More so than Florence or Venice, the Eternal City is Italy’s true showstopper. An exhilarating cocktail of evocative ruins, iconic monuments, awe-inspiring art, and vibrant street life, Rome is one of the world’s most enchanting cities. In addition to sightseeing, Rome is also a fabulous destination for more hedonistic pursuits, with a dazzling array of designer boutiques, tempting delicatessens, and amazing places to eat. Whether this is your first trip or your tenth, here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Rome.
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Things to do in Rome
Rome is so packed with sights that it is impossible to take them all in. You may need several visits to see everything in Rome, but with diligent planning, even one trip will bring a lifetime of memories.
Below we have compiled a list of the top Rome attractions (in no particular order). Consisting of a mix of well-known bucket-list sights, but also many lesser-known hidden gems, the following is our opinionated list of what we regard to be the best things to do in Rome.
1. Walk in the footsteps of the Gladiators at the Colosseum
Possibly the most recognizable symbol of ancient Rome, the Colosseum is a sight to behold and requires no introduction. Commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and funded by spoils of war, the biggest amphitheater ever built held numerous mock naval battles, animal hunts, and gladiator combats for half a millennium.
The Colosseum is an engineering wonder and a marvelous testament to Roman imperial power. Now a mere shell of its former self, the Colosseum still awes onlookers today with its power and might.
The Roman Colosseum has not always been called “the Colosseum.” The giant arena was originally known as the “Flavian Amphitheater” after the Flavian Dynasty, which commissioned its construction. The name “Colosseum” was only introduced in medieval times and is widely believed to be derived from the “colossal” bronze statue of Emperor Nero that once stood outside of the Amphitheater.
Today, you can wander around the underground tunnels, the arena floor, and the stands. It is now also possible to explore the Colosseum hypogeum – the intricate series of subterranean passageways beneath the wooden floor.
Standing in the same place as the intrepid Roman gladiators once battled 2,000 years ago is a thrilling experience and a must-do in Rome.
Practical Information for Visiting the Colosseum
The opening hours of the Colosseum vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).
Advance booking for the Colosseum is required and no tickets are sold on-site. On your visit to the Colosseum, you can either wander inside on your own, take the audio guide tour, or join a guided tour.
Tickets can be purchased online through CoopCulture.it, the official ticket agency for the Colosseum. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.
In case you want like to book refundable tickets and don’t mind paying a small surcharge, you can either book through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.
Keep in mind that access to the Colosseum arena requires a special ticket. Book early as tickets tend to sell out fast.
- Click here to purchase a Full Experience ticket that grants you access to the arena of the Colosseum.
Access to the underground passages is only possible with a special ticket. The best way to experience the remains of it is by taking a Colosseum Underground Tour.
To give your Colosseum visit more context, you can also opt for a guided tour, which provides a richer experience than simply viewing the structure.
2. Marvel at the beauty of the Pantheon
It’s impossible to compile a list of the top things to do in Rome without mentioning the Pantheon. It is famous for being the best-preserved ancient monument in Rome and has survived for some 2,000 years, through sieges, fires, and earthquakes.
The Pantheon, in its current form, was built by Emperor Hadrian in around AD 125 on the site of a former temple built by Marcus Agrippa. It was originally built to honor all pagan gods but was consecrated as a church in the 7th century and remains so to this day.
Though the Pantheon’s exterior is imposing, it’s the Pantheon’s cavernous interior that will take your breath away. Inside, the Pantheon’s real glory lies in the dimensions: the diameter is precisely equal to its height—43.3 meters, proving Ancient Rome’s architectural ingenuity.
Remarkably, there are no visible arches or vaults to hold the concrete coffered dome up. The Pantheon has no traditional windows and its circular 9-meter wide hole (oculus) in its center is still the building’s only source of natural light.
Don’t forget to admire the tombs of eminent Italians, most notably the ones of the artist Raphael and united Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Pantheon was the thing I was looking forward to seeing the most before my Rome visit and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
Practical Information for Visiting the Pantheon
The Pantheon is open daily from 09:00-19:00 (last entry at 18:45). The Pantheon is closed on the 1st of January, the 15th of August, and the 25th of December.
The entrance to the Pantheon costs 5 EUR. The entrance ticket can be purchased online through the Musei Italiani website. You’ll have to register first before purchasing your ticket.
Alternatively, you can also buy your Pantheon ticket directly at the ticket counter in front of the monument, using cash or card.
Additionally, you can book a Pantheon guided tour for a more meaningful experience.
Finally, expect to encounter lines stretching across Piazza della Rotonda every day. However, there is no question that the Pantheon is worth the wait.
3. Invoke your inner art lover at Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery (Galleria Borghese) is a must-see in Rome and anyone looking for cultural places to visit in Rome should make this splendid art gallery a priority. The gallery is housed in an elegant 17th-century palace within the heart of Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s most loved parks.
The Borghese Gallery was originally commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century to shelter his massive art collection. Today, it’s considered one of the world’s most outstanding small museums.
The Borghese Gallery is best known for its collection of Bernini statues and there are also important paintings by the likes of Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Correggio, Cranach, and Caravaggio, among others.
The superb collection is divided into two parts: the ground-floor museum and the upstairs picture gallery.
Some of the best things to see at the Borghese Gallery are:
- Raphael’s Deposition – this famous Renaissance painting depicts the deposition, lamentation, and entombment of Christ
- Titian’s allegorical Sacred and Profane Love – made for an aristocratic wedding, this mysterious work shows two female figures, one nude, one clothed
- Caravaggio’s grisly portrait of David, dangling the severed head of Goliath
- Antonio Canova’s Venus Victrix (Pauline Borghese) – Napoleon’s scandalous sister almost went the full monty lounging like a Classical goddess for this iconic sculpture
- Caravaggio’s Young Sick Bacchus – an early self-portrait of the master in which he appears to be sick
The crown jewels of the Borghese Collection are a series of jarringly beautiful marble sculptures by Bernini. Look out for his David, Apollo and Daphne, and the Rape of Proserpina.
All three sculptures illustrate Bernini’s mastery of anatomy and unique ability to capture, in marble, the essence of a narrative moment with theatrical naturalistic realism. My personal favorite is The Rape of Proserpina, a sculpture so mind-blowing that I thought I was experiencing a case of Stendhal syndrome!
It shows Pluto, god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina, daughter of Ceres and Jupiter. As the hand of Pluto grabs the thigh of Proserpina, the marble transforms into soft flesh that looks so real, that you want to reach out and squeeze it!
Apart from the splendid collection of sculptures and paintings, the villa in which the Borghese Gallery is housed is a work of art itself. Don’t forget to admire its decorative ensemble of antique marbles, inlays, mosaics, stuccoes, and inserts.
Practical Information for Visiting the Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 09:00-19:00 (last entry at 17:45). You can only visit the Borghese Gallery with a reservation. This means you can’t just turn up, buy a ticket, and walk in.
Reservations are made for two-hour time slots, starting at 09:00. With only 180 visitors allowed inside every two hours, Borghese Gallery tickets tend to sell out quickly, so book your spot well in advance.
For a more immersive and insightful experience at the Borghese Gallery, consider booking a private guided tour.
4. Delve into history at the Roman Forum
Dating back to as early as the seventh century BC, the Roman Forum is one of the top historical sites in Rome. It was the ceremonial, legal, social, and commercial center of ancient Rome.
The Roman Forum was once the scene of triumphal celebrations, gladiatorial contests, elections, public speeches, religious ceremonies, business dealings, and more. It comprises much of Ancient Rome’s most important structures, including basilicas, temples, lively marketplaces, and government buildings.
You’ll need to conjure up your imagination to see how the Ancient Romans once lived their day-to-day lives much of the complex is in ruins. Some of the best things to see in the Roman Forum are the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, the Basilica of Maxentius, and the House of the Vestal Virgins, among other structures.
Make sure to check out our in-depth guide to visiting the Roman Forum.
Though it is not as popular as the nearby Colosseum, I think the Roman Forum is more interesting. Wandering its iconic ruins is an essential part of any Rome visit so don’t skip it!
Practical Information for Visiting the Roman Forum
The opening hours of the Roman Forum vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).
Advance booking for the Roman Forum is required and no tickets are sold on-site. Tickets can be purchased online on CoopCulture.it, the official ticket agency for the Roman Forum.
A ticket to the Roman Forum also includes entry to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.
If you would like to purchase refundable tickets, you can book through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.
Although there is plenty to see and explore at the Roman Forum, you can find very little information and signage on the site. Thus, to avoid your Roman Forum visit ending in frustration, I highly recommend booking a guided tour.
5. Step inside St. Peter’s Basilica
In this city of spectacular churches, none can hold a candle to St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro), the world’s most jaw-dropping church and ultimate Christian pilgrimage destination. St. Peter’s is one of the most important churches in all of Christendom and is famous as the church where most papal ceremonies take place.
The majestic church was built between 1506 and 1626 in Renaissance and Baroque style on the burial site of St. Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. Take a moment to admire its façade which is topped by statues of eleven of the Apostles (excluding Peter), Christ, and John the Baptist.
St. Peter’s Basilica’s incomprehensibly voluminous interior is packed with incalculable riches that showcase the fabulous wealth and extravagance of the Catholic Church.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world, capable of holding fully 60,000 worshippers at once. If you don’t believe me, lines on the church’s floor mark where all the other major churches would fit inside St. Peter’s.
One of the unmissable highlights of St. Peter’s Church is Michelangelo’s hauntingly beautiful Pietà. The exquisite statue, which shows Mary seated on a rock holding Christ’s lifeless body, is the only work he ever signed.
The Pieta has been behind bulletproof glass since 1972, when a deranged Hungarian tourist screaming “I am Jesus Christ!” attacked it with a hammer, damaging the Virgin’s nose and arm.
Feeding your eyes and mind with the intense visual array of ornaments, symbols, and patterns in St. Peter’s extraordinary nave. Other notable highlights you shouldn’t miss at St. Peter’s Basilica are:
- Statue of St. Peter – this 13th-century bronze statue by the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio is so venerated that devout pilgrims can be seen lining up to rub (or kiss) St. Peter’s big right toe for good luck
- Tomb of Pope Alexander VII – a ghoulish funeral monument where death itself appears in the form of a winged skeleton clutching an hourglass as a reminder of mortality
- Baldachin – Bernini’s ostentatious twisty-columned rises to a height of 29 meters above the papal altar
Climb the claustrophobic and twisting stairs of St. Peter’s dome for breathtaking views over the rooftops of Rome and a spectacular view of Bernini’s elliptical colonnaded piazza.
Practical Information for Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is open daily from 07:00-19:10 (April-September), and 07:00-18:30 (October-March). The dome of St. Peter’s is open daily from 07:30-18:00 (April-September), and 07:30-17:00 (October-March).
Cost: Free entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. You will need to buy a ticket to access the viewpoint at the top of the dome of St. Peter’s. A ticket costs 8 EUR to walk up all 551 steps or 10 EUR to take the elevator up to the terrace, from where you will still need to climb 320 steps.
Because visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the main things to do in Rome, there is almost always a massive queue. The best time to go visit St. Peter’s Basilica is either very early in the morning or about 1-2 hours before closing time.
However, there are a few other alternatives to skipping the line at St. Peter’s Basilica as it can be very exhausting to wait in lines for hours on end. These are:
N.B. St. Peter’s Basilica has a strict dress code for both men and women: no shorts, no skirts above the knee, and no bare shoulders. Avoid wearing clothing with writing or pictures that could risk giving offense. You will not be let in if you don’t come dressed appropriately.
6. Stroll around Piazza Navona
Rome often feels like one giant animated and dramatic theater and nowhere is this more evident than in Piazza Navona. This elegant square is undoubtedly Rome’s showcase piazza and attracts a vivid daily horde of buskers, street artists, locals, tourists, and pigeons.
Piazza Navona takes its distinct oblong shape from the vast ancient Stadium of Domitian upon which it was built. You can still spot one of the original entrances just behind the square’s northern end.
Piazza Navona is famous for its trio of gushing fountains, including Bernini’s celebrated Fountain of Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi). The monumental allegorical sculptures surrounding the fountain’s centerpiece Roman obelisk symbolize four rivers representing the continents – the Ganges (Asia), the Danube (Europe), Rio de la Plata (the Americas), and the Nile (Africa).
Piazza Navona is free to visit 24/7. Whether you visit by day or night, you won’t be disappointed. Ambling through the square and watching the world go by is a quintessential Roman experience.
Although it might seem tempting to do so, we don’t recommend dining at Piazza Navona. You’re better off going someplace more authentic near the piazza.
7. Experience a sensory overload at the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
A must-see on many travelers’ itineraries, the Vatican Museums house one of the biggest and most important art collections in the world.
Housed in sprawling palaces originally built for Renaissance popes, the Vatican Museums are made up of galleries, rooms, courtyards, towers, staircases, and chapels leading you to the Sistine Chapel
As its name implies, the Vatican Museums complex actually holds a collection of museums on very diverse subjects, with mind-boggling displays of Renaissance painting, modern art, Etruscan relics, classical statuary, and Egyptian artifacts.
The Vatican Museums are immense and spread over 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) of corridors. Its 54 galleries display 20,000 works of art meaning there’s no point in trying to see everything in one visit. Decide how long you want to spend here, and what you want to see, before you start your tour otherwise museum fatigue will get the better of you before you’ve even reached your area of interest.
In terms of absolute highlights, the following are the things you shouldn’t miss at the Vatican Museums:
- The huge bronze pinecone statue mounted in a niche in the Pinecone Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna)
- The serene Apollo Belvedere and the peerless Laocoön statues in the Octagonal Courtyard of the Pio Clementine Museum
- The stunning 16th-century topographical maps and the fresco scenes adorning the gilded barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Gallery of the Maps (Galleria delle Carte Geografiche)
- Raphael’s Transfiguration, Caravaggio’s Deposition, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s haunting St. Jerome in the Pinacoteca
- The mesmerizing frescoes in the four Raphael Rooms
- The spiral staircase at the end of the Vatican Museums
The main reason why many think it’s worth visiting the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina), the museum’s crown jewel. And I can bear witness to the fact that no matter how many photos and videos you’ve seen of the Sistine Chapel, you just don’t understand the hype until you see it in person.
It is home to two of the world’s most famous works of art: Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes and his Last Judgment fresco. Surrounded by prophets and sibyls, the ceiling frescoes are centered on nine panels depicting stories from the book of Genesis while the Last Judgement depicts the second coming of Christ.
Practical Information for Visiting the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are open from 09:00-18:00, (Monday-Saturday, last entry at 16:00). Tickets cost 22 EUR if booked through the museum website or 17 EUR when purchased on-site. However, tickets are non-refundable under any circumstances.
On the last Sunday of every month (barring it’s a religious holiday), the Vatican Museums are open (09:00-14:00, last entry is at 12:30) and free for everyone. However, unless you are on a tight budget, I highly recommend you avoid going on this day as the place gets mobbed.
The best time to visit the Vatican Museums is on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday after 14:00 or 15:00.
Advance booking to the Vatican Museums isn’t required and tickets can be purchased on-site. However, this isn’t recommended since the lines to enter the Vatican Museums are often very long. We are talking up to 3-hour waits on the busiest days.
To avoid queuing up to enter the Vatican Museums, I HIGHLY recommend buying a skip-the-line ticket in advance.
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of exploring the Vatican Museums on your own and want to ensure you visit the most important sections and don’t miss anything, you can opt for a worthwhile guided tour.
If you want to visit the Vatican without the crowds, you can also opt for an amazing early morning tour. Starting bright and early at 07:15, you get to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel before they are officially open to the public.
Photography: No photos are allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but photos without flash are permitted elsewhere in the Vatican Museums.
N.B. Just like at St. Peter’s Basilica, you have to adhere to a strict dress code when visiting the Vatican Museums. Men should avoid wearing hats, shorts, or sleeveless tops, while women are asked not to wear short skirts, shorts, or tank tops.
8. Feast on delectable Roman cuisine
Food remains one of the highlights of any trip to Rome and you shouldn’t leave Rome without sampling some of the city’s signature dishes.
Traditional Roman cuisine is based on cheap cuts of meat and offal, along with simple pasta dishes. Despite this simplicity, we guarantee that you won’t be disappointed by the food on offer.
If you love pasta, you have to try the famous spaghetti carbonara (pasta with eggs, guanciale, pecorino cheese, and black pepper) and the minimalist yet divine cacio e pepe (pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper).
Meat lovers should definitely try saltimbocca alla romana (veal scallops and prosciutto with sage in a wine sauce) and trippa alla romana (Rome-style tripe). Vegetarians should look out for carciofi alla giudia (deep-fried artichokes).
Finally, don’t leave Rome without trying Roman-style fast food. Two must-try dishes are pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) and suppli (deep-fried croquettes stuffed with arborio rice and cheese).
To dine like a local in Rome and get an authentic Roman culinary experience, you can sign up for an insightful food tour. You can even sign up for a cooking class and learn to make Roman food under the tutelage of a local chef. The following are some of the top-rated food tours in Rome:
- Rome Street Food Tour with Local Guide
- 4-Hour Rome Food Tour by Night
- Rome Pasta-Making Class
- Make Your Own Pizza Cooking Class & Dinner
9. Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain
You can’t visit Rome and not go to the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), it’s heresy. Ingeniously grafted on to the back of Palazzo Poli, the Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed in the elegant Rococo style in 1762.
This travertine extravaganza is famous for its mythical figures and features the Greek sea god Oceanus standing astride a giant shell drawn by winged horses led by conch-blowing Tritons. One horse is passive, the other tempestuous, symbolizing the changing moods of the ocean.
How did the Trevi Fountain get its name? The Trevi Fountain is located at the junction of three streets and the name Trevi probably comes from the Latin tres viae, or tre vie in Italian, which means “three ways.”
The Trevi Fountain has been immortalized in several films, most notably in Federico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita (1960). In an infamous scene, Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg waded into the Trevi wearing a strapless evening gown for a midnight bathe.
One of the fun things to do in Rome is to take part in the obligatory coin toss ritual at the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that if toss a coin over your left shoulder (with your back to the Trevi Fountain), you’re guaranteed to return to Rome!
The Trevi Fountain is free to visit 24/7. Go before sunrise to avoid the crowds. The Trevi Fountain is best viewed in the evening when the fountain is beautifully lit (though you’ll likely have difficulty getting a crowd-free photo).
10. Visit the venerable Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) is the first public museum in the world, having been inaugurated in 1734 by Pope Clement XII. Surpassed in size and richness only by the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums are home to some of Rome’s most celebrated treasures.
Before going into the Capitoline Museums, take a moment to admire the spectacular egg-shaped pavement of Capitol Square (Piazza del Campidoglio). With its intriguing stellate pattern of tiles, it is one of the most elegant squares in Rome.
The Capitoline collection is housed in two majestic palaces on either side of Capitol Square (Piazza del Campidoglio). Palazzo Nuovo, on the left, is devoted to ancient sculpture while the Palazzo dei Conservatori houses a diverse collection of artworks, from ancient statues to Baroque and Renaissance paintings.
Some of the unmissable highlights of the Capitoline Museums are:
- Capitoline She-Wolf (the most ancient symbol of Rome), a 5th century BC Etruscan bronze statue showing a she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus
- Spinarius, a delicate 1st-century-AD bronze statue of a boy removing a thorn from his foot
- The original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one standing in Capitol Square is a replica)
- Fragments of the fabled Colossus of Constantine statue
- The haunting Hall of the Philosophers
- Guercino’s huge Burial of St. Petronilla
- Capitoline Venus, a superb 1st-century BC statue of the goddess of love rising voluptuously from her bath, demurely trying to cover herself
- Dying Gaul, a beautifully evocative statue that movingly depicts the agony of a dying Gaul warrior
A must-visit for art and history buffs, a visit to the Capitoline Museums is highly recommended and well worth the money. Despite its excellence, the Capitoline Museums is surprisingly not high on many visitors’ list of things to do in Rome (another good reason to visit 😉).
Practical Information for Visiting the Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums are open daily from 09:30-19:30 (the last admission is at 18:30). The entrance costs 16 EUR.
Advance booking to the Capitoline Museums isn’t required and tickets can be purchased on-site. However, to avoid standing in a queue and losing time, tickets to the museum can be booked online through the museum website or via GetYourGuide or Tiqets.
On average, a visit to the Capitoline Museums takes 2-3 hours.
11. Be enchanted by Quartiere Coppedè
To experience the best of Rome off the beaten path and see a part of the Eternal City that few people imagine, head to the small neighborhood of Quartiere Coppedé. Occupying a small cluster of streets around Piazza Mincio in northern Rome, Quartiere Coppedé is an exclusive neighborhood of ritzy residential apartments and offices with intriguing architectural designs.
Quartiere Coppedé is the brainchild of Florentine architect Gino Coppedé, who was commissioned to design buildings here in the early 20th century. Given carte blanche to create any style he liked, Coppedé created a quarter that resembles the set of a fairytale movie with its inimitable stylistic flourishes and vibrant colors.
Quartiere Coppedé’s buildings are an eclectic mix of various architectural styles such as Art Nouveau, Byzantine, Baroque, Classical, and Medieval. Every building here draws you in and forces you to stop and gaze at it.
You’ll get a kick out of spotting the whimsical decorative elements of the buildings such as Moorish arches, Gothic gargoyles, sensuous ironwork, and colorful murals. Coppedè was famous for his eccentric character and sense of irony, which is evident in the way he mixed these disparate elements.
Some of the best things to see in Quartiere Coppedè are Palazzi degli Ambasciatori (Palaces of the Ambassadors), Villino delle Fate (Villa of the Fairies), and Palazzo del Ragno (Palace of the Spider), which famously displays a gold spider insignia beneath its entrance arch.
Don’t forget to admire the decorative Fontana delle Rane (Frog Fountain), where the Beatles are said to have jumped in, fully clothed, after performing at the nearby Piper Club.
Thanks to its surreal beauty, Quartiere Coppedè has been used as the setting for a number of films, most notably Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980) and Francesco Barilli’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974).
If you are a lover of architecture as much as Jacky and I or are simply looking for that perfect Rome Instagram photo-op, Quartiere Coppedè is an area you should visit. As an added bonus, you won’t have crowds of tourists to contend with when exploring.
You can explore Quartiere Coppedè on your own or take a guided tour.
12. Marvel at the beauty of the Colonna Palace
The marvelous Colonna Palace (Palazzo Colonna) is among the few hidden gems in Rome and tends to get lost in the crowd of historical sights, monuments, and museums that saturate the Eternal City. It is a lavish house museum, noble residence, and quiet refuge tucked into one of the busiest areas of central Rome.
The Colonna Palace also shields a rare princely gallery (Galleria Colonna) of invaluable art. Awe-inspiring works from heavyweights like Carracci, Tintoretto, Guido Reni, Bronzino, Paolo Veronese, and Guercino are hung up on multiple levels to fill up the walls.
Colonna Gallery’s most famous painting is Annibale Carracci’s remarkable The Bean Eater. More so than the artwork, however, the gallery and the palace apartments themselves are a showcase of aristocratic grandeur.
The series of glittering halls are exquisitely decorated with authentic period furniture, marble floors, trompe l’oeil frescoes, Murano chandeliers, and precious household items like clocks, vases, and small statuary.
Some of the most beautiful halls are the Hall of the Battle Column and the Hall of Landscapes.
The most breathtaking space in the Colonna Palace is the Versailles-like Grand Hall, arguably Europe’s most glittering room. With its ceiling frescoes, sculptures, mirrors, and priceless works of art, the grandiloquent hall has the ultimate “wow factor.”
While visiting the Colonna Palace, don’t miss the opportunity to take a peek into the Princess Isabelle apartments. Retaining much of their original setting, these rooms provide a unique window into the life of one of the most influential Roman families at the time.
Finally, take a quick stroll through the small but beautifully landscaped garden of the Colonna Palace.
Visiting the Colonna Palace was one of our absolute favorite experiences in Rome. A visit here comes highly recommended.
Practical Information for Visiting the Colonna Palace
The Colonna Palace is open every Saturday from 09:00-13:15 (last admission). Entry to the palace is possible on Fridays with a guided tour. You may also book a private tour Monday through Friday.
Tickets cost 16.50 EUR for the short tour (gallery + gardens) and 26.50 EUR for the full tour (gallery + Isabelle apartments + gardens). Guided tours cost 31.50 EUR.
Tickets can be purchased on TicketOne.it, the official ticket supplier for the Colonna Palace, or Tiqets. Advance booking is not mandatory but strongly recommended. Book early as tickets sell out fast!
13. Peek through the Knights of Malta Keyhole on Aventine Hill
Make the trek up Aventine Hill to peek through the Knights of Malta Keyhole for this unassuming keyhole holds one of the most unique and breathtaking views of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Knights of Malta Keyhole can be found on a green-colored door of the Priory of the Knights of Malta (Villa del Priorato di Malta), which is actually Maltese territory.
By peeking through the decorative brass keyhole, a fantastic telescoped view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica opens up before you, perfectly framed between rows of trees and hedges of the Priory garden.
This most magnificent and unexpected panorama really does have to be experienced in person. No picture can effectively sum up the sheer surprise of seeing the distant cupola suddenly looming impossibly close to your field of vision, your eye pressed firmly against the keyhole.
N.B. While the view from the keyhole is amazing, it can be notoriously difficult to photograph. It’s a tricky exposure and you will need to shoot in manual mode.
The Knights of Malta Keyhole is free to visit 24/7. Make sure you visit on a clear day.
14. Imagine the past on Palatine Hill
Located close to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and its wonderfully evocative ruins are far too often overlooked by visitors. This is a shame as the Palatine offers a key insight into the greatness of Ancient Rome that’s well worth visiting.
Lore has it that the twins Romulus and Remus were brought up here by a she-wolf in a cave (Lupercal). After a violent disagreement between the two, Romulus killed Remus on the Palatine Hill before founding Rome here in 753 BC.
Legend aside, archaeological remains do confirm the existence of a sheep-herding population on Palatine Hill since approximately the 10th century BC.
The Palatine became the most coveted address for the wealthy during the Roman Republic (509 BC–44 BC), who built luxurious villas here. Afterward, Roman emperors constructed extravagant palaces in a bid to outdo each other with ever larger and more magnificent dwellings.
The English word “palace”, the Italian “palazzo” and the French “palais” all owe their origins to the Palatine.
The following are the best things to see on Palatine Hill. As is the case with the Roman Forum, you’ll have to be most imaginative to comprehend quite how splendid they were.
a. Domus Flavia – the majority of the ruins still standing on the Palatine today are largely a testament to the massive ego of one man: Emperor Domitian. This imposing edifice was the official wing of the splendid palace built by Domitian in AD 81.
Domus Flavia’s massive vaulted halls and tranquil courtyards once hosted wild parties for the who’s who of the Roman elite.
b. Domus Augustana – this gargantuan space spread across two floors was the private wing of the Palace of Domitian.
c. Stadium of Domitian – Possibly a racetrack, or just an elaborate garden, this sunken rectangle formed part of Domitian’s palatial abode.
d. Houses of Livia and Augustus – home to Emperor Augustus and his wife Livia, these houses contain beautiful frescoes of imaginary landscapes, mythologies, fruits, and flowers.
e. Farnese Gardens – these lavish Renaissance gardens were laid out in the 16th century over the ruins of the Palace of Tiberius.
Practical Information for Visiting the Palatine Hill
The opening hours of Palatine Hill vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).
Advance booking for Palatine Hill is required and no tickets are sold on-site. Tickets can be purchased online through CoopCulture.it, the official ticket agency for Palatine Hill.
A ticket to Palatine Hill also includes entry to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.
If you would like to purchase refundable tickets in case your plans change, you can book through GetYourGuide.
Even more so than the Roman Forum, it’s difficult today to make sense of the ruins on Palatine Hill, and a guided tour is definitely needed.
15. Explore the Doria Pamphilj Palace
The Doria Pamphilj Palace (Palazzo Doria Pamphilj) is among Rome’s finest Rococo palaces. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming façade as its opulent interior is one of the best places to snag a view of aristocratic Rome.
The Doria Pamphilj Palace is amazing. Its rooms still retain many original furnishings and the walls and ceilings are richly decorated with beautiful frescoes, Gobelin tapestries, and chandeliers.
We really loved the Gallery of Mirrors (La galleria degli Specchi), undoubtedly one of the top Rome Instagram spots. Based on the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the hall is spectacularly lined with gilded mirrors alternating with antique statues.
The sprawling palace is most famously home to the Doria Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Doria Pamphilj). The splendid gallery boasts over 500 artworks spanning the 15th to the 18th century, including pieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Velazquez, Carracci, Tintoretto, Titian, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
The top highlights of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery are:
- Velazquez’s magnificent Portrait of Pope Innocent X, regarded by some art historians to be the greatest portrait ever painted
- Caravaggio’s Penitent Magdalene and Rest on the Flight into Egypt
- Titian’s disturbing Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Naval Battle in the Gulf of Naples
- Caracci’s Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
The best part about visiting Doria Pamphilj Palace is that unlike some of Rome’s other sights, it is hardly ever crowded. You’ll be able to admire the art in peace.
Practical Information for Visiting the Doria Pamphilj Gallery
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery is open Monday–Thursday from 09:00–19:00 (last admission at 18:00). From Friday–Sunday, the Doria Pamphilj Gallery is open from 10:00–20:00 (last admission at 19:00). The gallery is closed every third Wednesday of the month.
Advance booking to the Doria Pamphilj Gallery isn’t necessary. Tickets can be purchased online through the museum website. However, Tickets cost 15 EUR but are non–refundable under any circumstances. Get the audioguide as the paintings have no information panels.
In case you want like to book refundable tickets, click here.
16. Try Roman gelato
Your Rome sightseeing wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the city’s delicious gelato, which is as much a culinary staple here as pizza, pasta, or wine.
Steering clear of additives, emulsifiers, and thickeners, Roman gelato is made from seasonal, fresh, and locally-produced ingredients giving it a dense, yet somehow fluffy texture.
Besides the traditional flavors, you can get some unusual gelato flavors in Rome like gorgonzola with blond chocolate and hazelnut, raspberry and hibiscus with black rice, and basil with walnuts and honey.
Don’t forget to check our article on the 11 best gelato shops in Rome.
17. Descend underground in the spooky Catacombs of St. Callixtus
One of the most unusual things to do in Rome is to visit the eerie but fascinating Catacombs of St. Callixtus (Catacombe di San Callisto). The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the most well-known of Rome’s catacombs and provide an amazing opportunity to learn about parts of the city’s history you might not otherwise come across.
Founded at the end of the 2nd century AD and named after Pope Calixtus I, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the largest in Rome, stretching about 19 km (12 miles) in four levels, more than 20 meters deep.
In burying their dead in underground cemeteries outside the city walls, the early Christians of Rome were obeying the laws at the time which prohibited burials within the city walls.
However, people continued to be buried in the catacombs even after Christians were no longer persecuted. Thousands of people are buried in these catacombs, including 16 popes and dozens of martyrs.
The frescoed interiors of the catacombs are adorned with Christian symbols or graffiti, but you’ll see no skulls here. Among other attractions not to miss in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the Crypt of the Popes and the Crypt of St. Cecilia, the patron of music.
Practical Information for Visiting the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are open Thursday–Tuesday from 09:00–12:00 and 14:00–17:00.
The catacombs can only be visited on a guided tour (≈ 45 min) and advance booking is required. Tickets cost 10 EUR and can be purchased through the official website.
N.B. The temperature in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus is about 15°C (60°F) with a high degree of humidity, so dress accordingly. Visiting the catacombs isn’t recommended for anyone who’s claustrophobic or with serious mobility issues.
18. Snap a photo at one of the world’s most famous staircases
A Rome bucket list favorite, the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti) have enthralled visitors, artists, poets, lovers, and layabouts since 1725. The Baroque-style staircase consists of 135 steps that fan out in an irregular butterfly-like design.
French diplomat Étienne Gueffier financed the Spanish Steps as a means to connect the Trinità dei Monti Church with the Spanish Square (Piazza di Spagna) below. Down on the piazza, you’ll find Bernini’s peculiar Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia).
If you are looking for beautiful Rome photo spots, make visiting the Spanish Steps a top priority. There are few images in the world more romantic than the alluring sweep of the Spanish Steps, with the backdrop of the Trinità dei Monti Church.
The Spanish Steps are free to visit 24/7. Head there very early in the morning to escape the crowds.
N.B. Having undergone a major restoration in 2016, the once-popular art of lounging on the Spanish Steps is now strictly prohibited. Police officers patrol the steps and those caught transgressing risk a fine of 250 EUR, which can rise to 400 EUR if the steps are dirtied or damaged.
19. Soak up Roman history at the Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is a famous castle located on the Tiber River, only a short stroll from Vatican City. This hulking, cylindrical building of brick and stone is one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks.
Originally built in AD 135–139 as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’Angelo has since served as a place of residence, a prison, a court, military barracks, and a fortress.
Most famously, Castel Sant’Angelo served as a place of refuge for popes, and within its walls is a passageway (Passetto di Borgo) that several popes used as an emergency escape route.
Today, Castel Sant’Angelo is home to a museum that boasts a large collection of sculptures, frescoes, furniture, and an assortment of ancient arms and armor.
Castel Sant’Angelo is a fantastic place to visit if you’re interested in Roman history, art, or architecture. On your visit, don’t forget to check out the beautiful Renaissance-style papal apartments, the gorgeous Sala Paolina, and the Staircase of Alexander VI.
Lastly, don’t miss the glorious panoramic views of Rome that can be enjoyed from the castle’s upper terrace.
The terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo acted as the setting for the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera Tosca.
Practical Information for Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is open Tuesday-Sunday from 09:00-19:30 (the last admission is at 18:30). Tickets cost 14 EUR and can be purchased online on TicketOne.it, the official ticket supplier for Castel Sant’Angelo.
20. Go on a Vespa Tour
When in Rome, live as the Romans do. One of the most iconic things you can do in Rome is to ride a Vespa, the ubiquitous scooter that all Italians love.
Sure, the streets of Rome are chaotic but there is no more fun way to see the city than on a Vespa. Just imagine revving your way in and out of frenzied traffic while all of your senses spring into overdrive! This is the perfect way to live out your Roman Holiday movie fantasy.
You can also rent a Vespa on your own. To rent a scooter in Rome, you must have a valid driver’s license. If you possess a non-European license, you must also have a valid International Driving Permit.
21. Seek out some of Rome’s other beautiful churches
Most travelers who visit Rome only end up seeing St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon (it is actually a working church). While St. Peter’s and the Pantheon are every bit worth visiting, I strongly encourage you to visit some other churches in Rome as the city is home to over 900.
Many of Rome’s churches are staggeringly beautiful and date from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. They not only showcase the extraordinary excesses of the Catholic Church but also are worth seeking out for their splendid architecture and extraordinary artworks.
In brief, the following are four churches in Rome you have to visit:
a. Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore): Dating to the 5th century, this is one of the four major papal basilicas of Rome and the only one to have kept its original structure.
The church is famous for its superb Byzantine interior, Cosmatesque marble floor, and striking mosaics. Its resplendent gold coffered ceiling is rumored to be adorned with the first gold brought back from the New World.
b. Archbasilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano): This is the main cathedral in Rome and the seat of the Bishop of Rome—also known as the Pope.
It is the highest-ranking of the four papal basilicas in Rome, even outranking the larger and more famous St. Peter’s Basilica.
The church’s magnificent interior includes six papal tombs, colossal statues of the 12 apostles, and a lovely medieval cloister. The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is also home to the oldest baptistery in the world dating from the early 4th century.
c. Santa Maria del Popolo: This minor basilica is one of Rome’s greatest repositories of artistic treasures. Masters such as Bramante, Pinturicchio, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Bernini and featured here.
The church is most famous for its stunning chapels and two Caravaggio paintings – The Crucifixion of Saint Peter and Conversion of St. Paul, both of which are on display in the Cerasi Chapel.
d. St. Clement Basilica (Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano): This is arguably the most interesting of all churches in Rome since it brilliantly encapsulates the continuity of history in the city.
San Clemente is one of Rome’s best underground archaeological sites and you can descend through four excavated levels of this venerated church.
The current 12th-century minor basilica was built on top of a 4th-century church, which in turn was built over a 2nd-century pagan temple dedicated to the cult of Mithras, which in turn was built inside a 1st-century AD aristocratic house! The best way to see the excavations is on a guided tour.
22. Take a bike tour of the Appian Way
Of the 30-odd roads that fanned out of ancient Rome, the Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) was the oldest. Lying just outside the city walls this “Queen of Roads” was constructed between 312–191 BC and connected Rome to the coastal city of Brindisi, essentially becoming Europe’s first super highway.
Initially serving to facilitate the swift movement of Roman troops and military supplies, the Appian Way later became lined with tombs, vaults, and mausoleums as Roman law at the time prohibited burial within the city walls.
Although the Appian Way has suffered greatly throughout the centuries, with many of the monuments reduced to rubble, there is still plenty to explore. The ancient road consists of large, flat stones, which have been firmly set in place by thousands of years of feet and wheels passing over them.
Taking a bike tour of the Appian Way is a great way to explore Rome off the beaten path. You’ll pass verdant fields strewn with historic tombs and ancient Roman ruins such as the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, the Circus of Maxentius, and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella.
The Appian Way is open 24/7 and is free to visit. You can rent a bike on your own or visit the Appian Way on a guided E-Bike Tour as we did. Highly recommended!
23. Check out some of Rome’s fabled viewpoints
Rome is an inherently photogenic city and when visiting Rome, finding a perfect spot to marvel at the magnificence of Rome’s skyline is a must-do!
Luckily, Rome has numerous vantage points around the city that allow visitors to take incredible photographs and witness astonishing sunsets and sunrises. The great thing is that many of the best views of Rome don’t cost a penny to enjoy.
The following are my five favorite viewpoints in Rome. A view from any of these would qualify for a list of the best Instagram-worthy photos in Rome.
a. Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci): Perched atop Aventine Hill, the garden’s terrace offers some of the best panoramic views of Rome. It is also one of the most romantic attractions in the Eternal City. Free access.
b. Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo); Located in Trastevere, Janiculum Hill offers unique panoramic views of Rome. Interestingly, it is not part of the “Seven Hills of Rome.” Free access
c. Pincio Terrace (Terrazza del Pincio): Overlooking the attractive Piazza del Popolo, Pincio Terrace is arguably the best place to watch a sunset in Rome. Free access.
d. Victor Emmanuel II Monument (Altar of the Fatherland): The most spectacular 360-degree views of Rome can be obtained from the monument’s terrace, which is the highest vantage point in the Eternal City. Access to the terrace costs 16 EUR. Click here for more details.
e. Capitol Square Terrace: This famous Rome viewpoint can be found just behind Palazzo Senatorio on Capitol Square (Piazza del Campidoglio) on Capitoline Hill. The terrace offers what is, in my opinion, the best view of the Roman Forum. Free access.
24. Contemplate Fascist architecture
There’s more to Rome than magnificent ancient temples, airy Renaissance palaces, and splendid Baroque façades. Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime left an indelible mark on Rome’s urban landscape.
From the late 1920s through the ’40s, Mussolini and his architects took the opportunity to transform Rome with propagandistic buildings and showcase the perceived cultural sophistication of his totalitarian regime. They set about designing and erecting imposing civic structures with the intention of bringing historical pride and a sense of nationalism.
The style they came up with was a modernist-classical mishmash, incorporating classical elements such as travertine, statuary, columns, and loggias with ultra-modernist minimalist chic.
The best place to view fascist architecture in Rome is in an entire neighborhood called EUR (Universal Exposition of Rome), a new city district that was meant to celebrate fascism at the World Fair in 1942.
The event never took place because of World War II but the unfinished Fascist-era buildings were built during the 1950s and 1960s and are now occupied by businesses.
The most prominent building in the EUR district is Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, the so-called “Square Colosseum.” a marble-clad palazzo is engraved with a quote from Mussolini’s 1935 speech announcing Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia.
In 2015, the luxury fashion house Fendi adopted the Square Colosseum as its global headquarters. Two other notable buildings in the EUR are the graceful Palazzo dei Congressi, which was inspired by the architecture of the Pantheon; and Palazzo dell’INA e dell’NPS—a futuristic update of Trajan’s Market.
The other unmissable example of fascist architecture in Rome is the Stadio dei Marmi, a small track and field arena in northern Rome. The track is surrounded by 64 fascist-era marble statues of scantily-clad musclemen clutching various sporting goods and striking absurdly vainglorious poses.
The fascist era and its architecture is another intriguing chapter in Rome’s multi-faceted history. A visit to EUR would surely make your Rome visit a little more special and unique.
The EUR district is free to visit 24/7 but is best visited when the businesses are closed. Stadio dei Marmi is open daily from 08:30-20:00. The entrance is free.
25. Chill in Villa Borghese
Rome sightseeing, as exhilarating as it is, can sometimes be exhausting too. If you feel fatigued and want to unwind, head to Villa Borghese, Rome’s answer to Central Park.
Extensive, elegant, and full of shady glades, sculptures, and beautiful fountains, Villa Borghese is perfect for a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle.
There are any number of attractions for those who want to do more than just chill or picnic – a tiny boating lake, a Neoclassical faux Temple of Aesculapius (a great photo-op), and an ingenious water clock.
Villa Borghese is open 24/7 and is free to enter.
26. Have a virtual reality experience at Domus Aurea
Roman ruins are everywhere in the city but don’t miss out on Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House). This gargantuan and grandiloquent palatial complex offers a unique glimpse into subterranean Rome.
Built by the notorious Emperor Nero between AD 64–68, Domus Aurea spanned hundreds of banqueting rooms surrounded by marble pavilions, pastures, fountains, vineyards, gardens, and a small artificial lake. The whole complex occupied about 50 hectares, a total area of 25 times that of the Colosseum.
Nero had extravagant tastes and large parts of the palace were coated sheathed in dazzling gold leaf and adorned with gems and shells. The dining rooms had fretted ivory ceilings, with movable panels that shed flowers and fitted pipes that sprayed perfumes on the assembled guests sitting below.
Nero barely got a chance to enjoy his ostentatious palace since he committed suicide in AD 68 after being convinced he was condemned by the Senate to die as a public enemy.
After Nero’s death, the decadent excesses of the Domus Aurea were a severe embarrassment to his successors. Everything of value was removed from Nero’s luxurious Golden House and it took only forty years before it was completely buried under newly constructed buildings.
In the centuries that followed, Domus Aurea fell into oblivion and wasn’t rediscovered until the 15th century. Today, excavation and restoration work on Domus Aurea remains far from complete and continues to this day.
The best part about visiting Domus Aurea? You can see how it all looked with a virtual reality headset.
Practical Information for Visiting Domus Aurea
Due to the excavations on site, Domus Aurea is only open to the public Friday-Sunday from 09:00-17:00. The site is accessible only with a guided tour with reservations required.
A tour lasts about 75-90 minutes. You can book your tour for slots between 09:15 and 16:15.
Tickets can be purchased online through CoopCulture.it, the official ticket agency for Domus Aurea. Tickets cost 19-23 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.
If you would like to purchase refundable tickets in case your plans change, you can book through GetYourGuide.
A helmet (provided on-site) must be worn inside at all times during the guided tour. It is recommended to take a jacket as the temperature inside the building is around 10° C (50° F).
27. Go shopping
Though Rome is most associated with history, cultural treasures, and cuisine, the Eternal City is also an amazing shopping destination and boasts a shopping scene for all tastes – from the seekers of chic to lovers of all things ornate.
The great thing about shopping in Rome is that it allows you to experience the city’s culture and pick up souvenirs at the same time. Some of the best things to buy when shopping in Rome are Italian ceramics, shoes, home furnishings, antiques, handwoven textiles, leather goods, jewelry, and clothing.
Some of the best areas/streets for Rome shopping are:
- Via del Corso – Rome’s main shopping street running from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia. You’ll find everything from the national and international retail stores, high- and lower-end labels
- Piazza di Spagna – This is Rome’s prime designer shopping area with luxurious names like Valentino, Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, Fendi, and Bulgari. The best of them are clumped together along Via Condotti, Via Borgognona, and Via Frattina
- Monti – trendy hotspot with a flurry of art galleries, bric-a-brac shops, and funky boutiques
- Around Piazza Navona & the Pantheon – teeming with boutiques, vintage shops, and antique stores. Many of them can be found along Via dei Coronari and Via del Governo Vecchio
- Campo de’ Fiori – Central Rome’s lively fruit and vegetable market, where peddlers offer their wares as they’ve done for centuries.
28. Wander the pretty cobbled streets of Trastevere
Lying across the Tiber River from the historic center, the charming, cobblestoned neighborhood of Trastevere is one of Rome’s most compelling sights. Trastevere has always stood apart from the rest of Rome and was for centuries heavily populated by immigrants, lending the quarter its distinct rough-edged identity.
Today, Trastevere isn’t the working-class origins it once was and it’s nowadays mainly a hub for eating out and nightlife. The area was once a hidden gem in the Eternal City, but now it is on everyone’s must-see Rome list when they visit.
In spite of being overrun by tourists, you can still find pockets of authentic Trastevere if you scratch beneath the surface.
Step away from the busy streets and you’ll to treated to a picturesque tangle of cobbled alleys, intimate piazzas, and rustic ocher façades draped in vines. There are plenty of places in the back streets of Trastevere where you can take great Instagram-worthy photos.
No one who’s walked its narrow, winding lanes can deny there’s something magical about Trastevere.
29. Gawp at the frescoes in Villa Farnesina
Nestled in an out-of-the-way corner of Trastevere on the banks of the River Tiber, the sumptuous Villa Farnesina is one of Rome’s best-kept secrets. This early 16th-century pleasure palace is decorated with a series of phenomenal Renaissance frescoes by some of the best artists of the era.
The ridiculously wealthy Siennese banker Agostino Chigi, a financier to the popes, built this magnificent palace within a beautiful garden of bergamot trees, cypresses, and cedars in 1511. Armed with a limitless cash supply, he was also a noted patron of the arts.
Chigi called upon the services of Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi, Sebastiano del Piombo, and Il Sodoma—some of the greatest names of the High Renaissance. Every wall of this villa is embellished with priceless works of High Renaissance art.
The highlights of Villa Farnesina are:
a. Loggia of Cupid and Psyche: This magnificent loggia was designed by Raphael though much of the actual painting was done by his pupils. The breathtaking ceiling frescoes represent episodes from the myth of Cupid and Psyche.
The ceiling’s two central tapestries depict the Council of the Gods and the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche. The rest of the vault is bursting with scenes festooned with half-clothed divinities and exotic plants.
b. Hall of Galatea: This hall features an elaborate ceiling horoscope for Chigi, who was a fervent believer of celestial portents, representing the constellations as they were on the night of his birth.
Top billing in the hall and indeed the whole of Villa Farnesina however goes to Raphael’s sensual Triumph of Galatea.
This famous fresco depicts the beautiful sea-nymph Galatea riding across the waves in a scallop-shell chariot pulled by dolphins and surrounded by cavorting sea creatures blowing conches to herald her voyage.
c. Room of the Perspectives: Baldassare Peruzzi created a wonderful trompe-l’oeil decoration that appears to dissolve the walls of the room and create a fictional colonnade that leads on to contemporary views of Rome.
It is so precisely painted that I found it difficult to distinguish where the real marble ends and the illusion begins. Don’t miss the fireplace with its lovely fresco of Vulcan.
Villa Farnesina is definitely worth visiting, especially if you want to see some artistic masterpieces of Rome’s High Renaissance. All the while you’ll have the place more or less to yourself. Bafflingly, this elegant villa is almost tourist-free.
Practical Information for Visiting Villa Farnesina
Villa Farnesina is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00-14:00 (last admission at 13:15). It is also open every second Sunday of the month from 09:00-17:00 (last admission at 16:15). The entrance costs 16 EUR.
30. Go on a day trip
Rome’s allure knows no bounds and there’s quite enough of interest in the Eternal City to keep you occupied during your stay. But, if you are able to pull yourself away, there are some delightfully picturesque places and landmarks to discover, all within easy reach of Rome.
Some of the most popular day trips from Rome are:
Villa D’Este and Hadrian’s Villa Tivoli Day Tour: One of the most popular day trips from Rome involves wandering the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, the “queen of villas of the ancient world,” and the terraced gardens and fountains in the Villa d’Este.
Half-Day Tour to Ostia Antica: The well-preserved and evocative ruins of Ostia Antica, make a good excursion from the hustle and bustle of Rome.
Pompeii & Mt. Vesuvius Day Trip: Another popular day trip from Rome involves exploring the intact remains of the Roman town of Pompeii with a guide and climbing Mt. Vesuvius—the mountain that destroyed it.
Getting To Rome
Suppose you’re traveling to Rome by air. In that case, you’ll either be flying to Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, commonly known as Fiumicino” (FCO), or the smaller Giovanni Battista Pastine Airport, known as “Ciampino” (CIO).
The easiest and quickest way to get from Fiumicino Airport to the city center is by taking the Leonardo Express. The non-stop journey lasts 32 minutes and the trains run every 15 minutes from about 06:00-23:00.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, you can also take a bus from Fiumicino Airport to the city center of Rome. The journey from Fiumicino Airport to Termini Station (Rome city center) lasts about 45-60 minutes depending on traffic. There are about 15 transfers per day and tickets cost €7.
As there are still no direct rail connections between Ciampino Airport and the city center of Rome, the best option is to take one of the dedicated bus services. The journey from Ciampino Airport to Termini Station by bus lasts about 40 minutes depending on traffic. There are about 10 transfers per day and tickets cost €6.
If you have a lot of luggage, are traveling in a small group, and want to reach your final destination in Rome without any hassle, you may want to opt for a shared/private transfer.
Prices start at €18 for a shared transfer, which is actually much cheaper than a taxi. A private transfer, which offers the most direct route between the airport and the city, costs up to €30 per person (from Fiumicino Airport) and costs about €50 for up to four passengers (from Ciampino Airport).
How To Get Around Rome?
Rome is a walkable city and walking in Rome enables you to get lost in backstreet alleys and hidden piazzas, take in the architectural details, and absorb the street life. Wandering on foot remains the best way to explore Rome’s districts but as Rome is rather spread out, walking the whole city is not recommended.
The best way to get around Rome is by the well-functioning public transportation system, especially if you have limited time in the city. Rome’s public transportation system is operated by ATAC (Azienda Tramvie e Autobus del Comune di Roma) and consists of a largely efficient blend of buses, trams, metro (subway), and a suburban train network.
Quite conveniently, holders of tickets and passes are able to travel interchangeably on all forms of public transport.
The Rome Metro is the fastest means of transportation in the city, operating daily from 05:30-23:30 (until 01:30 on Friday and Saturday).
Rome also has a comprehensive bus network and serves parts of the city where the metro doesn’t reach. Trams (with the exception of number 8) and the urban railway are of little use to tourists.
The various public transportation ticket options in Rome and their costs are:
- BIT (Integrated Time Ticket) – €1.50 – A single ticket valid for 100 minutes; in that time it can be used on all forms of transport, but only once on the metro)
- ROMA24 – €7.00 – Valid for unlimited use for 24 hours on all forms of transport from the moment you validate it
- ROMA48 – €12.50 – Valid for unlimited use for 48 hours on all forms of transport from the moment you validate it
- ROMA72 – €18.00 – Valid for unlimited use for 72 hours on all forms of transport from the moment you validate it
- CIS (Integrated Weekly Ticket) – €24.00 – A pass good for seven days (on all transit methods) from the moment you validate it
Rome public transport tickets are available from bars, tourist booths, convenience stores, tobacconists (called tabacchi), newspaper kiosks that display the ATAC emblem, and vending machines in all metro stations and at major bus stops.
ATAC has also implemented the Tap&Go system without the need to purchase tickets in advance. The cashless system allows passengers to pay for tickets with credit, debit, and prepaid cards.
This way, you don’t have to worry about which ticket or pass to buy. With Tap&Go, your ticket will be valid for 100 minutes from the first tap or for a single journey on the metro.
To find out more about how to get around Rome, check out our ultimate guide to public transport in Rome.
Cycling in Rome can be a challenging task due to the city’s hilly terrain, clogged traffic, and dearth of bike paths, but it is still a green and convenient way to get around the city.
Bike rental spots are dotted throughout Rome and you can rent a wide variety of bikes, E-bikes, and even tandem bikes. Consider joining a bike tour to get the most out of the experience.
Segway tours have become popular with tourists and are a great way to go on trips around Rome giving your feet a rest.
Renting a Vespa is also another exciting and convenient way to get around Rome. It certainly helps while navigating through the clogged streets.
For those craving an audio guide and extra comfort, you can also get around the city with a Rome Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.
You probably won’t need to use taxis during your time in Rome. However, should you want to use a taxi, you can order one online or by telephone, or pick up one at one of the numerous taxi ranks located strategically across Rome. Just make sure you use an authorized taxi.
How many days are enough to see Rome?
Rome is such a city that you could spend a lifetime here and not be bored. First-time travelers should try and plan around 4-5 days in Rome—ample time to experience some classic Roman highlights and visit a few of the 22 rione (neighborhoods).
Rome Travel Tips
In addition to the pointers I’ve already mentioned, here are some additional tips you should know for visiting Rome.
1. Try to visit during the shoulder season: Visit Rome in April-May or October-November if you can as these months are generally a little less busy, but still have relatively decent weather. Prices are also cheaper, and everything is a little less overwhelming.
2. Book tickets and tours in advance: I cannot stress this enough but Rome is on everyone’s bucket list and chances are you’ll spend a better part of the day in queues if you do not pre-purchase your tickets in advance online.
Although you will pay extra for a skip-the-line ticket, it’ll help make the most of your visit, rather than standing in 2-hour long queues to enter the most popular attractions.
3. Keep a close eye on your belongings: Be aware of petty crime like pickpocketing, especially at railway stations, markets, and crowded sites. On public transport, particularly the tourist routes, hold your handbag or rucksack in front of you and be extra vigilant over your belongings when people are scrambling to get on board.
4. Ditch the heels and get your walking shoes: I strongly recommend wearing comfortable footwear as a day’s sightseeing can be wearisome. Your feet will thank you by the end of the trip.
5. Don’t pay for water. Use the water fountains instead: One of the best things to know about Rome is that it’s not necessary to constantly buy plastic water bottles when you feel parched. Rome tap water is safe to drink and the pretty water fountains you’ll find throughout the city contain drinkable water.
Carry a reusable water bottle along with you as you explore Rome and fill up for free as you go.
7. Public toilets and accessibility: Public restrooms are few and far between in Rome. It’s just much easier to walk into a bar/cafe and use the toilet there. Of course, you’ll be expected to buy a little something—such as a bottle of water or espresso—in exchange for access to the facilities.
In addition, toilets are free in museums and galleries.
8. Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Rome but is always appreciated. It’s customary to leave a small tip (from a euro to 10% of the bill) for the waiter, depending on the quality of service.
It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers – rounding up to the next euro is enough. Keep small change handy for cleaners, housekeepers, doormen, and porters.
Where to Stay in Rome
Being one of the major tourist centers in the world, Rome can offer a full range of accommodations. These range from basic budget accommodations with shared bathrooms to luxury accommodations that feature palatial settings, cloud-nine comfort, stunningly beautiful rooms, panoramic rooftop terraces, and award-winning restaurants.
Hostel: The RomeHello, funky and elegant, this snazzy hostel is one of the most popular hostels in town. Located just seven minutes on foot from Termini Station, the main train station in Rome. The hostel is a 15-minute walk away from the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.
Budget: Hotel Mariano, a rather plain hotel with no-frills rooms and services within 5 minutes of Termini Station and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The rooms are modest but clean. Perfect for frugal-minded travelers who just want a good bed for the night.
Budget Plus: Hotel Nord Nuova Roma, an unpretentious choice within 5 minutes of Termini Station and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Midsize bedrooms are well maintained and conservatively decorated with comfortable yet simple furniture.
Mid-range: Argentina Residenza Style Hotel, situated in the heart of Rome, this chic boutique hotel is within an easy walk of many historical monuments of Rome, including Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. Rooms are tastefully decorated and feature coffered ceilings.
Splurge: Baglioni Hotel Regina Rome, a sumptuous top-choice pick on the ritzy Via Veneto. The wonderfully decorated Art Deco rooms feature plush antique Italian furniture, Murano glass chandeliers, and silk tapestries.
Further Reading For Your Rome Visit
That summarizes our comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Rome. However, we reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Rome!
Further Reading For Your Rome Visit
→ Find Out How to Spend One Perfect Day in Rome!
→ Read Our Comprehensive Guide to Public Transport in Rome
→ Check Out the 24 Best Instagram Spots in Rome!
→ Find Out about the 20 Foods You Must Try in Rome!
→ Uncover the 11 Best Gelato Shops in Rome!
→ Discover How to Spend a Wonderful 48 Hours in Rome!
→ Check Out Our Ultimate 3 Days in Rome Itinerary!
→ Read Our in-depth guide to Visiting the Roman Forum!
→ Check Out the 20 Historical Sites in Rome You Shouldn’t Miss!
→ Browse through our comprehensive guide to the Roman Holiday Filming Locations in Rome!
More Information About Italy
Herculaneum: Check out our definitive guide to visiting Herculaneum!
Do you agree with our list? What are some of the best things to do in Rome? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!