Rome is one of the most visited places in Europe with incredible sights like the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum. With so much to see and do when in Rome, we have formulated a list of the top 10 to do when you visit the Italian capital.
1. The Colosseum
Probably the most iconic monument in Rome, the Colosseum is awe inspiring. What struck me when we first saw it was that no photograph can prepare you for seeing it with your own eyes. It was built in 69-70 AD which when you think about it, is incredible that it is still standing. The Colosseum has a bloody history as it was famously where tens of thousands of animals and gladiators met their gruesome ends as crowds looked on.
When you visit be aware that this is one of the most popular sites in Rome so it does get busy. Expect to have to queue when purchasing your tickets inside. Obviously you don’t have to go inside but we highly recommend it. Standing near the bottom looking up gives you a sense of what the gladiators must have seen before meeting their demise.
2. Pizza and Gelato
I don’t think you can visit Rome without eating pizza and gelato. I mean when in Rome right? A little tip when ordering pizza is the plainer the pizza the better. Roman pizza is more about the dough and the cheese as opposed to loading every topping under the sun on the pizza.
This former Roman temple turned church is another of Rome’s most iconic sights. It is also one of the city’s best preserved sights too. You definitely need to go inside to appreciate the true magnificence of this building. When looking at the Pantheon from the outside it was a shock to realise that the inside is round. The columns at the front are truly misleading. Apparently Michelangelo upon seeing the Pantheon was said to have described it as the work of angels not humans. Considering its age, durability, and beauty, he may actually have a point!
Inside the Pantheon is the dome which has a hole in the top. This is referred to as the eye or oculus of the Pantheon. Water can get in when it rains but only a small amount and it drains through the slanted floor of the structure. The good news as well is that it is free to enter the Pantheon, however you can pay for guided tours if you wish. A small tip is to make sure that you keep your hand over your bag when gazing up at the dome. Pickpockets have been known to frequent tourist attractions and often you won’t even notice until it is too late. For more tips on things you should know before you visit Rome checkout our article.
4. The Vatican Museum
Home to about 7km of exhibitions, the Vatican Museum is famed for housing one of the world’s greatest art collections. You could realistically spend all day here admiring the exhibits, though for the more time conscious, the Sistine Chapel is a must see. The chapel roof was actually one of Michelangelo’s most challenging creations. It is such an incredible piece of artwork, but be warned it is strictly prohibited to take photos inside. And if you even try you will be told off by one of the several guards. I guess you will just have to buy the postcard instead.
5. St Peter’s Basilica
Around the corner from The Vatican Museum is St Peter’s Basilica. Although I should point out that technically the museum and St Peter’s Basilica are not in Rome or Italy, but Vatican City instead. So you can tick that off your country list. St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most incredible churches I have ever set foot in. This makes sense though as of course the Catholic Church is headquartered in Vatican City. If you are planning to visit it is important that you adhere to the strict dress code. You cannot wear shorts or mini skirts and shoulders must be covered.
6. The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps between the Piazza di Spagna at the base, and Piazza Trinita dei Monti, with the church of the same name at the top. The steps are a great place to sit and take in some of the sights. Just be warned that it is very touristy which also means you have a lot of people trying to sell you things on the street. Especially roses. Don’t engage and just keep walking. I should also mention that all those photos of the steps with barely anyone on them are actually taken really early in the morning. Don’t expect to get the steps all to yourself unless you are willing to get up early.
7. Trevi Fountain
Like the Colosseum no photo can prepare you for the sheer beauty of the fountain. The first thing that struck me was how big it was. The fountain dates back to ancient Roman times and is one of the oldest water sources in Rome. It is tradition when visiting to toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain. This ensures that you will be back in the city one day. Fingers crossed!
If you have wondered where all that money goes to it is collected and donated to charity, and it is actually a crime to steal money from the fountain. One bit of advice is to be wary of people offering to take your photo at the fountain. They want money so it is best to just take your own photos or ask a fellow tourist to help you out, unless you are willing to fork out a bit of money.
8. Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
One of the most ancient sites in Rome is Palatine Hill. Located next to the Colosseum Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome. Apparently in ancient times Palatine Hill was prime real estate. The Palatine is home to the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus, and is basically an archeological site. Some of Ancient Rome’s most famous legends were said to have taken place here such as Romulus and Remus being found in the cave by the she-wolf.
9. Piazza Navona
Piazza’s seem to be the place to hang out in Rome. One of our favourites and a great place for people watching is Piazza Navona. Here you can sit by the fountains and watch the various hawkers and street artists. These Piazzas are really where Rome comes alive. Even historically the Piazzas were the centre of life in Rome. In ancient times markets were held here, and even executions!
10. Get lost in Rome’s back streets
I definitely wanted to add this as a top 10 in Rome. If you want to see the true character and get a real feel for Rome then get away from the tourist spots and explore some of the back streets. You will find some amazing neighbourhoods with cute streets and trendy bars. Plus you will find some of the more authentic restaurants that actual Romans eat at, not just the tourists. It is important to note that wine is actually pretty cheap in Rome, so that is a good excuse to get exploring.
If you are looking to book any of the above mentioned attractions in advance, we recommend looking at the Viator website for all your pre-booking needs.
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