Roma, aka the Eternal City, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, it is rich in history, art, and ruins so there is much to see and do. In fact, everywhere you turn you’ll stumble across some painting, sculpture, fountain, building or ruin. Famous for great shopping, crazy drivers and traffic, and FABULOUS food it’s definitely worth seeing at least once in a lifetime. My favorite areas of Rome are right next to each other around the bottom of the Spanish Steps, the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo. Both offer loads of trattorias, restaurants and pizzerias to satisfy any appetite. Check out Eat Your Way Through Rome for more information on food in Rome! Also, all of the best shops are there…no big surprise that I call it my shopping mecca. You’ll thank me.
If you’re visiting Rome for the first time, be sure to check out my top five places. I always stop by at least one of them on trips to Rome, with the Vatican being at the top of my list. Plan on walking A LOT! Seriously, I trek an average of 12 miles a day in Rome. Make sure to wear super comfy walking shoes, don’t worry about looking like a tourist in your sneakers….so does everyone else! Take breaks at the many trattorias and enjoy “la dolce vita”. Since calories don’t count on vacation, eat some pasta and drink a carafe or two of red wine at an outdoor table, which is my favorite way to spend an afternoon or evening. Hey, don’t judge! As they say, “When in Rome”.
The Holy City, the Vatican, home of the Pope and Mecca to all Catholics. Filled with the most beautiful artwork, sculptures, statues, marble, gold, etc. it is a must see. It’s crowded with tourists, but so worth seeing. Luckily, there are ways to avoid waiting in the long lines. One option is to book a private tour, these range in price and can be booked through any tour operator online, such as Viator or through the Vatican website. Or, purchase your tickets in advance online through the Vatican website. You can pick your date and times and the lines for pre-booked tickets aren’t long at all. I prefer going on my own without a tour or guide, just a personal preference because I’ve been there several times. It’s perfectly doable on your own without a guide, there are signs and descriptions to read everywhere.
My suggestion is to visit the museum first, which you will need a ticket for. Pick an earlier time in the morning, preferably when they open, and breeze right through the line and the museum. You’ll end up in the Sistine Chapel, with it’s famous frescoed ceiling painted by Michelangelo. I always want to lie down on my back to save my neck from getting kinked, but they frown on that. Maybe being wheeled through on a gurney would be the way to visit it? Also, photography is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel and they are strict about it!
Huge Tip: at the far right hand corner of the Sistine Chapel is a small wooden door. Tour operators use this to go from the Museum to St. Peter’s Basilica (instead of walking all the way around outside). Sneak through it to avoid the walk and lines getting into the cathedral!!!
St. Peter’s Basilica is truly amazing. The huge alter, many statues, paintings and artifacts are so overwhelmingly beautiful. Be sure to walk around and take it all in. There are tours available, but not necessary.
Just imagine the gladiator fights, wild beasts and 50,000 to 80,000 cheering spectators roaring in ancient Roman times. Known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum is a landmark in Rome. As such, the crowds are huge since every visitor seems to flock there. I’ve waited in line for hours, never again! This is one place you want to book in advance, or take a tour (also booked in advance).
In fact, the only way to visit the underground, the arena floor and the third ring is by booking a tour and all three are well worth it. A night tour is also a really cool way to visit the Colosseum. If you want to save money and not book a tour, either get your tickets online, or at the Forum, tickets are valid for both attractions. Be sure to get there 30 minutes before it opens, or more during the busy summer months. You will have to pass through security, which slows things down a bit when there are tons of people.
Perhaps one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Rome, the Forum was the public and political center of ancient Rome. Filled with ancient ruins and temples, such as the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, the Forum was the site for many trials at the courthouse, home of the Senate, and a place where public speeches and ceremonies were held. Fun fact: Julius Caesar’s funeral took place at the Forum and his ashes were buried at the Temple of Caesar (his tomb has never been found).
To visit, bring a guide book or take a tour, because there aren’t many descriptions or plaques around. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Forum itself, and are valid for the Colosseum as well. Wear comfortable shoes, and sunscreen in the summer because it gets hot there!
No visit to Rome would be complete without a stop at the famous Trevi fountain. Standing at 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide it’s quite impressive. Everyone knows that if you throw a coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome. Throw in a second coin if you’re looking for love. And a third one will bring the sound of wedding bells! Beware that it is illegal to steal coins from the fountain, and there are hidden cameras. About €3000 are collected from the Trevi nightly and given to charity. So, go ahead and throw in a coin, it’s always worked for me since I’ve returned to Rome every time!
Villa Borghese Park
If you’re into botanical gardens and beautiful parks, don’t miss the gardens at the Villa Borghese. You’ll see people jogging, biking and on rollerblades, lovers strolling along the paths, and people out enjoying the sunshine relaxing in the beautiful gardens. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the grass by the many ponds like a true Roman. Walk along the Pincio Promenade and stop at the Terrazza del Pincio for the most amazing view of the historic center of Rome. Visit the museums, some are free, and the Borghese Gallery has some amazing art by Picasso, Bernini, Raphael and more. You can purchase your tickets to the gallery ahead of time online. For kids there’s also a playground and a puppet theater in the park. The park is huge, so wear those comfy shoes!
Go book that flight to Rome…pronto! Foodies be sure to read Eat Your Way Through Rome! Have you been? Send me an email, or comment below. Just keep traveling!