Must-See Holy Places in Rome

apostles in rome

Must-See Holy Places in Rome

With over 600 churches, Rome is the perfect destination for lovers of holy art and architecture.

You don’t need to be a Catholic to appreciate the breathtaking beauty and centuries of fascinating history housed within Rome’s holy sites.

The tradition of visiting Rome’s stunning holy places dates back to 1552 and what can be argued to be the first package tour guide from Filippo Neri. The Italian priest’s circuit of the Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome attracted over 6,000 people each summer.

Whether you’re looking to see some awe-inspiring art, worship during Holy Week or study the masters of Italian art – there’s something for everyone within our top holy sites in Rome.

The good news? Many of the must-see holy places in Rome are easily accessible on foot. Many of them are within 10-20 blocks of each other!

Want to hear the full history and insider information? Check out this exclusive Basilicas of Rome tour.

st. peter's basilica, Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Well of course we have to include St Peter’s in this list!

St Peter’s is the world’s largest (and most visited) church and features a striking key-shaped courtyard designed by Bernini.

While you’re here, stand on one of the colored pave stones by the fountain and check out the optical illusion of many rows of columns disappearing into one single column.

The basilica is the result of years of hard work from Bernini, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante. Michelangelo’s masterpiece Pieta lives here too – complete with carved sash proclaiming “Michaela[n]gelus Bonarotus Florentin[us] Facieba[t]” or “Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence Made It”.

If you’re not convinced that this is the world’s largest church, lines on the floor mark where all the other major churches would fit inside St. Peter’s.

Reliquary of the Holy Crib


Basilica of St. Mary Major

Often over-looked, the basilica of St. Mary Major is home to a miracle-working Virgin Mary image. This Virgin Mary was canonized and crowned in 1838 by Pope Gregory XVI.

The basilica also has The Holy Crib, complete with it’s own gold reliquary.

 

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme – Basilica of The Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Built in 325 by Constantine’s mother St. Helena, this basilica was originally intended to house Christian relics.

The relic chapel is still the most popular feature, which includes: part of one of the Holy Nails; three fragments of the True Cross; two thorns from the Crown of Thorns and part of the Elogium, the panel hung on the cross above Jesus’ head.

The Elogium reads, in Latin, Hebrew and Greek: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” and is considered to be a medieval forgery.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran

To give the basilica its full name: The Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran, this basilica was built under pope Melchiade (311-314) and is the most ancient church in the world.

It’s also known as “Mother and head of all Churches on Earth” – which is much easier to remember.

This basilica is the seat of the bishop of Rome, who of course, is also the Pope.

For 11 centuries it was also the Popes’ residence, until they moved to Avignon, France. After they moved back to Rome, they lived in Vatican City.

Now, the basilica holds the entombed remains of a few saints: Saints Cyprian, Secunda, Giustina and Rufina. As well as two popes: Pope Innocent IIIand Pope Leo XIII; who had the vision of Lucifer claiming that he could destroy God’s church in 100 years. As a result of this vision, Leo XIII composed the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

This Basilica also contains wood from the table used at the Last Supper. It is high above the altar above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to the left of the main Papal altar.

Want to experience these intriguing, fascinating holy places in person? Check out this exclusive Basilicas of Rome tour to get a private tour of the must-see holy places in Rome.

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The Best Day Trips From Rome

Positano, Amalfi Coast

The Best Day Trips From Rome

As much as we love Rome, sometimes you just want to escape the noise and heat of the Eternal City and step into a more laid-back pace of life!

With something for everyone, here’s our pick of the top 5 day trips from Rome.

Ostia Antica Day Trip

With preserved ancient remains to rival Pompeii, Ostia Antica is a delightful excursion from Rome’s busy streets.

Ostia Antica was ancient Rome’s vibrant sea port and is now an awe-inspiring archaeological showcase.

Prepare to be immersed in the 2nd-century world of ancient Rome. You can visit the public baths – Terme di Nettuno – and admire the artistic effort put into the stunning floor mosaic onsite.

After this, stop off at the awe-inspiring amphitheatre. There’s also an ancient cafe – the Thermopolium – that still has traces of the frescoed menu on the walls.

Want to know the secrets hidden amongst the ruins of Ostia Antica? Book into a private tour today.

Visit the World Heritage Villas at Tivoli

You can take in not one, but TWO World Heritage Sites on this day trip to Tivoli!

Just 30km east of Rome, Tivoli is easily accessible by bus or car. Start your day out at Villa d’Este, a wonderful luxury villa and Renaissance gardens.

Look out for the Bernini-designed Fountain of the Organ, which uses a concealed organ powered by water pressure to play beautiful music. There’s also the 130m-long Avenue of the Hundred Fountains to check out.

After taking in all that splendor, head to Villa Adriana – the ruins of an expansive country estate once belonging to Emperor Hadrian.

You’ll need at least an afternoon to discover all the treasures hidden over the Villa’s 40 acres.

Hadrian’s personal refuge, Teatro Marittimo, was a mini-villa built on an island in an artificial pool, originally accessible only by swing bridges.

There’s also the canopo (a landscaped canal overlooked by a nymphaeum – a shrine to the water nymph) several bath complexes, temples and barracks.

Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Private Tour

Of course we couldn’t leave Pompeii off this list!

Witness 2000 years of perfectly preserved history at the site of one of the most significant natural disasters of all time.

This Unesco-listed site is huge and you’ll need at least three hours set aside just to see the essentials.

Popular attractions include the Forum, Lupanare (an ancient brothel) and amphitheatre.

Out of the town’s original 66 hectares, only 44 have been excavated, leaving plenty of new discoveries waiting to be uncovered.

Enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of an infamously picturesque part of Italy on our Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Private Tour.

Download Our Free Walking Tour of Rome Guide & Get Expert Insights into the Eternal City’s Best-Kept Secrets