We’ve all know how the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In this case, when in Rome, feel free to shirk the normal and check off these 20 best things every Roman, and aspiring Roman, should do. From visiting the world's smallest inhabited island to touring the world's smallest country, Rome is ready to be explored day and night. Believe me, there are so many fun and memorable things to do in Rome, even if you've visited for the 12th time.
Planning on exploring Rome soon? Wondering what to do in Rome? Feel free to check out our top picks for things to do in Rome!
Top 20 Things to do in Rome
1. Make a Wish at Trevi Fountain
If your trip to Rome has you wishing for another before you’ve even left, then make sure to visit the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it those who toss a coin into the fountain will be lucky enough to visit the Eternal City again in their lifetime. If you’re with a significant other, check out the left side of the Trevi Fountain. There is a smaller fountain there, which is called the “Fountain of Lovers.”
Couples who drink from the waters from that fountain are, according to legend, guaranteed to remain faithful to each other for their entire life.
Want to avoid the tourist crowd and make the most of your visit? Try visiting either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon/early evening; the lighting will be more magical anyway, and you’re much less likely to have hoards of people vying for selfies on either side of you.
2. See the Pope at the Vatican
Ok, technically the Vatican isn’t part of Rome, or even Italy. But that doesn’t mean that you should miss out on visiting the world’s smallest country and seat of an entire religion. Home to the Pope, the Vatican is, after all, the center of the entire Catholic church. Even if you aren’t religious, you can’t help but be impressed by the power and role the tiny city has played and continues to play throughout the world. Papal Audiences are held on Wednesdays, if the Pope is in the Vatican, and you can catch a glimpse of him through the crowds as he comes out to walk among them.
3. Climb the Spanish Steps
Located between the Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti, the Spanish Steps are a cultural hub of Italy, and a perfect place to people watch and explore Rome’s multi-faceted options, from designer brand shopping to church wandering or museum hopping. The 138 steps lead from one plaza to the other, and are surrounded by designer shops on either side, as well as other places of importance. There’s John Keat’s former home turned museum, as well as the Trinita dei Monti Church. It’s the center of Rome’s fashion, history, and cultural being, and a fantastic place to wander around and waste away an afternoon.
4. Walk Among Ancient Ruins at the Roman Forum
Are you a history who's looking for memorable things to do in Rome? Visit the center of modern politics and the place where it all started at the Roman Forum. The ruins are remnants of ancient important buildings of political offices and centers, and is easily one of the most important archaeological sites in the entire world. It’s rather confusing to wander around by yourself, but there are plenty of tours offered that can help you understand exactly what you are looking at and the history of the site.
5. Grab a Drink at Trastevere
In the mood for a visit to Rome’s bohemian hipster side? Cross the river to Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, a colorful home to tiny, winding cobblestone streets filled with some of the most interesting shops, galleries, and pubs simply waiting to be explored. The streets are home to some of Rome’s best bars, and it’s a great place to linger with the locals and explore your Roman side.
6. Eat Gelato
So, there are obviously tons of carbohydrates and other delicious dishes that are absolutely mandatory to eat while in Rome. It’s Italy, and everywhere you look there are pizza margaritas, pasta fresca, and huge glasses of red wine. But the one thing you need to try above all else is fresh gelato. For me, the best to be found is made in small batches, so wander the streets in search of the little ma and pop places, and stay clear of the large mass produced gelato restaurants.
Look for muted colors, when selecting a gelato in Rome. Too much color means they’ve added artificial colors and flavors that interfere with a true gelato's flavor and texture. Feel free to ask Romans for their favorite gelato places or ever suggestions for things to do in Rome. You’ll be sure to get a lot of answers, and plenty of excuses to try out them all in search for your own favorite.
7. Shop for your Meal at a Mercato
While there are many restaurants in Rome that most definitely should be explored, take a break one night in Rome and cook your own food from the bountiful fresh produce and breads available at one of Rome’s many street markets. Nearly every day of the week, markets across the city offer up some of the freshest and highest quality vegetables, fruits, meats and baked goods all made or grown locally. Buy your next meals supplies and create a picnic lunch to enjoy on the go as you explore the city. You won’t regret it.
8. Visit the Colosseum
Arguably Rome’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum is usually the first architectural landmark that comes to mind when you think of the Eternal City. Visiting the Colosseum is a must on your next trip, and is one of the most sought-after things to do in Rome. Remember, the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire has played a huge role in much of Rome’s history since its beginnings in the first century.
Waiting in line is the last thing you’ll want to do here, and definitely not recommended on this list of things to do in Rome. If you want to skip past the long lines of the 4 million people that visit the Colosseum annually, you can buy multi-passes to the city’s best landmarks of historic importance, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and bypass the lines altogether.
9. Watch the Sun Set at Janiculum Hill
Rome may be the city of seven hills, but the best place to climb is Janiculum Hill, also known as Gianicolo. The hill offers the highest vantage point in the city, and the best panoramic views of Rome’s beautiful city landscape. All of most beautiful architectural landmarks and attractions in Rome will be on display, and the hill becomes a gathering spot around sunset. If you visit it during the middle of the day, you can hear the cannons that fire blanks at noon every day.
10. Dance the Night Away
Rome is filled with clubs, including some of the best to be found in Europe. If you’re in the mood for a party that last well into morning, head over to Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood. The blocks of buildings in Testaccio used to be filled with warehouses, including the largest butchery across the globe. Nowadays, the buildings have been revamped into some of the hippest and trendiest nightlife scenes in Rome, and is the best place in Rome to find a dance party that will go till dawn.
11. Watch Street Performers at the Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is a cultural hub and mecca in Rome, with gorgeous fountains, bountiful restaurants, beautiful historical monuments and ancient statues; in short, everything you could wish for in Rome all in one perfect piazza. At nearly every hour of the day, the Piazza is bursting with different crowds, street performers, and vendors. It’s the perfect place to people watch and soak up Roman culture while relaxing and wandering around.
12. Visit Tiber Island
Few people know that there is an island right in the heart of Rome. As a matter of fact, Tiber Island is by far the smallest inhabited island, and has plenty to offer by way of entertainment and adventure. You can reach the island by crossing over one of Rome’s oldest bridges, and once there you can enjoy walking around, touring the basilica, or enjoying the many events that are hosted on the island. The island hosts a film festival every year into it’s outdoor amphitheater, and is well worth visiting if you’re in town.
13. Bike Along the Tiber River
There are quite a few streets that are perfect for walking, but don’t miss out on grabbing a bicycle and seeing Rome on two wheels for a perfect summer afternoon sightseeing activity. The Tiber River flows through Rome’s heart and center, and in 2003 a bike path was constructed following right along the river bank through most of the city. You can also rent bikes in the Villa Borghese Park, and enjoy spending an afternoon biking among the gardens and landscaped ponds, buildings and horticultural sculptures.
14. Visit the Pyramids
Yes, you can see an ancient pyramid miles away from Egypt. The Pyramid of Cestius is located in Rome, and is one of the best preserved ancient architectural feats. Similar to the pyramids in Egypt, The Pyramid of Cestius is a tomb for one of Rome’s officials, and is open to the public twice a month. The Pyramid is smaller than you’d expect, and much like the rest of Rome, sandwiched in between modern roads and buildings from every period of construction. It’s still worth a visit to see one of Rome’s best preserved and most unusual landmarks. And how often do you get to see a real ancient pyramid?
15. Have a Beach Day
Rome is located inland, but it is within perfect day trip driving distance from miles of beautiful, sunny Italian beaches on both sides. Rome can get blistering hot in the summer, and a day trip to the beach is one of the best ways to explore Italian’s perfection in relaxation and enjoy soaking up the heat with the cool, ocean breezes and waves at hand. You can drive a car, or simply hop on one of the plenty of trains that cross through the city to reach several coastal towns dotted with cafes, seagulls, and miles of shoreline.
16. Visit the World’s Perfect Building
The Pantheon has been long called the world’s only architecturally perfect building, and is worth taking a look at just for that feat alone. It is also where most of Rome's most prominent kings are buried, and is hands down the most intact remnant of Rome’s glory days in the Roman Empire. It’s free to visit the inside, but be sure to visit again at night, when the streets are deserted and the lights create a much more awe inspiring and intimate portrait at a building Michelangelo deemed so perfect that angels had created it.
17. Walk around the Jewish Ghetto
For much of its history, the Jewish Ghetto was separated by the rest of the city, its inhabitants forced to remain locked in after sunset. Even though the anti-semitic segregation has long since ceased, the neighborhoods in the Jewish Ghetto area of town have a very different vibe than the rest of Rome. You can take a tour of the area, where guides can help explain both the horrors that the Jews endured in Rome, as well as the history of the Jewish influence and culture throughout Rome’s history.
18. Look Through the Aventine Keyhole
Discover one of Rome’s secret views and walk over to the Priory of the Knights of Malta. Located in the gateway, the keyhole, known as the Aventine Keyhole, offers viewers a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of Rome’s best and most hidden views in the city. The palace itself has changed owners throughout the centuries, and has a wonderful past of it’s own, but the view from the keyhole is pleasure enough if you only have a few minutes to spare.
19. Tour Cinecitta Studios
What do Roman Holiday, Cleopatra, and Gangs of New York have in common? They were all filmed at Cinecitta Studios, Rome capital in the film industry. Rome has a long history of cinematic influence around the world. You can see where some of film history’s most classic movies were shot in Rome, and learn more about Rome’s film business at Cinecitta Studios. Many of the backdrops and sets from movies have been abandoned, making it a surreal and intriguing spot to visit and walk around the remnant of films throughout the past half century.
20. Drink Espresso from a Cafe
There are plenty of variations of espresso drinks around the world, but when in Rome, where locals often consume up to three shots of espresso throughout the day, there are certain ways you need to try your coffee. Enjoy a cappuccinos at breakfast, and a macchiato at dinner. Try a creme in the hotter months, and a plain shot of espresso in the colder months.
While there are many cafes around Rome, the two most popular, and famous rivals, are the Tazza d’Oro and the Caffe Sant’Eusachio. The two cafes are located within the same neighborhood, and have been fighting over title to Rome’s best cafe for as long as anyone can remember. Which one is better? You’ll have to try for yourself to discover the answer.
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