Rome is known as the eternal city because the Romans believed that the city would survive to the end of time. It’s really quite an old city with its founding dating back to 753 BC. Think about that for a second. Rome is over 2000 years old and it’s still standing and thriving. For me, Rome is a very special place because it’s the first city I visited as an adult on my own. It was my first foray into life as a traveler and I had an incredible time during that trip. There were so many things to see in Rome and that is exactly why this city is one of the most beloved in the world.
Walking through Rome, is like walking through time. The history is palpable as you meander down winding roads, past buildings dating back hundred (and at times thousands) of years, and take in the ambiance of a city that has not stopped for generations and generations. At the same time, this history is in harmonic contrast with modernization. You can see many older buildings with modern amenities, new construction, and the loud buzz of Vespas and other vehicles speeding down the road. This all comes together in wonderful patchwork of time and conglomerates into a delicious cacophony which both pleases and annoys. Much of the modern world is influenced by this city and it seems the world loves to pay homage to this city as everyone visits with the goal of experiencing all the things to see in Rome.
Of course when you head to Rome for the first time (or the second or the third or the fourth) you’re bound to visit a few of its major tourist attractions. There are so many things to see in Rome and everyone wants to visit them. I do mean everyone too. Whenever you head to one of the many monuments or other attractions in Rome, you’re guaranteed to experience it with hundreds and hundreds of other people. Everyone has the same idea. Everyone is taking the same photo. Honestly, it’s a bit annoying but it’s also part of the charm of this city.
So go to Rome with an open mind and relax because you are bound to encounter major quantities of tourists. If you want to avoid the tourist, then go at night when there will be far fewer people at the major things to see in Rome. Nevertheless, even at night the city can be quite busy and it seems tourist attractions never get a break from the mad rush. In any case, when you head to the Italian capital, there are million things to experience and see in Rome but here are my favorite seven.
I hope you enjoy your trip to the eternal city and visit all these major tourist attractions. They’re totally worth it.
The Roman Forum is one of the most extensive and complex things to see in Rome. You can pay for a ticket covering the cost of entrance to both the Pantheon and the Roman Forum (they’re right across from one another) and spend the better part of a day exploring these ancient ruins. The forum consists of tons of ruins dating back thousands of years. It use to be quite lively area and probably one of the most important meeting places in the world. Though it looks sort of chaotic and disheveled, it’s extremely well preserved.
Tips: Buy your ticket at the ticket counter and not from someone on the street. It might be worth getting a guide because they will be able to fill you in on so much information you won’t glean from a simple walk through.
The Pantheon is an incredible work of architecture and its exact age is unknown but most historians believe it was built in approximately 27 BC. Originally it was a temple dedicated to all gods but in 609 AD it was turned into a church and has existed as a church since. This place is always crowded with tourists trying to catch a glimpse of the incredible oculus in the center of the building’s roof. It’s definitely worth a visit as it is the only structure of its size to survive time and gravity intact.
Tip: Entering the Pantheon is free but you need to remember it is still an active church. Keep your voice at a very low-level and show respect.
Rome has more fountains than any other city in the world. It’s followed closely by Kansas City, believe it or not. Of course, the most famous fountain in all of Rome is the Trevi Fountain. When you approach the fountain, you know you are seeing something magnificent. Tritons, winged horses, lions, and snakes dazzle the eyes as you try your best to get to the fountains edge. It is said throwing one coin into the fountain over your shoulder will ensure you return to Rome one day. If you throw two coins, a new romance will come your way and if you throw three, it will lead to marriage. Who knows if this is true but I did throw three coins and I am now married. You can rest assured that the coins go to a good cause as all funds collected from the fountain pay for a grocery store for the poor. Incredibly, the fountain earns about 2000 euros per week. Wow! It’s definitely one of the major things to see in Rome and you won’t be disappointed by its beauty.
Piazza Navona is a beautiful square in Rome which plays host to many, many artists painting and selling their wares today. Originally, it was part of a stadium called Circus Domitianus but as that crumbled, the square remained and eventually developed into a gathering place. It is home to one of my favorite fountains by Bernini called La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Surrounded by beautiful buildings, it’s a wonderful place to while away a bit of time. You can also explore the roads which serve as tributaries to the square…perhaps you’ll stumble upon another one of the things to see in Rome on your own!
Tip: There are tons of cafes and restaurants flanking the piazza so you it’s a great place to grab lunch with a view. The square also hosts a very popular Christmas market each year.
Campo de’ Fiori
If you want to explore and experience something even the locals enjoy, head to Campo de’ Fiori. Flowers, produce, pasta, and other wares are vended in a beautiful setting surrounded by lovely buildings. Visit local cheese stores, wine stores, and delis while you pick up some fresh fruit to satiate a taste for something fresh. It’s walking distance from here to Piazza Navona so you can combine the two.
Tip: The Jewish Ghetto isn’t far from here. Walk to this neighborhood dating back to 1555 and see a few Roman ruins. If you’re in the Jewish Ghetto, don’t forget to stop at this incredible bakery and try their ricotta pie. The perfect half day can encompass visiting the Jewish Ghetto, meandering over to Campo de’ Fiori, and then stopping for lunch at Piazza Navona.
If you want a more planned out itinerary for Rome, check out this two day itinerary for first-time visitors!
No visit to Rome would be complete without visiting the Vatican City. Make sure you dedicate at least a full day to exploring this small city-state. That’s right, technically the Vatican is not part of Italy but is a sovereign nation of its own with the Pope as its leader. It even has an embassy in the US. St. Peter’s Square is the most popular piazza in Rome located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. You can head here on Sunday to witness the Pope give a Sunday message from a window most weeks. The Vatican is also the only country on the UNESCO World Heritage list and the Vatican Museum is certainly worth visiting to see incredible works of art spanning just about every culture in the world.
Tip: The Vatican is obviously a very important religious site. As such, you should treat the entire city as though you are in a church and be respectful.
Trastevere is one of Rome’s favorite neighborhoods and it’s one of my favorite as well! The former working class neighborhood is reminiscent of the Rome you think of when you see a postcard or watch an old film. It really sums up Rome for me and is filled to the brim with restaurants, cafes, pizzerias, and such without actually losing its local feeling. My suggestion is to meander through the area and see what you stumble upon. If you’re more of a planner, sights include Porta Portese Market, Piazzza Trilussa, Palazzo Corsini, Santa Maria in Trastevere, among others.
Tip: My favorite pizzeria in Trastevere is Dar Poeta. It’s affordable and delicious located at Vicolo del Bologna, 45, 00153 Roma RM, Italy. Nearby is a nice wine shop called Da Biagio Vine e Oli which I really enjoyed shopping at too!
Considering a tour of Italy, check out this two week itinerary!
Do you enjoy a good tourist attraction or would you try and avoid the major things to see in Rome?
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