Rome, the city of illusions! Built upon layers and layers of history.
No wonder they said all the streets of the world leads to Rome in that magnificent era. With its palatial architectural sites and serene churches, museums, art, and ruins it is one of the mightiest and fascinating cities in antiquity.
It is the capital of one of the most powerful empires in the ancient era. With its unique Celebrious cuisine and recreational life, it is worth visiting at least once in our lifetime.
It is a cliche thing to say but I guess each one of you is familiar with the saying “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do”. It means when you’re in a foreign land, follow the customs and rules of the country.
Do you feel like taking a tour to Rome this summer vacation? Then here is the list for the best things to do in Rome.
Best Things To Do In Rome
Trot Through The Borghese Gallery
Perhaps you’re an artsy person who loves to visit a local gallery every month. Then you’re probably going to be astonished beholding the magnificent monuments in Galleria Borghese.
It would be a thought-provoking experience to sojourn through the Borghese Gallery located in the 17th-century estate built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
I mean just look at the sensuality of each carving, it’ll definitely take you to a bygone era where Augustus used to walk on the streets where you’re presently gawking.
As you walk through the museum you can see paintings, sculptures, and pieces of antique furniture.
As an art connoisseur, Scipione himself commissioned most of the arts in the gallery. Caravaggio and Bernini are included where Caravaggio’s paintings are controversial Bernini’s sculptures tingle with the erotic theme.
Climb the Cupola of the Basilica di San Pietro in Vatican City
The view atop San Pietro’s Dome is exquisite. But it is an adventure that requires a lot of physical strength if you’re gonna take the stairs. There are 320 steps to the roof level and lifts are accessible up to that point.
But if you want to actually lay eyes on the dizzying sight from the dome then only the spiral staircase with an additional 200 steps is the only way.
The dome is technically not on the Italian soil, it sits on top of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The construction of the dome was overseen by many Roman architectures but Michelangelo was the one who took the task of completing the dome.
And ladies do not forget to cover your shoulders and knees, I watched a security guard kick out a girl for wearing thigh-high dresses. Men cannot be in shorts, must wear pants.
Since the view is whirling, anyone with a fear of heights is not recommended to climb. And for those who are headstrong, this can be the best thing to do in Rome.
Visit the Pantheon, a Temple to All Gods
Pantheon is almost 2000 years old!
The Pantheon is one of the few buildings that has stayed intact to this day. It was built by the order of Marcus Agrippa hence the facade shows the following text in bronze “M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT”
Did you know that the pantheon we see today is not the original one? Yes, the information flabbergasted me. It is still ancient but actually it’s the third version as it was rebuilt 2 times by the damage caused by a great fire and lightning strike.
The interesting fact is people still have no idea about the purpose of the Pantheon. The name Pantheon comes from the Greek word meaning Devoted to all Gods.
There are no windows inside the Pantheon, the only source of light is through the hole from the top of the dome.
Definitely, the best place in Rome to walk through and unravel the mystery.
Strike a pose for a photo on the Spanish Steps
Spalina Spagna or Spanish steps with its sporadic butterfly design is one of the must-see places in Rome. If you are an artist, painter or photographer the elegance and unique design will galvanize you.
It is called Spanish Steps because it leads to the Spanish Embassy nearby.
If you time your visit perfectly you can also watch the seasonal decorations of Spanish steps where the stairway is decorated with pink azaleas for a month.
There are 135 steps and you can’t eat sandwiches on them which denotes Roman’s effort to keep it pristine and clean.
One more warning is that sitting on the Spanish Steps would almost cost you $450!
So be careful and don’t be swayed by staring at the enthralling view.
Eat Gelato at the Best Gelaterias in Rome
Gelato vs Icecream
What is Gelato? Well, it is an Italian version of ice cream, although some consider gelato as a grown-up version of ice cream. Pretty much both are frozen desserts enjoyed on a summer day.
The difference is basically the proportion of milk and cream, gelato has more milk than cream whereas ice cream has more cream than milk. And it costs on average 40-50% more than normal ice cream because of less air and fat.
Its rich flavor and creamy taste leave you panting for wanting more and more.
From the age-old vanilla and coffee ice creams to quaint flavors like sweet basil and sweet potato, everything is available in all gelaterias and supermarkets in Rome.
See Michelangelo’s Moses at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli
As we all know Michelangelo was one of the greatest sculptors the world has seen. The carved marble sculpture can be seen inside the church of San Pietro in Vincoli.
There’s still a debate on why Michelangelo created a horned Moses. But actually, he described it as a ray of the skin of his face. See people talking about it on Quora.
The imposing figure of a long-bearded Moses the Old Testament depiction is magnetizing to behold. It makes you wonder how a statue can look more lively and commanding than real people.
Visit the Piazza Navona ( Circus Agonalis)
Piazza Navona with its stunning Baroque architecture was once an open stadium but now reduced to a public square. It is one of the best things to visit in Rome.
In ancient Rome, the people would hold mock naval battles. And now the spellbinding oval stadium has only its remnants left because the people in those times didn’t appreciate to preserve it, but pilfered it.
At times it may be crowded or less comfortable but it’s an amazing place to sit around and have a gelato or two. It’s a center for artists and street entertainers to showcase their smarts.
Visit Basilica di San Pietro
San Pietro is one of the largest churches in the world and a renowned pilgrimage site. If you’re feeling religious it is the best place to visit in Rome. It was built by the first Christian emperor of Rome Constantine.
Did you know that the Statue of Liberty could fit inside the basilica? The fact is, Liberty’s 305-foot will be dwarfed under the majestic 450-foot dome of the church.
The dead bodies of one Russian saint and 3 Popes are preserved and kept for public display.
And get ready to be amazed by watching the 150 mosaics that are so intricately detailed which is almost mistaken for paintings.
Gawk at the Colosseum
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear Rome is its magnificent Colosseum. Well, the colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built which can hold 50000- 80000 spectators.
Have you watched the movie, Gladiator? It is one of the most emotionally engaging movies I’ve ever watched which describes the struggles a Gladiator goes through to entertain Roman Spectators in the Colosseum.
Despite the fact that there was a re-enactment of famous battles, plays and dramas, around 4,00,000 people and 1,00,0000 animals are estimated to be dead in the colosseum gladiator contests.
It is by far the best thing to do in Rome because it has attracted 7.4 million tourists in the last year alone, a massive increase of 5.7% compared to last year.
All the facts aside, just close your eyes and listen to the tens of thousands of voices cheering and yelling in Latin ecstatic to watch the bloodbath of animals and Gladiators.
I highly recommend visiting the Colosseum.
Try Cacio e Pepe, Rome’s Famous Pasta Dish
Want to try the most classic and beloved dish of Rome? Cacio e Pepe is the mouth-watering rendition of Italian flavor.
Cacio e Pepe means cheese and pepper in Italian dialect. Many are wondering over the obsession with this dish because it is taking the food world by storm. Just thinking about it makes me salivate.
The creamy, salty, spicy and sharp taste is not that easily forgettable for your taste buds.
The best restaurants to try this heavenly dish is-
- Da Casere Al Casaletto
- Da Danilo
Just hum a song and start chewing this heavenly delicacy.
Visit the Musei Vaticani
It is pure nonsensical being in Rome and not visiting Musei Vaticani. The Vatican museum brims with a myriad collection of sculptures, paintings, Gobelins, books, scrolls, antique furniture, and whatnot.
All these collections are placed in gigantic spaces and the walls are covered with frescos which are heart-stirringly beautiful where a day doesn’t go by without remembering them.
The Vatican museum has the greatest collections of religious art I’ve ever seen. You won’t be able to see even half of them in 2 days.
Use the audio guide because the place gets pretty crowded and you won’t be able to pass by peacefully in the rush.
Visit the Villa Borghese Gardens
Flamino Ponzio, the architect is the mastermind behind the creation of Villa Borghese Gardens. Located in the northeast of Rome, this garden is considered Rome’s green lung.
The park is filled with attractive surprises and monuments that keep the tourists busy sightseeing. It’s the reason behind thousands of tourists’ stopover here.
Sojourning through Borghese gardens can be a getaway from Rome’s traffic-filled streets and roads. While walking and exploring the gardens is ideal there are other modes of transport available too.
Take a Trip to the Ghost Town of Pompei and Climb Mount Vesuvius
Pompei was an ancient Roman city that was drastically destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius killing thousands of people and burying Pompei with the carpet of ashes. Hence the name Ghost Town.
You could spend the entire day touring the site and never get bored.
Mount Vesuvius is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, not because of the threat of explosion, but the 3 million people living under it make it more frightful.
The view from the mount is the most picturesque and relaxing to feast one’s eyes on. It will be a great adventure to hike up the mountain with your daring friends or spouse. Well, it is the gutsiest and the best thing to do when you’re in Rome.
Who wouldn’t love a challenge?
Admire The Beauty of Rome from Hop on Hop off the Bus
If you want to tour all the popular sites in Rome within a short span of time then Hop-on-Hop-off bus tours will be viable.
Along with touring, we’ll be getting plenty of information from the tour guides and audio commentary about Roman history.
Tickets range from 16 – 43 euros per person depending upon the package. Free wi-fi and English speaking guides are added perk.
Just hop on the bus, these services will take you to infamous landmarks then hop-off and have a look around and on and on.
Best Hop-on-Hop-off tours agency is listed below-
- Big Bus Tours
- Grayline Tours ( I Love Rome)
- City sightSeeing Tours
- Vatican And Rome Bus Tours (Roma Cristiana)
- Rome By Night (Night Tour)
An elegant evening in an Opera Theater
There are a lot of opera theatres in Rome to spend a classic and refined evening. But the opulent among them is Teatro dell’ Opera di, Roma.
It has gained a lot of international prestige by hosting performances from renowned artists such as Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and so on.
The finest evening for those who love the pursuit and performance of art and music. The scintillating interior of the opera theatre is the place to experience something truly magical.
Rome Opera Omnia, another opera theatre can give you a completely different experience than the usual opera nights.
Together with candlelight dinner and performances of a grand piano by classical composers such as Puccini, Verdi, Bellini, and Mozart – bringing them back to life, will make any artists never to leave their seats.
Other Opera houses would be-
- Salone Margherita
- Caravita Church
Visit San Clemente Basilica
Located near the Colosseum, San Clemente Basilica is a somber-looking church which is a residence for priests learning in Rome.
You have to be ready to be dazzled by the 12th-century Catholic Church with frescoed ceilings, marble floors. Also, glide by to have a look at some of the earliest Christian wall paintings.
The decorum of the church is filled by 12th-century Byzantine mosaics. This tour is ideal for history lovers because there are thousands of years of antiquity to bask in.
Remember photography is not allowed inside the church. Modest clothing of covering shoulders and knees is favored.
You must have a peek around the underground excavations. As there are three layers of the church it’s commonly known as Lasagna church. We can travel through time to know the history centuries apart.
Then ascend through the church built atop the pagan temple and get acquainted with its history.
Put your hands in the Mouth Of Truth
The entrancing myth behind the Mouth Of Truth is that it will bite off the hands off of liars. Scary right!
So it’s primarily like a modern-day lie detector back in those days. The legend says that if you stick your hands inside the mouth of the carving and tell a lie the rocky maw would bite off your hand.
While this sounds fictitious superstitions linger to this day. The mouth of truth has been used as a wayward lie detector in many video games and movies like Roman Holiday where it was the main plot device.
You can choose your own attire to wear in the church but if the shoulders and knees are exposed, chances are high of being denied entrance.
Go on a Vespa Tour
Besides Colosseum and Trevi fountain another thing that flashes through your mind hearing the name, Rome is Vespa Scooters.
Vespa tour is nothing but taking the tour on two-wheelers like bikes or mopeds to sightsee the prominent places in Rome.
I can’t think of a better way to roam Rome than sitting on the back of a bike. Just speed through the streets with a huge grin on your face and turn a few heads along the way.
The best agencies for Vespa tours would be-
- Rome by Vespa SideCar tour
- Rome By Vintage Vespa- Classic Rome tour
- 3-hour Private Tour of Rome
Drive an Ape Calessino
Ape Calessino is an Auto Rickshaw in Italian dialect. Like the Vespa tour in two-wheeler bikes, Ape Calessino is taking an excursion around Rome in three-wheelers.
You can experience the allurement of Rome by sitting in the back seat which can accommodate up to 3 people.
The driver will come to pick you up from the hotel and you just need to sit back and revel in the glory of Roman streets and have fun. It’s usually a 4 – hour private tour and you’ll get all the attention to yourself.
Please see that free coffee and gelato stops are included in Rome: By Ape Calessino Auto Rickshaw agency
The auto will be an old Italian designed vehicle widely used in the 1960s under the name of Tuk Tuk. It is one of the most popular vehicles in Italy because of its compact design, fast maneuverability and can turn people’s heads on the road.
Recommended agencies which can make your journey valuable and the best thing to do in Rome are-
- Ape Calessino Cagliari Touring
- Vespa Buggy Tours
- Classic Rome Ape Calessino Guided Tour
- Secret Tour Ape Calessino Guided Tour
- Rome By Night Ape Calessino Guided Tour
Live Rome like a Roman!
Join a Food Tour
It is said that the best way to know a culture is to eat their food. So feasting our way around the busiest food street, we can discover regional and seasonal delicacies alike.
The city of history is as much as about its culinary tourism. I personally prefer a food tour where I can experience picturesque surroundings while rendezvousing with the native taste.
Top food tours in Rome also comes under the best things to do in Rome they are-
- Tuscany Taster tour
- Rome: Professional Pasta Lab Experience
- Trastevere: 3- Hour Street Food tour
- Roman Countryside Vineyards and Wine -Tasting
- Rome: 3-Hour Private Food Tour
Take a Cooking Class
(image related to Italian cooking class)
Great cooking comes with time and wisdom. I mean who wouldn’t want to learn the intricate recipes behind pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, pasta, and other famous Italian classic dishes.
As a one time visitor in Rome, you might be fascinated by all kinds of recipes and spices the typical Italian dish contains. Hence taking a cooking class in Rome doesn’t sound bad.
You can learn to make classic dishes such as pasta, spaghetti, pizza and also learn to work your way through herbs.
It is one of the top things to do in Rome if you’re passionate about cooking and the best cooking classes in Rome would be –
- Handmade Pasta with Grandma
- Hands-on Pasta Making and Tiramisu
- Pizza Masterclass
- Handmade Gnocchi With an Italian Chef
- Cooking Class with a Professional Italian
Visit a Cat Sanctuary
Cats have been superstitiously associated with Rome and its ruins from ancient history. We can even find an estimation for Cat’s population around 3,00,000.
In Rome, a large number of cats used to wander around the colosseum, hence the so-called Cat Ladies who operated on informal cat shelter took to themselves to nurture these felines.
Largo Di Torre Argentina is a cat sanctuary which offers sterilization and adoption program and it also cares for cats which are hard to handle like sick, handicapped ones.
Any afternoon you can watch these creatures roaming around, at first you may not see much, but once you see one it’s everywhere. Volunteers in the sanctuary care for around 250 cats here.
You can either marvel at looking at the adorable cats or adopt, volunteer, donate for the shelter.
Explore Rome’s Coolest Neighborhoods
After touring around the major places like the Colosseum, Trevi fountain and more, exploring the scenic architectural beauty of the neighborhood of Rome is like an escape from the trap.
Just look at the narrow roads adorned with bright graffitis and eclectic buildings. It might be the perfect place to hang out with your pals.
Some of the coolest neighborhood is-
- San Lorenzo
Go in Search of Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau is a style of decoration and architecture flowing with extravagant patterns of flowers and leaves followed in Rome around the 1890s.
The distinguishing style of Art Nouveau taking the form of flower stalks, buds, vine tendrils has an asymmetrical tendency and beauty.
Some of the prominent artists who worked on Art Nouveau style are Charles Rennie Macintosh, Victor Horta, Louis Majorelle.
The prominent art nouveau found in the Italian Liberty style is Galleria Sciarra, Coppede area, Villa Helene – Anderson Museum where the world-renowned Danish writer Anderson stayed in Rome and the museum is dedicated to his name.
Going in the pursuit of Art Nouveau is the best thing to do in Rome so that you will be going into a spiral of historic emotions.
All In All
Rome has been the kernel of culture, art, and religion for centuries. The city’s ample and rich history has been a milestone destination for tourists in the entire world.
You will fall in love with phenomenal architecture whether looking at the historical monuments, churches, or fountains. I mean the place is crawling with chronicled places and literature.
Visiting Rome at least once in a lifetime will be like a dream come true, and you can brag about walking in the place where Alexander the Great, Marcus Aurelius, Augustus, Constantine wined and dined.
1. Are there any other things to do in Rome besides sightseeing?
Yes, there are a plethora of things to do in Rome besides sightseeing like you can take a pasta cooking class and learn to cook like Italians, browse for antiques in Porta Portese. You can even buy fresh produce from the Testaccio market.
2. What can you do in Rome for free?
There is a good deal of free things to do in Rome like visiting the Mouth of Truth, the Villa Borghese Gardens. Visit Vatican Museums and have a blast tossing three coins into the Trevi fountain, scale the Spanish steps, crawl the Piazzas and still, there will be a lot of things left to do for absolutely free.
3. Is Rome safe at night?
Rome is relatively safe both day and night. The center of Rome is very safe because it is full of tourists and many restaurants and bars will be open the whole night. And of course, be careful about pickpockets, especially target tourists.
4. What should you not miss seeing in Rome?
Colosseum is the most recognized monument from the Roman history, hence when you go to Rome, never miss visiting it.
5. Is Trastevere a good area to stay in Rome?
Yes, Trastevere is one of the best places to stay in the room because it is filled with picturesque landscapes and a perfect place to take lots of snaps while wandering the Cobblestone streets.