The classical past, the Renaissance, and the modern come together in the Italian capital, LATAM's newest destination
Rome is an old acquaintance, even for those who've never set foot in Italy. Its stories and legends are told all over and they help us understand the paths of Western civilization. In the Italian capital, there are valuable vestiges of our past on every corner. What perhaps many do not know is that the city isn't stuck in time. More than just an outdoor museum, it's an international metropolis where a variety of accents come together and the landscape and trends are also renewed. Immerse yourself in this new destination and discover the wonders of the Eternal City's different eras.
The first rays of sun have barely crossed the immense columns of the Temple of Saturn and the Palatine Hill region is already swarming with tourists. It is there, nearby the ruins of the Roman Forum, that a wolf is said to have nursed the twins Romulus and Remus, giving origin to the legend that marks the beginning of a story that spans nearly 30 centuries.
More than a chronological cliché, starting your itinerary with the founding of Rome is a strategic decision: the Roman Forum and the Colosseum alone attract over 6 million visitors every year. Buying your ticket in advance and paying attention to their hours of operation is the best way to avoid lines and enjoy each detail to the fullest.
And there are plenty of details. Whether at Cesar's Tomb, which is decorated with flowers and coins to this day; at the Temple of Vesta, where statues of the virgin priestesses remain preserved; or at the Milliarium Aureum, a monument next to the Temple of Saturn, from where distances were measured under the Empire, the region materializes a story told many times.
Following the obvious path traced by the monuments, you'll come to another landmark of Ancient Rome, the Colosseum. Since 2017, in addition to guided visits to the hypogeum – the underground network where gladiators and animals once waited before rising into the arena –, it has been possible to visit the Colosseum's upper floors. Some 170 feet [52 m] above street level, the portici once represented the least noble section in the Flavian Amphitheater. Reopened for visitation in late 2017, after being closed for 40 years, these spaces, originally designated for women and slaves, today enjoy the best views – a truly Roman twist of fate!
The renaissance of the metropolis
Rome is like lasagna: a single city with many layers of history. This is the case of such buildings as the Pantheon. Rebuilt by Hadrian in 126 AD, the temple was given to Pope Boniface IV in the year 609, and dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs. A well-preserved example of Roman architecture, the locale is now home to the tombs of two Italian kings, Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, as well as the Renaissance master Rafael Sanzio, who lived his final 12 years in the city.
Though born in Tuscany, the Renaissance came to Rome at the turn of the 16th century with the arrival of such talents as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, as well as Rafael. It was the beginning of an artistic, architectural, and everyday evolution that would change the face of the region over the following 200 years. Part of the work produced during this period can be found at such spaces as the Galleria Borghese and the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj – but its effects can also be felt in the streets, at the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna (1725), currently a late-afternoon hangout for young people, and at Fontana di Trevi (1762), where people toss coins and make wishes.
But perhaps the best example of the Renaissance tradition is Vatican City. The smallest sovereign state on Earth concentrates the most exclusive art collection by the Renaissance masters. Saint Peter's Basilica itself is an example of this: founded at the locale where the Circus of Nero once stood, the Basilica was designed by the Renaissance architect Donato Bramante in 1506. Subsequently, artists like Michelangelo and Bernini designed such projects as the enormous dome and the colonnade in Saint Peter's Square, respectively, in addition to the works of art for the church's opulent interior, like the incredible Pietà (1499) and the papal altar.
Circumventing the square on the right, you'll come to the Vatican Museums, where 20,000 pieces are displayed in 54 different spaces. They include such diverse venues as the Gallery of Maps, which has examples of Italian cartography from the 16th century, and the Gallery of Contemporary Art, where you can even see work by Latin American artists like Peruvian Marina Nuñez del Prado and Colombian Fernando Botero. With so much to see, watch for signs with the number '100,' indicating what are considered the 100 most important works of art in the complex. The excursion also includes an entire area dedicated to Rafael, with murals like the School of Athens (1511), and ends with the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's most iconic fresco, completed in 1512. Unfortunately, taking pictures there is prohibited – and if you forget, one of the security guards will be sure to remind you, interrupting your selfie with shouts of 'No picture! No picture!'
Back to the future
After nightfall, the aroma of caldarroste, or roasted nuts, fills Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon. At Piazza Navona, foreign musicians entertain crowds with their versions of Guns N' Roses and the Police songs. Inside the bars, you'll find people of all ages enjoying glasses of wine and platters of appetizers: in contemporary Rome, it's easy to understand the dolce vita in Italy.
These days, the city's modern scene has moved to Monti. The neighborhood where Woody Allen filmed part of the movie To Rome with Love is home to some of the hippest spots in the city. Get lost on Via Urbana, where such restaurants as La Vacca M'briaca and Urbana 47 exist side by side with bike shops and an alternative movie theater, the Detour. Over on Via Leonina, nearby the Cavour subway station, MercatoMonti has clothes, décor objects, and accessories, all of it with a hipster-chic touch, like the neighborhood itself.
The combination of different eras is visible at such locales as Centrale Montemartini, a kind of an “affiliate” of the Capitoline Museums installed inside an abandoned factory. There, ancient works of art are exhibited out of context, in between pieces of heavy industrial machinery. In addition to hectic historical sites, the city also has less crowded spaces, dedicated to the contemporary art scene. A few blocks from Galleria Borghese, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACRO) bets on interactivity and work by foreign artists like British photographer Léonie Hampton and South African photographer Guy Tillim.
To the north, you can see brand-new Roman art in the neighborhood of Flaminio: it's home to MAXXI – Museo Nazionale Delle Arti del XXI Secolo. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), the building stands out in the neoclassical neighborhood with its concrete structure. Much like MACRO, it also has a space for foreigners, including South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere and an exhibition dedicated to the conflicts in Lebanon. If, in the past, all roads led to Rome, contemporary Rome seems to look back at each one of them.
Starting March 16, LATAM will have direct flights to Rome from São Paulo.
Special thanks to: ENIT – The Italian Government Tourist Board and Hotel Hassler Roma, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World
On your way to this destination, you can try the new Economy Class menu that LATAM now serves on flights longer than seven hours. It features several options of international and vegetarian dishes, made with local ingredients, created to offer you a better experience. A new menu to make your senses fly high.