by: Jason Young, Cristina Reyes
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There are way too many places to visit and activities to do in Italy but, you definitely have to consider Rome for your next holiday get away! This is the capital city of Italy catering to an overwhelming number of 9 million tourists each year! In this Rome travel guide, we’ll walk you on what Rome has to offer.
Things to Do in Rome
Bask on the Past Glory at the Colosseum
Not just the largest ancient amphitheater ever built but also the largest ancient amphitheater in the world that is still standing up to today! This is the Rome’s Colosseum.
Built in 70 AD and was opened to public in 80 AD, you could not imagine how old this building is. Standing 48 meters (157 feet) high with its impressive Ancient Roman Architectural style, the Colosseum has become one of the top tourist spots in Rome visited by almost 4 million tourists annually. The place was supposed to be an entertainment venue hosting mock naval battles, animal hunt, and gladiator fights back in the Roman Empire era. The Arch of Constantine, an equally popular tourist spot is just beside this amphitheatre.
A ticket is required to enter the place and it costs €16 for adult. Our recommendation is getting yourself a bundled tickets online for 3 highlighted spots: Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It is a skip of the line ticket so you can save both time and money, check it out here.
Admire The Arch Of Constantine
A historical triumphal arch, erected in c.315 CE., the Arch of Constantine I has been the last great monument of Imperial Rome.
The monument isn’t just a striking monument in the city, but also offers a taste of the rich history of Rome. The arch is actually dedicated to the emperor, Constantine the Great, Hence its name. In AD 312, Constantine had his victory over Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius, a roman emperor from AD 306 to AD 312, at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. This has stretched the ancient route of Roman triumphs or what they also call “Via Triumphalis”- a ceremony held to publicly celebrate the success of a Roman military commander.
Today, visitors are going here to see its cultural and historical reference. Paying a visit to the Arch of Constantine I is totally free which only means that you won’t have to wait in long lines for a ticket to see this historical arch. If you are coming from the Colosseum, it is just a 7 minutes walk to the arch, so it won’t be too much of a hassle.
Check out Roman Gods at The Pantheon
Considered the best-preserved building from ancient Rome, The Pantheon’s architectural style is an innovative combination of both Roman and Greek.
An incredible detail of this famous spot in Rome is on its name itself. “Pantheon” is derived from two Greek words, “pan” means all and “theos” as gods. Collaborating these words, you will have the phrase, “all the gods” for the reason that this monument is thought to be designed as a temple for all the Roman gods. This is just a hint of its astonishing history. What’s truly unique about this place is the fact that buried here are two kings and a queen of Italy. They are King Vittorio Emanuele II and King Umberto I, as well as his queen, Queen Margherita. Also buried here is the famous Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino.
Today, The Pantheon is the first Pagan temple to have become a home for Christians. It is now a functioning church and usually hold masses and services every Saturday at 5pm and every Sunday at 10:30am, However, it is open for the public all week-long. You are allowed to take photos inside but silence at all times is being requested here since it is a religious place. This would be the perfect spot for you in Rome if you would want to add visiting a church and attending a mass in your itinerary.
Get your entry ticket here.
Visit the Roman Forum
With the Latin name, Forum Romanum and is located on low ground between the Palatine and Capitoline hills, the Roman Forum is the most important in ancient Rome.
This place holds a very long and astounding history of Rome. The locals considered this place as a marketplace and for many years, this has been the core of the citizens’ day to day life. In its early history, the Forum has been a place for gladiatorial matches, public speeches, criminal trials, as well as triumphal processions. Since it is a forum or in Layman’s term, a plaza, it is positioned at the center of Rome and is surrounded by a number of historical government buildings. Because of its significance and outstanding role in the city’s history, about 4.5 million tourists go here to take pictures with its classical Greek designs.
Roman Forum is definitely a must-visit spot in Rome. To enter the place, unlike the other tourist spots mentioned above, the forum requires the visitors to pay for an entrance fee or a ticket. You can also purchase a combined ticket which covers tickets to 3 famous spots in Rome, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine here. The ticket comes with skip-the-line feature so it’s a great time saver.
Admire the Design of Renaissance Top Artists at St. Peter’s Basilica
Located in Vatican City, a city-state inside Rome, is a church built in Renaissance style. With a height of 137 meters (500 feet), the St. Peter’s Basilica has served as the Pope’s quarters for many years now.
With just the fact that the Basilica was designed by Outstanding and very well-known architects, this surely is not just an ordinary place to visit for either the Roman Catholic or non- catholic visitors. The famous Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini were the principal designers of this highly respected place. Not only this, because the St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church by interior measure! Because of these fact, the church has been pertained to as “holding a unique position in the Christian World” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.
If you are interested not only in visiting the place but also in attending a mass in one of the holiest Catholic Shrines in the world, the Basilica is open for the public every day. From April to September, at 7:00am – 7:00pm, and from October to March, at 7:00am-6:30pm.
Book your ticket here.
Admire the Painting at Sistine Chapel Ceiling
The Sistine Chapel, where the well-known ceiling painted on by the famous Michelangelo, was named after Pope Sixtus IV. The Chapel’s ceiling has been an important attraction for the whole city of Vatican in Rome.
Nine scenes from the Book of Genesis were painted at the center of the ceiling. Among these, the best-known part is The Creation of Adam where you can see the iconic image where Adam’s hand is trying to reach God’s hand. However, their hands are not touching each other’s as also seen in the picture. By witnessing Michelangelo’s outstanding work, you will also notice that he has painted a variety of human figures with different poses, either nude or clothed.
A fun fact for this attraction is that, Michelangelo did not lie on his back to paint the ceiling, instead, he made his own wooden platform system! Another is that, he used the Fresco technique, where he painted on a freshly laid lime plaster, his paint was a dry-powder pigment added with water for it to merge with the lime plaster. For art enthusiasts or just people who enjoy admiring masterpieces of art, the Sistine Ceiling is worth looking forward to.
Book your ticket here.
Toss a Coin at Trevi Fountain
Standing 26 meters (86 feet) high, with a width of 50 meters (161.3 feet), Trevi Fountain has become Rome’s largest Baroque Fountain.
Trevi Fountain is strategically located at the center of three streets, Poli Street, De ‘Crocicchi Street, and Delle Muratte Street, hence its name “Trevi” or in Latin, “Trivium” which is a word for the intersection of three streets. World-renowned Italian architect, Nicola Salvi, was the first to design this fountain and was, later on, finished by Guiseppe Pannini and other great architects.
You may have already seen this before because the striking beauty of the Trevi Fountain was also featured in movies such as “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”, “Roman Holiday”, “Three Coins in the Fountain”, and other popular films.
Make sure to toss a coin when you finally have a sight of this place, because legend says that anyone who would toss a coin here, will surely return to Rome.
Visit Circus Maximus
Measuring 620 meters (2,037 feet) in length and 117 meters (387 feet) in width, the Circus Maximum was Ancient Rome’s first and largest stadium that can accommodate up to 150,000 audiences.
Having an enormously large area, Circus Maximus has been the location for holding ancient events and public games that were held for the Roman people as well as Roman gods or also called the “Ludi”. Back in Rome’s earliest history, Romans would hold chariot-racing, gladiator fights, plays and recitals, public feasts, and other ancient events here. The Circus has a huge influence on most of the stadiums in Rome because it was the basis for the following stadiums built during the Roman Empire.
A valley between Platine and Aventine is where the Circus is located. Today, the Circus is open for everyone to see and reflect on its remarkable history. Visitors will have to pay an entrance fee of €12 for adults but children under the age of six are free. If you are planning to visit with your family, the entrance fee will just be €22, including 2 adults and children below 18.
Visit the Baths of Caracalla
For ancient Romans, going to the baths isn’t just to maintain their hygiene but also a way to socialize. The Baths of Caracalla was built in AD 212 and 216/217, making it one of the earliest baths in Roman History.
Next to the Bath of Diocletian, the Baths of Caracalla is the second-largest bath in the city of Rome. The place is magnificently made of materials such as marbles, pozzolana. lime, tuff, and basalt. A fun fact for this site is that Emperor Caracalla simply wanted people to like him so he has this built.
Today, tourists come here to enjoy the sight of its impressive walls and architectural works. You will not have a hard time going here for it is near the Metro Station and every 40 minutes 118 Rome city bus stops in front of the Baths of Caracalla.
You can visit the site any day you want for it is open daily except during the 25th of December and the 1st of January. Entry ticket costs €8 ($9) for adults and a reduced price of €2 for local teachers or professors, as well as Europeans aging between 18 and 25. Like the other previously mentioned sites, tourists under 18 are free to visit the place.
Have a Walk and check out Piazza Navona
Known as “Circus Agonalis” which means competition arena, Piazza Navona has been one of the largest public squares in Rome.
The Piazza was built in the 1st century AD and was also a site for ancient games and performances because of its open-spaced architecture. At the center of it is the astonishing Fountain of the Four Rivers or the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi designed in 1651 by a famous Italian architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. At the top of the fountain, you would see four marble figures that represent each of the four major rivers in the world. Today, people go here to shop, watch street performances as well as try some of the finest coffee in the city.
Visit Unique Places in A Day Trip
If you allocate more days for your visit, you don’t have to confine yourself just within the city itself. There are a a lot things to enjoy just within one day trip from Rome including the imperial palace of Emperor Hadrian, wine tasting at the picturesque Tuscany, the famous Pompeii, and many more. Check out a selected options of day trips with reviews here.
How to Get Around in Rome
There are several ways to get around Rome, the easiest and cheapest being utilizing their public transport system. Rome public transport consist of the Metro, Bus, Tram, and Urban Railway (Ferrovie Urbane). Aside from that, naturally you can choose taxi for a private and faster ride.
Note that all public transport options share the same payment system so you can hop between them once you have ticket or pass. Tickets and passes will be covered below.
Metro and Urban Railway
The Metro and Urban Railway complement each other as underground mass transport choice where each operate on 3 lines. The metro opens at 5:30 AM and run until 11:30 PM.
Due to metro’s limited coverage, you will need to hop on bus to reach your destinations. There are 383 lines and 8K+ stops around the city but mostly you will ride the Urban Lines (U). These lines have the most fleet and operate within the day, from 5:00 AM until midnight. If you plan to explore the city’s nightlife you might need to ride the Night Bus (N) which run from midnight to 5:00 AM.
Remember that the bus punctuality is directly affected by traffic condition, so expect them to be late at times or getting stuck in traffic when you ride one.
The tram operates 6 lines but they don’t reach the city center so you probably won’t need them that much. You might want to ride one just for the experience though.
Public Transport Fare
Metro, Bus, Tram, and Urban railway share one fare system via either ticket or travel passes. You can buy these at any metro stations or convenience stores. All of them work the same way: they have a time limit since you validate them and during that time you’re free to hop on any public transport available to reach your destination.
- 1 way ticket: 75 minutes time limit, cost € 1.5
- 1 day pass: €7
- 48h pass: €12.5
- 72h pass: €18
- 1 week pass: €24
The Roma Pass
Roma pass works similarly with travel pass (allows you to use all public transport within a period) with additional feature of skip-the-line entry to 1 or 2 attractions, as well as discounts on certain services. You can choose either the 48h or the 72h version here.
Taxi and Ride Hailing
Ride hailing providers have strong opposition from taxi drivers in Italy and across Europe, thus their services are quite limited. Uber is available but they’re pressed to only their premium service, making regular taxi cheaper in general. If you prefer to hail a taxi via your phone, a recommended app would be Free Now. This will connect you to licensed taxi drivers, and this is quite important for your ride experience.
Getting into a licensed taxi is important because the taxis in Rome have quite a reputation for overcharging tourists and locals alike. And while this behavior isn’t strictly limited to unlicensed taxi drivers, you have more power if you ride a licensed taxi. For example you can ask to turn on meter, refusing to pay extra, or even making complaint to the taxi company.
In case you take a taxi on a taxi stop, make sure to spot the official ones: the car is painted white, have roof sign, and the taxi company’s phone number on its side. Once you get in, the meter should be clearly visible.
Minimum fare and rate per kilometer vary depend on the day (weekend, holiday, or weekday). Minimum fares are between €3 – €4.5 while rate per kilometer varies between €1.1 – €1.6.
Join a Mini Tour
There are 2 recommended tour types you can use to your advantage:
- Hop On Hop Off tour: ride a panoramic tour bus that pass major attractions around the city, hop on and hop off as many times as you like. Ticket comes in 24h or 48h options. See your option here.
- Guided tour: join a small group with local guide to visit one or some attractions in a row. These tours usually come with priority access/skip the line so they’re huge time saving for you. Find some of the most recommended with reviews here.
Where to Stay in Rome
Where you stay depend on your budget and whether you’re traveling solo or with companion.
Hostels are common and easy to find in Europe. They’re mostly safe, clean, and most importantly affordable. Spending the night in a hostel will cost you about €25 – €35 for a dorm bed and around €60 – €90 for a private room.
You can find recommended hostels with hundreds of reviews at Hostelword, it’s highly recommended to check them out. A few of the exceptional ones are:
Rent an Entire Apartment
If you’re traveling with companion, renting a whole place can be a huge cost saving. Renting a place to accommodate 2-4 people will cost you around €50 – €120 per night. Check out Airbnb to find the most suitable place for you.
If you prefer professional services and standardized procedures, booking a hotel room is a no-brain choice for you. Booking a 3 stars hotel room will cost you around €80 – €120 while a 5 stars hotel room costs €300 and above. Some of the recommended ones:
- The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, Autograph Collection
- NH Collection Roma Fori Imperiali
- Palazzo Montemartini Rome
Check a full list of other great choices at Booking.com and don’t forget to use their integrated filter system. The ‘distance from centre’ and ‘review score’ filter especially are very helpful.
Where to Eat in Rome
Traveling isn’t complete without a memorable culinary experience. When you visit Rome, these restaurants are must try:
Low Price (€3 – €15)
- Bono Bottega Nostrana – San Pietro (Italian, Mediterranean)
- Vuliò (Italian, Fast Food)
- Mizio’s Street Food (Italian, street food)
Mid Price (€10 – €30)
- CiPASSO Bistrot (Italian, Mediterranean). Note for dress code: Smart Casual dress code (no t-shirt, no shorts, no tank tops). Collared shirt for guys, modest attire for gals.
- Mi’Ndujo – Aura (Italian, Bar)
- RIONE XIV (Italian, Mediterranean)
Fine Dining (€40 – €100)
- Ristorante Ad Hoc (Italian, Mediterranean)
- Ristorante Crispi 19 (Italian, seafood)
- Il Panzotto (Italian, Mediterranean)
Best Time to Travel to Rome
There are two best time periods to visit Rome: September – November and April – early June.
September – November (Best Time)
With September come, the tourist rush came to an end so you won’t see long lines everywhere anymore. Temperature is acceptable at 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 70°F) and there will be good drop of accommodation and transportation prices. Some events you might be interested in:
- White Night of Rome (September). It’s a series of events held throughout the city such as concert and performances. If you’re interested in this event, check before you go since it might be cancelled due to various circumstances.
- Piazza Navona Christmas Market (November – January). Visit the traditional Christmas market and enjoy an unforgettable local culinary experience.
April – early June (Best Time)
On this period winter has just passed and the city start to get warmer, but summer rush hasn’t began yet. Temperature is nice at 7°C – 16°C (44°F – 60°F) and prices haven’t gone crazy yet. Some events you might be interested in:
- Holy Week and Easter (April). Some activities are Easter mass at Vatican, procession on Good Friday, evening vigil at the Colosseum, and so on.
- International Horse Show (May). This event last a few days, featuring top international riders doing shows and polo match.
June – August
This is the peak season, throng of foreign visitors come and joined by the local tourists. It’s a good period to do anything outdoor with temperature around 15°C – 30°C (59°F – 87°F) and the sun shining bright all day. Naturally you will start seeing lines at top attractions, hotels will be booked solid, and price will soar everywhere. Some events you might be interested in:
- Cosmophonies (June – July). Held in Ostia Antica, it brings out festival of dance, theater, and music.
- Festa de’ Noantri (July). Celebration of the Madonna of Mount Carmel, marked by processions that normally attract huge crowd.
- Rock in Roma (July). Huge rock festival featuring some of the best rock groups.
December – March
This period would be the off season with winter coming, the temperature dropped, and going around on foot isn’t so easy anymore. Temperature ranges between 4°C – 15°C (39°F – 59°F) and it can drop to 0°C (32°F) in January. This is also the cheapest time to travel to Rome as price will plummet, occupancy is very low, and you will barely see any tourist around. Some events you might be interested in:
- Rome Marathon (March). Participate in the 42km (26 miles) track passing various Rome’s landmarks with tons of runners from various countries. This event is held at different time every year so it won’t always be on March.
- Christmas Blessing of the Pope (December). Pope’s blessing Urbi et Orbi (to the City of Rome & to the world) is usually done from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. He did it inside in 2020 due to Covid measure but might be back to the usual tradition onwards.
Rome Trip Cost
Most of the cost are mentioned above on different sections, here are the summary:
- Hostel: €25 – €35 for a dorm bed, €60 – €90 for a private room
- An entire apartment: €50 – €120 per night for 2-4 people.
- Hotel: €80 – €120 for 3 stars, €300 and above for 5 stars.
Food will cost €3 – €15 if you keep it to street food stall or diner. €10 – €30 will get you decent sit-in restaurants and fine dining will cost €40 and more.
The most common method is to use their integrated public transport: metro, bus, tram, and urban railway. Get a 48h pass for €12.5 or 72h pass for €18. Otherwise you can use the Hop On Hop Off tour bus to visit all the attractions on your list for $16 – $25.
Some of the most popular ones:
- Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill skip the line ticket: $24.35
- Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel skip the line ticket: $23.79
- Borghese Gallery skip the line ticket: $30.58
Check other options here. Remember that you can opt to buy tickets on the spot, it will be cheaper as long as you don’t mind to stand in the line for a bit.
Flight cost depend on where you’ll be coming from and when you’ll come. Note that going on spring and autumn would get you decent price, going on summer means higher price, and going in winter means lowest price. Look for the best deal at both Skyscanner and Kiwi.com
Covid situation is fluid and subject to changes at any given time. Check the latest update on requirements to enter Italy during pandemic here.
Staying Safe in Rome
Rome is relatively safe and most crimes are simple petty crime such as theft. Here are some points to remember in order to stay safe in Rome:
- If you reach your hotel and about to go out, remember to only bring enough cash for whatever you need. Leave some or most of them in your room’s safe.
- Have a copy of your important documents and keep them separately from the originals. If you lose the original by any chance, have copies will simplify the next process.
- Be aware of your belonging in crowded area such as metro station or tourist attraction. This also applied when you ride bus or metro.
- Thieves can take your belonging by slashing your bag or jacket’s pocket. Keep your bag visible and don’t keep important thing in your jacket’s pocket.
- Thieves often work in pair, one to distract you while other does the job. Be vigilant when someone tries to speak to you about anything (asking for direction, pointing something out, and so on)
- Naturally don’t leave your bag and belonging unattended even when you’re eating or about to take a picture somewhere.
- Try to avoid doing things that scream ‘tourist’. Don’t stand on the middle of the road checking your map while gawking left and right. If you need to check your map, find a place to sit and check your surrounding slowly.
- Many religious places such as St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel implement strict dress code such as needing your shoulder and ankle covered. Dress modestly to make it harder to distinguish you from the locals.
- If you’re taking a taxi, make sure to choose the licensed one (white car, has roof sign, visible company’s phone number on the side). Or you can order from Free Now. If you’re not sure, take Uber (it will be more expensive though).
- Try to avoid Tor Bella Monaca, Romanina, San Basilio, and Corviale as these areas were identified to have higher risk for criminal activity.
As prepared as you are, sometimes things just go the wrong way. You could be losing your cash or important document and that would be enough to ruin your day (or your entire trip). At times like this, having a good travel insurance would make the next step less of a hassle. Find a plan that suits you at the highly recommended travel insurance provider World Nomads.
Check out our Italy travel guide for more extensive guide on what the country has to offer beside the Eternal city.