architecture in Rome


3 days in Rome for the lover of art and architecture in everyone.

The city’s enduring history has left traces as an architectural palimpsest which makes up a curious urban landscape. Ancient ruins lay at the foundation of Renaissance churches, resurfaced during the first half o the 20th century – making for a patchwork of styles and narrative. Meanwhile, the world-class museums, needless to say, are enormous contributors to the city’s success as a world capital for tourism.

But let’s say you only have 3 days in Rome. Where do you go and what do you see? Well follow along for a fabulous and varied 3-day itinerary with a focus on experiencing Rome’s art and architecture. Visit some of the must-sees like the Vatican Museums and Galleria Borghese but hit up some of the lesser, off-the-beaten path areas too, like the Ostiense neighborhood, Coppedè, and the EUR.

Monti makes a great central point for renting an apartment in the center of Rome [pictured AP34 Monti apartment by Rome Accommodation]

Monti makes a great central point for renting an apartment in the center of Rome [pictured AP34 Monti apartment by Rome Accommodation]

The Monti neighborhood, set just behind the forum of Agustus and shaded by the Colosseum, makes for a great place to call home for a few days. There’s a metro stop nearby, plenty of great (coffee) bars for both breakfast and nighttime, and characteristic streets to stroll down and window shop. Whether you’re staying a family of 4 staying at Monti or Cavour, or a couple looking for some alone time at Colosseo or Fori Imperiali, Rome Accommodation has got your covered for a comfortable and affordable place to stay.

Day 1 – Galleria Borghese, Coppedè, and Via Veneto

Wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to the authentic aroma of fresh Italian espresso brewing at one of the nearby coffee bars. And lucky for you, just around the corner you’ll find the Illy coffee shop on Via Urbana where you can order a traditional Italian breakfast: an espresso and cornetto.

From there jump on the metro B (blue) headed toward Jonio/Rebbibia from the Cavour stop nearby. Take the metro just 1 stop and get off at Termini, to switch trains for Line A (toward Battistini) getting off at the Spagna stop. While still inside the Metro at Spagna, follow the signs for “Via Veneto,” which will take you through a series of stairs, escalators and tunnels for about 5 minutes – until you’re conveniently brought to the beginning of Via Veneto which opens onto Villa Borghese park. Take a leisurely stroll through the park for about 10 mins before reaching Galleria Borghese – a stunning villa in the middle of the lush greenery of the park.

Visiting Galleria Borghese

You must have a reservation to enter the museum. Reservations can be made online here, and strict in/out times are enforced.

Reservations can be made daily at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm. Viewing the whole collection in 2 hours is very doable, since the villa isn’t very large. But it’s packed with exquisite works, so you’ll want to plan on staying the whole 2 hours.

After making your 11am reservation at Galleria Borghese, appreciating the art (Caravaggios for days and some of Bernini’s best sculptures, among other works) and the exquisite architecture of the villa, it’s time for lunch. And since you’re in a park – why not a picnic! Before going to the museum, head to the supermarket nearest your vacation apartment and pick up some meats and cheeses, artisan bread, antipasti, and a bottle of wine; the perfect Italian picnic in the park!

The quirky, disruptive architecture of the Coppedé area, within walking distance from Villa Borghese

The quirky, disruptive architecture of the Coppedé area, within walking distance from Villa Borghese

After refueling and relaxing a bit in the calm of Villa Borghese, head northeast a few blocks out of the park to walk around the quirky Quartiere Coppedè. The neighborhood is well known for it’s eccentric architecture, created by Gino Coppedè between 1913 and 1927. Buildings are inundated with a perversion of architectural styles: Gothic, Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau, Medieval, making for a funky contrast to the rest of the city’s architecture. Nothing shows off the secret side of Rome like the peculiar homes of Coppedè.

After meandering the streets and gawking at the eccentric homes, head back to the park toward Via Veneto, the veritable epicenter of the 1960s Dolce Vita. Grab a drink at one of the swanky bars along the street, or better yet, head to the rooftop of any one of the 5-star hotels (like the Sofitel). Stay there for dinner; or if you’d like something more casual, at the base of Via Veneto you can grab an artisanal Italian style burger from Eataly’s “Hamburgheria” and wash it down with an Italian craft beer.

To get back home, just hit up the Metro A at Barberini, switch lines at Termini and get off at Cavour. All in all, a successful first day.

Day 2 – Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Trastevere

For your most intense day, full of Rome’s richest collection of art and architecture – make sure to have a good breakfast. You might need something a little more substantial than a cappuccino and cornetto, so grab some groceries at the market and make yourself something hearty in your kitchen for the day ahead.

You can easily reach the Vatican Museums by taking the metro like you did the first day: pick up the Metro B at Cavour toward Jonio/Rebbibia: 1 stop later switch lines to Line A toward Battistini. Get off at Ottaviano (there are signs for the Vatican Museums). Once you exit the metro, the museums will be directly in front of you.

Visiting the Vatican Museums

The rich collections of art in the museums are unparalleled in the world. From wall frescoes to sculpture, tapestries to maps, Egyptian sarcophagi to funeral urns. There is so much more to see than just the Sistine Chapel, although an expedited option is available. Visit the official website for all the information you need for visiting the Vatican Museums.

The unparalleled view of the city of Rome from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

The unparalleled view of the city of Rome from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

Expect to spend at least half a day visiting the museums, if not more. Once you’ve visited the museums, treat yourself to one of the most privileged views of Rome, from the top of the St. Peter’s Dome. The trek to the top is not for the faint of heart. There is an elevator to the first level, which is essentially just the base of the dome. But to summit the dome itself, the only way up is a tight, single file, single-direction, winding stair case that’s encased between the dome’s 2 “skins”. Visiting the top of the dome is not advisable for those who suffer from severe claustrophobia, and it’s best not to go when the weather is very warm as the interior of the dome isn’t well ventilated. But for the adventurous ones that make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of the entire city of Rome. Spot all of the major landmarks, and try to look for your vacation rental too!

At the end of the long day, you may want to just retreat back home and put your feet up. But if you’re still up for a bit more adventure, check out Trastevere, a uniquely characteristic part of Rome that still retains quaint little streets and ivy covered buildings. Once safely back on the ground, hook a left with St. Peter’s Basilica behind you, and walk straight. In about 15 minutes you’ll find yourself entering a very different world. The grandeur of Vatican City is replaced with simply beautiful homes and normal Italian life, as if time stood still.

Head to the Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere, home to the beautiful church of the same name. In the evening, the facade is lit up and the beautiful guilded frescoes shine in the light. But nothing beats the interior. Trust us and check it out.

For dinner, you can certainly grab a table with at any of the restaurants in the piazza. The food won’t be anything particularly special, but the view is stunning. On the other hand, for an authentic Roman-style pizza that’s a local favorite, head to Popi Popi, on Via delle Fratte di Trastevere. To head home, you just need to hop on the Tram 8 on Viale Trastevere which ends at Piazza Venezia. From Piazza Venezia, Monti is just about 15 minutes walk, or pick up the Metro at Colosseo and head back to Cavour. And Day 2 is a success.

Day 3 – Ostiense neighborhood and Musollini’s 3rd Rome: the EUR

Following a day spent viewing the very classical and ancient works in the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, admiring the modern art and architecture of the Ostiense area and the EUR make for a sharp contrast. Skip breakfast in Monti and head first to Ostiense where you can grab something at one of the local bars. To get to the Ostiense area of Rome, simply take the Metro B from Cavour headed toward Laurentina and get off at Piramide. Facing the exit of the metro stop is the Port di San Paolo (St. Paul’s gate) and a museum dedicated to the Via Ostiense – the ancient road that runs through the neighborhood that connects the center of Rome with the port city.

The Piramide of Cestius and the Porta di San Paolo, immediately within view as you exit the metro at Piramide station

The Piramide of Cestius and the Porta di San Paolo, immediately within view as you exit the metro at Piramide station

For art lovers, a hidden gem of the Ostiense neighborhood is the Montemartini museum, a unique museum of sculpted antiquities housed in a decommissioned electricity plant. Works are arranged around the restored equipment which serve as an industrial contrast and backdrop. Spending an hour or two perusing the works and reflecting on their similarities and differences makes for an exciting morning. Click here for more information on ticket prices and hours.

The EUR (Esposizione Universale di Roma) was a project headed by Mussolini in the 1930s and was intended as the grounds for hosting the 1942 World Expo. With the breakout of WWII, the expo was cancelled and construction stalled. Original plans weren’t realized until well after the war, but the massive, stoic architecture style stands with controversial majesty as it represents the legacy of Benito Mussolini.

architecture in Rome

The striking rational architecture of the EUR neighborhood is a not-to-miss for art and architecture lovers.

Visiting the EUR

Reaching the EUR is as easy as hoping back on the Metro B toward Laurentina and get off at either EUR Fermi or EUR Palasport. Exiting the metro, the famous laghetto dell’EUR is located direcly in front of you, an artificial lake lined with cherry blossom trees and hosts canoes and paddle boats during the summer. It’s the centerpiece of the EUR neighborhood, known for being a turn-of-the-century masterpiece in urban planning. Wide streets laid out in a perfect grid, bookended with statement pieces of architecture, like the recently renovated Fendi headquarters located in the Palazzo della Civiltà, and the Palazzo dei Congressi – subtly modeled after the Pantheon.

Viale Europa is the main artery of the EUR, an elegant tree-lined avenue with stately architecture filled with clothing and jewelry shops, bars, and restaurants, and merits a stroll with some retail therapy. A visit to the Museum of Roman Civilization brings you closer to the art of the ancient Roman empire, including the massive model of ancient Rome from 1971, constructed by Italo Gismondo which fills an entire room and is viewed from an elevated platform that circulates it. Located at the center of an enormous and busy roundabout is the Marconi Obelisk, built for the 1960 olympics and dedicated to Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi with modern hieroglyphics that dictate his contributions to radio-transmission.

As the last hurrah of your 3 days in Rome, enjoy dinner at the EUR’s historic Il Fungo, the restaurant at the top of the mushroom-inspired tower next to the lake. The restaurant, located at the height equivalent to the 14th floor, offers 360 degree views of Rome from a southern vantage point. Following dinner and a pleasant stroll around the lake lit by the moonlight, a perfect moment to reflect on the beautiful and diverse pieces of art and architecture you saw in Rome.

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