What strikes me about Rome is that everywhere you look, there is history. It’s one of those cities that you can keep returning back to and still be in awe of its magnificence. We were recently in Rome for the Easter weekend and it was our fourth visit, yet it still felt exciting, ‘new’ and took our breath away.
If you’re heading to Rome, here are thirty things I recommend to see or do.
1. Visit the Colosseum, which started construction in 70 AD and could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people.
2. Visit the Roman Forum, which is adjacent to the Colosseum and was a plaza of important government buildings that are now ruins.
3. Avoid the crowds and see the Colosseum at night. You won’t be able to go in but it looks stunning and you’ll have the view all to yourself.
4. Take a stroll down Via dei Fori Imperiali, which is a street running from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum and passes through the ruins of the Forum of Trajan, Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva, which you can see on both sides of the street.
5. Whilst walking down Via dei Fori Imperiali, note the statues of famous Emperors such as Julius Caesar and Augustus.
6. At Piazza Venezia be sure to take in the magnificent Altare della Patria, which is a Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy and also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can also go inside (it’s free) where it’s a museum dedicated to the unification of Italy.
7. Just a short walk from Piazza Venezia and the Altare della Patria is the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. It’s one of the most authentic areas in Rome and was established in 1555. Once a thriving fish market, it’s now a neighbourhood filled with restaurants, churches and synagogues.
8. When visiting the Jewish Ghetto, don’t miss the Portico d’Ottavia and the ruins of Teatro Marcello, which was an open-air theatre that could hold approximately 11,000 to 20,000 spectators who would come to watch singing, dancing or plays.
9. Staying in the Jewish Ghetto, don’t miss the Fontane delle Tartarughe, or Turtle Fountain. It’s a late Renaissance fountain that was originally built as a drinking fountain. The water was sourced from the Acqua Vergine, one of Rome’s first aqueducts.
10. Head across the Tiber river from the Jewish Ghetto to Trastevere, which is a lively neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants. Lonely Planet has a great post on what to see and do in this area.
11. When in Trastevere, stop for lunch in Grazia & Graziella.
12. A great street for shopping is Via del Corso, which runs all the way from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia.
13. Another great place to shop is the Prati area, which is close to the Vatican. The main shopping street is called Viale Cola di Rienzo. There are lots of independent shops here as well as some well-known brands.
14. Don’t miss the Mercato dell’ Unità, which is on Viale Cola di Rienzo – it’s a very traditional market selling fruit and vegetables, flowers and fish.
15. No matter if you’re religious, or not, (or whatever your religion is), you can’t miss a visit to the Vatican. Did you know that it’s an official state? So, essentially you’re visiting another city within Rome!
16. The Sistine Chapel is a must-see but can’t be seen on its own – you have to buy tickets for the whole of the Vatican museum. Avoid the queues by getting a guided tour. Yes it’s more expensive but will save you a few hours of queuing.
17. After the Vatican, head to Castel Sant’ Angelo which was initially commissioned as a Mausoleum to Emperor Hadrian and his family. Later it was used as a fortress and a castle and is now a museum.
18. Be sure to walk along the bridge that leads to Castel Sant’ Angleo and take in the view. The bridge itself also has some beautiful sculptures on it. There’s also a great view of the Vatican from the bridge.
19. If you’re not familiar with aperitivo, read Sam Sparrow’s post all about it. There is nothing better than, after a long day of exploring, to sit down and enjoy a drink with some finger food. Head to Trastevere if you want to experience aperitivo culture, although any bar in Rome will serve aperitivo too.
20. The famous Naples pizzeria L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele has opened a branch in Rome. If you want delicious, authentic pizza that’s bigger than your head and less than $10, this is the place! It’s not in the centre but is just a short walk from Piazza del Popolo.
21. The Pantheon was a former Roman temple and is now a church. It’s almost 2,000 years old and is free to just walk in to. It’s a must-see.
22. If you’re looking for an amazing Amatriciana, then head to Armando al Pantheon for lunch or dinner. It’s very popular so book in advance.
23. You cannot go to Rome and not visit the stunning Piazza Navona. It is built on the former site of the Stadium of Domitian and dates back to the 1st century AD! Not only does it have absolutely beautiful fountains, it is a great place for people watching. There are often artists at one end painting away and selling their art.
24. Just a few minutes walk from Piazza Navona is Piazza Campo dei Fiori, which means ‘field of flowers’ – it was given this name when it was a meadow back in the Middle Ages. Now it’s a bustling, daily market where you can buy fruit and veg and other food items.
26. Can you say you even visited Rome if you don’t pay a visit to Fontana di Trevi? It’s one of the most famous fountains in the world and has featured in many films, such as La Dolce Vita. People flock to the fountain and throw an estimated €3,000 into the fountain every day! It is very crowded though so if you want to avoid crowds, go very early in the morning.
25. The Spanish Steps are 135 steps leading from Piazza di Spagna to the church of Trinità dei Monti at the top. Walk up to the top to see a fabulous view over Rome – you can even spot the Vatican in the distance.
27. The Quirinale is a historic building in Rome and one of the three official residences to the President of the Italian Republic.
28. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated evening drink, head to Zuma which is in Palazo Fendi (yes, the designer) just off Via del Corso. It’s very trendy, the cocktails are great and during summer there’s a terrace.
29. When in Italy, drink coffee! Italy has the best coffee in the world and a real coffee culture. Note though that if you sit down at a table to drink a cup of coffee, it’s more expensive than just standing up at the counter.
30. Rome has amazing food, as long as you don’t fall into a tourist trap. Avoid any restaurants with ‘tourist menus’. If you’re looking for something a bit more fine dining, then book a table at Perpetual – absolutely amazing food and gorgeous decor.
So there you have it – thirty things to see and do in Rome. If you’re looking for a hotel recommendation, here’s a review of The First Roma, where we stayed. Buone vacanze!