Tag Archives: Rome free things to do



Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

- Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

-Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

-Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome

Parco degli Acquedotti

Parco degli Acquedotti

In Rome, there are multiple public parks and piazzas occupying the sites of former Roman structures. One of the largest is the Parco degli Acquedotti, which also showcases ancient Roman engineering prowess.

The ancient Roman empire was famous for its aqueducts – they moved water over seemingly impossible distances, managing to keep it moving steadily toward cities and population centers. Many of those ancient aqueducts still stand, and one is included in the Parco degli Acquedotti just outside Rome. Another more modern aqueduct is also in the park, which covers more than 37 acres. It’s part of the Appian Way Regional Park.

The two aqueducts in the park are the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Felix. Aqua Claudia was started in the 1st century by the infamous Emperor Caligula, and finished by his successor Claudius, for whom the aqueduct is named. The water source was more than 40 miles from Rome, and much of the aqueduct was underground, but the visible structure in the Parco degli Acquedotti is the typical series of arches with the water channel sitting high above ground level. Aqua Felix was the first relatively modern aqueduct in Rome, built in the late 1500s by Pope Sixtus V. The aqueduct is 15 miles long, much of which is also underground. Another ancient Roman ruin in the park is the so-called Villa delle Vignacce, the remains of a 2nd century villa about which little is known.

Fans of Fellini may recognize the Aqua Claudia from “La Dolce Vita,” and the park’s proximity to Rome’s film studio (Cinecitta) means it’s been the setting for many an Italian movie. The park is a few miles outside Rome’s city center, and you can get there on the Metro, using the Subaugusta stop. Several bus lines also will get you to the park. The entrance is on via Lemonia. You can rent a bike in Rome to ride throughout the Appian Way Regional Park, either in the city center or inside the park, or simply explore on foot.

- Jessica Spiegel

Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome from Viator Rome



Ancient Egyptian Obelisks in Rome

Rome has plenty of ancient Roman monuments to see, but the ancient Romans were also good plunderers. Evidence of their spoils of war can be found in piazzas all over the city – specifically, the 13 ancient Egyptian obelisks that stand proudly throughout Rome.

All of the obelisks that stand in Rome today are in a different location than they originally occupied. Many had been deconstructed – turning standing obelisks into “ruins” – and were put back together in the 16th century under the direction of Pope Sixtus V, when they were then moved to their current locations. At that time, many also received new artistic elements, from new inscriptions to crosses at their tips, so that they could stand in front of churches without being considered unholy. Of the obelisks listed below, five were actually commissioned by Romans and made in Egypt, rather than taken after a battle. Here is a list of where you’ll find each obelisk today. You’ll see many of them on a tour of Rome’s squares and fountains or a Rome historical tour.

Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano

Obelisk at St. John Lateran

Obelisk at St. John Lateran. Creative commons photo by Jan via Flickr.

The obelisk near the Lateran Palace is the tallest in Rome, standing more than 105 feet tall (without the base). It was built in Egypt in the 15th century B.C.E., carried to Rome in 357 A.D. and placed in the Circus Maximus, then moved to its current home in 1588. The Marcus Aurelius statue on this site was then moved to the piazza on the Capitoline Hill. This obelisk has well-preserved Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as 16th century decorations on its tip.

St. Peter’s Square

Obelisk in St. Peter's Square

Obelisk in St. Peter’s Square

The obelisk in the center of St. Peter’s Square was brought to Rome in the 1st century B.C.E. and originally placed in the Circus of Caligula (on the site of St. Peter’s Basilica today). It was moved to its current location in 1586, the first obelisk in Rome to be reconstructed and relocated as part of a city-wide project. There are no hieroglyphs on this obelisk, and its top is decorated with a cross and the symbols of Pope Sixtus V.

Piazza del Popolo

Obelisk at Piazza del Popolo

Obelisk at Piazza del Popolo

The obelisk marking the center of the Piazza del Popolo was made in Egypt in the 13th century B.C.E. for Ramesses the Great, and was brought to Rome in 10 B.C.E. Originally in the Circus Maximus, the obelisk was reconstructed in 1589 and moved to the Piazza del Popolo. The top received Pope Sixtus’ symbols and a cross, and the lions at its base were added in the early 19th century.

Trinità dei Monti

Obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps

Obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps

This obelisk, commissioned by Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century A.D., stands at the top of the Spanish Steps in front of the Church of Saints Trinità dei Monti. It was a copy of the obelisk that now stands in the Piazza del Popolo, and was moved to its current location in 1789 by Pope Pius VI.

Piazza Navona

Obelisk in Piazza Navona

Obelisk in Piazza Navona

This obelisk was commissioned in the 1st century A.D. by Emperor Domitian and placed at the Temple of Serapis. It was later moved to the Circus of Maxentius, and moved again to its current home in 1651. At that time, Bernini used it as the centerpiece of his iconic “Four Rivers Fountain.” The top is decorated with the symbol of then-Pope Innocent X.

Piazza della Rotonda

Obelisk at the Pantheon

Obelisk at the Pantheon. Creative commons photo by Ed Uthman via Flickr.

The obelisk in front of the Pantheon was originally one of a pair at the Temple Ra in Heliopolis (the other now stands at Villa Celimontana). It was brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D. and stood at the Temple of Isis. It was moved to its current spot in the center of the existing fountain in 1711 by Pope Clement XI, whose symbols decorate the top.

Piazza di Montecitorio

Obelisk in Piazza di Montecitorio

Obelisk in Piazza di Montecitorio. Creative commons photo by teldridge+keldridge via Flickr.

This obelisk came from Egypt in 10 B.C.E. along with the obelisk that now stands in the Piazza del Popolo. It once stood in the Campus Martius as the gnomon of a sundial, and still has a gnomon and ball on its top – it still functions as a sundial. It was moved to its current location in 1748 by Pope Pius VI.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Obelisk at Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Obelisk at Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Creative commons photo by Nick Bramhall via Flickr.

Around the corner from the Pantheon is this obelisk, which stands on the back of an elephant sculpted by Bernini. The obelisk was built in the 6th century B.C.E. and brought to Rome in the 3rd century to be placed in the Temple of Isis. It was moved to its current location in 1667 by Pope Alexander VII, whose symbols decorate both the base and the top.

Piazza del Quirinale

Obelisk at the Quirinal Palace

Obelisk at the Quirinal Palace

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Augustus in the 1st century B.C.E. to stand at his family mausoleum. It was moved to its current location in front of the presidential palace in 1786 by Pope Pius VI. The base is decorated with sculptures of Castor and Pollux, as well as a fountain.

Piazza dell’Esquilino

Obelisk at Santa Maria Maggiore

Obelisk at Santa Maria Maggiore. Creative commons photo by Justin Ennis via Flickr.

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Augustus in the 1st century B.C.E. to stand at his family mausoleum, along with the obelisk now in front of the Quirinal Palace. It was moved to its current home behind the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V, whose symbols adorn the top.

Baths of Diocletian

This obelisk was originally erected for Ramesses the Great in the 13th century B.C.E., and brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D. It was moved to the front of Termini Station in the 1880s, but in 1924 it was moved again to its current home in the Baths of Diocletian.

Pincian Hill

Obelisk on Pincio Hill

Obelisk on Pincio Hill. Creative commons photo by jbarrelros via Flickr.

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. to serve as a memorial to a young man who drowned in the Nile after saving the emperor’s wife. It originally stood at his tomb in Tivoli, and was moved three times between the 16th and 19th centuries. It eventually was moved to its current location on the Pincian Hill in 1822 by Pope Pius VII.

Villa Celimontana

The smallest obelisk on the list is at the Villa Celimontana, in a public park near the Colosseum. This was once part of a pair with the obelisk that now stands in front of the Pantheon, although this one has been shortened quite a bit from its original height. It was created for Ramesses the Great in the 13th century B.C.E., brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D., and moved to its current home in the 16th century.

- Jessica Spiegel

Ancient Egyptian Obelisks in Rome from Viator Rome



Walking the Appian Way in Rome

Part of the ancient Appian Way near Rome

Part of the ancient Appian Way near Rome

You’ve probably heard the phrase “all roads lead to Rome,” and thought that it was more than a little bit of hyperbole. At one time, however, most roads did actually lead to what was then the center of Western civilization. Today, you can still walk on one of those roads – the famous Appian Way.

The ancient Appian Way, called the Via Appia in Italian, was built in the 4th century B.C.E. and stretched from Rome to Brindisi in present-day Puglia. By the 18th century, the ancient road had long been abandoned, with a parallel road – the “new Appian Way” – built in the 1780s. The old road, now called the “Via Antica Appia” in Italian, or “old Appian Way,” was restored roughly when the new road was being built.

Believe it or not, much of the old Appian Way is a functioning road used by modern cars. There are parts near Rome that get much less motorized traffic, however, which are popular with Romans and visitors alike as a place to go cycling or walking. There are also some big Rome attractions along the old Appian Way, so you can combine walking the Appian Way with some other sightseeing along your route.

There are buses that connect with different parts of the old Appian Way (you can catch them in Rome’s city center) near the ancient Roman catacombs. Within the first four miles of the ancient road, there are two different catacombs as well as an ancient tomb that is extremely well-preserved. Sections of the old Appian Way are designated car-free on Sundays, but you can visit on any day of the week. For more historical context about the importance of the road, as well as practical guidance navigating to the best parts of the ancient road to visit, you can book a spot on a guided tour of the Appian Way in Rome, either a walking tour or a bike tour.

- Jessica Spiegel

Walking the Appian Way in Rome from Viator Rome



Roman Summer Festival – Estate Romana

Villa Doria Pamphili - Venue for Estate Romana

Summer in Rome is one long series of things to do.

From 16 June until 28 September 2012, the 35th Estate Romana brings the Eternal City alive.

From classical music to jazz to rock concerts, to movies and art exhibitions and theater, dance, writers reading etc, there’ll be something to excite everyone. There’s also a big children’s program; last year this included a huge science and technology fair with interactive games – you get the picture.

This creative joy is not confined to the inner city but happens everywhere, right out into the suburbs and beyond. And it’s not only found in the expected places like renowned theaters and music venues such as Ippodromo delle Capenell and Villa Celimontan for concerts and Villa Doria Pamphili and Foro di Augusto for theater, but events are also held in parks, hospitals, nursing homes, even prisons. There will be a film screen set up on the River Tiber Island along with popup bars and stalls. This is truly a festival which includes everyone.

This year’s Estate Romana program has yet to be announced but when it is you can find all the information on what’s on, where, when and how to book at: http://en.estateromana.comune.roma.it/.

-Philippa B.

Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours and things to do, Rome attractions, and Rome travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Rome for a customized tour!

The Estate Romana (Roman Summer) Festival from Rome Things To Do



Free Things to Do in Rome

Trevi Fountain in the Evening

As the money seems to just leak out of your wallet, remember there are many things to do for free in Rome that will give you just as much insight into the city as visiting the big museums and attractions. There are also special days and events to help you see the major sights on a budget.

FREE SUNDAYS
On the last Sunday of every month there is free entry to the Vatican Museums between 9am and 12:30pm. The queues are very long so get there early. Similarly the Musei Capitolini also has free entry on the last Sunday of the month. Also the Galleria Nazionale di San Luca has a lovely small picture collection and is free entry Monday through Saturday mornings.

TREVI FOUNTAIN
There is no charge for standing gazing into the falling waters of the Trevi Fountain. The scale is huge – 85 ft high (26m) and 66 ft wide (20m) – and the square it stands in surprisingly small. They say that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will one day return to Rome.

SPANISH STEPS
The Spanish Steps are another icon of Rome and free to walk up and sit upon, although don’t leave any rubbish behind. In spring the steps are adorned with flowers. From the top outside the church of Trinita dei Monti and further up you get good views of the city.

PANTHEON
The Pantheon is the best-preserved remainder of Ancient Rome and is a wonderful round church, once a pagan temple. Make sure you wander around the outside and look at the rough brick walls built so many centuries ago for Hadrian around 120AD. It’s located in the Piazza della Rotonda, a good place for sitting to people-watch day or night.

CHURCHES
Some churches charge an entry fee but many are free to wander inside and this being Rome you’ll find all sort of wonderful paintings and sculpture adorning them.

VIA APPIA
The Appian Way is the most famous of Roman roads. On Sundays it is closed to traffic and makes for a great walk in the footsteps of the Roman legions. Along the way are tombs and catacombs, ancient walls and sacred rivers.

BOCCA DELLA VERITA
There’s no charge for putting your hand in the mouth of truth, but if you’ve been telling lies superstition says the hand will be chopped off. Located in the Piazza Bocca della Verita.

MARKETS
Porta Portese Market is the main flea market in Rome held on Sundays until 2pm. It’s in Via Portuense and Via Ippolito Nievo in Trastevere. Also there’s the daily Campo de Fiori food market, Rome’s oldest market, in Piazza di Campo de Fiori.

-Philippa Burne

Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours and things to do, Rome attractions, and Rome travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Rome for a customized tour!

Free Things to Do in Rome from Rome Things To Do