Rome wasn’t built in a day, they say. To properly visit Rome, a lifetime is not enough. However, as overwhelming as the eternal city can be, planning a trip to Rome your own is not that hard, and here you will find all the tips and recommendations you need.
When to go to Rome
Blessed with a mild climate, any season is good to plan your trip to Rome. Spring has the most pleasant weather without being too cold nor too warm. If you plan your trip around Easter, you can also enjoy some Christian festivities.
In summer you will find hot temperatures and most places overcrowded, so try planning a visit either before or after the high season.
Autumn brings random rainfall but the weather is mild and the colors of the falling leaves are warm and romantic. Winter, never too cold, is the season to enjoy the festive atmosphere of Christmas markets, trees, and decorations.
Where to book your hotel
The best location to book a hotel in Rome for sightseeing is the city center. Areas like Monti, Trastevere, or Trionfale are perfect to reach all of the most important sites and are usually well-connected with public transport. However, being in the city center, these areas can be pretty expensive.
A valid alternative is to book your accommodation a bit further from the heart of the city. You will have to take public transport to get to the places on your itinerary but it will be cheaper than in the central locations.
Areas like Monte Mario or Ottavia are located north of Rome and close to a train line with stations at Valle Aurelia in conjunction with the metro line A, San Pietro near the Vatican City and Ostiense to connect with the metro B and the train to Ostia Antica. The only drawback of these areas is that they are not as well served with stores and restaurants as the city center is. Keep in mind also that trains run until 10 pm and buses until midnight. So if you want to stay out late you will have to take a taxi (some €30 from the city center).
How to get to and around Rome
Rome airports are well-connected with the city. From the main Fiumicino airport, you can either take the Leonardo Express, a direct train to Roma Termini station at the cost of €14, or the one that stops at every local station including central Trastevere and Ostiense for the price of €8. Landing at Ciampino airport you will find several buses heading to Roma Termini.
Traffic in Rome is pretty mental, especially during peak hour. Whenever you can, use trains, metro, and trams to move around rather than buses that might get stuck in traffic.
Single tickets cost €1.50 and have a 100-minute validity including one metro ride, one train ride and bus rides up to expiration. If you are staying for a while and are going to use public transport every day you can buy longer-lasting tickets: a 24-hour ticket costs €7, a 48-hour ticket €12.50, for 72 hours is €18, while for 7 days it costs €24.
Top 20 things to do in Rome
Possibly the most popular and photographed landmark in Rome, the Colosseum is one of the first places to see if you are traveling to the eternal city for the first time. Also known as Amphitheatrum Flavium, it was built between 70 and 80 AD to host public shows, contests that often saw gladiators fight against each other, and animal hunts.
The ticket costs €12, lasts two days and is valid for both the Colosseum and the nearby Roman Forum. Open daily 8:30 am-5 pm (summer until 7 pm, in October 6:30 pm). For safety reasons, no more than 3,000 people can enter the Colosseum at once. To skip the long queue, book your ticket online.
At the heart of Ancient Rome’s public life, the Roman Forum is located in a valley between the Palatine and the Capitoline Hills. It was the place of the city market, public speeches, court trials, trade and commerce. Alongside a beautiful view on the city center, now you can still see the Temple of Vesta, the Senate, noble residences, and statues.
The ticket costs €12, lasts two days and is valid for both the Roman Forum and nearby Colosseum. Open daily 8:30 am-5 pm (summer until 7 pm, in October 6:30 pm).
Baths of Caracalla
To complete your Ancient Rome experience, after the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, don’t miss the Baths of Caracalla. A luxurious ancient spa, these public baths were decorated with marble mosaics, frescoes, statues, and gardens. Built between 212 and 217 AD, the baths were comprised of different areas, such as a gym, several changing rooms, pools, and even libraries.
Located in viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52, it can be visited daily 9 am-4:30 pm (in summer until 7 pm). Entrance fee is €6.
The Vatican City
Capital of Christianity and papal residence, the Vatican City is one of Rome’s most visited places. The stunning St. Peter’s Basilica boasts countless works of art including the sculpture La Pietà by Michelangelo and a large colonnade designed by architect Bernini all around St. Peter’s Square. The Dome (Cupola) is accessible daily from 8 am to 5 pm (in summer until 6 pm) for €8 if you take the elevator for half of the climb, or €6 if you climb up all 551 steps.
Don’t miss the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel, famous for its stunning ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and a huge collection of artwork commissioned by the Popes or received as gifts from world leaders in the past centuries. The museums are open Monday to Saturday 9 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-2 pm. Ticket is €16 with an addition of €4 if you book online.
Emperor Hadrian‘s funerary mausoleum, Castel Sant’Angelo has had different purposes throughout the centuries, being used as a fortress, a prison, and as papal residence. Located in Parco Adriano on the right bank of the Tiber river, it is now one of Italy’s most visited museums and one of Rome’s most photographed landmarks.
Open daily 9 am-7:30 pm. Entrance fee is €10.
Former temple “of all gods” originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC, the Pantheon is now a Catholic church hosting the graves of some members of former Italian royal family Savoia and famous Renaissance painter Raffaello Sanzio. After almost 2000 years, the dome is still one of the biggest in the world.
Open daily 9 am-7:30 pm (Sunday until 6 pm), free entrance.
Close to the Pantheon, right across Corso Rinascimento, lies the beautiful Piazza Navona square. It’s a popular tourist spot packed with historical places and artwork and teeming with street artists performing dances and comedy acts, playing instruments and drawing portraits.
Piazza Navona is also the place where the gorgeous Fountain of Four Rivers by Gianlorenzo Bernini is, right in front of 17th-century Baroque-style Sant’Agnese in Agone church designed by architects Borromini and Rainaldi father and son. If this is not enough, you can head to the northern entrance of the square, in via di Tor Sanguigna 3, and access the Domitian Stadium dating back to 86 AD and sprawling beneath the modern piazza.
Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps)
The top things to do in Rome must include a stop in Piazza di Spagna, square that hosts Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia and famous for being right at the bottom of the Spanish Steps that lead to Trinità dei Monti church. A favorite hangout place, locals and tourists like to spend their evening there chatting and enjoying a gelato.
Facing Piazza di Spagna is Via dei Condotti, an exclusive and very expensive shopping street that displays brands of the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Armani, Gucci, and Prada among the others.
Don’t miss the Baroque-style Trevi Fountain, a wonderful fountain made of candid white stone, started by architect Nicola Salvi in 1732 and completed in 1762 when the statue of Oceanus, god of the water, by Pietro Bacci was positioned in the center.
Renovated many times, Fontana di Trevi has been recently under restoration and cleaning work. Now back to its original splendor, if you want to enjoy the view before the usual crowd, head there in the early morning. Don’t forget to throw a coin in the water to make sure you come back to Rome!
For a glimpse into Rome’s old working-class life, take a stroll around the narrow alleys of Trastevere. Unbearably fascinating, this neighborhood is now a trendy hub, teeming with tourists during the day and with a bustling nightlife.
Some of the places to visit here are the old Santa Maria in Trastevere basilica, the Museum of Roma in Trastevere to delve into Rome’s daily life between the 18th and 20th centuries, and the beautiful 5th-century Santa Cecilia in Trastevere basilica that hosts the tomb of Roman martyr Santa Cecilia, first buried in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus then moved here in the 9th century.
Don’t leave Trastevere before enjoying a delicious gelato at Fiordiluna ice cream shop at 96 via della Lungaretta.
Campo de’ Fiori
Located south of Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori is a favorite tourist destination. Here you will find young couples and families with kids spending their lunch or evening in one of the restaurants with tables outside. The piazza is huge and a no-driving zone. In its center stands a tall statue of Giordano Bruno, Dominican friar accused of heresy by the Roman Inquisition and burned at stake right where his statue is.
From the Vatican, it’s about 10-15 minutes ride with the bus.
Santa Maria Maggiore basilica
Santa Maria Maggiore basilica is located at 34 Piazza dell’Esquilino, some five blocks southwest of Stazione Termini. The enormous 5th-century church is one of the four basilicas of Rome. By entering you will be met with beautiful works of art while heading underground to visit the remainder of a Roman house from the 1st century AD and see everything that existed before the construction of the basilica. The bell tower rises 75 meters and is the tallest in Rome.
Open daily 7 am-6:45 pm
San Paolo Fuori le Mura basilica (St. Paul’s outside the Walls)
Located on Piazzale San Paolo, this magnificent basilica is the second largest church in Italy after Saint Peter’s and the third largest catholic church in the world. The resting place of Saint Paul, its beautiful artwork is beyond what words can explain. Inside you will find two imposing rows of columns on both sides and above the columns are the portraits of Popes.
Open daily 7:30 am-6:30 pm.
San Clemente basilica
Within walking distance from the Colosseum, located on Via Labicana, is San Clemente basilica, beautifully decorated with marble, 12th-century mosaics, and a golden ceiling. After visiting the surface, head underground to see a bit of Rome’s ancient neighborhood and layers of historical sites, from a 4th-century Christian basilica to a 1st-century Roman house and street with the temple of God Mithras.
Open daily 9 am-12:30 pm and 3 pm-6 pm; on Sunday 12:15 pm-6 pm. Entrance fee to the ruins is €10.
San Luigi dei Francesi church
Located on its namesake piazza is 16th-century San Luigi de’ Francesi church. It houses three priceless Caravaggio paintings: the Inspiration of Saint Matthew, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and the Calling of Saint Matthew. Within walking distance from Piazza Navona, the church is open 10 am-12:30 pm and 4 pm-7 pm. Thursday 10 am-12:30 pm. Entrance is free.
Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Located on Via Appia Antica, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus date back to the 3rd century and are located almost 50 feet under the ground. Twenty years of digging brought to light amazing artwork showing that pilgrims in the Middle Ages visited the Catacombs to honor Christian martyrs. Stretching around 150,000 square meters and about 12 miles in depth, they are among Rome’s largest catacombs.
Open daily except Wednesday 9 am-12 pm and 2 pm-5 pm. Entrance fee is €8.
Crypt of Capuchin Friars
Located in Via Veneto under Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church, the crypt dates back to the 16th century. Before entering the crypt, a museum displays a beautiful Caravaggio painting and a collection of objects and documents related to the Capuchin order, such as their vestments and paintings.
The crypt is where the Capuchin friars used to bury their dead and create real art masterpieces with the bones of the exhumed monks. Each of the five small side chapels bears its own theme, be it Time or Justice, with the first displaying a rather creepy message: “What you are we were, what we are you will be”.
Decorated with the bones of almost 4,000 friars who died between 1528 and 1870, the crypt also houses the mummified bodies of some of the friars with their own garments on, and the full skeleton of princess Barberini, who died as a child.
A collection of beautiful statues located in the working-class Testaccio neighborhood, the non-Catholic Cemetery houses the tombs of foreigners belonging to the Protestant creed, artists, writers, poets, philosophers, politicians, and ambassadors. Among the most famous names buried there are founder of Italian Communist Party Antonio Gramsci, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, American explorer Thomas Jefferson Page and Italian novelist Carlo Emilio Gadda.
Located at 6 via Caio Cestio near the Pyramid of Caius Caestius, here you’ll also find Rome’s oldest cat colony. Open Monday to Saturday 9 am-5 pm; Sunday and public holidays until 1 pm. Entrance is free although a donation is appreciated.
Street art at Quadraro neighborhood
Not in the immediate city center, Quadraro neighborhood has been one of the first districts to host street art projects in Rome. Right after getting off Quadraro metro station the murals of many international street artists who took part in the “MURo” project start giving some color to the otherwise ordinary suburb.
Founded in 2010 by Italian artist David “Diavù” Vecchiato, here are the murals signed by artists of the likes of Italian Alice Pasquini, Gio Pistone, Irene Rinaldi and the same Diavù, French Zelda Bomba, Dilka Bear from Kazakhstan, and Beau Stanton from the US.
Industrial archaeology at Ostiense neighborhood
If you are a fan of industrial archaeology and the relics of contemporary history, then Ostiense neighborhood is for you. Stroll around via Ostiense, via dei Magazzini Generali, Riva Ostiense and via del Commercio to see what remains from a recent past, the Fascist period and a reminiscence of the industrial revolution. All along you will also enjoy some fascinating street art.
About Our Guest Blogger
Angela Corrias is a freelance journalist, blogger, and photographer who travels and works between Italy and Afghanistan with her husband. Her work has appeared in different publications around the world such as Al Jazeera, Forbes Travel Guide, Global Times and Diplomatic Observer. She is one-half of travel blogs Chasing The Unexpected and Rome Actually that she regularly updates with her husband.