Rome wasn't built in a day, so you can only imagine how many things there are to see there! We could name 100 different things to see in Rome, Italy, but we will just give you some of our favorites.
From the touristic to off the beaten track, there is something for everyone in Rome. We're not here to just share the well-known, but a few great day trips, as well as hidden gems throughout the city.
So let's jump right in and check out some of the coolest things to see in Rome, Italy.
Things to See in Rome, Italy: For the Tourist in You
For your first time in Rome, it's pretty essential that you go to the touristic spots. While we usually like to find spots off the beaten path, we have to say that the highlights of Rome are pretty fantastic. We do suggest going to them super early though. You won't beat all the crowds, but you'll definitely beat some of them!
Here are some of the highlights of Rome that a first timer should definitely check out:
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1. Vatican City
Did you know that the Vatican City is actually considered its own country? This sacred part of the city is where the Pope lives, and where some of the most important structures in Rome exist.
Even with only 109 acres, one can spend hours, and even days enjoying all that there is to do in Vatican City!
Walk around the Basilica di San Pietro, the world's largest Christian Basilica. Admire the art of the Sistine Chapel. Wander through the Vatican Gardens. And our favorite thing to do? Climb to the rooftop of St. Peter's Cathedral!
You can either take the elevator for 10 euros, or walk all the way to the top for 8 euros. There are 330 steps if you decide to take the elevator (it can't take you the whole way) or 521 if you decide to take the stairs. We definitely suggest the stairs. However, if you are claustrophobic than this option is probably not for you.
2. Trevi Fountain
The Trevi fountain will probably be the most breathtaking fountain you will ever see in your life. This icon of Rome holds a myth that if you throw a coin in you will return to Rome. Throw two in and you will meet an Italian love, and three you will marry the person you met.
Nowadays, you will find people throwing in a coin for simply "good luck" and crowding around for a picture in front of the ornate white details contrasting the bright blue waters.
Note: It is forbidden to go into the fountain, and the police monitor the fountain at all times.
Tripods are normally restricted here (and many other parts of Rome). However, you may get lucky if you go early and aren't disturbing anyone.
3. The Colosseum
Another iconic symbol of Rome is the Colosseum. This is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built, and is still the largest standing.
It is 12 euros to enter inside, and it is open from 10:30 am to 7:15 pm. Other than the fantastic inside, the outside is really a sight to see in itself. There are are plenty of great opportunities for enjoying the Colosseum as a backdrop, and it is stunning at any hour of the day.
4. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, and the best preserved building from all of ancient Rome.
This architectural wonder is in the heart of things to see in Rome Italy, making it a great stop between the Trevi Fountain and Vatican City. The Pantheon is open from 8:30 am to 7:15 pm Monday to Saturday, and 9 am- 5:45 pm on Sundays. It is free to enter, but you must line up to get in.
Make sure to bring something to cover your shoulders and thighs before entering.
5. The Spanish Steps
The Spanish steps are another great thing to see in Rome Italy for free. The long set of stairs connects Piazza di Spagna with Piazza Trinita del Monti below. The Spanish steps date back to 1723, and lead up to the Trinita del Monti church at the top.
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Please do not sit on the steps, and walk on the sides to keep the flow of traffic. We also think it is considerate to those around that want to snap a nice picture of this photogenic area.
Things to See in Rome, Italy: For the Photographer in You
Now that we've hit the major icons, let's check out some other things to see in Rome Italy. These spots are also popular, and will definitely make you want to keep your camera out.
1. Piazza di Popolo
Piazza di Popolo (translated to people's square) is a monumental and beautiful plaza to visit. It is where three of the main streets in Rome meet, and it has a lot of action going on around it.
There is a large obelisk in the center of the square, and you can walk up the stairs behind the square to get a great view of the plaza.
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2. Ponte di Vittorio Emanuele II
We love this bridge as it gives you an excellent backdrop of the Vatican city. It is the bridge that leads straight into Castel Sant' Angelo, which is also one of the best things to see in Rome Italy.
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3. Roman Forum
The Roman forum is one of the most important spots in ancient Rome. It was the area of all main religious, political, and social activities, making it the true heart of the city. Now the area is just a set of ruins, but it is still very impressive to see, learn about, and photograph.
4. Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares and open spaces in all of Rome. The plaza is characterized by stunning Baroque-style architecture and three ornate fountains, With all its beauty it's no wonder that this place is one of the best things to see in Rome, Italy.
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5. Belvedere del Giancolo
This is one of the most stunning views that you will get of Rome. Head up Trastevere's Via Garibaldi, and you will reach the summit to this amazing hilltop terrace. It is open 24/7 so we definitely suggest going for sunrise or sunset for that golden glow.
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Things to See in Rome, Italy: For the Curious
There are so many stunning things to see in Rome, Italy. But here are a few that are a little more hidden than most. Here's to your curious side- some extremely interesting locations that not everyone knows about!
1. Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola
Let's be honest, there are plenty of gorgeous churches in Rome. But if you're looking for something a little different, than this is definitely one to check out. Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola has the most intricate and beautiful artwork inside.
The church actually has an optical illusion inside. The dome was unable to be finished, so is intricately painted to look like it is complete.
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2. The Capuchin Crypt
This is definitely one of the most unique things to see in Rome Italy. The Capuchin Crypt is a series of small chapels that are composed of bones! It is definitely creepy, but an interesting site to see that you definitely won't find elsewhere.
3. Villa Borghese Gardens
This public park is located just a stone's throw from Piazza di Popolo, and is such a tranquil area to enjoy in Rome. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city without traveling far. Our favorite way to enjoy the Villa Borghese gardens is by renting a small boat, and rowing around the lake there.
This is the most popular place that locals like to go to. Travestere is full of the best Roman restaurants and bars. This area is separated from the historic center by the Tiber river, and is one of the best spots to get a feel for the less touristic zone of the capital.
5. Altar of the Fatherland
Although this isn't really a hidden gem per say, it is definitely a gorgeous part of Rome that is less visited than the major highlights. Formerly known as The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or "Vittoriano", this fabulous masterpiece is definitely one of the most beautiful things to see in Rome Italy.
This is a great place to take photos, and there is even a restaurant at the top!
Things to See in Rome, Italy: For the Explorer in You
Have you seen enough of the city and want to explore outside a bit? Well there are plenty of amazing day trips that you can take around Rome. Here we just a few to cover all of your suburban needs.
Tivoli is a great day trip from Rome if you want to see a bit of nature and some gorgeous villas. This small and charming town has a cute center, and two impressive residences, that will make you feel like you've jumped into a fairytale.
Villa Gregoriana is just a few minutes from the train station, and has a trail through caves, waterfalls, and some lovely greenery. Entrance is from 10 am to 5:30 pm, and tickets are just 6 euros.
Villa D' Este is a bit different, as the residence is more like a castle. Admire the beautiful art inside, and wander around the gardens with cascading waterfalls and fountains on the outside. Villa D' Este is open from 8:30 am to 10:45 pm and is 13 euros to enter.
The one thing that Rome is missing is the beach. You can head to Civitavecchia which is just an hour by train away, and is where the cruise ships sail into if you want to stay close. But travel a little further and you will reach a really awesome beach destination.
In a little less than two hours you can reach Sperlonga by car. In public transportation, it is a bit more of a hassle, but still possible.
This adorable beach town has a quaint village with restaurants and shops, as well as local artisans selling handmade goods on the streets. Head over to the beach and you may be lucky like I was to find a free Zumba class! Either way, you will be sure to love Sperlonga.
3. Civita di Bagnoregio
This was one of the most spectacular places we have seen in Italy, and felt like a true hidden gem.
Civita di Bagnoregio is a hilltop village perched amongst a canyon just an hour and a half from Rome. The views leading up to the bridge to the village are simply stunning, and the village at the end is extremely charming. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and even hotels so that you can spend a night here.
Go to Civita di Bagnoregio and you will truly feel like you have traveled back in time. Tickets are sold in the small town near the parking lot, and cost just 5 euros.
Just a half hour from Civita di Bagnoregio, and an hour and a half from Rome lies Orvieto. This charming Italian town is the perfect day trip from Rome if you want to get away from the crowds.
The small village lies high up on a hill from windy roads, and features one of the most gorgeous cathedrals in Italy. Go inside for just a few euros and you will see the most magnificent paintings and detailed architecture inside.
5. Marmore Falls
Craving some nature? Well there are waterfalls that are just an hour and a half from Rome. The waterfall was made by the ancient Romans, and is actually the tallest manmade waterfall in the world! The park is open from 10 am to 7 pm and tickets cost 8 euros.
Things to See in Rome, Italy: For the Foodie in You
Now that you've seen plenty of great sites, it's time to bring out the foodie in you! One of the best things to do in Italy is to enjoy the local cuisine. As the capital, it can be difficult, as there are a ton of touristy places that really don't show the full potential of how good the food is here.
While there are hundreds of amazing restaurants, we are here to share a few that really stood out to us, and are worth returning to. Here are some of our favorite places to eat in Rome:
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This is one of the most unique places to see in Rome Italy, and may just be one of the most unique restaurants in the world. Eden Laboratorio is one of our favorites, because the menu is entirely based around pistaccios!
Want an overload of flavor without the high price tag? Then you will eat like a king (or queen) at Eden Laboratorio. This place may be located outside the center, but it is definitely worth the trip.
Two of the best dishes are the beef tartar and the fried burrata.
2. Da Enzo
Da Enzo features great homemade dishes, and has truly amazing cheeses. We would come back here time and time again just for their ricotta and burrata. Make sure you ask for the burrata, as it sometimes isn't featured on their menu.
For the main dish make sure to get one of their amazing homemade pastas.
This restaurant was recommended to us by a local, and has some really amazing Roman dishes. If you want some really great flavors of Rome, then this is the place for you. We suggest getting the carbonara and Gricia Ignorante.
Located just steps away from the Pantheon, this restaurant just lures you in just by waking by. You can see right in the window of the restaurant an old man making homemade ravioli. If that doesn't make you want to go, we don't know what will!
5. Il Signore degli Agnelli
This restaurant is absolutely fabulous if you want to try something different. While everyone thinks Italian food is just pizza and pasta, they haven't tried Abruzzo cuisine.
Il Signore degli Agnelli specializes in their meats and homemade gnocchi. The gnocci comes in a more oval form, and is a little different than the traditional gnocchi, but is so delicious. (By the way- Thursday is the day that Romans eat gnocchi!).The meat is served on skewers, and slowly grilled, full of flavor. We suggest getting the "mixed".
How to Reach the Best Things to See in Rome
Now that we have shared our favorite spots, it is important to realize just how big Rome is. While a great amount of the city can be walked, there are plenty of ways to get around if you are trying to cross the city.
Here are a few ways to get around Rome:
The public bus is definitely the cheapest option when it comes to transportation. Keep in mind however, that Rome has a lot of traffic, so it could take longer than estimated to get from point A to point B.
There are public buses to and from the airports from Roma Termini Train station. They run throughout the day, but not through the whole night.
This is our least favorite option, as it is the most expensive. Not only that, but it can also take the longest (other than the bus). We would say use this as a last resort. The only time we used a taxi was at the airport because we got in very late and there was no public transportation running. There are official rates, so no need to bargain.
The train is one of the fastest and easiest way to get around Italy. You won't need to use the train inside of Rome per say, but if you want to take a day trip then this is the way to go. There are 3 main train stations in Rome, the biggest of them being Roma Termini. From here you can travel both locally and long distance.
The metro is just as cheap as the bus (just 1 euro and 50 cents), and you don't have to worry about traffic. We love using the metro, although there aren't as many stations as most other big European cities tend to have. If you have the option, then this is a great choice.
This was our absolute favorite way to get around and see the best things in Rome Italy. The scooters run through apps, and you can even use Uber for some! They are easy to use, and can be picked up anywhere and dropped off pretty much anywhere.
Scooter rentals are best for short distances inside the city center, as they can go on almost all the roads that the cars can. The price depends on the time that you rent it for, as there is a rate per minute for usage.
There are so many things to see in Rome, Italy, and one could spend weeks exploring this gorgeous capital! These are some of our favorite spots, but we urge you to just get lost in the streets, and eat your heart out.
Planning on visiting other cities in Italy? We have some other great articles for you.
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