Rome is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Europe. The first time I visited the Eternal city it was love at first sight. For a history buff like myself there’s no other city like it! In this post I will share with you the must-sees and also some hidden gems. It’s important to keep in mind that Rome is a very large city. Therefore I would recommend staying in Rome for at least 4 days, so you can visit all the main attractions. But even if you spend a whole week or two in the city, you will barely scratch the surface of this amazing city. After 4 visits I still manage to come across gorgeous historical buildings or cute little squares that take my breath away. So when in Rome… get lost in those charming little streets, explore the wonderful landmarks and above all enjoy the delicious food.
Admire the Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, is iconic. A trip to Rome simply isn’t complete without visiting it. In ancient times, the Colosseum could hold over 50,000 people and was primarily used for gladiator battles, animal exhibitions, and prisoner executions. Despite its storied past, it’s construction and size are fascinating too, as it’s the largest amphitheater in the world! A ticket to the Colosseum also includes admission to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.
Gaze At The Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is the largest surviving Roman triumphal arch and is a tribute to a famous Roman Emperor and his military victories. Its marble construction is eye-catching and contains many inscriptions.
Climb Palatine Hill
If you’re looking for a peaceful, green oasis with fantastic views over the city you don’t want to miss Palatine Hill. It’s the most famous of Rome’s seven hills. In Ancient Rome it was considered one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city, and was the home of aristocrats and emperors. It was also believed to be the location of the Lupercal (the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf). Some climbing is required, but it’s definitely worth it! You’ll see flower gardens alongside ancient ruins, and have fantastic picture opportunities.
Walk through the Forum Romanum
Forum Romanum is one of the most best-kept historical sites in the whole of Italy. It’s the central area of the city around which ancient Rome developed. Here was where commerce, business, culture and the administration of justice took place.
Climb Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II at Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia is a big and busy square squeezed in between the city center on one side and the Forum Romanum on the other. Its best known for the colossal Altare della Patria. This monument commemorates the unification of Italy in 1861 and the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. Amongst Italians the monument is also known as Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, Vittoriano, ‘Macchina da Scrivere’ (typewriter) and ‘Torta Nuzial’ (wedding cake).
Look for the Capitoline She-Wolf at Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill sits right next to Piazza Venezia. This gorgeous square and the impressive staircase leading to it where designed by Michelangelo. Here, you’ll also find the City Hall of Rome and Capitoline Museums, which houses an elaborate collection of Roman, Greek and Egyptian artifacts.
Capitoline Hill is also where you can spot the Capitoline Wolf, the symbol of Rome. The sculpture reflects the legend of the founding of Rome and shows the she-wolf suckling the twin brothers and founders of Rome: Romulus and Remus.
Explore the Monti neighborhood
Monti is right in the heart of Rome, right next to the city’s most popular ruins at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. However, the neighborhood has its own ruins to explore as the Trajan Forum and Markets are still partially standing. The Monti area is the oldest residential neighborhood of Rome and was once a densely populated, impoverished ghetto. Due to its proximity to the Roman Forums, Monti was originally called ‘Suburra’. They event built a wall to separate Monti from the Forum area to keep frequent fires in the crowded slum from spreading to Rome’s municipal areas.
Today Monti is one of the most popular quarters of the city. Here you can found the most hip restaurants, bars and vintage shops. It’s the perfect neighborhood to hang out once you’re down with the sightseeing and perhaps enjoy a typical Roman aperitivo at the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome would be complete without seeing the famous Trevi Fountain. It’s the largest baroque fountain in the world. It was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and represents the sea god Oceanus with his seahorses. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and make a wish to return to Rome, your wish will come true. Having thrown quite some coins in there over the years, I have to say that it definitely works – I always end up back in Rome 😉 If you want to see the Trevi Fountain without the crowds, you’ll have to come very early in the morning. We went there around 6.30 AM and there were already many people present for that time of day.
See the Oculus of the Pantheon
The Pantheon, located on the beautiful Piazza della Rotanda, is another landmark you can’t miss! Originally built as a temple to all gods, the Pantheon dates from before Christianity. The building as we know it today was built around 125-127 AD on the site of an even older temple. The Pantheon is the oldest building that is still in use today. It’s best known for its impressive dome with an oculus in the middle.
People watch at Piazza Navona
I just can’t go to Rome without passing by Piazza Navona. It’s my favorite square by far! I just love the vibe there. In the 15th century, Piazza Navona was used as a market place and venue for special events. On the square you will find Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian.
Stop by the Piazza del Spagna & Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps is, as the name suggests, is a staircase that connects the lower Piazza di Spagna with the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top. It was built in 1720 to connect the Vatican to the Spanish embassy. This place is always super crowded, even now that you can’t sit on the stairs anymore. Note that there’s a € 400 fine if you do so.
Wander around Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo (literally the People’s Square) is another large and impressive square that deserves a quick visit. In the center of the square stands an Egyptian Obelisk and the Fountain of the Lions.
Explore the Trastevere neighboorhood
Trastevere is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Rome with its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. I have to say though that the area has certainly changed over the years. Trastevere is no longer a hidden gem, and at times there seem to be more tourists than Romans. It’s now a popular spot for restaurant and bar hopping. However, personally I prefer to wander around the streets a bit, as some of Rome’s most gorgeous corners are located here.
There aren’t many famous sights in Trastevere, but the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere on Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere is worth checking out. The church is one of the oldest in Rome and dates all the way back to the 3rd century. The bell tower and golden facade were added in the 12th century.
Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo in Italian) is just above Trastevere and has one of the best views in Rome. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the center of Trastevere to Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi at the top of the hill.
Visit Castel Sant Angelo
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, also known as Castel Sant’Angelo, was constructed in 130AD. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor as a mausoleum for himself and his family.
In the year 590, while a great epidemic devastated the city, Pop Gregory I had a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel on the top of the castle, announcing the end of the epidemic. Hence the name.
In 1277 a 800 meter fortified corridor was built that connected the castle with the Vatican city so that the Pope could escape should he ever be in danger. During the sieges of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII used the fortress as a refuge. Towards the upper parts of the castle you wild different rooms that functioned as Papal residences, decorated with perfect preserved frescoes from the Renaissance period.
The views upon Rome and especially the Vatican City are absolutely amazing and for sure worth a visit.
Explore the Vatican
Vatican City is a state, within the city of Rome. The main things most people want to see when visiting the Vatican are Saint Peter’s Square, Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, with inside the wonderful Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Visiting the Vatican museums is absolutely worth doing in its entirety, even if you really only wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. The rest of the museums are truly wonderful as well. The Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest Renaissance churches in the world. When visiting the basilica make sure not to miss Michelangelo’s pieta.
When it comes to finding good restaurants in Rome, try to steer clear of the main tourist attractions or places with photos plastered on a billboard outside. Also, I never go to a restaurant where someone is outside hassling the people walking by. Good food speaks for itself.
Breakfast & Coffee
Café Friends – between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Typical Italian café with good coffee, Italian pastries and freshly-squeezed juices.
Ristoro della Salute – across from the Colosseum. And probably one of the only restaurants near a touristic highlight that doesn’t disappoint. Go here for delicious and freshly-made juices, milkshakes and waffles.
ViVi Bistrot – located inside the historic Palazzo Braschi upon Piazza Navona. I only ordered a smoothie, but the brunch looked really good!
Lunch & Dinner
La Canonica – located in Trastevere, a few steps from Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. The vine-covered patio is one the coziest corners in the neighborhood. On the menu you can mostly find pizza and pasta, but also meat and seafood. I had the Pizza with Prosciutto di Parma and it was really good.
Ravioli d’Oro – Lovely little restaurant in the Centro Storico. The Spaghetti Alle Vongole was absolutely divine.
Antica Osteria Di Pietra – cozy, traditional, Roman restaurant between the Pantheon & the Trevi Fountain. They mostly serve typical Roman dishes, but also pizza and pasta. We absolutely loved their Steak Tartufo! Hence down the best meal of our trip.
Alfredo Alla Scrofa – the birthplace of the original Fettuccine Alfredo. The restaurant has been there since 1914. Their Fettuccini is for sure the best pasta dish you’ll ever have! Believe me.
Pummarola – located near the Pantheon. Serves very nice and thin Roman style pizza. I red some mixed reviews about this one, but we really enjoyed the food and wine here.
Eitch Borromini – As you probably know by now I’m a sucker for rooftop bars! And this one might actually the most fabulous one I’ve ever been too. The views upon Piazza Navona and the rest of the city are unbeatable! Cocktails are on the pricy side, but very original and delicious. And with views like that… Dolce far niente right?!
Camillo – Pink interior, friendly staff and a terrace located upon Piazza Navona. The perfect bar to enjoy an Aperol Spritz while people watching.
Gelato & Tiramisu
Gellateria della Palma – making gelato since 1978 in 150 different flavors. The Nocciola was so good.
Fatamorgana – the chain that’s reinventing gelato in Rome came highly recommended by many fellow travel bloggers. Fatamorgana focuses on fresh and natural ingredients, preparing gelato in the traditional way that many gelaterias have strayed from. While the techniques might be traditional, the flavors are not with options like Pecorino, Pear & Gorgonzola, Pumpkin, Beer & Cherries Pumpkin. For those less adventurous (like me, when it comes to gelato), classic options like Strawberry, Chocolate & Stracciatella are also available.
Giolitti – one of the oldest gelaterias in Rome. They have been making gelato since 1900. The lines are usually quite long, but the gelato is so worth it!
Two Sizes – states to have the best tiramisu in town. You can choose between 5 different flavors: Original, Pistachio, Strawberry, Peanut Butter & Caramel. I tried the Strawberry one and if it’s the best Tiramisu in Rome I don’t know… I guess that would require a lot more tastings to find out, but it was a good one that’s for sure.
Where to stay?
During my latest visit to Rome we stayed at Charming Pantheon, an appartement in Rome’s Centro Storico. A lot of the main sights, like the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain, were at walking distance. The appartement was very comfortable and came with a fully equipped kitchen, spacious bathroom with washing machine and AC (which was very welcome in that heat!). Free WIFI was available too. We booked it on Booking.com.
• A Terravision bus takes you from Rome Ciampino Airport to Rome Termini Station in 40 minutes.
• A Terravision bus takes your from Fiumicino Airport to Rome Termini Station in 1 hour. From Fiumicino Airport you can also take the Leonardo Express to Rome Termini station. Tickets are a little bit more expensive than the Terravision buses, but the train takes you there in 30 minutes.
• Download the itTaxi app on your phone to easily book a taxi.
• Book entrance tickets in advance online! Not just to skip the lines, but some landmarks only sell online tickets because of Covid-measures.
• Bring a bottle of water: Especially when you visit the city in the summer, it get’s crazy hot. All around the city you will find little fountains with drinkable water, so you can refill your bottle.
• Currency: Euro (€)