Rome is arguably the most important and most popular “must see” destination in all of Italy. With the history, art, architecture, food, culture, and general charm it has to offer, Rome should absolutely be on everyone’s bucket list. If you are fortunate enough to visit La Citta Eterna (The Eternal City), it’s best to go with a plan. It is enormous and there is more to see there than any other Italian city, in my opinion, so visiting can be overwhelming for first timers. How do you fit everything into just a few days in this incredible place? The short answer is…you don’t. You could spend weeks here and still not enjoy everything this city has to offer, but that’s OKAY. My very wise mother always says “You have to leave something to come back to” and trust me, you’ll want to come back to Rome.
What sights should you definitely see?
Do some research and pick the sights you absolutely want to see, but don’t over do it. Part of the Roman experience is taking time to explore the city by foot and really get lost in it’s charm. If you over schedule yourself and have every minute of your day spoken for, you’ll miss out on how relaxing and romantic the town really is. I have been fortunate enough to visit Rome several times since I was a young child, but it has never felt like the same trip. In fact, I took my husband for his first trip there this past Valentine’s Day weekend, and it felt completely new to me. This was the first time I truly appreciated how romantic Rome really is. We spent three and a half days in Rome, and we will definitely be back again soon. Here are some of our tips for visiting La Citta Eterna!
Things to See
- We decided not to go into the Colosseum this trip. We are planning on returning to Rome with my in-law’s this summer, and chose to wait to do the Colosseum with them. However, it’s definitely a must-see! Get your tickets at the Roman Forum (the price includes both attractions) where the line won’t be as long, or buy them online here. I also suggest walking around it at night! It’s really spectacular when it’s lit up.
- My husband called The Pantheon an “engineering marvel”, and he’s absolutely right. This remarkable building is over 2000 years old, and is free to enter. The dome is one of the first constructed in history, and has an opening at the very top called an oculus. It rained right before we went in, and the staff roped off the wet area in the middle of the room, and visits continued regularly. Take some time to enjoy the beauty inside the building.
- I highly suggest listening to Rick Steve’s tour of the Pantheon on your phone while inside! The app is free, and you can download the tours before you go so you don’t need data to use it! Info is found here.
The Vatican Museum & Saint Peter’s Basilica
- The Vatican is a must see. As you probably know, The Vatican is actually it’s own country, separate from Italy. Why not cross two countries off your bucket list while visiting Rome?
- To visit the basilica, definitely visit early in the morning. If you are visiting for a few days, choose a weekday to see St. Peter’s in hopes that it will be less crowded. There is no ticket needed to enter, but there will absolutely be a line. It opens at 7am every morning. Be sure to wear church appropriate clothing, (this goes for all Italian churches). Ladies & gents should both have knees and shoulders covered. Ladies, a scarf to wrap around your shoulders is fine. They will not let you enter if you are dressed inappropriately!
- To visit the Vatican Museum, I highly suggest pre-purchasing tickets online. We did this, and were able to skip the lengthy line around the wall, and go right in. You’ll have to choose a reservation time, so make sure you keep to a schedule that day! Purchase tickets here.
- When you are outside the Vatican, you will be approached by many tour guides who will ask to see your ticket and try to sell you a guided tour. Just politely tell them you already have a tour booked. Do not show them your ticket, and do not engage them.
- Wear comfortable shoes and allow to spend several hours here, there is a ton of walking & a lot to see.
- I highly suggest Rick Steve’s audio tours for the Vatican as well. Alternatively, each sight has audio tours with headphones you can rent for a fee.
- For hours & information on everything in Vatican City, visit their website.
- Trevi Fountain is a must see! It’s breathtaking, especially at night, which is when I recommend going. At night, the tourist crowds seem to disappear and you can enjoy the beauty of the fountain without having to push and shove your way to the front. It’s also really magical when it’s all lit up.
- The Fountain was completed in 1762, and the water comes from ancient acquaducts constructed in 19BC. Read about the Fountain’s history here.
- Be sure to throw a coin in the fountain. They say if you do, it will ensure that you will return to Rome. I’ve thrown a coin in each time, and I have been there 5-6 times in my life, so it must work!
- Fact: You can’t visit the Fountain at night without a gelato in your hand.
Campo de’ Fiori Market
- The Campo de’ Fiori Market is a great spot to walk around in the morning. Grab some fruit to keep in your bag for a snack, enjoy the scent of the amazing fresh flowers, sample different cheeses and oils, and take in the scenery.
- There are a lot of “touristy” booths that sell novelty pastas, pre-made spices for pasta, mini limoncello bottles, etc. Please don’t buy any of that junk. Just don’t.
- Instead buy the fruit, vegetables, local cheeses and breads. In fact this is a great place to grab a Porchetta sandwich. Porchetta is basically roasted pork seasoned with garlic, fresh rosemary & other herbs. It’s one of Rome’s most famous foods and it’s definitely worth having. We grabbed two sandwiches here to take on the train home.
- The Market is 8am-1:30pm every Monday- Saturday.
Altare Della Patria
- Also known as the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.
- This iconic and absolutely enormous monument is not typically a “must see” destination, but it should be. It’s a truly incredible building and if the size of it doesn’t blow you away, the views surely will. Climb up to the top platform for an amazing view of Rome. There is an elevator that will take you even higher for a 360 degree view of the city for under 10 Euro. We decided to save the elevator for our next time, but the pictures we got up the stairs were incredible.
- Go at sunset for amazing pictures of the city!
- There is also small, free museum inside with some art & sculptures. Why not, right?
- A visit here is obligatory, but don’t carve out too much time. Unless you want to shop at the designer boutiques on the street leading to the steps, this sight can be seen pretty quickly. Walk up the steps to see the church at the top, and to get some pictures overlooking the city.
- The flowers are my favorite part of The Spanish Steps! Take a few moments to enjoy the beauty around you.
- Trastevere is an adorable neighborhood on the South side of the river. Take the bus or walk and enjoy an afternoon or evening there. They have amazing restaurants, unique local shops, and many bars & cafes.
- Get lost there! Walk around, stop in a few bars and get a glass of house wine, then mosey into a restaurant for a late dinner.
Porta Portese Market
- This market is THE BIGGEST one I’ve ever been to. You could spend hours here and still not see every booth. Some of the booths are just selling junk, but there are definitely some worthwhile antique booths to check out. Bring cash and get ready to do some haggling. I found a great brass utensil set that I regret not buying!
- It’s located just south of Trastevere, you might want to take a bus here.
- The market is only open on Sunday from 6:00am-2:00pm.
These are just some of our favorite things to do in Rome, but the possibilities are endless! There’s also so many delicious things to eat & drink while in Rome, I’ll be doing another post dedicated to that later.
What is your favorite thing to do in La Citta Eterna?