The ColosseumBy far, visiting the Colosseum tops the list of things to do in Rome. You simply cannot leave the city without seeing it. Built between 70 and 80 AD the building was used for all sorts of different entertainment but most famously the gladiator tournaments.
It is said at one time it could hold up to 80,000 spectators. In order to really appreciate the beauty and history of this building, we recommend taking a tour. This allows you to step inside and really appreciate the Colosseum at its best.
If you decide not to book a tour, be aware that the line for tickets is usually insanely long and they only let in a certain number of visitors each hour. You should definitely look at booking tickets in advance online if you want to see the Colosseum from the inside. These fast-track tickets get you into the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill at your own timed entry by skipping straight to security.
Roman ForumThe Roman Forum has one of the most impressive views in Rome and is one top places to visit in Rome. This was the epicenter of ancient Roman life. Politicians, plebs, and preachers alike would connect here to buy or sell wares, worship in its many temples, or plan the Roman Empire’s next military move in the Curia. This is also another of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions so it can be crowded. The good thing is that the online tours to the Colosseum usually include entrances to The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well as skip-the-line access. The Roman Forum is located beside the Colosseum so you can easily visit both on the same day. We recommend combining them into one private tour to learn about the history and events that took place in the days of Ancient Rome. If you want a beautiful view of the area make sure to visit at sunset when the sky is beautiful and the lights have just come on
St. Peter’s SquareIt is strange that one of the best things to do in Rome is located in another country which is inside Rome – Vatican City. This independent state is by far one of the most famous religious sites in the world and St. Peter’s Square sits at the heart of it. The square, which is actually circular, is very impressive. Framed by 2 huge sets of colonnades, which are topped with statues of famous religious figures and previous popes, it is hard not to be blown away by the grandness of it all. At its center stands an obelisk that was taken from Nero’s Circus, which adds to the square’s impressiveness. Take a stroll around the square and admire the architecture as you head to the far end where you will find St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s BasilicaAfter being greeted in St Peter’s Square by the welcoming “arms” of the statues of 140 saints, walk into the star attraction that is St. Peters Basilica. (Basilica Di San Pietro). Though impressive from the outside, it isn’t until you walk inside that you appreciate the true beauty of this building that Michelangelo and Bernini contributed to. Make sure to look for Michelangelo’s Pieta on the right as you enter, the statue of St. Peter’s father to the right where his toe is worn away from devotees touching it in prayer. Bernini’s intricate Baldachin is the centerpiece, with St Peter’s actual tomb right beneath it, and Michelangelo’s famed dome above. For an incredible view that includes the square as well as Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River take the stairs or the elevator up to the dome. It is one of the best views of the city.
Vatican MuseumA must-see in Rome for any art-lover, this world-renowned museum, located in Vatican City, has over 2 million pieces in its collection and is truly magnificent. A dual ticket can be purchased to see both the Sistine Chapel and the museums and is worth the money. A route to follow will take around two and a half hours and incorporate main exhibits as: Pio Clementino Museums (sculptures), Hall of Tapestries, Maps Gallery, Raphael Rooms, Sistine Chapel (of course), and Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery), admiring the famous Bramante spiral staircase on your way out.
Trevi FountainThe Trevi Fountain is Rome’s most famous fountain located in the heart of the city center. Designed by Nicola Salvi, it has been one of the most popular Rome attractions since its unveiling in 1743. It is also famously featured in La Dolce Vita. After its 2015 sandblast facelift – paid for by Roman fashion house Fendi at a cost of $2.4 million – the fountain’s gorgeous white travertine stone statues of Oceanus with his chariot pulled by two Tritons and two seahorses are shining like new. (Travertine is also the material used for building most of the Colosseum). Most roads in the Centro Storico lead to it, as it converges at three roads – tre vie – hence its name Trevi. Take your obligatory selfie before throwing a coin over your shoulder into the water of the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return to Rome. As one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, it can be very crowded by the fountain, but we visited the Trevi Fountain at night and had it all to ourselves.
Spanish StepsContinuing your stroll through the old city center is another popular tourist attraction in Rome, The Spanish Steps. The Spanish steps were not designed by a Spaniard, but by Italian architect Francesco de Sancti. Their name comes from their proximity to the Spanish Embassy. The Spanish Steps are one of the best places in Rome to sit and relax with a gelato and people watch. Artists have been coming here since the early 1700s to find muses and models, and nowadays it’s a selfie-taking hub. Two charming squares top-and-tail the 138 steps. The Piazza Trinita de Monti above with the twin tower church outlining it, and the lovely Piazza di Spagna below. The latter has an impressive fountain Fontana Della Barcaccia (Fountain of the old boat) by Pietro Bernini (father of Gian Lorenzo Bernini whose sculptures pepper Rome) takes center stage.
Piazza NavonaThe Piazza Navona is probably the most beautiful Piazza in Rome. Built on top of what was originally a stadium in ancient Rome it is accented by the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini that is at its center. The Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi was built in 1651 and depicts the four river gods with a large Egyptian Obelisk at its center. The Obelisk is based on the four rivers of the Danube (Europe), the Nile (Africa), the Ganges (India), and Rio de la Plata (Americas), which were the most known rivers of the four corners of the world at that time. Make sure to dd this to your list of things to see in Rome. Right behind it is the stunning church Sant’ Agnese, which is dedicated to St Agnes who was martyred in the Piazza Navona. Built by Bernini’s rivals Borromini, and Rainaldi, it is gorgeous and well worth going inside to take in the impressive gold dome, Borromini sacristy, and crypt.
Villa Galleria Borghese And GardensOne of Rome’s most influential family legacies was the Borghese. Originally from Sienna, they moved to Rome through connections to the Papacy. Scipione Borghese, a nephew to Pope Paul V, was made cardinal and used his position and wealth to build and furnish the Villa Galleria Borghese with incredible ancient, Renaissance, and contemporary art. Its impressive art collection houses paintings by Caravaggio and sculptures by Bernini are some of the highlights of this grand villa museum brimming with masterpieces. Art lovers should definitely put this on their list of places to visit in Rome. The Villa Galleria Borghese Gardens is another sight to behold as it is one of the largest gardens in Rome that occupies around 200 acres of land. The free park is a great spot for a picnic. Other things to see along with the lovely gardens and fountains are the Bioparco (Rome Zoo), Pincio’s water clock, and Silvano Toti Globe Theatre which is a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Eating in RomeWith a city nicknamed Caput Mundi—Capital of the World—it’s only natural that Romans are accustomed to seeing their home as unrivaled in matters of history, culture, and food. And while it’s true that traditional local cuisine holds a sacred place at the table, the Rome is hardly impervious to change. The city’s classics, from carbonara to cacio e pepe, are still universally beloved, but Rome’s dining and drinking culture, like that of all cities, is in a constant state of evolution ( compared to New York, Paris or London). Recently, tightening purse strings, transitioning food systems, covid restrictions, and changing palates have conspired to create exciting new ways of dining, drinking, and shopping for food. Just note that while Rome's restaurant scene is more than the stereotypes of pasta, pizza, and checked tablecloths, a great carbonara should always be on the checklist. And with prima Materia (top-quality ingredients) a prime focus, vegetarians should never feel daunted. Just ask if you don't see something on the menu.