There are no shortage of things to see and do in Rome. It’s an amazing place for a holiday or a short city break. I pretty much squeezed in everything I wanted to see here in four days but if you want to soak up the city life, then I recommend staying longer. This is my guide to Rome on what to see and do but first, where to stay…
If you want to stay in a really lovely boutique hotel with an elegant feel then the Aldrovandi Villa Borghese is the hotel for you. It’s not far from the main sites but is tucked away a little bit outside the hustle and bustle of the city centre Rome streets (but still within walking distance of the Spanish Steps). The hotel is in an upscale residential area and is a real sanctuary in the heart of Rome, right next to the large green Borghese gardens. It’s quiet, chic and fashionable too being a 19th century villa with marble floors, an outdoor heated pool, gardens and amazing restaurants on site.
Especially when you are on a city break, it’s nice to stay somewhere quiet. I am really noise sensitive so if I hear noise outside my window it keeps me up at night. The Aldrovandi Villa Borghese is nice and quiet and if you are pounding the pavement as a tourist during the day you want somewhere nice to relax in the evening. Staying somewhere like this really balances out a city break which can sometimes be quite tiring.
A few sites that you will definitely want to see while in Rome are #1 the Coliseum! You really should see this by day and by night and I think it’s well worth it to do a tour inside but with the Fast Pass. You will pay more for this but it’s really worth it because with the Fast Pass you will skip all the lines and get to the front of the line in no time. The waiting time to get into the Coliseum varies but if you opt for the regular ticket, waiting times can be up to 4/5 hours in line and to be honest, that’s the last thing you want to be doing because it wastes almost half a precious day.
As I mentioned before you will definitely want to see the Coliseum by night too! At night it is all lit up and looks beautiful and on a balmy Roman night, wandering around the Coliseum and the Roman Forum is actually quite peaceful!
If you go to the Coliseum you have to go to the Roman Forum. For centuries it was the centre of Roman life and contains the ruins of important ancient government buildings. To see the ruins in real life is actually amazing because you can feel the weight of history sitting in front of you. The Roman Forum was the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. If you can get to the viewpoint at the top of Paletine Hill then it is well worth it for the views.
To get to all of these sites (and if you don’t have much time in the city) I highly recommend a hop-on, hop-off bus. It’s the easiest way to get around and if you don’t know your bearings yet, this is the best way to bring them up to speed. You could get a multi-day pass and spend a couple of days on the bus looking around and then use the rest of your time to just wander leisurely.
Another site well worth seeing is what I like to call Mussolini’s monument or the Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.It looks like a giant wedding cake. I was told a lot of Italians don’t like this monument but from an aesthetic point of view only, it is stunning.
Of course you cannot miss going to the Trevi Fountain in the Trevi district. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. So why wouldn’t you throw a coin in?
And between all this sightseeing is the FOOD! The food in Rome and Italy in general is delicious if you know where to go for the best pizza and pasta. I did nothing but eat pizza and pasta the entire stay and it was so good. Strangely enough I didn’t get tired of it. The pizzas in Rome are quite simple – thin crust with parma ham and an egg was my favourite, along with a seafood marinara pasta.
As I said the pizzas are simple and you can choose a white pizza (no tomato sauce base) or a red pizza (with a tomato sauce base). The one I have (below) is a simple capricciosa pizza with parma ham, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and an egg.
My other favourite kind of pasta to eat on this trip was a seafood marinara. I LOVE seafood so mussels, clams, calamari, prawns…yes, bring them all on please.
Of course there are so many kinds of pasta types to choose from. One of my favourite places to eat in Rome and one that is highly recommended is EATALY. It was one of the best meals I had there. Eataly is actually a gourmet supermarket of sorts but on the bottom floor there is a restaurant that makes the most delicious pizzas and pastas. The penne pasta below is a simple one with a chili based tomato sauce to add a bit of a kick. Delizioso!
And definitely not to miss is the gelato of course!
When you are done eating all of that you will want to walk off those calories and there is no better place to do it that The Vatican. The Vatican is actually its very own country, with its own laws, etc. I am Catholic so visiting The Vatican was important to me and not only for religious reasons but also because the inside of The Vatican is full of the most exquisite art. As you wander through the halls, you keep thinking it couldn’t get any better or more ornate but it does! And of course there is the Sistine Chapel with the ever-so-famous work of Michelangelo. It’s expensive to enter The Vatican and again, I did the Fast Pass option with a tour so it made it even more pricey but to be honest it was worth it. I would much rather splash a bit of extra cash to save myself four hours of waiting in a line.
On the day I visited The Vatican, Pope Francis had actually just spoken that morning in preparation for Easter services so when I arrived, he had just finished speaking. It felt really special knowing that I was at The Vatican over Easter and Pope Francis had addressed the crowds just as I was about to go in.
Another amazing view and worth a look at is the Pantheon – the building with the big central opening (oculus) in the ceiling. The Pantheon was built during the reign of Augustus and the even almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome. When Michelangelo saw this wonder for the first time he said that it looks more like the ‘work of angels, not humans.’ The word Pantheon is a Greek adjective meaning “honour all Gods.” In fact the pantheon was first built as a temple to all gods.
All in all, Rome is a great city for a visit and one you must certainly see in your lifetime!
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