While many are the ways to enjoy the Italian capital, a unique and definitely original one is to follow a route inspired by the best mosaics in Rome.
Below is just a little itinerary I’m sure in-the-know travelers and lovers of the finest human genius are bound to appreciate, stroll where I intentionally left out other great examples such as Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica, to which I’ll devote a whole post.
Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica
The colorful Esquilino area, in Monti neighborhood, is home to some of the best mosaics in the city. Start your tour at the beautiful Santa Maria Maggiore basilica, a short walk from Vittorio Emanuele metro station, and indulge in the exquisite combination of art and architecture already from its facade. Then get inside and admire the stunning mosaics dating back to the fifth century flanking the large central nave and illustrating the main biblical tales leading to the main artwork of the huge mosaic decorating the apse.
Address: Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. Opening hours: Every day 7am-7pm
Santa Prassede Basilica
Santa Prassede basilica is one beautiful hidden gem in central Rome. Very close to Santa Maria Maggiore, inside this church you will also find some important relics such as the bones of some of Rome’s Christian martyrs, including Prassede’s. Both the nave and the two aisles, along with the lovely Zenone Chapel are beautifully decorated with mosaics of the ninth century portraying the Christ and a noble woman, identified with Prassede herself, daughter of a Roman senator and the martyr this basilica is devoted to.
Address: 9/a Via Santa Prassede. Opening hours: Weekday 7.30am- 12pm and 4-6pm; Holidays ore 8am-12pm and 4-6.30pm
Santa Pudenziana Basilica
Sister of Prassede, Pudenziana was another martyr and her namesake early Christian basilica, Santa Pudenziana, lies a stone’s throw away from her sister’s resting place. Here you can admire some of the city’s oldest mosaics dating back between 410 and 417, created right after Alaric’s Visigoths’ deadly sack of Rome in 410. Images of Imperial Rome were adapted to the Christian message, so the Christ is portrayed sitting on Emperor Constantine’s throne and the Apostles dressed like Roman senators.
Address: 160, Via Urbana. Opening hours: Every day 8,30am-12pm and 3-6pm
Santi Cosma and Damiano Basilica
Commissioned in the sixth century by pope Felice IV after emperor Theodoric offered the Vatican the ancient Peace forum and the temple of the Divus Romulus. Merged, the two buildings created present-day church devoted to two Greek brothers, doctors and martyrs, that was enriched with a mosaic in the apsis dating back between the sixth and the sevent century and representing the two saints being received in heaven.
Address: 1, via dei Fori Imperiali. Opening hours: every day 9am-1pm and 3-7pm
Romans’ talent for engineering and overall passion for beauty is legendary, with today’s ruins showing only a tiny part of the elegance and majesty of imperial times. Part of their glorious architecture, today we can stare at the wonderful Caracalla Baths. Thermae Antoninianae were commissioned by Caracalla in 212 AD, and it took 5 years and some 9,000 workers to build what now is one of the biggest and best preserved ancient thermal baths. Inaugurated in 216 and renovated several times, they ceased to be operative in 537, when Gothic King Vitige severed the aqueducts to bend and conquer the city by thirst. Apart from the wide gardens and sculptures, we can see big chunks of the original mosaics created to embellish the floors and the interior of beauty salon rooms, usually portraying gods and muscular athletes.
Address: 52 viale delle Terme di Caracalla. Opening hours: open every day from 9am to an hour before sunset, so around 4,30/5pm in winter and 6,30/7pm in summer.