If you're planning to visit Rome, then you've stumbled on the right blog post. With the help of my beau, The Professor (of ancient Greek & Roman art & artifacts), I've developed a series of posts about things to do, eat, and see in Rome that give you all the behind-the-scenes information you need to create a kick-ass holiday. The latest in the series includes a complete 7-day itinerary that includes all of the most famous piazzas, works of art, cathedrals, museums, and ancient sites. So, whether it's your first visit or not, be sure to check out my full plan of what to see in Rome with one week's vacation!
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the #1 Thing to Consider When Planning a Trip to Rome
When considering a trip to Rome, the first thing you want to think about is the weather and the time of year you plan to visit. My number one tip for visiting Rome is to do your research! This historic destination is home to nearly 3 million people, and an estimate 20 million plus travel to Rome each year.
Peak travel season can mean BIG crowds, so those of you who hate crowds may want to consider off-season travel. According to Lonely Planet, my #1 travel resource, the best times to visit Rome to beat the heat are April-early June and September-October. But, beware, these are also busy tourism seasons, so crowds will be large and prices will be high.
If you're brave enough to visit in August (like we did), consider following some of the tips I highlighted in my post on planning your best trip to Rome. Wearing comfortable shoes and clothing is especially important when temperatures soar over 90 degrees. If you're not interested in suffering through the dry, dusty Roman summer, take the advice of the Lonely Planet and book your trip in the Spring or Fall.
Where to Stay in Rome on Any Budget
This travel guide is designed to make the most of your time no matter what area of the city you rent accommodations. And when it comes to where to stay in Rome, the best advice I can give is to consider a vacation rental or an affordable boutique hotel in one of the historic quarters of the city, such as Trastevere, Monti, or the Centro Storico. Sure, some of these areas may be pricey, but the convenient location will be well worth the cost. But if you're keen to save a few bucks, be sure to shop around for low-cost apartment rentals or hostels!
How to Use this Rome Travel Guide?
Because I've already listed the top attractions in Rome for first-time visitors in a previous post, I won't bother listing them here. Just know that I've included them in the complete itinerary below based on location. This complete list of what to see in Rome is grouped by location into convenient one-day outings so you can pick and choose depending on how long you'll be in the city.
For those of you planning to spend only one or two days in Rome (maybe as part of a larger Italian vacation), consider hitting the highlights in The Professor's Rome Walking Tour, a culture-lovers guide to the city. Below you'll find everything you need to spend a glorious 7 days in Rome!
What to See in Rome: Day 1
Begin your Roman Holiday in the heart of it all: Centro Storico. A fabulous place to aimlessly wander, you've no need for a strict itinerary here. There are plenty of sights to see along the way that require no reservation, no ticket, and little cash.
Weary from your long flight, start your excursion at Caffe D'Oro, where you get your first taste of Italian coffee. Be sure to follow the strict rules of engagement when ordering and drinking your coffee.
Next, head outside the cafe to the Pantheon, one of the crown jewels of Rome. Built in the early 2nd century CE, this historic space has been used as a place of worship for thousands of years. For now, there's no need to buy tickets or line up; entrance is free and open to the public.
While you're in the area, meander over to the Obelisco della Minerva, one of the eight famous obelisks of Rome. The obelisks are strategically placed throughout the city to help religious pilgrims navigate the historic city during their pilgrimage.
Now you're in front of St. Maria Sopra Minerva, a Gothic church that's home to a Michelangelo sculpture and Bernini's elephant obelisk. The church takes its name from the fact that it's built atop the ancient Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva.
Check out the shadow cast by the Dome of the Pantheon!
Now that you're feeling hungry, head west toward Piazza Navona. Grab a table at any of the cafes that line the square and settle into a touristy meal with excellent people watching. As the sun sets, admire the exquisite craftsmanship of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers.
Head back to the hotel after finding an aperitif. You'll need your rest for the coming days.
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What to See in Rome: Day 2
Well-rested and ready for a full day of sightseeing, you'll venture into the heart of ancient Rome. Your first stop will be the Forum Romanum, the enormous expanse of ancient temples and civic buildings. Once the seat of Roman politics, the Forum is now one of the most visited ancient sites in the world.
For those who truly want the inside scoop, consider the Context Travel Rome Antica Tour. All their tours are lead by a qualified archaeologist or art historian. Learn while you explore! Bonus!!
After touring the grounds of the Forum, head up to the Palatine Hill, the former home of imperial palaces occupied by Roman emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian. Overlooking both the Forum and the Circus Maximus, the Palatine Hill (from which we get the word palace!) was ideally situated to house the imperial palaces. Your entry ticket to the Forum includes the Palatine Hill, as well as your two stops on tomorrow's excursion. Hang on to your proof of purchase.
If you've plenty of energy and time, visit the Capitoline Museum. But don't stress too much, you'll have plenty of time to do that tomorrow if your tired feet need a break!
Dusty and tired, return to your hotel for a brief rest and a bite to eat. As the late afternoon approaches, head across the Tiber to Trastevere. Here you'll spend the rest of the day drifting through alleys and cobbled streets before settling into dinner at Ai Marmi, a locals-only pizzeria famous for its marble-topped tables. Spend the rest of the night in search of more wine in the vibrant streets of Trastevere. But remember, you've got an early morning.
What to See in Rome: Day 3
Up bright and early, you line up to enter the Colosseum along with hundreds of other spectators. Your entrance is covered by the Forum ticket, so be sure to have it handy. Luckily, Context Travel also offers a Colosseum Tour, so you're sure to get all the dirt on this once magnificent, yet scary place.
Once you spend time exploring the nooks and crannies of the ancient house of horrors, head over to the Arch of Constantine. While you can't enter the arch, take a few minutes to admire the elegant decorations and enormity of the arch. The arch commemorates Constantine's victory over his rival Maxentius in 312 CE for the Imperial throne, a position he used to legalize Christianity.
Next, head up the hill to the Capitoline Museums, where you'll spend the rest of your morning surrounded by some of the most important works of ancient Roman art. The museum consists of two very large buildings, each filled with masterpieces of the ancient world. Why not let a Context Travel guide show you around the Capitoline Museums for a one-on-one learning experience?
Once you're finished at the museum, walk south along Via dei Fori Imperiali. Approaching the Colosseum evokes the splendor of the ancient world, you'll pass some of the most important temples and buildings of ancient Rome. Stay south of the Colosseum to catch the Ludus Magnus, where gladiatorial training took place.
Walk just a few more blocks to Made in Sud, a no-frills pizza counter featuring specialties of southern Italy. Once you've had your fill, take the short walk to Basilica di San Clemente for an archaeological adventure. You can travel through time by descending to the level of the fourth-century church, and then again to the first century before Christian worship happened here. Take your time exploring the multi-level structure, including the interior which is filled with lovely mosaics.
Next, head further east on via di S. Giovanni in Laterano until you reach the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Marvel in the size and opulence of this grand basilica, which serves as the cathedral of Rome's bishop, the Pope. Don't miss the holy doors of Constantine (the original bronze doors from the Senate House in the Forum!) which tower over visitors in the main entrance to the cathedral. Outside, you'll find yet another Egyptian obelisk as well as the Lateran palace.
Your evening ends in San Lorenzo, home of the university of Rome and an amazing seafood restaurant unknown to many. From St John Lateran, da Franco ar Vicoletto is either a 25-minute walk or a quick subway ride/walk (San Giovanni stop to Vittorio Emanuele). Just make sure you arrive by 8pm, as the place starts to fill up quickly when the local crowd gets hungry.
What to See in Rome: Day 4
While it may be a day full of walking, Day 4 is definitely one of the more leisurely days. You'll begin again in the heart of the city, this time paying homage to the Roman gods and the gods of Hollywood cinema. Near the Tiber River, you'll find Bocca della Verita (the "mouth of truth"), which was made famous by the Audrey Hepburn film, Roman Holiday. Legend has it that any liar risks loss of limb by sticking their hand in the mouth of truth.
The marble monument is located on the wall of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, which sits next to the ancient cattle market. Have your 2 euro ready if you want a selfie with the famous marble face. While you're there, marvel at the beautiful medieval pavement of the church, one of the finest in Rome -- and made from ancient monuments.
Next, walk along Via dei Cerchi alongside the Circus Maximus. The now public park was once home to ancient Rome's famous chariot races. Traces of the arena exist today. On the left is the Palatine Hill, where you'll see traces of temples and palaces, like that of Septimius Severus.
A short 15-minute walk brings you to the Baths of Caracalla, the second largest Roman bathing complex ever built. The remains of the complex are visually striking, rendering some speechless at the sheer size of the buildings and facilities. Magnificent operas happen here in the summer.
From the Baths of Caracalla, you'll continue onto the Via Appia or Appian Way. This ancient highway was the said to have been the primary route in and out of Rome. This is also the site of many catacombs, such as the Catacombs of San Sebastian. You'll be able to get a small bite to eat there, or, better yet, bring a picnic to have along the way.
Once again, if you're looking to truly immerse yourself in the ancient culture of Rome, why not purchase a guided Context Travel tour that includes the Appian Way and the Baths of Caracalla? More adventurous folks can rent a bike to trek further along the Via Appia. Others can catch the 118 bus returning to the Baths of Caracalla or Colosseum.
You've worked hard, so why not enjoy a relaxing evening near your hotel and enjoy a nice glass of wine over dinner.
What to See in Rome: Day 5
Begin your day at the Ara Pacis, the ancient Altar of Augustan peace. Designate an hour or so to fully experience the altar. You'll want plenty of time to watch the instructional video before admiring the fragments of the altar. Those precious artifacts have been carefully preserved and restored after decades of archaeological excavations throughout the city. When you're done, walk around the Mausoleum of Augustus but don't linger here long. You've got a full day ahead.
Walk along the via di Ripetta until you reach the Piazza del Popolo. Explore the area and take in the views of the Trident from the piazza. From the famous piazza, head east along the Pincio Promenade, appreciating the picture-perfect gardens and ornamental statues. Head toward the Villa Borghese where you'll check in at least 30 minutes prior to your timed entry (make a reservation!) to the Galleria Borghese, the prized art collection of the Borghese family.
If you have time to kill, pony up for a separate ticket to enter the Borghese gardens while you wait for your turn at the museum. Of all the places to consider a guided tour, the Galleria Borghese is by far one to keep in mind. Getting behind the scenes information about some of the most important works of Italian art is priceless!
When you've finished at the Borghese, walk south through the park where you'll pass the Porta Pinciana, a third-century passageway, as you enter the city. Make your way to the Spanish Steps (approx 25-minute walk), where you can rest your weary soles with the rest of the tourists before shopping along Via del Corso, Via dei Condotti, or Via del Babuino.
Slowly make your way south toward the Trevi Fountain, where you'll toss your coins and make a wish. Find delicious artisanal gelato nearby at Il Gelato di San Crispino. Settle into for dinner at any local trattoria that suits your fancy.
Don't Miss My Other Rome Guides!
What to See in Rome: Day 6
No Rome itinerary is complete without a visit to the Vatican museums, so I'll oblige you with a stop at this historic complex. Don't get me wrong, the Vatican is home to some of the most spectacular pieces of Italian art in the world. But therein lies the problem. Be prepared for crowds.
Thousands of people visit Vatican city every day. While it is, for the most part, orderly, any experience at the Vatican is likely to make you feel as though you're part-sheep. Line up as early as possible to avoid the giant queues that form to enter the museum.
Want to know my least favorite attraction in #Rome? Hands down it has to be #TheVatican. I've never felt more like cattle than I did there. Sure, the art is amazing, but visitors are herded through so quickly that you don't really get a chance to truly appreciate the amazing works. Have you ever experienced feeling like this? What's your least favorite tourist attraction? Let me hear ya in the comments!⠀ .⠀ .⠀ . #Roma #igerslazio #ig_roma #ig_italia c #italy_vacations #visitrome #loves_roma #lovetheworld #feelfreefeed #makemoments #liveunscripted #makemomentshappen #forahappymoment #flashesofdelight #visualoflife #liveauthentic #symmetrykillers #symmetricalmonsters #travelforfun #travelforlife #wannabetraveler #urbangrammers #PTOwarrior
Speaking of St. Peter's Basilica, you'll need a separate queue (but no ticket) to access the magnificent cathedral, as your Vatican Museum entrance does not get you access to St. Peters (unless you're on a guided tour).
If you're Catholic or just curious about religion in general, opt to spend an hour or so exploring St. Peter's. The main level features several chapels in addition to the main nave, all of which are impressive in their own right. With architectural contributions by some of Italy's finest architects (Bernini, Michaelangelo, and Bramante), the interior of the church is ornately decorated with rich woods, fine marble, and gilded altars.
Known as the final resting place of Saint Peter, this world-renowned Renaissance cathedral holds mysteries beyond first impressions. Head downstairs to dive deeper into Rome's rich Catholic heritage. Be aware that if you want a tour of the excavations, you need a separate reservation for a special tour led only by Vatican staff.
Once you've had your fill of the famous crowds of Vatican City, head back into Trastevere to find lunch and start toward your next destination. Make sure you've worn your walking shoes; if not, you may want to find a bus or taxi to take you up to the Janiculum, the highest of the hills for which Rome is famous.
Stroll (or ride) leisurely through the residential neighborhoods and gardens that line the Passeggiata del Gianicolo on your way to the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola which provides unparalleled views of the city below.
The climb to the fountain is steep and not easy for those who are mobility-impaired, so please plan accordingly. Once there, you'll have more to see in the nearby Villa Doria Pamphili. This large garden park features many chapels and monuments and was once home to an ancient nobleman. Find dinner back in Trastevere, or wherever your feet take you.
What to See in Rome: Day 7
Provided that you're not too tired, your last day in Rome should be filled with lots of shopping. If it happens to be Sunday, wake early and head to Porta Portese market, the famous Italian flea market held every Sunday morning (except in August). Vintage clothing, home goods, jewelry, and more can be found at this historic Trastevere shopping experience. Just be sure to guard your bag/belongings; pickpockets are busy in the market!
From there, head to Piazza Campo de' Fiori to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Rome at the Campo de' Fiori market. Grab breakfast on the go from any one of the stalls along the way as you head to Monti, the premier shopping district for vintage and artisan goods.
You'll find tons of boutiques along the inner corridors (via dei Serpenti and via dell'Angeletto) of this unique Roman neighborhood. If you're lucky enough to be visiting when Mercato Monti is open, enjoy this uniquely Roman urban market featuring only local artists and vendors. If you're in the market for vintage jewelry, make sure you stop by my favorite shopping spot in Rome!
When you've had your fill of shopping, head northeast along Via dei Fori Imperiali, where you'll walk in the footsteps of emperors and kings past Trajan's Market, the Roman Forum, and a myriad of other ancient Roman temples and complexes. Turn around for an exceptional view of the Colosseum in the distance, being careful not to get hit by passing motorists as you try to get the perfect Instagram shot. Turn the corner for a stunning, up-close-and-personal look at the monument to the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and the accompanying Altare della Patria, or Altar of the Fatherland, that burns within the monument in honor of fallen soldiers.
When you've captured all the photos you wish to take of this bustling complex, walk further into the city center and get lost in the cobblestoned streets, random but beautiful cathedrals, and inviting street cafes. This, after all, is Rome.
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Until next time my friend,