For starters the Italian capital is brimming with more history than arguably anywhere else in the world. There's the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps... the list goes on.
Since I'd been a few times and was traveling with a friend who was a first time visitor, I found myself asking "What does she have to see in a few short days?" There is so much I wanted to show her, but we narrowed it down to the absolute musts. So regardless of how long you spend in the Eternal City, be sure you check these things off your list of what to do in Rome.
If you're not familiar with the Trevi Fountain, you've likely been living on another planet. This Baroque masterpiece has been featured in countless films and other forms of media. Legend has it that if you turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder (got all that?) you will certainly return to Rome (I personally believe this whole-heartedly, as it's worked every time for me thus far).
I'd recommend a few things in particular about the Trevi Fountain. For starters, see it both during the day and after dark if you can-- both are so unique and magical experiences. For your daytime visit, I'd recommend rising early with the sun and beating all the tourists (these particular photos were taken at 8am on the October morning when we visited). You've likely seen photos others have taken when it's crawling with other people. And while it's always magical to see, I'd argue it's especially true when you're not dodging selfie-sticks. Having some peace and quiet to actually marvel at the fountain made it my most memorable visit yet.
The most iconic landmark in Rome (and arguably, one of the most in all of Europe) you simply can't visit Rome without seeing the Colosseum. The first time I ever went, it was the first place I wanted to see (I even learned how to ask my cab driver in Italian so we could drive by straight from the airport). Similar to my sentiments about the Trevi Fountain, be sure you see it both during the day and at night (again- both are magical!)
I find myself being a bit sentimental about the Colosseum. I'll never forget the way my heart pitter-pattered when I saw it for the first time after looking at pictures for so many years. It was a definite turning point where I really began to grasp how much I love to travel (seeing it in person was quite literally a dream come true). I think it's easy as a traveler to turn your nose up a bit to such popular attractions that everyone sees. We get annoyed by the aggressive vendors selling tacky souvenirs or the oblivious tourist that almost takes our head off with his selfie stick. But similar to my statement about the Trevi Fountain, if you avoid peak hours and find a place where you can sit and properly marvel at it, you'll understand why it's received so much hype. The Colosseum is older than most things in the world. It's where gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, animal hunts, executions and dramas based on Classical mythology took place. It was used for housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine. SO much history has happened in this single place. When you stop to think about everything that happened here: all the people who have seen it, all the life lived + lost-- it's truly incredible. And in a cheesy, cliché fashion it makes you realize how connected the world is. All it takes is a single landmark like this to bring people from every corner of the globe together-- all wanting to behold the same masterpiece. I don't think I'll ever see the Colosseum without still feeling the same pitter-patter that my heart felt the first time.
While this certainly isn't the most conventional tourist destination, it's definitely one of the most moving (it's where the Bible references when the apostles Peter and Paul were imprisoned). While there is no archaeological evidence, many believe it's where Paul was detained before he was executed at the Aquas Salvias and Peter before being executed on Vatican Hill. Paul mentions being imprisoned many times in his letters (like Philippians 1:13: "It has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.") According to the legend, Peter caused a spring to miraculously well up in the prison so he could baptize the other prisoners (the small altar in the lower room is topped with a relic of him doing so). You can also see the column to which Peter and Paul were tied when they converted their guards to Christianity. Being in the same room where so many powerful things from the Bible happened was both powerful and sobering. I'd argue it's one of the coolest things I've ever done while traveling.
While I knew I wanted to show my friend so much, I was starting to get worried about covering so much in so little time (and that was after we walked 12 miles in one day!) But luckily we found an alternative that was both a solution to our sightseeing and a first for me: seeing Rome by Vespa thanks to my friends at Scooteroma! They specialize in unique and exhilarating guided tours while zipping through traffic like a local. Our guides picked us up from our flat and we zoomed straight to the Colosseum to start the tour with the most iconic landmark in Rome (perfect place for a photo opp!)
After that, we saw Circo Massimo (an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium) before driving along the ancient Roman road that coined the phrase "All roads lead to Rome." (Fun fact: this arch above me is an ancient Roman aqueduct). Then from there, we went to the Roman baths and the Pyramid of Cestius (which is older than the Colosseum!)
It was so fun learning about so many sights in Rome I'd never seen before from our guides (who were locals and knew loads of information). We got to experience an authentic café that was bustling with locals (which I mentioned in yesterday's post on where to eat). We saw an incredible view of the city from a vantage point at Trastevere. We saw so many corners of the city that I didn't even know existed. It was hands down the coolest experience that let you feel like a tourist and a local all at the same time. I seriously can't recommend Scooteroma enough. Do yourself a favor and book it when visiting Rome!
If you stay at any of the accommodations that I recommended, you're a short walk from Campo de' Fiori: a thriving piazza and one of my favorite spots in Rome. If you go during the day, you'll see it as a celebrated and picturesque market - bustling with fruit and vegetable stands, gorgeous flowers and wonderful souvenirs. But as the sun sets and the markets pack up, it quickly turns into a hub for nightlife (not to mention an amazing place to sit outside for dinner and people watch). No matter when you visit, you'll love the atmosphere that accompanies Campo de' Fiori.
Some other musts?
THE VATICAN of course! If you're a fan of art (and honestly, even if you're not) you simply must see the Sistine Chapel (not to mention countless of other masterpieces!) If you're in Rome on a Sunday, check to see if mass is happening at St. Peter's Basilica. I got to go hear him speak on my last day and it was so cool to witness (not only him speaking, but the massive crowds it attracted!)
SPANISH STEPS can be incredibly crowded from tourists (especially given the proximity to tourists shopping along Via del Corso or Via della Fontanella di Borghese) but worth a visit, nonetheless. Climb to the top at sunset for an incredible view of the city (although fun fact: you're not allowed to drink wine openly here. Learned this the hard way).
ROMAN FORUM is impossible to miss as you make your way to the Colosseum (you walk right past it). If you have time and if it's of interest to you, it's worth taking a proper tour
PIAZZA NOVANA was also mentioned in my where to stay and where to eat posts, but this incredible piazza is dripping with artwork and beautiful statues + fountains. It also has lots of restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere.
VITTORIANO or also known as Altare della Patria is an incredible structure at the end of Via del Corso as you make your way toward the Roman Forum and Colosseum. It literally brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw it because it was so incredible. Be sure to stop and appreciate it as you pass by.
The other thing I will note is that there are a few essentials you should pack. The most important? Proper walking shoes! I logged 12 miles some of the days we were there, and I can't imagine having done that in any other shoe besides a trainer (I also love these). For evenings (or shorter stints of walking) I made sure to wear a comfortable flat like these boots (similar here). I loved having a couple leather jacket options (it's quite the look in Rome!) like this cream draped look and this black biker jacket. You also cant go wrong with a basic striped shirt, a classic red lip and some Italian sunnies to complete the look. Oh, and my general requirement for Europe of course: scarves for light layering!
*HEADS UP: There is a flash sale happening on American Airlines right now (but will probably end sometime 2/1/17 so act fast!) that's offering roundtrip flights to FCO (Rome) out of ATL or JFK if you book March through early June (as low as $352!) To find the deal, I'd use Skyscanner, then enter your origin as ATL or JFK and your destination as FCO, and set your date range as the whole month (anytime between March and June). Good luck!*
I'm certain there are things I'm forgetting, but the beautiful truth is that you simply can't go wrong in Rome. No matter what you do, my biggest piece of advice is to marvel at everything. Stop and appreciate every ruin, every bit of history, every taste of delicious cuisine, every sip of wine-- just notice everything. Don't rush through it or fail to appreciate just how magical all of it is. You'll be doing yourself a terrible disservice if you do.
What else have you done in Rome that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments below!
That's a wrap for all things Rome! (On this trip anyway) Stay tuned for some Valentine's love heading to the blog tomorrow. In the meantime, have a great Wednesday!