Rome is full of history and culture, and if you’re going for a long stay you should attempt to see it ALL. But for those who don’t have the time there are many “ways” to see Rome. Earlier in the week I shared my guides for two ways to “do” Rome: Tour the Ancient Ruins & A Sight-Seers Travel Guide. But a guide to Rome wouldn’t be finished without mentioning a visit to Vatican City along with other major sites for religion! That’s why today I’ve created a guide to Rome that focuses on its history as the center of Catholicism.
A Tour of All Things Catholic Rome
Everyone knows about the Vatican…and it should be top of your list of things to do. BUT not many realize just how integrated religion is throughout Rome, with cathedrals on every corner and scenes from Roman (and to a lesser extent Egyptian) mythology carved in stone in every piazza. So a great way to see Rome is by touring its major religious sites. On top of traveling all over the city you can learn a lot about Rome’s history!
A visit to the Vatican is a MUST in Rome. Not only is it the epicenter of Catholicism, but the museum holds sooo much information and history, not just of the Church but also of Italy and art (and you’ll see how intertwined they all were)! It was truly amazing – especially all the paintings of religious stories from the famous High Renaissance Masters, like Michelangelo and Raphael.
- GO Early – opening (9 am) – you won’t wait in line for a ticket! Or you can reserve tickets online here. BUT the museums/chapel will be less crowded and manageable (you’ll want to do St. Peter’s first as it opens earlier and the line gets ridiculous later)
- Audio Guide – these are reasonably priced, but are limited with the information they provide. This is especially true for sculptures. The guide provides a lot of details about the “biography” of the pieces, like where it was made and where it was found. But it assumes that the listener has a lot of knowledge about Greek and Roman mythology. If you don’t, you won’t hear it here. The guide, however, is very detailed for paintings: a great source of information in the Sistine Chapel & Borgia Apartments!
- There are grounds tours available – we didn’t do but it seemed amazing! The grounds are so green and luscious.
I was underwhelmed by the Sistine Chapel. I think because of all the build up my whole life. BUT it was amazing nonetheless. And it is the end of every museum tour (route) of the Vatican. So you can’t miss it!
- Do the Sistine Chapel first thing in the morning – we entered the museum and headed (skipping everything) right to the chapel. It was not crowded at all and very quiet. You could walk around/sit and follow the audio guide as it described the walls & ceiling. Then return to where you started and begin visit the museums
- Dress Code – no tank tops or shorts (men or women)
- If you wait to go to the Chapel in the afternoon it will be crowded and unpleasant with docents shouting directions and shhhh every few seconds. All the nightmares you read about online are true for afternoons.
- NO PHOTOS – don’t be that dummy
- There is an exit from the Chapel to St. Peters BUT it’s technically only for tour groups. But I’ve read mixed reviews online about getting in that way – decide for yourself
St. Peter’s Basilica
The AMAZING cathedral in the Vatican. We only viewed from afar because of the horrendous line – but everything about it online seems amazing! Definitely worth a visit if you time it right.
- It seems (via online) that St. Peter’s is open before the Vatican Museums (7 am). So I would say go wayyy early – do the Basilica and then head to the museum – you’ll be first in line! If you wait to try in the afternoon the line will be wrapped around St. Peter’s Square!
- I believe the Basilica is closed until 1pm on Wednesdays for Service – I don’t recommend going on Wednesday (like us). By the time we were done with the museums the line for St. Peter’s was hours long
- Strictly enforced Dress Code – no shorts or bare shoulders!
Santa Maria Maggiore
A grand church located near Termini Train Station. This church is SO large and over the top it warrants a visit. And the inside is no let down! This church was AMAZING, and anyone interested in Religion/Cathedrals needs to visit it.
- BRING CASH – they have a cool tour of the upstairs and (I think) a crypt for 5 Euros/person. It seemed awesome and what steal! BUT cash only so come prepared.
This little slice of ancient Rome is definitely worth a visit. While it is now a working church, the amazement lies in it’s roots: it was originally built as a Roman Temple and is one of the oldest remaining structures in Rome. The inside is just as amazing as the architecture – housing the tomb of Raphael.
Rome is full of religious history, and a church can be seen on every corner. A great way to tour the city is by a route that follows its amazing churches. Following such a route will definitely get you to the iconic sites that define Rome as a tourist destination.