Get a sense of the beauty and buzzing life of Rome at Piazza Navona, then stroll down cobblestone streets that link marketplaces and ancient landmarks. Don’t miss the ancient gladiatorial arena, the Colosseum. You should also cross over the Tiber to see the wonders of the Vatican, such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s famous frescos.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Rome, since the city brims with historical and architectural wonders. Few other cities have been able to build around ancient ruins and evocative palaces as successfully as Rome, and you’ll find living history pretty much wherever you look. One day isn’t enough to cover it all, but I’ve selected some of the top Rome sights and attractions for you to check out first.
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Start the day at Piazza Navona
Get a first taste of Rome in its most beautiful square – Piazza Navona is central Rome’s most charming square. The piazza is buzzing with action day and night with street artists and vendors amongst magnificent Baroque architecture. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651, serves as the piazza’s iconic centrepiece, while the Church of Sant’Agnese is the piazza’s distinct backdrop.
Meals here are on the pricier side, but can be a great experience, given the iconic landmark views. You can reach the piazza around 200 metres’ walk west from the Pantheon. Location: Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy Open: 24 hours
Explore the streets around Trevi Fountain
The hub of the Quirinale district features several amazing landmarks. Trevi Fountain is one of the world’s most gorgeous fountains, almost 50 metres across and heavily adorned with sculptures of Roman gods, tritons and horses. Before traditionally tossing in your coins for luck or taking selfies with the magnificent Palazzo Poli palace in the background, stroll along its narrow streets, which are some of Rome’s quaintest.
Some of these streets are lined with great dining spots and gelaterias. Via di San Vincenzo and Via della Dataria leads you to the Quirinal Palace, as well as the Piazza del Quirinale with its obelisk and fountain of Castor and Pollux. Location: Piazza di Trevi, Rome, Italy
Shop at Campo de’ Fiori Market
Rome’s vibrant market, Campo de’ Fiori (Field of Flowers) is one of Rome’s great marketplaces, around a 5-minute walk from Piazza Novana along Via de’ Baullari. The bustling streets around it are lined with a diverse array of shops, cafes and bakeries. Enter the piazza and you’ll be surrounded by neo-classical architecture.
Sellers set up tents throughout the square, with the statue of Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno looming in the centre. There are all sorts of souvenirs at great bargains, but most tenants sell fresh produce. Fruit stalls offer readily cut fruits; a classic sightseeing snack. Location: Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, Rome, Italy Open: Monday–Saturday from 7 am to 2 pm
Visit The famous Pantheon of rome
Climb up to the colonnade for a sweeping cityscape. The Pantheon is one of Ancient Rome’s most famous icons, which remains a functional chapel today. This granite-domed temple houses the tombs of among Italy’s most important figures, including High Renaissance painter, Raphael. Check out the Fontana del Pantheon marble fountain with its six-metre towering obelisk in Piazza della Rotonda up front.
The piazza is a great place to hang out, with street music filling the air regularly. Beware of pickpockets, though. It’s around a 10-minute walk from Campo de’Fiori via the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Location: Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, Italy Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm Phone: +39 06 6830 0230
Try Rome’s artisanal gelato
Refresh with something cool and sweet! Don’t leave Rome without trying a good scoop of artisanal Italian gelato. Rome’s gelaterias each compete against each other by creating new flavours and recipes. They’re a big hit during hot summer days. Creative blends and flavours range from honey, exotic tropical fruits, rose petals, and even Italian wines.
Gelaterias are scattered throughout the city and around famous landmarks such as the Trevi Fountain. Some of Rome’s notable gelaterias include Il Dolce Sorriso, Fatamorgana, dell’Angeletto, San Lorenzo and Grom, which mostly have different branches throughout the city. Location: Via Torcegno, 41, Rome, Italy Open: Il Dolce Sorriso is open daily from 7 am to 10.30 pm Phone: +39 03 2803 09229
Wander through Ancient Rome’s majestic ruins
Seeing magnificent Roman landmarks and getting a sense of their scale and splendour is high on the list of things to do in Rome. The Roman Forum features 10 acres filled with basilicas with gigantic columns, beautiful sculpture gardens and the impressive Temple of Saturn. The Colosseum is around 10 minutes’ walk from here, and sightseeing by Segway is an interesting alternative.
Related: Read more about the Colosseum
At the Colosseum, you can opt for guided tours that’ll take you through its vast arena, and explore the trapdoors and passages that transported props and wild beasts into the lethal battlegrounds. Skip the long queues with a joint ticket (around €12) at Palatine Hill that includes access to the forum. If your main goal is to experience the city’s unique atmosphere, I would recommend that you choose a hotel near the Roman Forum. Location: Via della Salara Vecchia, Rome, Italy Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm
Enjoy a Roman pizza
Rome’s speciality treat. Roman Pizza comes in a wide variety, and dough recipes vary from one pizzeria in the city to another. But one feature that remains the same is the doughs are olive oil-infused, which makes it crusty and full of flavour.
Among the great spots to try Roman pizzas is Campo de’ Fiori, with well-known names such as Forno Campo de’ Fiori and Antico Forno Roscioli. Testaccio, Rome’s dining and nightlife neighbourhood, has classic and upscale pizzerias such as Da Remo, with its wood-fired specials.
Admire Renaissance masterpieces and receive a blessing from the Pope
The Vatican Museums features over 50 galleries housing significant works by the likes of Da Vinci, Raphael, Bellini, Titian, and Caravaggio. At the end of your tour, enjoy an impressive walk down the famous Bramante ‘double helix’ staircase inside Pio Clementino Museum.
Last Sundays of the month is usually free access – including to the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s most beautiful 16th century ceiling frescos, particularly The Creation of Adam. St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) is right next door, with its imposing dome and towering columns topped by 13 statues of Jesus and the apostles. Come on a Wednesday to hear blessings from the Pope during the Papal Audiences (tickets are required but at no cost).
Location: Citta del Vaticano 1, Vatican City, Rome, Italy Open: Monday–Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm (final entry 6 pm), Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm (final entry 8 pm) St Peter’s Basilica: April-September, daily from 7 am to 7 pm. October-March, daily from 7 am to 6 pm. Phone: +39 06 6988 4676
Become a gladiator for an hour in Rome
Train at Rome’s gladiator school. The Gladiator School of Rome is a one-of-a-kind school, aptly near the Colosseum, where you can enrol for a two-hour “gladiatorial boot camp”. As a student, you travel back in time and learn the ancient art of sword fighting. You’ll be re-enacting life in Ancient Rome, all in traditional costumes with belts, tunics, sword and all.
It’s a unique way to learn about Ancient Roman history, and accepts adults and kids. Scheduled fight shows feature members of the overseeing Roman History Group showing how it’s done. Location: Via Appia Antica, 18, Rome, Italy Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 7 pm Phone: +39 06 5160 7951
Sip rooftop cocktails at Les Etoiles
Enjoy an aperitivo with a view from a Roman rooftop. Les Etoiles is an elegant rooftop garden terrace and lounge at the Atlante Star Hotel, around 7 minutes’ walk from St. Peter’s square. It’s where you can sink into sofas and enjoy aperitivo or sip cocktails with nibbles against one of the best all-around views of Rome – the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica looms in the near horizon behind blooming terrace flowers. A 3-course dinner with wine pairing at the restaurant downstairs costs around €70. Location: Via Giovanni Vitelleschi, 34, Rome, Italy Open: Daily from 10 am to 1 am Phone: +39 06 687 3233
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