As with any capital city, the list is endless when it comes to what to do and see.
Rome is no different.
The Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza Navona, The Trevi Fountain, The Roman Forum, The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, The Catacombs, Piazza Venezia..it goes on and on.
Every inch is swathed in rich history and with stunning attractions oozing out of every pore it is hard to narrow down what you should dedicate your time to. Especially if time is of the essence.
So if you are visiting Rome for your first time, these are a few highlights that are completely unmissable.
St. Peter’s Basilica and The Vatican
As one of the largest churches in the world, St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most renowned works of renaissance architecture. I can’t say I know anyone who has been to Rome and not visited the mothership of the Catholic world. It crops up on everyone’s list and for good reason. It is truly awe inspiring. Inside and out.
Once you’ve managed to tear your eyes away from the impressive building and the stunning architecture that adorns the exterior, inside St Peter’s Basilica you will find a treasure trove of historical art and beauty. The renaissance sculpture of ‘The Pietà’ by Michelangelo is housed here, beneath one of the most impressive domes, also designed by the famous Italian. If you have the time you can climb to the top for magical views across the city, however make sure you book this part in advance.
If you haven’t had enough of Michelangelo, head to The Vatican just around the corner where you will find The Sistine Chapel. If you haven’t booked then be prepared for a 2-3 hour wait to get in, but I’m sure you will make friends in the queue whilst you wait! (And there are some pretty great ice cream shops across the road).
Once you’ve paid for your ticket you will find yourself inside the smallest internationally recognised independent state in the world. Head to the post office and send your loved ones a postcard! Then continue on into a labyrinth of passages densely populated with sculptures, art, paintings, architecture and history. Your eyes will be bombarded and you’ll find yourself lost for a couple of hours at least. I’m not really a tour person, but I would say that this is probably the only place I have ever visited that I think it would be a good idea. There is an unbelievable amount to take in and in hindsight it would have been better with someone who knew what everything was and the history behind it.
I highly recommend purchasing a fast track ticket before arriving in Rome. It will save you hours on entry into St Peter’s and The Vatican! My favourite tickets are:
Another one that will be on everyone’s list, and well worth the visit, the Colosseum. Back in the days of the Roman Empire this was the largest amphitheatre, where 50,000 bums in seats would go to watch gladiators, common criminals and even animals fight for their lives. Today, the outer shell is fairly intact and the inside is even more impressive than you can imagine. This place is on every list of sites to see in Rome for a reason.
It is worth investing in a Roma Pass while you are visiting the city. You can pick these up for €36 before hand on their website or at the airport when you land but definitely worth getting. With this pass you are able to get into 2 museums/archaeological sites of your choosing (from their list), get discounts off tickets for other sites and travel as much as you like on the Metro system, buses and trams. Oh, and it lets you fast track on entry to many sites such as the Colosseum, which is bloody brilliant (especially as sites like this bad boy will be crowded from opening time…).
Whilst you’re in the area make sure to visit Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum. They are all located next to each other so it makes sense to do all of these at once.
Chariot races were one of the Roman’s most popular forms of entertainment (along with watching fights to the death next door at the Colosseum) and The Circus Maximus was the largest stadium used for chariot racing in ancient Rome. There isn’t a great deal to see of the stadium which was once able to seat 250,000 people but the track is still there so you can use your imagination.
Palatine Hill was where the rich went to see and be seen. Situated right next to the Circus Maximus, you would have wanted a house here if you were living in Rome a couple thousand years ago.
Today it is littered with the ruins of ancient palaces and houses and worth a wander through the gardens with it’s towering pine trees and beautiful views until you end up at the Roman Forum, the center of life in Ancient Rome. Today it is an impressive maze of ruins made up of triumphal arches, temples and basilicas.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest and by far the most iconic fountain in Rome. Most would say it is the most beautiful too with it’s mythological statues and horses. Whether or not you agree, it is still one of the top tourist attractions.
Head to the fountain to toss in a coin and make your wish. You can add to the €3000 that is thrown in on average every day by the hoards of other tourists that you’ll find swarming this beauty.
Everyone always says make sure to visit either first thing in the morning or later on at night to avoid the masses. Having visited a few times I can safely say it makes very little difference. It was slightly quieter when we visited at about 10 o’clock at night in comparison to at earlier times but still busy.
The Piazza Navona.
Rome’s most famous square built on the ancient site of the Stadium of Domitian, with stunning examples of Baroque Roman architecture on all sides and a number of magnificent fountains.
The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, complete with Egyptian obelisk was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pop Innocent X. The fountain of four rivers is the largest of the fountains on the Piazza Navona and most well known, drawing in the tourists.
Around the Piazza there are numerous cafe’s to sit and have a coffee as you sit and do a spot of people watching. However I wouldn’t eat on the square. There are much better places to eat just a stones throw away down the narrow alleys leading off the piazza. There is Da Tonino on Via del Governo Vecchio which offer a great bowl of pasta, there is Da Baffetto on the same street serving excellent thin based pizza and Coromandel a little further walk on Via di Monte Giordano (on which I will be doing an entire post next). There are of course, numerous other places along these side streets, many of which I have sampled and loved but these three places really stand out.
The above list are my top 4 places to visit. My final favourite is to go for a wander along the streets of this fantastic city. You can guarantee you’ll find something new every time.
A Wander Along The Streets Of Rome
As you can see, you won’t be short of eye candy!