Rome, the capital of not only Italy but in some ways of the world, boasts an endless collection of historic monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Tourists from around the world flock to soak in the magic of this ancient cosmopolitan city each year.
Rome is teeming with history and life. It’s also teeming with selfie sticks and seemingly deranged Vespa drivers.
We get it. Rome can be overwhelming. Between the crowds of sweaty tourists and busy streets, it’s easy to get flustered if you don’t have a game plan. But don’t let the hustle and bustle stop you from experiencing the best the Eternal City has to offer.
We’ll walk through our top recommendations and advice when it comes to conquering Rome, so you can gear up for the trip of a lifetime.
But first, a few logistics:
1. If you can, plan your trip during shoulder season, the months on either side of peak travel (so shoot for April-May or late September-October). Try to avoid the summer months to spare yourself the sky-high prices and blazing heat.
2. Do not step foot in Rome unless that foot is covered in a Nike or other comparable athletic shoe, because you will walk at least ten miles per day when you are there. But that’s one of the best parts about Rome — you won’t want to do anything BUT walk. There is so much to see at every turn.
3. Plan on taking the Leonardo Express train from the Fiumicino airport. The train costs 14€ and shuttles passengers straight from FCO to Termini, the main station in the heart of Rome. From there, you can hop onto the city’s refreshingly simple metro system or grab a cab outside (the white ones only!) to take you to your hotel.
4. After mapping out your itinerary, you may want to check to see if the Roma Pass is worth purchasing. Depending on which one you choose, your pass covers either one or two museum visits entirely, use of public transport, and discounted entry to several other attractions.
Where to Stay
Budget: Under $120/night
The Beehive: This quaint, homey hostel is located just around the corner from Termini Station. The staff is warm and friendly, and there are plenty of room options (dorm and private) for every price range. Grab a cappuccino and a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit from the cafe downstairs before you head out for a long day of exploring.
The Yellow: This spot embodies the definition of a “party hostel” in the best way. The Yellow is the perfect option for students or travelers looking to save money and meet new people from around the world. With a bar downstairs and a staff that will help you get connected and plan out your time in Rome, The Yellow is ideal for all those social butterflies out there (who don’t mind sleeping next to strangers, of course).
Via Del Corso Home: With prime real estate on one of Rome’s main arteries, Via Del Corso Home is just a few minutes’ walk from many major attractions. The staff is attentive, accommodating, and brings BREAKFAST IN BED each morning. The rooms are small but beautiful, and the bathroom has a full-sized rain shower in it. Enough said.
Nerva Boutique Hotel: The Nerva Boutique Hotel is right around the corner from the Colosseum but tucked away in an adorable alleyway. This charming hotel, with its quaint and simple decor, provides a quiet retreat from the stampeding crowds in Rome’s historic center.
Splurge – $300-$500/night
The Fifteen Keys Hotel: This minimalistic and stylish property is settled in the heart of Monti, a cute neighborhood in Central Rome. The rooms are chic and romantic, and the staff is super helpful. Take advantage of the complimentary loaner bikes or the peaceful courtyard terrace.
The Inn at the Roman Forum: The Inn at the Roman Forum is a luxury boutique hotel right around the corner from the Colosseum and the Forum. Each room has high-beamed ceilings and modern decor. Guests can choose to have breakfast on the rooftop, and the service is impeccable. Stay here for a five-star experience in the heart of Roma.
What to Do
Take a cooking class: If you have a couple of extra days in Rome, spend an afternoon in Chef Andrea Consoli’s kitchen. Work with your team to prepare an authentic five-course Roman meal and learn about Italian cooking from the best of the best. Why settle for just eating pasta at every meal when you can learn how to make your own from scratch?
Wander through Trastevere: You will undoubtedly get lost walking through the perfectly charming neighborhood of Trastevere, but we promise that you will not be mad about it. Taxi drivers won’t even bother entering the tiny streets and will brusquely drop you off on the main road nearby. Wander the colorful, cobblestone alleyways and wonder why you have not yet looked up apartment prices in this adorable area.
Stroll down Via Vittorio Veneto: Start your trek down this glamorous and renowned street at Piazza Barberini. Check out the over-the-top Hotel Excelsior and the rooftop bar at the Hotel Eden. Conclude your tour down this famous walkway at the Villa Borghese, where you can rent a bike or get your art history fix at the gallery.
Villa Borghese: The gallery at the Villa Borghese features a collection of works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance online to see this impressive collection that includes baroque masterpieces like Apollo and Daphne.
Vatican: Home of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the official HQ of the Catholic church will take at least an entire morning to conquer. Buy tickets in advance to avoid the queue to get into the museum, and plan on dressing modestly the day you visit (no shoulders or legs showing!).
Roman Forum and Colosseum: Get up early and give yourself the better half of your day to explore these two icons of ancient Rome. To make the most of your time, sign up for a walking tour or download Rick Steve’s audio guides for the both the Forum and Colosseum. Bring plenty of water when touring these two sites, as they are both in direct sunlight for the majority of the day.
Pantheon: Though the enormous (truly larger than life) Pantheon was originally built as a temple to all gods, this ancient behemoth is now a Catholic church. The Pantheon is the best preserved Roman monument, and to this day seems to be in pristine condition. Plug in an audio guide and look up at the “eye” of the Pantheon, a huge hole at the top of the dome. This dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
Passeggiata del Pincio: Head to the park above Piazza del Popolo at sunset for a sweeping view of the city. Take in the accordion music and try to avoid being forced to buy a rose or a fidget spinner. The view from this elevated vantage point is incredible at sunset as the buildings turn pastel pink and orange.
Spanish Steps: A trip to Rome is incomplete without a pilgrimage to the historic Spanish Steps. The 135 sprawling steps, designed and built in the 17th century, served as a symbol of the newfound peace between France and Spain. Centuries later, local lovers as well as tourists from all over the world trek up and down this beloved staircase.
Trevi Fountain: Madly in love with Rome yet? Head to the Trevi Fountain to toss a coin and wish for a return trip. While Bernini’s fountain is gorgeous in the sunlight, we recommend swinging by late at night when it’s less crowded. Enjoy a scoop (or two, or three) of gelato on the steps and take in the glistening turquoise water.
Where to Eat
Best Eats Under $10
Giolitti: You’ll want to end each and every meal with gelato from Giolitti. Ignore every other recommendation you’ve been given. That’s right — stride right past Grom through the neon sign of this true Roman staple. Pay for the number of scoops you want at the counter (uno, due, or tre — but let’s be honest, tre) before heading to the back of the shop with your receipt to order. Don’t stress about which flavor to choose. You’ll be back.
Bread-In: Don’t let the name or curb appeal fool you. If you’re a little hangry but want to save up for that dinner at Roscioli’s (see “Dinner”), order a fresh smoothie and panini at this hole in the wall. You’ll be well on your way to finishing the afternoon strong. Note: the fresh pesto at Bread-In is to-die-for.
Cozy Brunch Spots
Etabli: A traditional English/American brunch is hard to come by in Rome. Luckily, you can satisfy a benedict craving at Etabli (near Piazza Navona) during their weekend brunch offering (22€ per person).
La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro: This is a CLUTCH pit stop on a hot afternoon in Rome, and it’s right around the corner from the Pantheon. The go-to drink is the café granita which is basically a coffee shaved ice with cream. If you’re not into sweet drinks or you’re in Rome on a cold day, grab a cappuccino or espresso.
Caffè Sant’Eustachio: Also near the Pantheon, this is a staple for coffee in Rome. Order at the register and stand at the counter like the locals do, or pay extra to sit at a table outside and people-watch to your heart’s content. Order a Shakerato and watch the barista work his magic.
Roscioli’s: Prepare yourself for a night full of heavenly carbonara and a heap of cacio e pepe that will make your eyes glaze over. The walls at Roscioli’s are covered floor to ceiling with an impressive and intimidating wine collection, but the staff will help you navigate your way to the perfect glass for your meal.
Dar Poeta: Nestled in a nondescript alleyway in Trastevere, Dar Poeta boasts a mile-long list of mouth-watering pizzas. They don’t take reservations, and everyone knows about this place. It’s worth the wait and definitely deserves the hype. Order a beer from the counter to distract you while you wait outside, and try the potato pizza!
L’Arcangelo: Sure, the vibes are cozy and the staff rocks at L’Arcangelo. But what’s most important here is that you order the gnocchi. This dish will cause any sensible carb-loving gal to daydream about napping on this bed of pillowy pasta perfection.
Colline Emiliane: Come for the hand-crafted pumpkin tortellini, stay for the literally perfect lemon meringue pie. Make a reservation at this busy, family-owned restaurant and make sure to peer into the front kitchen to catch a glimpse of the staff rolling out homemade pasta.
Salotto 42: Swing by Salotto 42 day or night for a round of creative cocktails made with fresh ingredients . Enjoy the trendy vibes and try not to get too full on the delicious appetizers.
Freni e Frizioni: After a long day of ruin-touring and Vespa-dodging, a glass of chianti will be calling your name. Head to this busy cocktail bar for an evening of socializing and aperitivo (pre-dinner drink and snacks — aka a no brainer) in Trastevere.