Some fall head over heels in love with Rome, while others find the city to be overhyped. Really you’ll have to visit Rome for yourself to make up your mind on it. I must admit that for the longest time it wasn’t on a high spot in my bucket list, but there was a shift in my heart right this year, and so I took great pleasure in surprising my mom with a surprise birthday trip to the ancient city of Rome! Based on my own experiences, I’d love to share with you the best things to do in Rome, in my opinion, including a couple of restaurant recommendations.
*PS: I do have some affiliate links included in the post. They’re there to aid you with your booking process if you choose to do so. Clicking them comes at no additional cost to you, but I may get a small commission of any purchase you choose to make through them.*
Indulge in pasta at That’s Amore
Address: Via in Arcione, 115, 00187 Roma
Opening hours: daily 8:00 ~ 0:00
Menu & more: https://www.thats-amore.it/
The very first stop on our trip to Rome once we got off the train station was to walk over to That’s Amore for lunch. It can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to find restaurants in Rome open for lunch before 12pm but That’s Amore is, giving you all the more reason to visit! Their menu is diverse and with affordable pricing, and their interior is charming and cozy. And their pasta amatriciana? Out of this world delicious! My mom remained excited over this place for several days, which is really all the proof you need to know it’s spectacular – she’s not exactly known for getting easily excited over anything and, hell, after trying out pasta carbonara in another place she even dared to say she prefers the one she makes at home!
Fight the crowds for the best viewing spot of the Trevi Fountain
Address: Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma
Trevi Fountain is such an iconic spot it likely does not need any additional introductions by me. Just know that it is even more impressive in person than you might have seen from the pictures. It’s also every bit as crowded, even late in the evening on a mid-November weekday, as they always warn you it is. So if you can get out of bed at the crack of dawn just to get to see Trevi without as big of a crowd, then I encourage you to do just that.
Marvel at Sant’Angelo Castle
Address: Lungotevere Castello, 00193 Roma
Opening hours: daily 9:00~19:30
Entrance fee: 15€ (7€ for EU citizens between the ages 17-24)
We didn’t manage to visit this castle indoors (and there are some conflicting opinions on whether it’s worth it, even) but we did walk past it on our way to The Vatican, and it was a truly impressive sight. Even if you don’t go all the way in, I do recommend you’d at least go close enough to see it with your own eyes.
Check Out the Vatican Museums
Address: Vatican Boulevard, 00165 Vatican City
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9:00~18:00 (final admission at 16:00)
Entrance fee: starts at 17€
You can’t go to Rome and not check out the Vatican Museums! They hold some of the most important art in the world, not to mention how famous Sistine Chapel is. Since it’s often bound to get crowded, it’s recommended you buy a ticket online before your visit (which comes with a 4€ reservation fee). We bought out pass the line tickets from Get Your Guide, for example. However, on the day we went, a Tuesday at 3pm in mid-November, there were actually no queues whatsoever!
Skip the Line for St. Peter’s Basilica
Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Vatican City
Opening hours: daily 7:00~19:00
Entrance fee: starting from 0€
This iconic and massive church is another one you can’t skip out on seeing while in Rome! It’s absolutely gorgeous inside and also has the option for some amazing views (against additional payment) from its dome. Technically you can see the church for free, but you may wind up standing in the queue for hours to do so, and if you happen to get into the queue too late in the day you may not get to enter at all. That’s why I’m not even one bit regretful of the fact I paid for a ticket from Get Your Guide to skip the humongous line and instead immediately enter the church, with hours to spare for looking around.
Find your favorite gelato flavor
Because I was busy sampling all the different kinds of wonderful desserts the Italians are known to make, I only actually got to try gelato exactly once on this trip. However, I encourage you to not be like me and instead try out several of the gelato shops, which are seemingly in every corner of every neighborhood, to find the best gelato in Rome. And then tell me where that is so I can go and correct my wrong next time I’m in town!
Walk the Spanish Steps
Address: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma
Maybe it’s because I didn’t do my due diligence with the accommodation I chose for us (which otherwise was amazing, affordable and had the kindest host), but I found getting to places on public transportation from there to be a bit of a hot mess. Actually, no, I’m sorry, but the transportation in Rome really can be a bit of a mess, starting from getting your hands on a damn bus card. Anywho, this wandering around accidentally led us right to the foot of the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna which worked out for us pretty great. I’d recommend to see them in both daylight and after sunrise, just to see how different their atmosphere gets.
Eat pizza until your belly pops
I mean, do I even need to elaborate? Where it was easy to limit gelato to just one occasion, pizza, my one true love in life, made it a lot harder to sample other types of food while in Rome (though I tried my best!). Italy is the place to go for the best pizza in the world (Naples specifically) so you’ll be in for quite the culinary treat by eating way too much pizza while in Rome.
Take a Day Trip to Pompeii
Pompeii is actually surprisingly close to Rome, and thanks to a fairly decent train network in Italy, it’s easy to get to and definitely possible to explore in a day. It’s also one of Italy’s most intriguing spots, and I’ve already written a quick guide for how to visit!
Try out all the other amazing Italian dishes
When in Rome, am I right? So besides just pizza and spaghetti and the desserts, there are actually a lot of delicious dishes to come out of Italy. A lot of them are types of pasta, but they’ve got other incredible things that are worth looking into. Here is a list of some dishes that Rome specializes in and you should probably try.
Tour the Colosseum
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma
Opening hours: daily 8:30~16:30/17:00/17:30/18:30/19:00/19:15 (depending on the month)
Entrance fee: starting from 16€
Rome truly is equipped with some of the most magnificent and iconic landmarks and sights to see in the whole world! Colosseum is more impressive when seen from the outside, but it’s most certainly worth it to tour it. As far as I know, you now need to have reserved a ticket ahead of time, preferably for a specific time slot, in order to visit, because that’s how insanely crowded it will get. We had a lovely and informative time guiding ourselves through the site, though it was incredibly busy when we went. On Get Your Guide you can find tickets for Colosseum, with or without a guide, and even some for night time!
Don’t Forget about Roman Forum
Address: Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6, 00186 Roma
Opening hours: daily 8:30~19:00
Entrance fee: starting from 12€
Our ticket to Colosseum also included entrance to Roman Forum, which is right across the street, but we would have visited otherwise as well. The link I’ve included above promotes e-tickets that’ll help you get in quicker and the ticket we had didn’t qualify for that, so we just had to wait in line like normal folks, though with guaranteed entry. The queue around noon in November was so awfully long, actually, that we decided to go have lunch first. And when we returned in the afternoon, it was once again just us and some group tours, with no queues to stand in! We never walked all the way to the very center of Roman Forum, we were pretty out of energy by then, but I really liked the atmosphere and sights of every part we did see of this area, especially Palpatine Hill.
Have drinks or food in the eateries by Colosseum
To make mother’s (and my own) visit to Rome truly special, I had to get us a seat in at least one restaurant with great views. Well, I didn’t quite succeed, sadly, though the drinks we ended up having in another restaurant before our lunch at the one right next to it did give us some nice views of Colosseum while we enjoyed alcohol before we’d even had lunch to eat. Both restaurants seemed charming and like the quality of their food’s great, so I do recommend trying them out whether you get the best seat in the house or not!
Spend an evening in Madre Roma
Address: Largo Angelicum 1A, 00184 Roma
Opening hours: daily 12:30~15:00, 18:30~01:00
Located within walking distance from Colosseum is this bar, cafe, pizzeria and restaurant, which is perfect for ending your evening in. It’s charming, it’s got great drinks and desserts (although I sadly can’t vouch for anything else with certainty), and it’s totally Instagrammable! It’ll also get super busy, so you might have to sit in the lobby if you haven’t made a reservation and aren’t eating.
Discover the Trastevere neighborhood
Neighbor to Vatican city, the Trastevere neighborhood has become incredibly popular especially among travelers in the past couple of years. It can be charmingly quiet sometimes, but at the same time holds several delicious eateries, cafes and bars within its borders, and is known to get busy especially in the summertime. I have a whole post dedicated to Trastevere if you want to explore this neighborhood fully!
Consume copious amounts of wine
I’m not going to lie, we basically lived off of wine from morning to night whilst in Rome. And why not? The wine in Italy in general is incredible! It was also so mind blowingly cheap in the grocery stores (compared to Finland) that we lugged back home as many bottles as we could fit into our luggage.
Get your morning coffee fix from Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè
Address: Piazza di S. Eustachio, 82, 00186 Roma
Opening hours: daily 7:30~01:00
Wedged between Piazza Navona and Pantheon is this cafe, which is among one of Rome’s most iconic and best rated cafes. You can either get your morning coffee (and pastry) there the local style, aka standing up by the counter, or you can sit on one of the tables outdoors – most of the year the weather in Rome is pleasant enough to do just this!
Admire the charming Piazza Navona
Address: Piazza Navona, 00186 Roma
Last but not least, Piazza Navona is one of the many plazas you can find in Rome. It doesn’t get mentioned as often as Piazza di Spagna but it’s nearly equally as impressive. The crowds find Piazza Navona from early morning onward so you might have a tough luck getting the place all to yourself, and yet it seems far more peaceful and chill than many other touristy spots in Rome.
So there you have some excellent things to do in Rome, all of which are suggestions based on my actual personal experiences! Now that I’ve visited Rome, I’m actually no longer sure why I was never initially interested in the city, because it’s quickly turned into one of my absolute favorites in the world and I can’t wait to get to go back!