Renowned for ancient Roman ruins, world-class museums and medieval piazzas, Rome reveals archaeological treasures on almost every corner. And what treasures they are. With three millennia of history, Rome offers a trip back in time. It is undoubtedly one of the most incredible cities on Earth. Therefore, there are many unmissable things to do in Rome in Italy.
It doesn`t matter if you have a week, or maybe just a few days. Rome has everything you need indeed. The city`s impressive monuments and the dolce vita lifestyle offer so much beauty that will keep you occupied.
There are numerous hidden treasures for eager travellers to find. From the Huts of Romulus, supporting the legend about the founding of Rome on the Palatine Hill, to the remains of St Peter the Apostle, and the site of Caesar’s grave. Rome is packed with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO IN ROME ITALY
1. THE COLOSSEUM – THE ICON OF ROME
The first tourist attraction most people head to in Rome is undoubtedly the Colosseum. And there`s a reason for that. The most internationally recognized symbol of Rome is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It dates back to 80 AD.
Built by the Roman emperor Vespasian and finished by his son Titus, the largest amphitheatre ever built could hold up to 55,000 people. The seating arrangement in the Colosseum was according to the social ranking at the various levels. Three stories high travertine Colosseum was once home of the infamous Gladiator fights and dramas. The Colosseum with 80 entrances is undoubtedly an architectural marvel striking any time of the year. Therefore, the Flavian Amphitheatre is an unmissable attraction in Rome, Italy.
Look into the area underneath the Colosseum`s floor. This is where the Romans caged wild animals. During gladiatorial games, the starved animals were lifted to ground level where they did fight men to death.
Scholars believe over 9,000 animals died during the inauguration of the Colosseum.
Due to several earthquakes, the Colosseum suffered extensive damage over the centuries. The 2,000 years old icon of Imperial Home is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also an unmissable attraction in Rome in Italy.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Colosseum is Italy`s most visited attraction. Therefore, it can be challenging to get tickets last minute. It should be noted that the Colosseum`s capacity is up to 3,000 people at once. Hence, delays are possible, even for pre-booked visitors. Also, when entering the Colosseum, you have to go through security checks.
Arrive early in the morning when the Colosseum opens. Alternatively, buy your Rome Colosseum ticket online ahead of time to avoid long queues. Also, consider booking skip the line ticket to help you reduce unnecessary waiting time. To understand the history of the Colosseum, book a ticket with a tour guide or with a free audio guide. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
If you would love to save some cash, consider visiting the Colosseum on the first Sunday of the month. Generally, this is a day with free admission. Therefore no reservation is possible. However, the queues are accordingly long, and you can expect long lines.
How long does it take to visit the Colosseum?
Generally, expect to spend 2-3 hours inside the Colosseum with guided or self-guided virtual reality tour. Get a timed skip-the-line entry ticket into the Colosseum in advance to better plan your day. Otherwise, you may wait a long time in queues and not have time to visit other sights.
2. ARCH OF CONSTANTINE
Right next to the Colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine. It is one of the Imperial Rome`s last monuments. The triumphal arch, dedicated to Constantine the Great to celebrate his victory over co-emperor, is one of the Imperial Rome`s last monuments. In fact, Constantine moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantium just a few years after its construction. The last standing triumph arch in Rome is one of the best-preserved monuments from ancient Rome. Therefore, it definitely deserves your attention.
3. PALATINE HILL
Walk up to the Palatine Hill, the most desirable address in ancient Rome. This is a place where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome built their luxurious palaces. Here you can explore the ruins of the Flavian Palace (also known as the Domus Flavia or the Domus Augustana), Stadium of Domitia, the legendary Hut of Romulus and House of Livia with the ancient paintings on the walls.
According to legend, a she-wolf nursed and protected the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus on the Palatine Hill. Here Romulus also killed his brother and laid the foundations of Rome.
The peaceful Palatine Hill with the cooler temperatures in the summer is an ideal place to escape the crowds in Rome. Moreover, it offers the most spectacular views of the city.
4. CIRCUS MAXIMUS
Next, explore the remains of the Circus Maximus. The grandest horse race arena in ancient Rome is today home to a public park. Rebuilt by Emperor Trajan as a 250,000 seater, the oval-shaped area with amazing views of Palatine Hill, used to be Rome`s largest stadium.
5. ROMAN FORUM
Another unmissable attraction in Rome in Italy is the Roman Forum. Step back in time and admire ancient ruins at the Roman Forum. The ruins of the Forum are right next to the Colosseum.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman Forum was not only the chaotic market place. It was also a place with the temples, squares and the Senate House. Moreover, the Forum also hosted public trials and speech making. Today, the centre of power and life in ancient Rome mainly consists of crumbling ruins of ancient temples, palaces and baths.
- The Forum Romanum is a large archaeological site.
- If you would like to appreciate the layout of the Forum, it is best to view the whole area from the above (the Capitoline Hill or the Palatine Hill).
- The Roman Forum is a mass of ruins. There is not much information about the archaeological remains, though.
THE MAIN SIGHTS OF THE ROMAN FORUM
- the Rostra where the politics had their speeches
- the Temple of Satur
- the triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus (the best preserved of the Forum`s monuments) and Arch of Titus
- the Curia Julia, the reconstructed ancient Roman Senate House. The building is the second version of Curia Julia (by Ceasar).
- the House of the Vestal Virgins: it is the residence of the Vestal priestesses who tended the sacred flame at the temple.
- the restored section of Temple of Vesta is one of the ancient Rome`s most sacred shrines
- the Temple of Caesar (Temple of Divus Iulius) built on the exact spot of Julius Caesar`s cremation. With this in mind, visit his tomb – the rock which is the part of the altar of the temple.
- the Temple of Romulus
- the remains of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Forum Romanum, the iconic landmark of the Roman Empire is by far one of the unmissable tourist attractions in Rome in Italy. The Forum can be very busy, so be prepared for a lot of people and long queues. If you do not fancy waiting in the line for a long time, consider visiting the peaceful Palatin Hill first as it is linked with the Forum Romanum.
TIP: Those who did not buy their tickets to the Colosseum in advance (or the tickets are already sold out) can buy combined tickets at the Roman Forum. The queue for the ticket is much shorter here.
ADMISSION FEE: A combined ticket for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, starting from €16 (valid for 24 hours, beginning since 1st November 2019).
FREE ADMISSION TO COLOSSEUM without a pre-sale: 21st November 2019, 18th December 2019
If you visit the forums at night, there are light shows that illustrate what each foro used to look like back in the day.
A trip to Rome in Italy is not complete without a visit to the Vatican. The independent city-state within the heart of Rome is home to the world-famous sites, including Piazza San Pietro, St Peter`s Basilica (one of the holiest Christian sites in the world), the Vatican Museums and Michelangelo`s masterpiece The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
Additionally, enjoy the view of the Vatican from the top of the Basilica’s famous dome. Not only you can visit the secret rooftop coffee shop with breath-taking views of the Vatican, but you can also explore the unseen side of the Vatican, hidden beneath the Basilica. If you want to know all that the Vatican has to offer, and you don’t want to miss its hidden gems, read our post about the Vatican, though.
READ MORE ABOUT THE VATICAN:
7. CASTEL SANT` ANGELO
Another unmissable historical attraction to witness in Rome in Italy is Castel Sant`Angelo. It is home to the remains of the ancient Roman Emperor Hadrian. In the past, the Catholic Church used this remarkable place as a castle and a papal residence. It was due to its close proximity to the Vatican. Moreover, this impressive sight also includes a secret corridor used by popes as an escape route. The Castel Sant`Angelo connects with the nearby Saint Peter`s Basilica. The Castle of the Holy Angel was also a prison. Today it is a museum with stunning views of the magnificent St Peter` Basilica.
8. CENTRO STORICO
The narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways that make up the Centro Storico have been inhabited for at least 2,000 years. Get lost in the streets and discover its ancient ruins, baroque piazzas and Renaissance palaces. Alternatively, have a gelato or an Aperol spritz in one of the stylish bars or trattorias. The choice is yours; this is what La Dolce Vita is all about.
Admire the nearby Pantheon, one of the best-preserved buildings in Ancient Rome. Originally built as a Roman temple dedicated to the pagan gods, the Pantheon was later turned into a Christian church.
Appreciated the beauty of the building, especially from inside.
2,000 years old Pantheon designed by Emperor Hadrian is also a marvel of engineering. With its vast dome hidden behind the Classical portico, it is one of the unmissable things to see in Rome in Italy. When you visit, make sure you look at the breath-taking domed ceiling with the hole in the middle, letting the light and rain in.
The Pantheon`s dome is one of the first and the largest unsupported concrete domes ever built. Besides, it has also been a model from many other buildings.
Marbled floors lined with tombs of Rome`s kings (e.g. King Victor Emmanuel II) and other famous figures (Italian artist Raphael), the Pantheon is a genuinely amazing architectural wonder.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Pantheon is free to enter, which is why is the best time to visit it early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
10. PIAZZA DELLA ROTONDA
Take a wander around Piazza della Rotonda and be amazed by the stunning Renaissance fountain surrounded by the Ramses II obelisk. Explore the maze of narrow streets around the Pantheon and have lunch in one of the lively restaurants and café.
11. TREVI FOUNTAIN
After visiting the Pantheon, take a ten-minute walk, and you will find yourself in front of one of the most iconic fountains in the world: the Trevi Fountain.
After the significant renovations in recent years, the Fontana di Trevi is gracing its beauty once again. Standing 26 metres (85 feet) tall and 49 metres (161 feet) wide, a Baroque masterpiece made of white Travertine, is a truly breath-taking sight. The largest fountain in Rome featuring the god of the Sea (Neptun) surrounded by horses and two Tritons is, however, one of the most touristic places in Rome.
Urban traditions say that tossing a coin into the Trevi`s waters guarantee a return visit.
A popular tradition of tossing a coin in the fountain raises over €1.5 million (£1.3 million) of coins every year. Rome City Council uses the money for the maintenance of cultural sites and other social welfare projects.
GOOD TO KNOW:
For most of the day, the Trevi fountain is exceptionally crowded. For a more peaceful experience, plan ahead and visit the fountain early in the morning.
Despite its masses, the Trevi Fountain is an unmissable thing to see in Rome. The fountain is a very romantic place after dark.
12. SPANISH STEPS (SCALINATA DI TRINITA DEI MONTI)
Once you have finished admiring Fontana di Trevi, take a romantic walk to Piazza di Spagna, which is where Rome`s famous Spanish Steps are. Made famous by Audrey Hepburn’s movie Roman Holiday, the curving Baroque steps have also become one of the most popular Rome attractions.
Built to link the square with the twin tower church of Trinita dei Monti above, Spanish steps are a famous meeting place for tourists and locals alike. After their recent facelift, the long grand staircase was reopened to the public. Nowadays, tourist battle for the best spot in front of this Roman masterpiece.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Rome has banned tourists from sitting on the famed Spanish Steps (now subject to a fine of 250 euros).
13. PIAZZA NAVONA, ROME, ITALY
Uncover Piazza Navona, located just a short walk from the Pantheon. Built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, an oval-shaped piazza lined with luxurious cafes, palaces and shops, is undoubtedly one of the prettiest squares in Rome. Here you can find the famous Bernini Fountain of the Four Rivers with an Egyptian obelisk at its centre. Sant`Agnese in Agone church, Baroque architecture and two more fountains dominate this bustling square. With ancient treasures on its doorstep, Piazza Navona is, without a doubt, an unmissable place to see in Rome.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Discover the Stadium of Domitian, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, hidden underneath Piazza Navona. Explore Rome`s first stadium for competitive athletes which also hosted gladiator games after a fire at the famous Colosseum.
14. CAMPO DE` FIORI
If you do go shopping, be sure to pick up some fruits, vegetables, or some flowers at the market at Campo de` Fiori. Located south of Piazza Navona, the colourful market is a bustling place every morning from Monday through Saturday. A place of execution in the past, now home to market, restaurants and bars where young people hang out in the evening.
Campo de` Fiori was one of the roughest areas of medieval and Renaissance Rome. Caravaggio, the famous Italian painter, killed a young man after losing a tennis match on the square. Campo de`Fiori was also a place of execution.
15. TRAJAN`S FORUM AND MARKETS
Next, just a short walk from the Colosseum is the Trajan`s Forum. This place was once home to administrative offices, 2 libraries, Basilica, and a shopping mall with 150 shops selling everything from fruits to fresh fish. The Trajan Forum was the last Imperial Forum constructed in ancient Rome. You can see this archaeological complex for free from viewing platforms.
Trajan`s Forum built by Trajan (one of the greatest builders of Roman times) to commemorate his final conquest of Dacia (present Romania).
GOOD TO KNOW:
Those interested in Trajan`s Forum history can also visit the Museum of the Imperial Fora and the Trajan`s Markets with the remains of the first shopping mall in ancient times.
ADMISSION FEE: € 15.50 (adults), children under 6 years for free
16. TIBER RIVER
Stroll along the tranquil banks of Tiber River and enjoy spectacular views Rome`s iconic sights, including St. Peters Basilica or Castel Sant`Angelo. According to legend, twin brothers Romulus and Remus were abandoned on the Tiber River.
17. PIAZZA DEL POPOLO
If you have time, don`t miss famous the Piazza del Popolo, where you can find many incredible sights. The oval-shaped neo-classical square, identified by the almost identical baroque churches, various fountains and one of the tallest Egyptian obelisks in Rome, is one of the largest squares in the city. Although Piazza del Popolo was a location of public executions in the past, today a visit to this square is one of the best things to do in Rome, Italy.
Next to the northern gate of Rome (Porta del Popolo) is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. In fact, this Basilica might not be on every traveller`s list in Rome. But you shouldn’t overlook it. Impressively decorated Santa Maria del Popolo with paintings by Caravaggio and Chigi Chapel with mosaics designed by the painter Raphael is one of Rome`s treasures and a real jewel indeed.
According to legend, the Emperor Nero`s remains were buried under a walnut tree on the exact place where the altar of the Basilica is located.
18. THE VICTOR EMMANUEL MONUMENT
The Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo aren`t Rome`s only famous squares – you may also have heard of Piazza Venezia. Located at the heart of Rome where 4 major roads meet, Piazza Venezia with Victor Emmanuel Monument is impossible to miss. The impressive white marble monument, dedicated to the first king who united Italy, is Victor Emmanuel`s mausoleum. What“s more, this monument also offers panoramic views.
TIP: You can visit the Victor Emmanuel monument and its museum free of charge. However, if you would like to visit the roof of the memorial with a café for the breath-taking views, it will cost you 7 euros for the lift.
Trastevere, located right in the city centre on the west bank of the River Tiber, is no longer Rome`s best-kept secret, but it is still a must-see when in Rome, Italy. Wander the narrow streets of a picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere and watch the world go by in one of the authentic Roman restaurants and trattorias. Don`t forget to taste some traditional dishes like “Carbonara” or pizza at reasonable prices.
Trastevere – a charming neighbourhood with medieval lanes and bohemian atmosphere transports visitors back to the ancient Roman times.
20. FONTANA DELL`ACQUA PAOLA
Those who are after the hidden gems of Rome should visit the beautiful Fontana dell`Acqua Paola, situated at the top of the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo Hill). The 400-year-old monumental white fountain with a baroque background is well-preserved and is well worth a visit.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Janiculum Hill considered the “Eight Hill of Rome”, offers stunning views of the Eternal City. You can see all the most significant Roman monuments from here.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN ROME ITALY
- explore the 2,000 old Pantheon
- visit the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum for free on selected days (free admission, hence very crowded)
- stroll down via dei Fori Imperiali connecting the Colosseum with Piazza Venezia
- see the Roman Forum from the Fori Imperiali streets without a need to pay for an entry
- admire the Trojan Forum from the terraces for free
- toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain
- see the Spanish Steps
- see the Pope at St Peter`s Square in the Vatican (every Wednesday morning when the Pope is in Rome)
- admire St Peter`s Basilica (the main floor)
- marvel at Castel Sant`Angelo
- go running at the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium, now home to a public park
- visit the Victor Emmanuel monument, located at the Piazza Venezia, for stunning vistas
- take a break in the Villa Borghese Garden – one of the most beautiful gardens in Rome
- admire Caravaggio`s famous paintings in Santa Maria del Popolo
- explore Santa Maria Maggiore
- enjoy unspoilt views of Rome from the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo Hill)
- see not touristy 400 years old beautiful Fontana dell`Acqua Paola, located on the Janiculum Hill
- have a picnic among the orange street in the Orange garden, located on the Aventine Hill. The gardens offer vistas with St. Peter`s Basilica, the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the other historic landmarks
- visit museums that are free the first Sunday of the month
- go on a Rome free walking tour of the historic centre (a twice daily)
- stroll the narrow cobblestoned streets of Trastevere (undoubtedly one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Rome). Alternatively, have lunch in one of the traditional trattorias.
What are the most popular things to do in Rome in Italy?
- visit the Colosseum
- explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
- admire the Pantheon
- toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain
- see the Spanish Steps
- see the Pope at Peter`s Square in the Vatican
- visit the Vatican Museums
- marvel at Castel Sant`Angelo
- visit the Victor Emmanuel monument
WHAT TO DO IN ROME AT NIGHT
- enjoy the nightlife in Trastevere or Centro Storico
- take a night tour in Rome and discover the Eternal city without the herds of tourists
- admire the Trevi Fountain
- avoid the crowds and visit the Vatican Museums at night
- admire Rome after dark and have an unforgettable Tiber River Night Cruise
- take a Colosseum night tour and uncover Rome’s most iconic monument at night
- chill out at Piazza Navona and check out its beautiful palazzi and fountains
- see the Spanish Steps without the crowds
- step back in time and experience Rome, and its incredible architecture in one of the light shows in Rome (e.g. Viaggio nei Fori”, the light show at the Forum of Augustus or Julius Caesar’s FORUM)
- experience the best food in Rome on Rome Evening Food Tour
- head for a show to the stunning Teatro dell’ Opera
What should I do in Rome in 3 days?
With 3 days in Rome in Italy, you should have enough time to visit Rome`s highlights. To sum up, here are the attractions you shouldn`t miss:
- Palatine Hill
- Roman Forum
- Trevi Fountain
- The Pantheon
- Piazza Navona
- Spanish Steps
- St Mark` Square
- St Peter’s Basilica
- Vatican Museums
- Castel Sant’Angelo
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