First time visiting Rome? Most guides recommend you take an atypical tour, as well as to take your time visiting the city, starting with the cafes and the most famous squares, leaving the most popular tourist attractions to the last.
By wandering the streets and seeing more of it than the popular attractions, you can enjoy the real experience that this city gives you, and you avoid those crowded places as well. If you have the chance, it is best to consider a 3- or 5-day city-break to Rome, to be able to include the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Sixth Chapel in your tour.
1. Planning your holiday to Rome
The question is: how much time you have to visit Rome?
Most tourist attractions are located in the city centre, which makes Rome one of those European capitals that you can visit in just three days. But don’t expect to know all the secrets of the city after a few days, though. One thing’s for sure: you will return home with some great photos of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Navona Square, Fontana di Trevi and with the entrance tickets to Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum) and the Capitoline Museums.
If time allows and you can spend more than 5 days in Rome, we suggest you also include the following attractions on your to-visit list: Villa Borghese, Villa Farnesina, Casa di Goethe, the San Pietro in Vincoli and Santa Maria Maggiore churches, Circus Maximus, Sant’ Angelo Castle, Quirinal Palace and Campo de’ Fiori.
If you want to enjoy the surroundings and you also prefer walking at a slow pace, you can adapt your to-visit list in order to enjoy the charm of the streets, the well-designed cafes where you can have a cup of caffè corretto or caffè freddo, and the amazing atmosphere that surrounds traditional squares, such as Campo de ‘Fiori and Testaccio, where you can also taste bollito (a beef meat specialty).
2. The most important tourist attractions
Rome itself can be considered a history, art and architecture museum, all in one, as it is a city incredibly rich in history. At the same time, the city can also be a destination for those interested in shopping, in great concerts or football matches that keep you breathless from the beginning to the end.
If you can’t decide what to visit, consider planning this trip according to the type of holiday you want to have: a cultural visit, a shopping session or one that revolves around an event for which you have already bought a ticket.
The best thing to do is to establish several routes to ensure you don’t miss anything important, that’s because most tourist attractions are located in the same area. Here are a few examples of routes you can choose from:
When visiting Rome, you should visit the attractions following a timeline. Begin your tour where everything started. The first stops are in the city centre, at the Colosseum, which is probably one of the most impressive buildings the Romans left us, then continue to the Roman Forum – the centre of Roman civilization, and to the Pantheon – an impressive building, which was initially the temple of all gods in antique Rome, and which was later on turned into a Christian church.
On this route, there is also the Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome and the place where the first edifices were raised, including Circus Maximus, the Roman stadium (where numerous horse racing took place) and Bocca della Verità, an antique marble disc showing a human face, which, according to the legend, it was used in the past as a “lie detector”. Nearby the Roman Forum, in Piazza del Campidoglio more exactly, you can visit the Capitoline Museums, which were built in 1471 and where there are various pictures and sculptures or Greek and Roman origins.
The historical center
Most of these already mentioned buildings are located in the city centre, but you can also find here attractions that have nothing to do with Antiquity and that you can include in your second tour. Among them, there are Fontana di Trevi, the most beautiful artesian fountain in Rome, built in the 18th century, Piazza di Spagna with its Spanish Stairs covered in flowers, Via del Corso, the main pedestrian street in Rome, Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona, where there is an impressive fountain with a statuary group in the middle of it, signed by Bernini.
Around these attractions, there’s also Villa Borghese that you can visit, the previous residence of the Borghese family, surrounded by gardens and turned into an art gallery, but also Piazza Quirinale, which is located not far away from Fontana di Trevi, where you can find the Quirinal Palace, the main residence of Italy’s president.
Vatican requires a special, separate tour, and that’s because it is located in an area where you don’t have immediate access to other tourist attractions, but also because you may need several hours in order to take a complete tour of it.
Vatican City was included in the international cultural heritage of UNESCO in 1984. Ever since, tourists have been able to visit the Sixth Chapel painted by Michelangelo and located inside Vatican Museums, the imposing San Pietro Basilica – located in the centre of Vatican City and where the famous Pietà statue is located, also signed by Michelangelo, and Sant’ Angelo Castle, which was built during the reign of Hadrian and which is a mausoleum that holds the tombs of the most important emperors of Rome.
The extended tour of Rome
Tourists that have planned a holiday in Rome longer than 5 days have even more attractions to cross on their “to-visit” list, including: the old neighbourhood Trastevere, located on the right bank of Tiber, not too far from Vatican; Farnesina Villa, located in the same area and decorated with frescoes made by Rafael; Goethe’s House where he had lived for two years while in Rome; Keats-Shelley’s House, dedicated to the greatest poets of Romanticism Era; San Pietro in Vincoli Church, where the “Moises” sculpture of Michelangelo is; Baths of Caracalla, an archaeological site presenting the artefacts of Roman public baths; Campo de’ Fiori, one of the most beautiful traditional squares in the city; and Stadio Olimpico, the greatest stadium in Rome.
3. Planning your budget before going to Rome
Before going on a trip, you also have to establish the budget. Considering this aspect, Rome is one of those cost-effective holidays. Airplane tickets, accommodation and dining at the restaurant are all accessible to any kind of budget.
There are some tourist attractions in Rome that have no entrance fee. Among them, there are the Pantheon, the Villa Borghese gardens and a series of churches, including San Clemente, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria del Popolo.
As far as the accommodation is concerned, the hotels located around Termini Station or nearby the Eur business neighbourhood have fair prices. Of course, if budget allows and you want to stay somewhere closer to the city centre, the recommended areas are around Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Campo de’ Fiori and the Monti neighbourhood.
The prices of museum entrance fees vary, but if you acquire the Roma Pass card, you may obtain some substantial discounts. This is a tourist card that you can purchase from the airport (both Ciampino and Fiumicino) or the train station (Termini) for only €28 (valid 48 hours from the first validation) or €38,5 (valid 72 hours from the first validation). It allows you to use public transportation in Rome for free and it also grants you one or two free entrances to some of the most well-known tourist attractions, such as Colosseum and Sant’ Angelo Castle. The card also provides certain discounts for various events and exhibitions in town.
The price for one entrance ticket fee to Vatican Museums starts from €16, and to the Capitoline Museums from €15.
It is worth mentioning that during January, February, March and November, prices are the lowest.
4. What the Italian traditional cuisine offers you
Wondering where to eat some good Italian food? Here are a couple of suggestions: Piazza Navona, Trastevere, Testaccio, Piazza di Campo de’ Fiori and the area around the Pantheon. The tastiest meals are cooked inside the kitchens of family restaurants and bistros, where the traditional recipes are still followed, such as amatriciana pasta, carbonara spaghetti, lasagna, cacio e pepe, carciofi alla romana and concia di zucchine.
Just so you know, some of the best restaurants in Rome are Antico Arco, Il Pagliaccio, All’Oro and Armando al Pantheon.
5. The best time to visit Rome
According to the answers tourists offered during certain surveys, the best time to visit Rome is in March, April and August. However, you can also plan your holiday during autumn (in September or October) or in February, when the orange and lemon trees in the city gardens are full of fruits.
6. Useful information for tourists
The oldest airport in Rome is Ciampino (CIA), and the greatest is Fiumicino or Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO). From here, you can take the train (Leonardo Express) to the city train station Termini (the price of the ticket is around €14). If your airplane has landed on Ciampino, taking the train to the city centre may not be the best solution. You should take the bus instead. The buses are waiting for their passengers at the Departure terminal and they will take you to the city centre for about €6. There are taxi stations in both airports.
Termini station is not just a regular train station; it’s the main transport hub of Rome, where you will also find intercity buses and subway stations.
The Rome subway has two lines, A and B, and the trains run until around midnight. There’s a third line that connects Fiumicino airport and the city centre.
More info on the means of transportation in Rome can be found here.
7. The main events that take place in Rome
- Republic Day (2nd June)
- Settimana della Cultura is an event that lasts for a week and that takes place during spring. It’s similar to another event, the Long Night of Museums.
- Natale di Roma (21st April) – celebrating Founder’s Day
- Cinema-Festa Internationale di Roma (October) is a film festival founded in 2006 and that is similar to New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.
- Maratona della Cità di Roma (the third or fourth Sunday in March) is the greatest marathon held annually in Rome, which attracts numerous runners both professionals and amateurs.
- Estate Romana (June – September) is a festival that celebrates summer. The events (concerts, parties, film screenings) are held in various places around the city, including parks and squares.