Santa Maria in Trastevere
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Church of Bones), Located on Via Veneto near the Embassy, this Ossuary (like a Crypt) displays the bones along the walls and ceilings. But unlike others many of the bones are actually displayed and dressed as if they are friars. The Crypt holds the bones of 4,000 friars. But each of the 5 rooms tells a story. Situated in the heart of Trastevere, Santa Maria in Trastevere was possibly the first Christian place of worship in Rome. According to legend a natural spring of oil sprung up out of the ground here shortly before the birth of Christ. The wonderful mosaics date from the late thirteenth century and the work of Pietro Cavallini – they depict various scenes from the life of the virgin. There is also a 7th century icon depicting the Madonna di Clemenza as a Byzantine Empress. In the main portico it is possible to view numerous Latin inscriptions dating from the early Christian era. The crypt is from the ninth century. Santa Maria in Trastevere is open from 7.30am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm.
Basilica of San Paolo
The Basilica of St Paul is one of the five great basilicas of Rome. It was originally built in the fourth century AD, on the site believed to be the final resting place of St Paul. Over the centuries it was extended and remodeled until 1823, when workmen spilt burning tar, starting a fire which largely destroyed the building. It was soon rebuilt, and passed officially into the hands of the Vatican as part of the 1929 Lateran treaties. San Paolo Fuori le Mura is open daily between 7.30am and 18.30pm.
Santa Maria Maggiore
One of the great Basilicas of Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore is also likely to be the first one that you see, due to its proximity to Rome’s main train station, Termini. First built in 360 by Pope Liberius, the current structure is a rebuilding comissioned by Pope Sixtus III a century later. The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is open daily from 7am-7pm.
Santa Maria del Popolo
On the northern side of the Piazza del Popolo, next to the huge and elaborate Flaminian gate, is the relatively unassuming entrance to the 5th century church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Inside, however, is a beautiful treasure-trove of art including work by Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael. Santa Maria del Popolo is open from 7am-12noon & 4pm-7pm Mon-Sat, and 8.00am-7.30pm Sun.
Just to the south of the centre of Rome, on the Aventine Hill, is the Basilica of Santa Sabina all’Aventino, a quiet and attractive church dating back to the early fifth century. Santa Sabina is best known as the home of the Dominican order, having been presented to Saint Dominic himself by Pope Honorius III in 1219. Sant Sabina is open daily from 7am to 12.45pm in the morning and from 3.30pm to 6pm in the afternoon.
The Pantheon was built by Hadrian in 125 AD, on the site of an earlier building which has burned down (the inscription on the Portico, which credits Marcus Agrippa with the construction, is a reference to that earlier building). Originally a temple to the Roman gods, it was converted into a Christian church by Boniface IV in the early 7th century. Since then it has also been known by the name Santa Maria ad Martyres. The Pantheon is easily reachable on foot, lying in the maze of streets betwen Piazza Navona and the Trevi fountain. There are plenty of signposts.