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Lets start this list of the must-see attractions with the Colosseum, located in the Historic Center (“Centro Storico” in Italian). It’s the most emblematic monument to visit in Rome!
With a capacity of more than 50,000 spectators, it’s the largest amphitheater in the Roman world. Quite much blood was shed in these arenas, where the famous gladiatorial combats, animals fights and Roman games were held, always followed by horrific deaths.
The visit isn’t free and you will probably have to wait for a few hours before getting there if you are going in high season.
The ticket purchased at the Colosseum also includes access to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill (I will talk about it just below), so it would be a shame to miss them, as the 3 touristic sites are linked together.
The forum was the centre of the city and you can see ruins of ancient markets, administrative and religious buildings. However, you will not find any explanation on the site, so if you’re interested in history, you should really opt for a guided tour.
The Roman Forum
This is the third point of interest included in the Colosseum ticket.
Palatine Hill, one of the 7 hills of Rome, is according to mythology the place where the city was founded by Romulus and Remus. As you might know, they are the two twins who would have been found and suckled by a wolf in a cave. At the top of Palatine Hill, you will have access to this cave and ruins of the residences of historical figures such as Augustus, the first Roman emperor.
Not far from the Roman Forum, at the other end of Via dei fori impierali, you can find piazza Venezia, one of Rome’s main squares. From there, all the streets leads to Rome’s main tourist attractions!
This is where you can admire the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, also called “Altare della Patria” or “Vittoriano”, a huge white marble building dedicated to the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II.
Next to the square, there is also the famous Trajan’s column, with bas-reliefs retracing the military conquests of the Emperor Trajan.
Monument to Victor-Emmanuel II, Piazza Venezia
Climb the broad staircase leading to the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II and you will arrive on Capitol Square. Designed by Michelangelo himself, it was formerly the political and religious heart of Rome. On Capitol Square, you can see:
Piazza del Campidoglio
The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient building in Rome and another must-see touristic attraction to add to this list!
Originally dedicated to all mythology divinities, it became a Christian church in the 7th century. Don’t hesitate to enter, the visit is free of charge, which is rare enough to mention it!
Inside, admire the immense dome and the oculus (the opening in the dome), giving the place a unique lighting.
In the Pantheon, you can also see the tombs of Raphael (the famous artist) and Victor Emmanuel II (1st king of Italy, as mentioned above when I talked about the beautiful building dedicated to him on Piazza Venezia)
And if you want to get more historical information, you should get an audioguide. It can be booked here.
The Pantheon, a free visit you shouldn’t miss in Rome
The Piazza Navona is located in the heart of the historic center, not far from the Pantheon. it’s one of the most beautiful and famous square of Rome! There, you can admire the 3 following fountains:
It’s a great place to have a drink or eat ice cream on one of the many terraces, but beware, since this place is very touristic, the prices are too!
The piazza Navona
Also close to the Pantheon, you’ll find the most famous fountain of Europe: The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi in Italian). A must see for anyone visiting Rome.
Because of the legend surrounding it, this fountain is also renowned for hosting a large number of wedding proposals! Legend has it that in order to save her virginity, a young girl had to reveal the location of the source to the Romans.
In the basin, there are numerous statues representing an allegory of the sea, with Neptune on his chariot in the center. The tradition says you should throw 2 coins: one to make a wish and the other one to be sure to return to Rome.
Behind the fountain, a large baroque palace contributes much to the charm of the place. Just one thing: the place is always crowded, so you will have a lot of trouble to make a perfect photo of the fountain with no unwanted heads! Nevertheless, the Trevi Fountain is a major point of interest in Rome.
The famous Trevi Fountain, in Rome
After Trevi fountain, to recover from your emotions (if you were proposed or if you knelt down on your knees while sweating with stress!) or simply to take a short break during the day, it’s time to enjoy an ice cream.
The great new is that you’re in the ideal place, very close to one of the 2 best ice cream shops of Rome: San Crispino located on the Via della Panatteria. The queue is often impressive, but the best things in life are the hardest to obtain!
And since opinions often differ on THE best ice cream in Rome, I also give you the name of San Crispino’s direct competitor, the gelateria “Giolliti” located in Via Uffici del Vicario. Whichever you choose, you will face the same problem of long waiting line and multiple choice of perfume dilemma.
And yes, as you know from my articles on Nice or Annecy, I am a big ice cream fan! So I have a pro advice to give you: test both! It’s the best way to make up your own mind, isn’t it?
Italian Ice cream shop in Rome
If you want to do some shopping in Rome, it’s the right moment: You’re close to the 2 main shopping streets.
Go shopping in Via del corso
Go to Via del Corso to do some shopping at reasonable prices with big brands such as Zara or H&M.
Go shopping in Via condotti
If you have a higher budget or just want to admire the shop windows, continue your way on Via Condotti. It’s the most prestigious street of Rome with brands like Gucci, Armani or Prada. A bit like the Champs Elysée in Paris!
The Via Condotti will take you straight to the charming Piazza di Spagna, certainly one of the most popular squares, thanks to the beautiful perspective it offers.
The Piazza di Spagna is located at the foot of the monumental staircase leading it to the Trinità dei Monti church. The flowery staircase is the perfect place to take a short break for tourists and Italians alike. A popular gathering place!
On the square, you can also see the Barcaccia fountain ,which adds to the charm of the place.
The Piazza di Spagna, in Rome
As I was saying, at the top of the Piazza di Spagna stairs, there is the Trinità dei Monti church which offers a breathtaking view of the city. Its location makes it one of the most famous churches in Rome. Did you knew that the city has no less than 900?
Here is a list of the most beautiful churches in Rome, some of them are true architecture masterpieces!
Let’s start with the 4 largest basilicas in the world, which fortunately are all in Rome:
Some other interesting churches to see in Rome:
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
North of Piazza di Spagna, there is the largest and certainly the most beautiful public park in Rome.
The Villa Borghese gardens offers a bit of very welcomed calm, after the crowded streets and tourist attractions! You will be able to walk in the wide shady alleys and at the edge of a lake surrounded by temples, statues and many fountains. The park also has a beautiful botanical garden.
To get there, go to Porta Pinciana or Piazzale Flaminio, the 2 park entrances.
Villa Borghese gardens
The Villa Borghese park is also home to 3 museums:
In addition to the museums located in the park, there are many others to visit in Rome, such as:
The Piazza del Popolo or People’s Square is located near Villa Borghese. It’s one of the largest squares of Rome. It’s a major point of interest, with its fountains, 3 churches and obelisk. From the square, climb the stairs to the top of the hill, you will have a beautiful view up to the Vatican
Piazza del Popolo
From the piazza, you can then follow the Tiber to the Sant’Angelo bridge and the castle of the same name located on the opposite bank.
The bridge is decorated with 10 statues representing angels, all designed by Bernini. From the bridge, you will have a magnificent view of the city and the river.
The Castel Sant’Angelo, on the other hand, was built by Emperor Hadrian to serve as a mausoleum. Later on, it started to play an important military role: it even served as a place of refuge for the popes during invasions! They have even created a direct access to the Vatican.
You can visit the castle, see the tombs and the ancient popes apartments. You shouldn’t miss the great view from the rampart walk.
Don’t waste your time waiting and buy the skip the line tickets in advance here.
The bridge and Castel Sant’Angelo
A long corridor leads from the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican. Even if you’re not a believer, a visit to the Vatican is a must during a stay in Rome.
It’s the smallest country in the world, yet is one of the most visited places during a tour in Italy. Only priests and nuns, some dignitaries, guards, and of course the pope are allowed to live there.
A little fact about the guards: they are only Swiss and must of course be Catholic. They swear an oath of fidelity to the Pope himself. This tradition goes back to the sack of Rome in 1527, when the Swiss guards protected the pope during his escape to the Sant’Angelo castle.
You will enter the Vatican through the famous St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro in Italian). Every year, millions of pilgrims and tourists comes to see this square!
St. Peter’s Square was designed with the following principle in mind: they wanted to allow the greatest number of people to see the Pope give his blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Two colonnades surround the square, consisting of nearly 280 columns and 145 saints statues. In the center of St. Peter’s Square stands an Egyptian obelisk surrounded by 2 large fountains. The long waiting lines to visit the basilica start from this square.
The huge St Peter’s Square, in the Vatican city
To visit St. Peter’s Basilica, you will have to be patient (or be smarter than others and buy the skip the lines tickets here!) However, once inside, the impressive basilica will make forget the long waiting hours. There, you can admire many altars and monuments and be impressed by the rich baroque decoration. To see:
On the right side of the basilica, you can access the dome. You need to take an elevator first, and then, the hardest thing, to climb 323 extra steps.
It’s not recommended for claustrophobes, the ceiling is low and the corridors narrow, but your effort will be greatly rewarded by the magnificent view of the city of Rome.
The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free of charge, you will just be searched at the entrance. Access to the dome has a fee.
The St. Peter’s Basilica
After the basilica and to stay on the right bank of the Tiber, I advise you to visit Trastevere district during your trip to Rome
This neighbourhood is becoming more and more trendy and a little “Hipster”, but for now it has retained all its original charm.
You will be (relatively) away from the crowd to discover its typical narrow and flowery streets. There is no big historical monument here like in the rest of Rome, but a real “Italian” neighborhood with its inhabitants and local shops.
I personally visited Trastevere in October, but it seems many tourists visit the area in high season and it becomes less quiet!
On your way to the north of the district, go up the Gianicolo hill to admire a beautiful panorama of the city.
The Trastevere district is also the ideal place to enjoy pizza or good pasta in a traditional trattoria. There are a lot of authentic local restaurants with nice small terraces and without too many tourists, it’s the perfect match!
Some nice places in the district:
Of course, if you’re not in the neighborhood for lunchtime, you won’t starve to death with the many choices of trattorias, restaurants and sandwich shops right in the heart of Rome’s historic centre:
22. Campo di Fiori
Since I’ve made your mouth water with Italian cuisine, let’s keep going! To enjoy the smell of fresh produce and admire their bright colors, I advise you to take a little walk through the campo di Fiori.
Every morning (except Sunday) there is a fruit, vegetable, meat and fish market. Although appreciated by tourists because it’s located in Rome historical centre, this small market has managed to preserve all its authenticity.
It’s the perfect place if you want to bring home high quality products from Italy, and it’s much cheaper than in Rome touristic areas!
Voyage Tips Advice
If you want to discover Rome’s gastronomy and typical products, you should book a street food guided tour with a local guide.
It’s clearly the best way to discover off the beaten track places and enjoy great italian food!
This tour is so amazing that they offer you a full refund if you don’t enjoy your time.
Campo de Fiori market
Like Trastevere district, the San Lorenzo district is less known to tourist and clearly worth a look. Originally a working-class district, it’s nowadays the student district, with Roman universities. In addition to students, it’s also the street artists favorite place.
And for amateurs, the nightlife is great and beer isn’t expensive at all!
A peaceful neighborhood, beautiful gardens and an incomparable view of the city, this is what the Aventine Hill (“Aventino” in Italian) has to offer!
You can also add:
The Aventine hill will also offer you one of the most beautiful views of Rome. Did I say that already? ^^
I will finish this list of the best things to do in Rome with an unusual activity: visiting the catacombs. I recommand you the Catacombs of Callixtus, the best to visit in my opinion!
Once used as cemeteries for Jews and Christians, they are the largest in the city and cover almost 15 hectares. On the walls, you can see representations of Christian life such as baptism and scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The visit of Rome catacombs takes about 30 minutes and must be done with a guide.
If you want to visit Rome’s catacombs during your stay, the easiest is probably to go to the Capuchin Crypt, as it’s located downtown, next to the Trevi Fountain. You should book the tickets for the tour here (the guide is included).
Other catacombs such as San Sebastian, Domitilla or Catacomb of Priscilla can also be visited.
Credits VOYAGE TIPS
stay smart, stay green
Via di Capo le Case, 50
Tel.: +39 328 55 777 46
WhatsApp: +39 328 55 777 46
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