Rome, the capital city of Italy, will take you to another level of traveling experience. At some point you may not believe, you are walking in a city! Because with 2800 years of history, you feel like, you are walking in a huge museum rather than a city.
Rome as the capital of the ancient Roman Empire, is the most visited destination in Italy and the third in Europe. Three main reasons that make Rome attractive for travellers are: it’s super rich history and architecture, having the smallest country in the world (Vatican City) inside it and also the famous romantic ambient of this city.
Top 10 must-see places in Rome
Ready to start knowing more about where to go in this amazing and breathtaking city?
Let’s start with the most visited tourist attraction in Italy, Colosseum, one of the world’s well preserved ancient monuments.
This oval shape amphitheatre, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre is located in the center of Rome and was built between 72 and 80 AD.
This place has a bloody history in Roman time as it was mainly used for Roman festivals like gladiatorial combats and animal fights.
With the capacity of averagely estimated 70,000 spectators, Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre built at the time.
When you are visiting Colosseum, close your eyes and try to imagine thousands of people who are exciting and screaming while watching a gladiator fighting with another one and also the Royal Roman families who are watching the show from the best position of this huge amphitheater.
Needless to say that this UNESCO’s World Heritage Site welcomes more than 5 million visitors annually. Therefore, it is good to take it into account while visiting this monument, that it is almost always crowded and I suggest you the skip the queue ticket.
2. Roman Forum
Right in the center of modern city of Rome, stepping in Roman Forum will take you to the ancient Rome.
This huge archeological site once was the center of day-to-day life in Roman Kingdom (back in the 7th century BC). That’s why among the ruins you will see the government buildings, shrines and monuments. And despite the ruins, you can distinguish the glory of Roman Empire at the time.
While you are there, don’t forget to visit, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the House of the Vestal Virgins, among other structures.
One thing to keep in mind is that the previous visitors have highlighted in their reviews, that this place is huge and there is not much information on the site about the monuments and places, so it is highly recommended that to visit this place, hire a tour guide to have an idea about what you are visiting.
3. Vatican City (1): St. Peter’s Basilica
The St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the four Major Basilicas in Rome and it is located in the Vatican City which is the smallest country in the world! It is considered as one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world.
This church has the tallest dome in the world (136.57 metres). With a narthex entrance which has a Holy Door that is just opened during jubilees.
To reach this church you need to pass famous St. Peter’s Square. In the center of the square there is an Egyptian Obelisk (25.5 m) made of red granite. The obelisk is surrounded by colonnades of four rows of 284 column.
This square along with the church are designed in a way to welcome large gathering of people.
Every year millions of tourists and also pilgrims come to visit this church and the Pope who at some special times appears in the balcony of St. Peter’s.
This church is open every day except Wednesday mornings for the appearances of pope.
4. Vatican City (2): Vatican Museums
There are other sightseeing places that you should not miss visiting them while you are in the headquarter of the Catholics (Vatican City).
Vatican Museums are a collection of more than 13 museums with 54 galleries, in a space of almost 7 km. You will be amazed by walking through the many chapels and galleries.
There are more than 70,000 art works that currently just 20,000 are on display. So there are plenty of things to see while you are there. Before going through the art works, visit one of the extraordinary attractions in this museum which is double spiral staircase or Bramante Staircase which is designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932.
If you are in rush while visiting the museums, and not having much time to visit all the artworks, the one that you should not miss, is the Sistine Chapel, located at the very last sala, the ceiling of this chapel, is the highlight of High Renaissance art. It is painted by Michelangelo in 4 years (1508-1512).
Apart from the Sistine Chapel and the spiral staircase, the list below also is highly recommended to visit:
- Raphael’s Rooms: Previously the private apartments of Pope Julius II, these rooms are a collection of Raphael Sanzio’s works in 4 rooms.
- Pinacoteca: Paintings of world-known artists including Giotto, Leonardo da Vincia and Raphael from the Medieval time until the 19th century organised in 18 rooms.
- Gregorian Egyptian Museum: Various sculptures and architectural elements are gathered in 9 rooms, representing Ancient Egypt.
Take into account that these museums are always full of visitors. Try to avoid visiting them in typical vacation time. And my recommendation to get the most out of it, is to visit them with guided tour.
Built in 125 AD, Pantheon is a must-see tourist attraction that everybody visiting Rome, should at least once visit this place!
Originally was used as a temple and later in 7th century, turned to being used as a catholic church, Pantheon, is one of the best-preserved monuments in the history of Rome.
It’s cylindrical building has a portico that it consists of 12 granite Corinthian large columns. The concrete 43-meter dome of Pantheon which is coffered, is one of the largest domes in the world.
At the top of the dome, there is a oculus (open center that you can see the sky through it). This serves for the ventilation and also it is the only natural source of light which moves in the interior space during the day. This is interesting to know that as it doesn’t get covered during rainfall, to avoid the rain stay on the ground, the floor is designed with a 30 cm incline and it is equipped with a drain system.
It is worth to mention that visiting this architectural masterpiece is free of charge.
6. Trevi Fountain
This is one of the world’s most famous fountains and at the same time it is the largest Baroque design fountain in Rome.
Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi in 18th century, it has been undergone many restorations including the one in 2013 which was a massive and expensive restoration.
The fountain name “Trevi” or tre vie (three streets) comes from its location that was built at the junction of three roads.
There is a tradition there, that usually people visiting Trevi Fountain, throw coin to the fountain (one to get back home safe or two to come back to Rome and or get in love!). It is said that this money is collected every night and is given to a charity to be used for poor people.
The fountain has been featured in various movies, including Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita and Sabrina Goes to Rome, to name a few.
7. Palatine Hill
There are seven hills in Rome, of which the Palatine is the most famous one for many reasons.
It is said that basically this place is the origin point of Rome and there are evidences that show there were people living there since 10th century BC, later, at the time of Ancient Rome it was also the area where the upper class of society used to reside.
There are also some mythology about this place. One very famous is that the Lupercal Cave where Romulus and Remus twins were rescued by the shepherd Faustulus was located in Palatine Hill. The twins were suckled by the she-wolf in that cave.
The good thing about the Palatine Hills is that, it is close to the centre of Rome and it gives you the easy access to other landmarks of the city. Despite being in the center, by climbing you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Rome and be away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are almost always less people there in compare to Colosseum and Roman Forum while its archaeological ruins are unique.
It is also good to know that the admission to the Palatine Hill is included in the combined ticket of Colosseum and Roman Forum. You can also take a guided tour for visiting this place along with the other two landmarks.
8. Piazza Navona
The Piazza Navona is in a centric neighbourhood that you can enjoy an evening there in a restaurant or a bar with a famous Italian pasta or gelato!
In Piazza Navona you will see three Baroque style fountains. The one in the middle from 17th century is known as Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain) and it has an Obelisk in its centre. The Fontana del Moro is another one at the southern end and finally the one at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune, both from 16th century (and some status’ and sculptures were added to these fountains later in 17th and 18th century.
Make sure to visit the Church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) from 16th century, no admission fee and it is just around the corner, within one minute walking distance from Pizazza Navona!
9. Castel Sant’Angelo
Built in 139 AD at the right bank of the Tiber, upon order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, originally was served as a mausoleum, for himself and his family. The ashes of succeeding Roman Emperors were placed in this mausoleum until 217 AD.
At the same time, Hadrian also built a bridge known as Pons Aelius or Aelian Bridge on the Tiber (which is the third-longest river in Italy), straight onto the mausoleum. There are 10 statues of angels decorating this bridge.
Later in 401 AD, the towering cylindrical building or Castel Sant’Angelo in Parco Adriano was converted to a military fortress and castle by the popes. Consequently, many of the urns containing the ashes and also the decorations have been lost.
In 1901 the military fortress was decommissioned and now it serves as a museum, known as the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo. To have a guided tour click here.
10. Other places to visit
Rome is not very big but it is full of landmarks especially the historical and architectural attractions that for sure we can not end up with introducing just 10 places. the list below is the places that if you had time in your visit to Rome, you can add to your list for having a look.
- Spanish Steps: Located between the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top and Piazza di Spagna (the name comes from the Spanish Embassy from close by) at the base, the Spanish Steps are a place where tourists enjoy their gelato or caffe sitting on one of the 135 steps specially during spring time that are decorated with flowers. The view from top of the steps right from the French church of Trinità dei Monti is amazing. However, at some point it can be full of tourists as well.
- Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI): This is right that you are in one of the most historical cities in the world. However, you might want to taste a bit of modern art. In this case the MAXXI is the best option. Designed by world known architect, Zaha Hadid, this contemporary art and architecture museum has a very unique design which has received the Stirling Prize for architecture.
- Domus Aurea: Or Golden House was built in the center of Ancient Rome upon order of the Emperor Nero. This is happened after the great fire in 64 AD that destroyed a major part of the city.
- Volle di Gianicolo: This is a viewpoint for those who love to view cities from a higher point. Not too far from the center of the city, this place gives you the best view over Rome.
- Villa Borghese: Originally a vineyard, in 17 century this place was converted to a collection of gardens which was the most extensive at the time. Containing many buildings inside, including various museums and galleries (and famous Galleria Borghese), this place is highly recommended especially for sculpture lovers!
- Campo de’ Fiori market: This is a very popular open air market for fresh stuff like flowers and fruit and vegetable. The Campo de’ Fiori is open every day except Sundays. The vibe of afternoons also are very nice due to restaurants around this place.
- Piazza Venezia: This huge square is actually the central hub of Rome and it is famous for the historical speeches of Mussolini to the crowd in the Renaissance building which now is a museum.
Free museums in Rome
In general, most of the museums and monuments (those which are run by the state) are free to visit the first Sunday of each month. Including Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen, Galleria Borghese (with reservation), Museo Nazionale Romano, and many more.
So if you happen to be in Rome the first Sunday of any month, take advantage of this opportunity. However, take into account that means more visitors and more queues as well.
Apart from the general free admission day, there are some museums that do not have entrance fee including Museo Napoleonico, Museo Pietro Canonica, Museo Carlo Bilotti, Villa di Massenzio, Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco, to name a few.
What to see in Rome in 2 days
Rome has many things to offer, the proper plan is minimum 3 days to cover at least the main landmarks. But if you happen to have just 2 days to explore Rome, so let’s to take the most out of these 2 days.
1 What should not be missed in any case is Colosseum and the good thing is that there are 2 another important attractions very close to Colosseum: Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. There are some combined tickets or city pass that includes the admissions of these 3 together. For evening you can go to Piazza Venezia (15 minuets walk from Colosseum) and end your visit by taking a rest close to Trevi Fountain.
2 For the second day, start from the Vatican City. Explore the St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Visiting Vatican Museums needs much time. If you had any time left for the evening go to Volle di Gianicolo to see the sunset from up there.
What to see in Rome in 3 days
You already have the plan of two days. With one extra day you can visit the places in Rome that I have mentioned before according to your interest. But my suggestion is:
3 For the third day you can start with Pantheon. Then Trevi Fountain and also Piazza Navona. These are all very close together. There also less famous churches in this area that you can take advantage and visit them too, like Church of St. Louis of the French.
Rome City Pass
OMNIA VATICAN AND ROME CARD provides you the facility to enter many sightseeing places. If you ask if it is worth it or not, I should say it depends on your plan. If you are going to visit a lot of things that you need to pay the entrance fee, I think it is worth it.
- You save much time from queuing at the entrances of museums or other tourist attractions.
- It includes the entrance to most important places.
- You can use it for public transport.
- It is much cheaper than buying separate tickets.
Public Transport in Rome
The public transport network is working quite well in Rome and it operates in an integrated system. It means that if you buy a ticket you can use it in different means of transport.
There are different types of tickets that you can purchase according to your need:
One-way ticket (BIT): It is valid for 100 minutes since its first validation and you can use it between all the means including metro, buses, trams and urban trains. The BIT ticket costs 1,50€.
Day ticket (24 h or BIG): This ticket is valid since the first validation until midnight of the same day and you can use between all means of transport. The price of this ticket is 6€.
Then you have the 3 Day Pass (BTI) and week pass (CIS) with the same situation of day ticket but of course in 3 days and 7 days with price of 18 and 24 € respectively.
When is the best time to visit Rome?
There is no extreme cold or hot day in Rome! In average it is between 5°C at coldest to 30°C at hottest weather. Of course it can be more up and down but in general the weather is mild in Rome.
Apart from the weather, there are special days in Rome that you will enjoy more due to festivals. The highlights are:
- Taste of Roma: I start with my favourite one! If you are happen to be in Rome during September do not miss the huge food festival. What can be more perfect than this, Rome and food!
- Festa Del Cinema di Roma: Rome Film Festival is held every year in October. If you are a film fan, do not forget to catch up with this festival. Just take into account that you need to book this festival much time before your visit in October.
- Cottà della Pizza: Another interesting festival for the lovers of Pizza is City of Pizza Festival. Normally is held in April, this festival also includes some workshops that best pizza makers from all over the Italy teach how to make a good pizza.
- Lungo il Tevere: This is a major summer festival that lasts around 3 months (June, July, August) alongside Tevere river. It offers everything you may want! From dance to music, handicraft exhibitions, theatre and food! So if you are there in summer time, take advantage of this festival especially if you are with family and kids.
What should I take on my trip to Rome?
You are going to walk in many historical places in an open-air space and most of them very big and it can be annoying when it is sunny (in summer time). So a must to take is sunglasses and if you can a hat or a cap to protect your face.
And also comfy shoes are highly recommended as sometime the places you visit are not flat, take into account that you will have dust on your shows and cloths during visiting historical ruins.
Do not forget, like all the touristic places, there are always pickpocketing in crowded areas. Watch out your suff!
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