- Rome is mainly cash based, so make sure you always have some cash on you.
- If you're going to be checking out some churches (including the infamous Sistine Chapel), make sure to dress modestly. No exposed shoulders or shorts, and wear proper footwear.
- There are a few "popular" scams", especially around major tourists areas. Watch your bags, don't pick up any gold rings or money on the ground, and try not to engage if anyone tries to put a bracelet on you (all common scams).
- Summer is HOT. There’s nothing like a beautiful Italian summer, but be prepared
for 40+ degrees and not a cloud in sight. Bring sunscreen.
- When you arrive in Rome, either by air or by rail, the metro is definitely the best way to get into the city, even if you have to walk a bit to get to your hotel. Taxis can be pricey.
The Colosseum ($$)
The absolutely #1 thing to do in Rome. It’s rich and colourful history is nothing short of a miracle, but seeing it in person is bewildering. It was the largest amphitheatre ever built at the time and held 50,000 to 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Roman mythology.
It's very touristy, but it's so very worth it to see. Time slot entries are now in place, so make sure you book your spot in advance.
The Palatine is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills. In Ancient Rome it was considered one of the most desirable neighborhood in the city, and was the home of aristocrats and emperors.
According to legend, Romulus (the mythical founder of Rome) and his twin brother Remus also lived in a cave on the Palatine. They were discovered on the Palatine and raised by a she-wolf. There was great excitement when an archaeologist claimed to have discovered the real location of the cave (known as the Lupercal), deep beneath the remains of the House of Livia, but many are skeptical.
The Palatine is next to the Roman Forum and Colosseum, and a ticket for one site includes admission to the other two, so it makes sense to visit at least two sites on the same day.
From what was marshland the Romans drained the area and turned it into a centre of political and social activity. The Forum was the marketplace of Rome, and later a gathering space for triumphal processions, criminal trials and gladiatorial matches. Oooh!
Again, look ahead to book tickets. Buying a skip the line ticket avoiding the queues in advance can save you a few hours.
SantoPalato for Dinner ($$)
Do not miss this delicious dinner! It’s not always about presentation when it comes to food. Here you’ll find an institution in the city known for its hearty, honest fare. Classically “Italian” and Nonna would be proud. Either walk about 30 minutes West from the Colosseum or take the number 87 bus about 15 minutes to this amazing restaurant.
Take the Bus to the Beach ($)
When you think of Rome, you don't really think of the beach, but it's something a bit different than the usual Rome itineraries. Your €1.50 ticket is also valid on the local commuter trains in Rome, including a line that goes straight to the beach. You can catch a train at the Piramide Metro Station that will take you directly to Ostia Lido, Rome’s local beach. Although it’s not the most glamorous beach near Rome, Ostia is perfect for an inexpensive day trip, some sunshine and fresh seafood.
Trastevere (Neighbourhood) (Free)
Take the commuter train back into the city to enjoy this extremely beautiful and interesting neighbourhood. Old school Italy frozen in time in the city centre! The fountain in front of Santa Maria in Trastevere is particularly lovely at night. Stroll down the cobblestoned paths, admire some smaller churches, and soak in the atmosphere.
Gelato at Otaleg ($)
While you're wandering around the old town and after your hot day in the beach, it's time to stop in and get some famous Italian gelato. Otaleg claims to have the best gelato in Rome and it's right in the Trastevere neighbourhood. It’s a bit fancier/prestigious than the carts if you want to step up your gelato game.
Eitch Borromini Rooftop Bar ($$$)
Book a table in advance to score yourself the best view in the city while having an aperitif, an evening cocktail, or a bite to eat. Sunsets from this vantage point are amazing. Warning to those on a budget: $$$.
Espresso at Sciascia Caffè ($)
Sciascia Caffè, which has been around since 1919, is located in the commercial Prati district and serves up some of the best espresso in the city. With its intimate interior, suggestive turn-of-the-century train wagon and a handful of tiny rectangular tables, this café is a nice spot to enjoy your coffee while off the beaten path. Sciascia excels at its chocolate-infused drinks; the gran cappuccino is a heavenly creation with espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate chips.
The Pantheon (Free - $)
Michelangelo studied its great dome before starting work on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. You can see it anytime, but there are opening hours for visitors to tour the inside. If you're a history buff or have some time, I would recommend doing the tour. There’s also a beautiful fountain right outside that's often passed by.
Trevi Fountain (Free)
This path (Pantheon - Trevi - Spanish Steps) is the quickest and most picturesque way to do this route. It's a total of a 16 minute walk between all 3 iconic tourist spots. And although they are touristy, they are so worth it to see. They're iconic and beautiful - famous for a reason! Pay homage to the Trevi fountain and toss a coin in behind your back for good luck.
The Spanish Steps (Free)
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. This view though! The plaza below often has a market with crafts, and there's often live musis in the square. At the lower end of the stairs you can find an early baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Old Boat”. At the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821; it is now a museum dedicated to his memory.
Rose Garden Palace (Free)
A tranquil retreat from the city with a beautiful display of roses and some nice city views. This is a great free thing to do in Rome where you won't find a lot of tourists. The official address is Rose Garden Palace, Via Boncompagni. You can easily walk from the Spanish Steps or take a very short tram to get there.
Janiculum Hill (Free)
For the best view of Rome head up Janiculum Hill for sunset. It’s absolutely stunning and more of a local hangout than a tourist attraction, so there's rarely any tourists up here, especially at night. Taking the tram is the best way to get here, since it's a little bit out of the way (but is pretty easy to get to).
Sacio e pepe at Da Felice ($$-$$$)
From Janiculum Hill, you can either walk about 25 minutes, or take an 8 minute taxi ride back over the Tiber River. It's a really nice walk or taxi ride with some good city views. Da Felice is the most famous old-school restaurant for cacio e pepe. Serving up classic Roman dishes since 1936. The waiter whips up this dish in front of you, tossing the pasta at your plate with an adept hand ensuring the ingredients are combined to perfection. End your evening with a glass of wine or 2 here or on one of the nearby patios.
Vatican City ($$)
Grab a quick breakfast on route to the famous Vatican City. The ultimate holy city. Go as early as possible to avoid long lineups without shade or seating. The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head.
Absolutely worth the lines. The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1473 and 1481. However, they tend to herd you through and no photography is allowed. Take your time if you can but respect others’ time in the chapel as well.
St. Peter's Basilica (Free)
Entrance is free but you will be waiting in line so come prepared. The present basilica, built starting in the 1500s, sits over a maze of catacombs and St. Peter’s suspected grave. The Bascilica has a bit of a weird and dark history, including fires, false accusations, murders, and ... wild animals? So check it out before you go!
Italian Street Food ($)
Time to get back into Rome and try some delicious Roman street food. When you're wandering around the city centre, you need to try suppli - featuring a risotto, marinara, and mozzarella mixture that’s coated in breadcrumbs and eaten melt your mouth hot. After that, have a bits of carciofi alla giudia, a deep fried upside down artichokes that are hot, hot, hot.
Borghese Gallery and Museum ($$)
This beautiful gallery features one of the world’s greatest private art collections assembled by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century. One of the most prestigious art museums of the world, the museum houses an important collection of works by renowned artists such as Bernini, Tiziano, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens, Botticelli and Canova. Book in advance, the tickets are cheaper that way too.
Villa Borghese Gardens (Free)
The adjoining gardens to the Borghese Gallery gallery. Spectacular and winding, you could easily spend an afternoon wandering around in here. Free of charge and absolutely beautiful!
Trevi Fountain in the Evening (Free)
Yes, this is already on the list, but it's very mich worth it to come back in the evening, or even better, as late at night as possible. The experience is completely different and amazing! Less, or depending on the time, even zero tourists, you'll see the fountain lit up at night and be able to see the whole thing. It's very peaceful.
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