If Greece was the cradle of western civilization, then Rome is the city that brought it to adulthood. There is history around every corner in the eternal city and a culture that brings visitors back again and again. Because Rome is so rich with history and offers up such delectable cuisine, it may be hard for you to decide what to do when visiting. With that in mind here are 25 things that you must do while in Rome.
1. Visit the Remains of the Most Powerful Empire in the History of the World
Rome offers more history across a broader swath of time than any city in the world, and the most substantial part of that history was the Roman Empire. You can step back in time and visit the Roman Colosseum where gladiators dueled to the death and Christians were fed to the Lions. You can walk the same streets as the Romans did two thousand years ago and see the remains of temples and arches, their Corinthian and Doric columns still standing. Palatine Hill, the site of the Circus Maximus, boasts some of the most in-tact architecture from the Roman Empire. In order to maximize your time and enjoy the ancient capital to its fullest, definitely buy Skip the Line tickets whenever possible. During peak travel season (mid-June through August), the line can be quite long.
2. Go Underground and See the Roman Catacombs
This often-overlooked experience is one that will amaze you. Before the fall of the Roman Empire, Jewish citizens and early Christians chose to be buried in these deep tunnels for religious reasons. These are filled with underground shrines, artwork, and in some cases, human bones stacked to create architecture and complete skeletons. The catacombs in Rome are enthralling and sometimes creepy places to visit.
3. Visit the Vatican
You can tour the Vatican City and see the heart of the Catholic Church. There is a trove of artifacts and gilded architecture that you will never forget. I definitely recommend getting your tickets in advance for the Vatican and for Saint Peter’s Basilica. We splurged and got the Skip the Line tickets and they were well worth it.
4. See the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
While in the Vatican you cannot miss the awe-inspiring ceiling inside the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s immortal masterpiece will have you staring upwards with your jaw open. The artwork is a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed.
5. Stroll the Villa Borghese
It may have the feel of the Palace of Versailles, and the look of an English garden, but this captivating villa is in Rome. It’s a great place to unwind at the end of a busy day.
6. Relax at a Café
Sitting outside under an umbrella and watching the hustle and bustle of Rome is a great way to experience the city’s sights and sounds while taking it easy.
7. Eat at an Authentic Italian Pizzeria
You may have sampled pizzas from different cities, why not try it in the country that invented it? Eating in a pizzeria in Rome is a great way to experience the ambiance of the city while eating this tasty favorite.
8. Eat Your Way Around Rome
Why stop at pizza? Rome has some of the best Italian restaurants in the world. There is no better place to eat Italian fare than in Rome.
9. Shop at Via Condotti
Pick up some handcrafted Italian leather shoes or a custom handbag in this fashionable shopping district. Visit the Spanish Steps while you’re there.
10. Charge up with Espresso
Before a day of seeing the sites grab a cup of another Italian invention espresso. You may have had an espresso before, but it pales to the Roman version of the concoction. I highly recommend Caffè Palombini.
11. Peek Through the Aventine Keyhole
This actual keyhole in a timeworn green door to Priory Knights of Malta’s estate and gives you a pre-framed view to photograph. Through the keyhole one can see Saint Peter’s Basilica framed by an arch inside of overlapping hedges. Get there in the morning for the best view.
12. Visit Piazza Navona
This plaza is a wide-open space with numerous Baroque sculpture masterpieces. This location is a great place to meet up with family or friends and take pictures.
13. Experience the Eye-Popping Interior of the Archbasilica of St. John’s Lantern
The interior of can rival or match any of the great interiors in the world. With exquisitely detailed tile floors, Baroque sculptures based on the sketches of Carlo Mararra, and arches of marble and gold; it is a visually stunning experience.
14. See Rome from on High at St. Peter’s Basilica
This Renaissance masterpiece allows a sweeping view of Rome that complements the masterworks inside of St. Peters Basilica.
15. Indulge in Roman Gelato
There is a reason why this treat is becoming popular around the world, but it seems to taste better while eating as you traverse the streets of Rome. I recommend Gelateria Fiordiluna.
16. Tour the Quirinal Palace
The Quirinal Palace is an opulent piece of architecture and an official residence of the President of the Italian Republic and once served as Napoleon’s palace. It is steeped in history and filled with precious works of art.
17. Experience Aqueducts Firsthand
These longstanding marvels of antiquity engineering still serve the city of Rome. They are omnipresent, and you can even drink their waters.
18. Gaze at the Illuminated Trevi Fountain at Night
This popular destination in Rome is crowded during the day but fairly accessible at night. The glowing waters and sculptures bathed in light are much more impressive after the sun goes down.
19. Step Back in Time at the Pantheon
This site is so well preserved you may think you are looking at a set piece left over from the movie Gladiator. With its grand dome, the Pantheon stands as the most intact, and impressive relic of the Roman empire.
20. Zip Around Rome on a Scooter.
Whether it is a Vespa or another model, some of the most fun you can have in Rome is to be had on a scooter. This speedy and open-air mode of transportation lets you take your schedule into your own hands.
21. Walk the Rustic Trastevere Neighborhood
This neighborhood oozes with Roman charm. Its exiguous streets are laid with cobblestone and vine often overtakes walls and telephone lines. It’s weathered, but intensely appealing buildings make you feel as if you are in the true heart of Rome.
22. End Your Day at the Garden of Oranges
Probably the best Panoramic view in Rome The Garden of Oranges is the perfect place to take pictures during the golden hour and witness the setting sun.
23. Walk or Jog Along the Tiber
If you want to keep your fitness routine up while in Rome you can walk or jog alongside the Tiber. This body of water flows like the river of time and has experienced all of Roman history firsthand.
24. Visit Castle Saint Angelo
Next to the Pantheon, this is perhaps the most well-preserved building left over from the Roman Empire. This circular fort was originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian. This location also boasts a memorable view of Rome.
25. Visit Art Museums
Rome has many of history’s greatest artists, so it stands to reason that it would have some of the world’s greatest art museums. They have museums that showcase artwork spanning from antiquity to the contemporary.