Rome is getting ready for the Jubilee of Mercy, an extraordinary Holy Year which is being held ten years in advance. This historic event will begin with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on 8th December 2015 and will end on 20th November 2016. Following the most recent Paris attacks, the Vatican assured everyone that the Jubilee will still take place and Muslims will be more than welcome as well.
However, Rome isn’t all St. Peter and religion; Vatican City is a state apart, as everybody knows.
So, here just a few things you can’t miss while in Rome:
- The Pantheon and the Piazza Navona
The iconic Pantheon was built between 118 and 125 A.D. Important historically, and iconic in its architecture, this majestic building famously holds the body of the renaissance artist Raphael. A couple of blocks to the east sits the Piazza Navona with the striking Fountain of Four Rivers church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed respectively by the Baroque artists Gian-Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. In the 1963 comedy ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ Sophia Loren’s character Mara lives in a flat overlooking Piazza Navona.
- Toulouse-Lautrec at Ara Pacis Museum
From December 4 until May 8 2016, the Ara Pacis Museum will exhibit 170 works by the French artist coming from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition retraces the last years of the bohemian painter between 1891 to 1901, when he died at the age of 36. An alcoholic aristocrat known for his dissolute lifestyle, he bought popularity to the Montmartre district of Paris, and is considered one of the most important Post-Impressionists. Seeing Ara Pacis building itself, an altar to peace that Augustus had built in the year 9 B.C., is definitely worth the visit.
- The Sistine Chapel and the Pietà
Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with stories from Genesis, from the Creation to the Fall the man. Located within the Vatican Museum, definitely book your ticket in advance since it is one of the most popular touristic attractions in the city. Next door, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Michelangelo’s Pietà is a stunning Renaissance sculpture in Carrara marble that depicts the body of Christ slumped across Mary’s lap after the Crucifixion.
- L’Eau Vive, the holy restaurant
Located on Via Monterone, just behind the Pantheon, L’Eau Vive is an elegant, unique French restaurant. It’s special because all the dishes are prepared by the Lavoratrici Missionarie dell’Immacolata of the Famiglia Donum Dei, i.e. a sisterhood of nuns. The restaurant is closed on Sunday since, of course, it is the day of the Lord.
- The keyhole view of Vatican
To enjoy a unique view head off to The Knights of Malta square on the Aventine hill. Here you can see St. Peter’s dome through the keyhole framed by the trees of the gardens of Villa del Priorato di Malta.
- Trevi Fountain
The refurbishment has lasted more than a year but since the beginning of November the famous fountain is free from any scaffold cage. Finished in 1762, this masterpiece of baroque architecture has appeared in the notable 1960 Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita.
- Piazza della Repubblica and the second-hand books stands
Close to Termini train station, and not far from Rome’s Opera House and its beautiful interior, the semi-circular Piazza della Repubblica is distinctive due to its elegant porticos. In the square, you can find different stands where you will find locals looking not only for books but also for DVDs and vinyl. This is the perfect place to hang out if your train is late.
- The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Set in this church is a wonderful sculptural group designed by Gian-Lorenzo Bernini for the Cornaro family. The central sculpture, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, sees the nun, Teresa of Avila, with an angel poised above her, while she is caught in the moment of the mystic ecstasy. Bernini elaborates this religious scene with theatrical and sensual effects which are far from the standard artistic language, showing his patrons to the sides, looking over the ‘saintly’ scene.
- San Luigi dei Francesi church and Caravaggio
How many chances are there to see Caravaggio’s paintings for free? This church, next to the Piazza Navona, was dedicated to Louis XI of France. It features a series of paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, painted by Caravaggio, about the life of St. Matthew.
- Campo de’ Fiori and its market
Last, but certainly not least, there is Campo de’ Fiori, the ‘field of flowers’, named due to the location being a meadow in the Middle Ages. The philosopher Giordano Bruno was executed in this square as were many other people and today his statue overlooks the market. In the early hours you can breathe in the local authentic atmosphere and buy some flowers and vegetables.