tours. Exploring a city on your own leads to surprising discovery. It also forces you to interact more with the local people, in the local language, so you get more of a feel for the country. Rome is a daunting city however. I will only be in Rome for seven full days, which means that I will only be able to scratch the surface of this ancient city.

As I note above, I do plan to visit the Vatican Museum and the Basilica of Saint Peter. But my main interest is in the classical Imperial era. My notes reflect this.

The Pantheon

Open: 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM Mon-Sat, 9 AM to 6 PM on Sun

The Pantheon is one of the most remarkable buildings remaining from the classical Imperial era of Rome. The Pantheon was constructed from 118-125 AD by emperor Hadrian. The dome built from concrete and masonry. The Pantheon has remained standing all these centuries in the faces of invaders and Christianity in no small part because of its massive walls.

Image from Google Maps

Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus

According to my Eyewitness Travel Guide Rome the Mausoleum of Augustus is an unimpressive ruin these days. However, near the Mausoleum is the Ara Pacis the Altar of Peace which has some beautiful friezes. Apparently the Ara Pacis is housed in a controversial building designed by the architect Richard Meier who designed the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.

Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus are in the upper right corner of the map.
Image from Google Maps

The Roman Forum


Open 9:00 AM to 1 hour before sunset daily, last admission 1 hour before closing.

Image from Google Maps


Open: 9:00 to one hour before sunset. The last admission is one hour before closing. Apparently the entry fee for the Palatine includes the Colosseum as well.

The Palatine hill was the high rent area of Rome during the classical era. Augustus and his wife Livia had houses there, as did Cicero. Ruins of the House of Augustus and Livia survive. The entrance to the Farnese botanical gardens are at the north end of the Palatine.

Image from Google Maps

Trajan's Markets (Mercati Traianei)

Trajan's Markets are located near the North West corner of the Roman Forum. The entrance is off of Via 4 Novembre Comune, near the Piazza Venezia.
Open 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM Tue-Sun

Image from Google Maps

The last of the Imperial fora to be built, the vast Forum of Trajan, was entered through a triumphal arch in the Forum of Augustus, an area which it imitated in various ways. Immediately inside this arch was an enormous plaza surrounded by the traditional portico and with deep exedrae bulging out on either side. An equestrian statue of the emperor, who ruled from 98 to 117 AD, stood in its center, and its buildings included a temple to the deified emperor. Behind this plaza stood the Basilica Alias, a five-aisled structure with twin apses, which like the basilicas of the Roman Forum, carried its roof on parallel rows of marble columns,many of which are still visible. On the far side of the basilica two libraries flanked the Column of Trajan. General business was conducted in the basilica, where on atrium was dedicated entirely to ceremonies for the manumission of slaves. Its libraries held public records. Readings and lectures on literature were held in the exedrae. This forum, distinguished in scale from the others, is similar in its political symbolism. Like the Forum of Vespasian, it celebrates peace while it commemorates a significant victory. Much of the sculptural decoration referred to the emperor's war in Dacia (modern Romania), and the official history of that campaign scrolls up the emperor's column in bas-relief. The4 defied emperor was buried at its base.

The conservative architecture of Trajan's Forum had no place in the commercial buildings behind it. Instead, the creators of Trajan's Market were free to work in the materials and style of the Roman architectural revolution. The wonderful and imaginative complex responds to structural and social problems created by the Forum of Trajan. It replaces commercial space that may have been eliminated and acts as a retaining wall to shore up the slopes of the Quirinal hill that were cut into as the forum was built. The rooms at its base are arranged in a semicircle that responds to the exedra on the forum.

Rome from the Ground Up by James H.S. McGregor, 2005

The Tempietto

Open: 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Image from Google Maps

Elsewhere in Rome, Bramante himself created an unusual shrine in this style which gives some idea of his conception of St. Peter's. In a cramped cloister next to the church of San Pietro in Montorio, Bramante erected a tiny monument that served as the epitome of High Renaissance aesthetic. Called the Tempietto, it stands on the spot where a secondary medieval tradition located the martyrdom of St. Peter. Circular in form like the martyr shrines Santa Costanza and Santo Stefano Rotondo, the Tempietto would have stood in a round courtyard with a loggia, had Bramante's plan been carried out. The oppressive square courtyard in which the temple now stands bears no relation to what he intended. Despite its cramped setting, this wonderful building proved to Bramante's contemporaries that the grammar of Roman architecture could be used to produce novel and beautiful results. This is no slavish recreation of a classical prototype but an entirely new structure in an ancient idiom. While it is similar to the round temple in the Forum Boarium, Bramante's structure divides an equivalent vertical space into two zones. This characteristic of his style improves the proportions of the colonnade and frame the small cupola, which is raised on a drum, behind the entablature and balcony in a way that makes it appear higher than it really is. Stairs in the back of the monument lead down to a crypt decorated with a remarkable stucco work.

Rome from the Ground Up by James H.S. McGregor, 2005

Image from Google Maps