A fitting beginning to the When in Rome feature, John Pinto, the Howard Crosby Butler Memorial Professor of the History of Architecture, Emeritus and Professor of Art and Archaeology Emeritus, gives Princeton travelers insider's information on none other than Rome.

Why does Rome hold such a fascination for you?

The experience of coming of age in Rome in the early 1960s has much to do with my feelings for the city. The fact that Rome has been a center of artistic production over the course of two millennia naturally engages my interests as an art historian. I've been drawn to the study of monuments like the Trevi Fountain and Hadrian's Villa, both of which transcend the culture and age that created them and continue to invite new responses from audiences never dreamed of by their designers.

What are three things one must do "when in Rome," particularly for the first-time visitor?

  • Take in the prospect of the city from the heights of the Janiculum Hill, the same view recommended by the poet Martial in Classical Antiquity and memorably described as “the greatest theatre of the world" by Garibaldi in the nineteenth century.
  • Visit the church of San Clemente near the Colosseum in order to experience Rome's richly layered subsoil and history. In the course of the visit one progresses ever deeper, passing from the twelfth-century church at ground level to its fourth-century predecessor below, finally reaching chambers dating from the Apostolic age at the lowest level.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the Piazza Navona, pausing to admire Bernini's masterpiece, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, at its center and entering Borromini's church of Sant'Agnese in Agone to admire its rich Baroque interior.

What are the two or three things that one should do or places that one should go while in Rome that won’t be found in a typical guidebook?

  • Seek out the Museum of the Resistance on the Via Tasso, near the Lateran, where the events chronicled in Rossellini's film Rome Open City come vividly to life.
  • Take a morning walk out the Appian Way, turning on the Via della Caffarella, a country lane that affords views of the pastoral landscape beloved by Claude Lorrain and Pousin. Don’t miss the picturesque ancient fountain known as the Grotto of the Nymph Egeria.
  • Pay a visit to the Protestant Cemetery in the shadow of the ancient pyramid of Gaius Cestius, where Keats and Severn, along with countless other foreign visitors, are buried.

What is in competition with Rome for your favorite spot on the planet?

  • City: Istanbul
  • Nature: The Point Reyes National Seashore