Rome, Italy is one of the most visited capitals in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The ruins, centuries of rich history, enchanting narrow streets, and the Dolce Vita lifestyle is a winning combination. If it’s your first time visiting, there are some unmissable spots you must add to your list of attractions. The downside? You’ll be sharing the experience with thousands of tourists at any time of the year. Rome is the type of place where you must visit historical sites, which we will mention, so you have a complete all-encapsulating experience in Rome. But if that’s not your style of travel *spoiler alert*, skip to the end, where we share some secret spots.
First, hot tips
To help you have a seamless experience in Rome, we cannot recommend enough that you pre-book your entry tickets to popular tourist attractions, especially in the summer when the queues are out of control. Visit the top landmarks like the Trevi Fountain early in the morning, before restaurants even open for breakfast, because if there are dining venues around, they will quickly fill up until well into the night.
Let’s start with the top must-see places in Rome. Stay tuned until the end because we saved the best for last.
Must-Visit Places in Rome
Marvel at the Colosseum
The amphitheater, one of the seven wonders of the world, is every bit as spectacular as portrayed in Gladiator film. We are only joking, of course! Despite the tourist crowds, envisioning the history that took place here over the nearly 2,000 years of its existence is a pinch-worthy sensation.
Admire Vatican City
Vatican City, located within Rome, is the world’s smallest country. Aside from St. Peter’s Square, there is a wealth of art and history to discover in the museums, breathtaking views from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, and intricate frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain
Head to the Trevi Fountain early in the morning to see its baroque grandeur unobstructed by crowds. Legend has it that if you through one coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome, Italy. Two coins, you will fall in love with an Italian. Three coins, you will marry that person. Of course, being the most famous fountain in the world, tourists plop around $3,300 daily into its turquoise waters! But you’ll be happy to learn the money is donated to charity, and so was the one coin we tossed.
Appreciate the Pantheon
Visit the Pantheon, the best-preserved temple in the world, constructed in 118 AD. Admire the staggering columns on the front of the building and the spectacular dome with a circular opening that allows light to spill through. What do you think happens to all the water when it rains? Share in the comments below!
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum, located next to the Colosseum, is one of the most important ruins in Italy. And from Palatine Hill, just 40 meters above the ruins, you can enjoy sweeping views over what once was the seat of Ancient Rome.
Wander Through Trastevere
Step out of the historic center and visit this charming neighborhood. Although it is no longer a secret, its charming winding cobbled streets lined with pastel-colored buildings and peppered with romantic restaurants are wonderfully picturesque. Take your time strolling around, sit down to people watch on Piazza di Santa Maria and stimulate your appetite with an aperitivo.
Things to Do in Rome, Italy
Take a Cooking Class
When in Rome, the best souvenir you can take away is the skill that goes into creating the dishes that represent Italy. There is nothing more thoughtful than recreating this experience for your friends and family at home.
Eat, Eat, Eat, Rome Foods
Tasting authentic Italian food should be your top priority during your stay. But with around 15,000 pizzerias and over 8,000 restaurants to choose from, which ones are authentic and which are a tourist trap? First, you want to make your way out of the historical center where most restaurants have touts waving tourists inside. And second, choose a place with a small menu written only in Italian. Italian restaurants catering to locals have strict meal timings and will close outside those hours. And if you’ve selected an authentic Italian restaurant for dinner, do make reservations in advance because dinner for Italians is a long-lasting affair that stretches for hours. So, if you arrive at a restaurant already at full occupancy, don’t waste your time waiting on a table to become available. Instead, find another restaurant and join the tradition of savoring every single bite.
We hope you brought your stretchy pants because there is lots of goodness to try in Rome foods. If you have limited time, taking a food tour will give you a great introduction to Italian dishes. Besides pizza and pasta, we tasted other delicacies and narrowed it down to a few of the Rome foods you should definitely try.
Traditional Italian breakfast consists of scoffing down a sweet pastry and chasing it with an espresso or frothy cappuccino at the bar. You can indulge in a cornetto at Bar La Licata with a view of the Colosseum. They open at 05:30, which guarantees you being first at all the tourist hot spots.
Passing by Piperno in the Jewish Quarter, you may notice people peeling away layers off a peculiar-looking flower. Join them in tasting the famous carciofi alla giuda artichokes – deep-fried artichokes.
Sample mouthwatering pizza pockets and suppli, fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese, at Trapizzino while wandering through Trastevere.
You may have already noticed the number one thing Italians love the most is eating good food and drinking good wine. But you won’t find them in tourist-swarmed places like the Colosseum, Spanish steps, or Trevi Fountain. Instead, here is what you must do in Italy to have a truly local experience.
Have a Picnic at Park Caffarella
This beautiful enormous park is a green oasis amidst the bustling city that tourists don’t know about. Offering a wonderful mix of picturesque landscape and ancient ruins, it’s the perfect place to escape with fresh paninis and a bottle of wine in hand.
Take a Stroll to Isola Tiberina
Isola Tiberina is a small island in the middle of the Tiber river and is actually one of the world’s smallest inhabited islands. Take a walk from Trastevere to Isola Tiberina through charming small old streets leading up to the two beautiful bridges that connect the island to the mainland. The island is home to a 10th-century basilica with healing water and summertime open-air cinema events.
Have Dinner at Fraschette-Ariccia
Located out of the city and off the tourist radar, Fraschette-Ariccia is a traditional restaurant offering the best authentic Roman food. You must make a reservation before arriving, and with that, also reserve your appetite for this full-evening affair.
Indulge in Mouthwatering Tiramisu at Pompi
Since 1960, Pompi has been specializing in desserts, specifically tiramisu. They have perfected the craft, making it the most scrumptious tiramisu in Rome, Italy. The melting spoonfuls of flavor-packed clouds accompanied by espresso coffees transported us to seventh heaven.
Jennifer Roberts, an art historian at Harvard University, conducted an exercise with her students, asking them to stare at a painting for three hours without interruption. With must resistance at first, students noticed more details and were able to make thought-provoking conclusions over time. In the same way, in a world geared for hurry, we tend to be driven by ticking off as many must-dos and must-sees, which takes away from truly experiencing a destination. The innate essence of Italy is to allow things to take the time they take and enjoy the process. There are so many great places to visit in this country, like Lake Como, so be sure to check out that blog as well.
For our full travel guide to another great Italian city, Milan, you can find that guide here.