Rome is an excellent city for sightseeing, with a rich historical heritage, there are wonderful romantic ruins, ornate monuments, timeless art, old churches and amazing architecture for all to enjoy.
Rome was the home of one of the greatest civilisations ever, exerting influence then and even today with its strong culture, religion and food!
I love my city, and love even more to be able to share it, so I’ve put together a list of must see things that I think you should do when you are in Rome!
On the “must list” of things to do in Rome is an exploration of one of the most ancient parts of city.
Here you will find the archaeological sites of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill adjacent to each other and all within walking distance.
The Palatine Hill stands above the Roman Forum, and is one of the seven hills of Rome where huts were built by the first settlers under Romulus’ direction.
The Roman Forum was the business district, civic centre and also the marketplace of Rome, here you will find ruins of every era of the Roman Empire.
Considered as one the greatest works of architecture and engineering, the Colosseum is an amphitheatre estimated to hold 50,000 spectators and used for entertainment such as executions, gladiatorial contests, re-enactments of famous battles and other public spectacles.
One of the best things to do in Rome is to explore this area in one visit, as the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill entry ticket includes the Colosseum.
Be sure to get your ticket at the Palatine Hill entrance which always has a shorter queue to that found at the Colosseum.
Baths of Caracalla
The size and scale of the Baths of Caracalla makes the facility the second largest Roman public baths built in Rome and the biggest nowadays seeable.
More like a leisure centre than just a series of baths, the complex was equipped with a swimming pool, two libraries and extensive gardens to walk about and enjoy.
This site is considered one of the seven wonders of ancient Rome along with the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, the Trajan’s Forum, the aqueducts, the bridges and the roads.
South of the city centre, and along the corridor of archaeological remains that stretches from the Roman Forum to the Appia Way, you can find the Baths of Caracalla 5 minutes from the Circo Massimo Metro station.
Another one of the things to do in Rome is about 30 minutes away from the city centre.
Here you can find Ostia Antica, a beautifully preserved, large archaeological site of impressive mosaics, frescoes and ancient buildings worth definitely a day visit.
Once the port city for Rome, Ostia Antica was an important place of transit for goods and people for the Roman Empire.
Tradition says that Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the 4th king of Rome, who lived during the second half of the 7th century B.C., even if – till today – there is little archeological evidence corroborating such information.
However, it seems that during the Regal period there was a built-up area near the mouth of the Tiber, where there were some salt marshes producing salt: a priceless and essential wealth.
Salt was used to flavor and preserve food, so, keeping its production under control was absolutely necessary and the whole area surrounding the mouth of the Tiber was strategically important for Rome.
St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City
Coming to Rome and not visiting the biggest church in the world as well as the heart of Christianity is a real sacrilege. The Basilica is amazing but needs some queuing and be aware that respectful clothing is required. Sleeveless and shorts are strictly forbidden.
If you have the chance, climb to the top of the dome where there is an amazing view of the city, absolutely worth the effort of climbing the 300 steps to the roof level (an elevator is available!)
The Vatican museum also needs a long waiting before entering. You can jump the queue by buying tickets on the official Vatican website.
Nearby there is also the only castle of Rome, Castel Sant’Angelo, which requires a visit. In the old times it was used as a secret passage to and from the Vatican city.
You should also check out the optical trick of St Peter’s!
Rome, fortunately, hasn’t got skyscrapers. Of course, they could give you a high view point from which to see the city but it would spoil this fascinating, amazing metropolis.
The view from here, in my opinion, is one of the best you can get. Gianicolo is actually the second highest hill (second only to M. Mario) of the entire city.
If the weather is clear you can also spot the mountains which surrounds Rome itself and if you are lucky enough you may also see the highest mountain of central Italy, Gran Sasso, which is more than 2900m high and more than 100km away from Rome.
True enough Gianicolo is one of the best places from where to see the eternal city but it also has a green spot to chill out on a bench under an elm tree.
It is just above Trastevere district and has some interesting monuments, mostly built in memory of the independence battle, which was lead here by Garibaldi in 1849 against the French.
Definitely a cooling out place after a tiresome day of sightseeing. It does not matter the time you choose to come, the view is always breathtaking.
But in case you happen to be here at midday, reach the Garibaldi statue, you can also hear the cannon shooting, a traditional event which happens everyday, and has been around since the year 1847.
Another thing to tick off on the list of things to do in Rome.
This is definitely my favourite park in Rome. Although it may not be the most beautiful and maybe not the most central one, it is surely one of the biggest and to me has a special meaning.
Since I was a little boy I was brought here by my parents and then as I grew older this was the place where I spent my weekends as a teenager.
Apart from my personal feeling, this is the place where people, at least from the north west areas of Rome come to have a picnic during the first Sundays of spring.
I, myself, nowadays like to come here for many purposes, jogging, reading a book, enjoy the sunshine, cycling, walking, enjoy the nature.
However, whatever reason is yours, I think you can find amongst those above a valid reason to pop in during your staying in Rome.
This park has got, also two little ponds where many animals can be seen. Carps, turtles, ducks, swans – ideal if you have kids.
Also in mid-spring some concerts are organized in one of the many entrances, Porta di S.Pancrazio. Do not come here in the middle of summer though, everything is too dry and too hot to enjoy it all.
Just behind Villa Borghese park and right above one of the biggest squares of the city, Piazza del Popolo, stands the Pincio terrace.
I come here from time to time as this is one of the few viewpoints of the old city.
I like to enjoy the majesty of the square below or just to have a view of the city from a different perspective.
I suggest that you add this to your list of things to do in Rome.
Try to spot out Saint Peter too and once you do, check on your map to see if you were right. You may have it confused with another dome as you can see many from here.
The best time to come here, in my books, is at sunset. The horizon gets a beautiful light that paints the houses, their roofs and gardens. If you have a romantic event to celebrate, this is the right spot.
Once you have taken the ritual pictures, stroll through its gardens and chill out on a bench under a tree. Away from the crowds, enjoying the tranquility.
This is the seventh hill on which Rome was built and is conserved in a different fashion to the other six. To spend an afternoon here is very easy.
There is the famous orange garden, from you where you have a nice view point of the city, as well as a rose garden to explore.
From here you can stroll around and find other interesting attractions which can catch your curiosity and attention such as the mouth of truth and the famous keyhole with the Vatican view, which is one of the things to do in Rome.
This is definitely an interesting area for everyone. Campus Martius has several historic buildings such as the Pantheon, Marcello Theatre, The Sacred Area, and Temple of Hadrian as well as Renaissance squares such as Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona (the most beautiful one), Piazza Venezia, Piazza Mattei, and the Trevi Fountain.
Not only that, in this area, you will find lovely ornate churches like San Luigi dei Francesi, Sant’Ignazio della Loyola, Santa Maria del Popolo, and Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.
And after a day of sightseeing you can do some shopping and find a place to rest for in this area, it is also a place where there are fancy clothing shops and a wide range of restaurants all over.
Getting lost here is very usual as the roads are very narrowly laid in a maze. If you do not want to waste time ask a local to guide you through it.
Trastevere is a very special place and is actually is my place to hangout. You will feel like an ancient soul of this quarter, an area of only a few which has kept its popular atmosphere. Enjoy a spring or summer evening here, and get lost in it.
This area once belonged to the Etruscans, the pre-Roman population that stayed here even after Rome was founded.
This place, leftover by the Romans at the beginning, developed with its own people through centuries. Imagine that the streets had no pavement till the 16th century! And nowadays blossoming and busy with the many pubs, bars and restaurants.
Locals as well as tourists love it because of its medieval ambience and its maze of narrow streets.
One, in the south-west part very calm and charming, where you can enjoy a quiet nights stroll in tranquility. And in the north-west, a more crowded, busy and rowdy atmosphere.
Up to you to decide which part of Trastevere will suit you most. Just be sure to not come here during the daytime, as you will find and experience nothing more than a quiet ghost neighbourhood.
Shopping in Rome
Do you think most Romans shop in Via del Corso or in the posh nearby Via dei Condotti?Yes, some do, but if you want to know where the majority of Romans go shopping in town, you definitely have to go to Via Cola di Rienzo.
This road joins the huge Piazza del Popolo with Piazza Risorgimento, off Vatican city.
It’s quite a long road, intersected by many other ones. It is a very lively street because of its traffic and its commercial activities.
This is a place where you can find hundreds of shops. Well known and lesser known brand-stores, bars such as Castroni, gelaterias, cinemas, bookshops and many others.
This is definitely my favorite shopping area. Let’s say that we Romans like to stroll around here more than at the Via del Corso area.
Not many tourists know it though and as you walk along it, you may feel the vibe of Roman shopping too.
One of the things to do in Rome, when you need a break from all the wonderful sightseeing. Enjoy the crowd on a busy weekend!
Museums and Galleries
Here, on top of one of the seven hills of the ancient Rome stands the oldest museum ever created in the whole world, understood as a place where art could be enjoyed by all and not only by the owners.
Inside Musei Capitolini there are many priceless pieces of art as well as the ruins of a Roman temple (Jupiter).
It also contains the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor who died at the beginning of the movie the Gladiator (you can see a copy outside the museum though).
When I visited this museum, I was struck by its majesty.
Open to the public in 1734 it is divided into three buildings of which only two can be visited and those are joined by an underground gallery.
This site is amazing if you like to discover ancient, medieval and renaissance art.
For the galleries instead, the most important ones and worth visiting are, Spada, Castel Sant’angelo (which is more a Museum), Palazzo Venezia, Palazzo Barberini and the most famous: Borghese. Here you can find two sections.
One dedicated to paintings of important artists like Caravaggio. And the other one mostly sculptures from which outstands the masterpieces of the master Bernini such as the Apollo and Daphne and what impressed me more than anything else the Rape of Proserpine.
Really worth visiting just for that. The way marble is carved is unbelievably realistic.
For this Gallery you need to reserve your entrance as more than 50,000 people come here every month and the visit cannot be longer than 2 hours.
Call center +390632810 Monday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm.
The museums and the galleries are closed on Mondays so pay attention if you schedule to come over this day.
Beaches in Rome
Not very far from the Rome city centre is our seaside.
The Romans like to go there to sunbathe as soon as our days start to be warm enough. That happens generally from late May to late August.
The best days to go to the beaches of Rome are Monday to Friday as not many people, especially locals, will be there.
Weekends can be quite a nightmare for those who hate crowded places and queues. Of course on any day of the week, you will find the sun and heat there.
The most popular beach areas for locals are Fregene and Ostia.
Fregene can be difficult to access by public transport but Ostia is much better connected to Rome city centre by the train system setting from Piramide (line B).
The train takes roughly 30 minutes and it is included in the metro ticket. You can get off at Ostia Lido, Stella Polare or Castel Fusano.
There you can choose to explore the beaches which are mostly privately managed (an entrance fee is compulsory).
If you want, instead, to reach the more isolated beach areas, full of sand dunes called the “cancelli” (the gates) it is more convenient to get off at Colombo station and take the bus 07 or 070 for another 15 minutes towards Torvajanica. In this area, you will also find many bars and kiosks.