Ah Roma! Rome. The Eternal City. No matter what you call it, there's no denying this city simply oozes culture, history, art and a heady mix of ancient charm mixed with modern style. Dive into the amazing experience that is Rome, where you can explore hidden treasures around every corner and where ancient stories blend with art and food for the ultimate travel cocktail. We're talking about a city that's got it all, from mind-blowing landmarks to pasta to die for. So, let's journey back in time and explore the most amazing things to see and do in this enchanting city. Some of them you may have heard of, some of them you may not have, so jump in, adventure awaits!
Check out these Must do's for Rome:
1. Colosseum: Get your gladiator on
Experience the ancient grandeur that is the Colosseum, an architectural marvel and one of the seven wonders of the world, it once hosted epic gladiator battles and grand spectacles. The largest surviving amphitheatre in the world, you can't help but stand in awe of this colossal amphitheater's imposing presence, and imagine the roars of the crowd reverberating through its walls. Constructed in 70-80 AD, the Colosseum was the grand arena for thrilling gladiator contests and entertainment, it's a true testament to Roman engineering. There are a range of tours that allow you access to different areas of the collosseum. We recommend the VIP underground tour, we loved the special access and insight into the workings below the arena floor below making your way up through the levels to the arena above. Find fab Colosseum tour links here
2. Vatican City: Holy Art meets Ancient Artifacts
Explore the world's smallest independent state, Vatican City, home to the stunning St. Peter's Basilica and the magnificent Vatican Museums. Take the time to check out St Peter's Basilica, the centrepiece of Vatican City built in the 16th century, or better yet take a tour to climb St Peter's dome for a truly spectacular view. Afterwards hit up the Vatican Museums where you'll find an astonishing collection of artworks and ancient artifacts (the Vatican Museums have been housing incredible art collections since the 16th century). Gaze upon Michelangelo's masterpiece the Sistine Chapel ceiling (you may want to take your time to soak it in as there's no photos/videos allowed in here unfortunately), and marvel at the sheer amount of wealth and intricate detailing oozing from every corner. There's only one way in and one way out so you can take as much time as you like, we recommend around 4-5 hours.
Hot Tip: Buy your Skip the Line entry tickets online in advance to avoid the long queues. We recommend this strategy for all the main attractions to avoid missing out.
Get your Vatican Tickets here
3. Pantheon: Dome Goals
Uncover the mysteries of the Pantheon, a marvel of Roman architecture with its iconic domed roof and oculus. This ancient temple turned church is a breathtaking blend of history and design. The dome is off the charts, and you'll be wondering how the ancient Romans pulled off such an amazing architectural feat. Built in 125 AD, the Pantheon's incredible dome remains one of the most well-preserved structures from ancient Rome. Free to enter but try and go early to avoid the queues and crowds. Remember, you will need to have shoulders covered as it is a church.
Hot Tip: after leaving the Pantheon head over to Antica Salumeria, the oldest Salumeria in Rome, and home to the most delicious charcuterie, sample their products and try their delicious Porchetta sandwich. You're welcome.
Find them just to the left of the The Fontana del Pantheon in the Piazza della Rotonda.
4. Trevi Fountain: Make a wish
Grab some coins and head to the Trevi Fountain –
it's like a magical wishing well, Roman-style. Throw in a coin (or three) over your shoulder and make a wish. Plus, Trevi fountain is seriously Insta-worthy – get ready for some gorgeous pics! Completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and a symbol of wishes and dreams.
Hot Tip: Go Early. This place gets seriously crowded. We were lucky enough to spend time minus the crowds around midday but that is a rarity.
5. Spanish Steps: Stairway to Chic Views
Next up, visit the Spanish Steps – a famous spot where you can get a great view of the city, but like Trevi Fountain it gets really busy so you may want to go early. It's like the ultimate hangout spot, and you'll see people chilling, chatting, and soaking up the sun. Built in the early 18th century, the Spanish Steps are a hub of activity and a popular meeting place for both locals and visitors. Nearby you'll find all the latest designer fashions (at designer prices). Head to La Rinascente for a spot of window shopping and relax and enjoy the views with a coffee or wine and a bite to eat at their roof top restaurant away from the crowds.
6. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: Ancient Feels
Want to feel like you've stepped back in time? Head to the Roman Forum – it's an ancient city center with ruins galore. And don't forget to climb Palatine Hill for a view that looks straight out of an epic film set. The Roman Forum dates back to around 7th century BC, serving as the heart of ancient Rome's political and social life. Palatine Hill, overlooking the Forum, was a desirable residential area since ancient times, wander around the ruins of the Domus Augustus, thought to be the main residence of Emperor Augustus. The walk towards the forum holds many ancient surprises, including the Forum of Caesar.
Hot tip: Combine your visit with a Colosseum tour, they are right next door to each other, saving you time and money.
Find your tours here
7. Piazza Navona: Art and Chill Vibes
Piazza Navona is like an art lover's dream – fountains, sculptures, and cafes everywhere. It's the place to grab a gelato, do some people-watching, and soak in the creative vibes. Transformed from a 1st-century stadium, Piazza Navona boasts impressive Baroque architecture and art that flourished during the 17th century.
Hot tip: Don't miss checking out the most famous markets in Rome at the Campo de' Fiori. Just across from Piazza Navona, this square is filled to the brim with flowers, fruits, vegetables, chesses, olive oils and much more. At night it livens up even more with all the bars surrounding it.
8. Trastevere: Quaint Quarters and Tasty Eats
Cross the river to Trastevere, a neighborhood that oozes bohemian charm and a haven for Foodies. Think cobblestone streets, hidden gems, and mouthwatering Roman food. Get ready to eat like a local and soak up the atmosphere. Trastevere's charm stems from its medieval roots, and today it's a lively district known for its artistic atmosphere and traditional Roman cuisine.
Hot tip: Don't miss Trapizzino, just near the Tiber River, for the ultimate street food, their delicious Trapizzini. These are tasty mini-calzone-style pocket sandwich eats with fillings such as chicken cacciatore, double cream, parmigiana, meatballs and for the adventurous, beef tongue (yeah...nah...apparently tastes amazing though!). This place gets crowded, its lively, noisy, vibrant and has a fantastic wine list. you can also order takeaway from the window counter.
9. Foodie Heaven: Pasta, Pizza, and Gelato, Oh My!
As much as we LOVE the stunning architecture, history and art, let's talk more about the other star of the show – the food. Savour freshly brewed espresso, dive into luscious bowls of fresh pasta that'll make your taste buds sing, savour the flavours of crispy Roman-style pizza and calzones, drink the wine and indulge in creamy gelato because, it would be a crime not to... You'll be getting your steps up with all the sight seeing so your body needs seriously delicious fuel, am I right??
Foodie Tips: In Rome, as in much of Italy, you'll find there are a few different prices tiers at restaurants and cafes. The cheapest is buying and drinking/eating at the counter (you'll see many locals drinking their morning espresso at the counter before heading on their way. The middle tier is sitting at a table inside and the most expensive is sitting outside alfresco style. The good news is that if you are using a table, it is yours for however long you wish, they will not try to move you on to flip tables, so if you want to sit down for a while, soak up the view and do some people watching the extra expense is so worth it.
As in Milan (see Milan Blog here), most bars and restaurants do Aperitivo where you order drinks and they will come with an assortment of snacks such as olives, vegetable crudites, crisps, savoury tarts and so on.
Paying the bill. When it is time to pay the bill in most cases you will need to catch the attention of your waitperson as they will not offer it to you, even if you've been sitting there for a while (not out of rudeness, they don't want to intrude on your experience). Also do not go up to counter to pay as it is customary for them to bring it to the table.
What to Wear?
Think natural fabrics, layers, feminine silhouettes, comfortable, stylish basics you can mix and match, a lightweight pareo scarf for covering up at religious sites (and to add a pop of colour) and most importantly, good walking shoes (you're going to be hitting those cobblestone streets in a major way!). Here's so inspo to get you started!
In Need of Some Chill Time?
With so many amazing sights to see, it's easy to get a bit frayed round the edges. Here's some great, free places to relax and recharge in the heart of the city.
1. Tiber River Stroll: Relax by the water
When you're in need of some chill time, hit up the Tiber River. Take a leisurely walk along the riverbanks, soak in the serenity, and snap some pics of the charming bridges that connect this incredible city.
2. Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese is located on the Pincian Hill, close to Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. It's gardens were originally created in 1606 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and cover around 80 hectares. Here you can stroll through the many scenic areas, music wafting through the air from the busker musicians lining the avenues, rent a row boat and take a spin around the small lake and relax under the shade of a leafy tree. Villa Borghese itself is an elegant building, set in formal English styled hedged gardens and housing the Galleria Borghese.
3. Janiculum Hill
Located in the Trastevere Region, Janiculum Hill is a peaceful and refreshing location close to the city center. Known by many as Rome's Balcony, you'll be treated to superb views of the city as you walk along the hill. Home to the stunning Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, Church of San Pietro in Montorio, Garibaldi Monument and Manfredi Lighthouse, there's plenty to see as you stroll around its pathways and parks.
Hot tip: Don't miss the long-standing tradition of the firing of the canon at noon each day. This tradition began in 1847, introduced by Pope Pius IX in order to have only one signal for the official time and to synchronize the bells of the churches at the time. The tradition still happens today, everyday without fail and we were lucky enough to stumble across it on one of our daily walks.
Looking to treat yourself to a pamper moment? Why not try a traditional Roman Bath experience?
You will find a few Roman spa and wellness options in and around Rome, but if you're looking for a sensory escape close to the city centre, check out Aqua Madre, a stunning traditional Roman Bath/Hammam tucked away in the old Jewish Ghetto, just steps in Piazza Mattei.
Where to stay?
You can't go wrong staying in and around the City Centre. Its great to have the freedom and flexibility to walk everywhere and discover the city at you're own pace. We chose to stay in Trastevere, just over the Tiber River from the city centre and literally 20 - 30 minutes walk to all the main attractions. An added bonus is that there's so many great bars, cafe's and restaurants in this area so it was great to "Aperitivo" our way back to our accommodation in the evenings, stopping for drinks and then dinner as went headed home. We can definitely recommend Villa Matissa for a gorgeous and central stay. The gardens were amazing and wonderful to relax in with a wine at the end of the day. There are many other choices in this area and you will find that they are easier on the budget than staying right in the centre of Rome. You can check them out here.
Looking to stay right in the action? Well don't worry there's so many places to choose from in the city centre. Depending on your interests and your budget, you can stay right next to the Vatican or the Colosseum if you'd like, or how about the Spanish Steps or a view of the Trevi Fountain from your window? Check the options out here.
Getting Around: Transport Info
Don't stress about getting around – Rome's got you covered. The most amazing way to see Rome is on foot, that's were you'll stumble upon some hidden gems along the way! If you're wanting a break from treading the cobblestoned pavement you can hop on the Rome Metro or catch a ride on the public buses and trams.
Here's some links to get you started:
Transport Options: Rome Metro, trams and Public Buses
Click the link below to find more information on must see and do's in Rome!
Remember, before you hit the road, make sure to check out the latest safe travel tips and any COVID-19 updates.
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