Oh, Italy. A country everyone needs to visit at least once in their life. With over two thousand years of history, Rome can be overwhelming, however it is definitely a city that should not be missed. It has been said that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well you won’t be able to see it all in one day or even three for that matter. Don’t worry, with proper planning you can easily experience the top sites in your itinerary. Nevertheless, I have provided a list of the best things to do in Rome, but first here are a few tips:
Tips when visiting Rome
- Rome is best enjoyed while strolling – so bring your walking shoes! Comfort is key here as most surfaces are made of cobblestone.
- Be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you. There are MANY scam artists – don’t accept any items from strangers and politely walk away, otherwise you will be forced to pay.
- When visiting churches or St. Peter’s Basilica wear proper clothing – cover your shoulders and wear pants/long skirts. I made the mistake of wearing a dress that was not below the knee and had to purchase a scarf from a street vendor to wrap around the lower part of my body.
- Restaurants near tourist sites will generally be overpriced and have poor quality food. Don’t eat around the tourist areas! Walk a few blocks to find more authentic and higher quality restaurants for a more reasonable price. I recommend researching places prior to your trip or maybe search nearby areas on TripAdvisor as you are walking around.
- Be patient and expect slower service at restaurants. Italians like to sit and enjoy a meals – meaning they usually take longer than you may be used to. If you have limited time be sure to tell your waiter/waitress as soon as you are seated.
What to See
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to its most famous icon, the Colosseum. Named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Roman Colosseum, was built by emperors of the Flavian dynasty between 72 to 80 AD. Nothing will compare to witnessing the Colosseum in person, I mean, it is the largest amphitheater ever built with a capacity of about 50-80,000 spectators. The Colosseum is a magnificent piece of architecture once used for gladiator fights, animal hunts and executions. It’s a lot bigger than you think and it can be pretty busy inside. Make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time to spend less time queuing for a ticket and more time exploring the Colosseum.
One of Rome’s most important archaeological sites is the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was once the center of social and political affairs of the Roman empire. Depending on your level of interest, there are many ruins to uncover in the Roman Forum including old temples, buildings and statues. Expect to spend anywhere from 1-2 hours here to really explore all the grounds.
The Trevi fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome which measures 26m high and 49m long. Don’t forget to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder so that you will one day return to Rome.
One of the hard to miss buildings is the Il Vittoriano, a 19th Century monument dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. This unique piece of work has plenty to offer — from its numerous sculptures to its unbeatable panoramic views of Rome.
The Pantheon, a former Roman temple turned church was built around 120 AD. Apart from its incredible symmetry (the diameter of the dome is equal to the height of the building), the Pantheon’s dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Make sure you go inside to see the sunlight beaming down from the oculus.
The Spanish Steps are one of Rome’s famous tourist attractions. They’re a great place to sit and people watch with a gelato or slice of pizza in hand. There isn’t much going on other than just sitting around, but it is a great place to just relax and take a little bit of Rome in.
NOTE: Unfortunately the Spanish Steps are under construction as of October 2015 and will not reopen until further notice.
I bet you didn’t think you would be visiting another country during your trip to Rome, huh? Well…Vatican City is it’s own country. Even better – it’s a short walk away! Plan on spending at least half of the day here, if not longer. Don’t miss the Vatican Museum, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Square.
We booked a guided tour to take us through Vatican City and all the Museums. I highly recommend you do this as it it not only helps you skip all the lines, but you have a knowledgeable individual educating you along the way. Exploring this on your own would be very overwhelming and require you to walk around aimlessly with a guidebook. Do your research and pre-book a tour ahead of time in your native language.
The largest Christian church in the world, Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the holiest sites in Christendom. St. Peter’s Basilica stands on the burial site of St. Peter the Apostle, the first pope. St. Peter’s Basilica features the work of many great artists and is a site that must be seen!
If you’re a person of faith this is the place for you! When we were there we were able to witness a church service, which was beautiful. Security is tight in the Vatican City and a dress code is strictly enforced — no shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. Unlike the museums, St. Peter’s Basilica is free to get in, so be prepared to have to wait to go inside.
St. Peter’s Square is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus and the first Catholic Pope.
The Sistine Chapel is located within the Vatican Museum and famous around the world for its magnificent interior. You will find remarkable frescoes painted by Michaelangelo, particularly the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and the Last Judgement. We stayed in the Sistine Chapel for at least 30 minutes just staring up at the ceiling and examining every aspect. Your neck starts to hurt after a while, but it’s totally worth it. Taking photographs is strictly prohibited in the Sistine Chapel, however I just had to sneak one! I’m sure some of you are thinking how terrible it is to do that, but don’t worry I said a few prayers and asked for forgiveness after.
If you have traveled to Rome, please share your experience in the comments below. Any tips and advice is highly appreciated.
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