The Eternal City of Rome is where you can experience thousands of emotions in a single day or get lost for several weeks. The concentration of attractions in Rome is so dense that after just a couple of hours in this city, poor travelers begin to refuse to accommodate new ones. So, just a day or two in Rome is simply a crime. Think of it as a separate state or even a separate world. No wonder Rome’s entire historical center has been declared a World Heritage Site.
Rome is admired by travelers from all over the world. It is one of the oldest cities in the world. Year-round visitors include lovers of ancient history and modern art, lovers of high fashion, and ordinary travelers. Although the Eternal City is beautiful regardless of the tourist season, the best times for buying tours and tickets to Rome are late spring and early autumn when the weather is warm, dry, and comfortable for excursions.
The best times to visit Rome are late spring or early autumn.
Many cities have tourist cards, but not all of them are equally useful. Decide whether you need a Rome’s one. There are two varieties of cards: Roma Pass and Roma Pass 48 hours. The first is valid for 3 days, gives free admission to 2 museums or archaeological areas from the list of the program, discounts on tickets to the third and subsequent museums, and for 3 days replaces the pass for urban public transport. The second one is the same, except the validity period is 48 hours and there is only one free museum. The bonus is a map of Rome and a Roma Pass guide. You can buy one at any of the museums in the program, at the PIT tourist information centers, or one of the hundreds of Tabaccheria shops.
You can get into the best places of the city without waiting in lines, such as the Colosseum or the Castel Sant'Angelo. Disadvantages: it is tightly tied to time — you have to make a non-stop tour of museums, you can't get to Fiumicino and Ciampino with these cards, and cards don't work in Vatican museums. As a result: questionable savings, visible only with a scrupulous analysis and comparison of ticket prices and the careful drawing up of your three-day program of jogging through Rome.
Must-visit in the city of Rome: Colosseum, St. Peter's Square, Piazza del Popolo, Sistine Chapel, Capitol Hill, St. Peter's Basilica.
The Colosseum is a symbol of Rome and Italy in general. The building got its present name due to the giant statue of the madman Nero ("Colossus") erected in front of it, but originally it was known as the Flavian Amphitheater. The Colosseum was built in the 1st century and became the largest structure for public entertainment in the entire Roman Empire. The diameter of the building is 156 and 188 meters, the height is almost 50! Not surprisingly, over 50,000 sight-seeking Romans could be seated in such open spaces. The Colosseum was not perfectly preserved — the stormy history of the region contributed to its premature dilapidation, but its former grandeur has not faded.
Every half hour, there are organized tours of the Colosseum in major European languages. The cost is 6 euros per person. All the guides have historical or archaeological education, and you can learn a lot of interesting things. It is the best way to learn more about the Colosseum and to walk around with benefits.
St. Peter's Square
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican (Piazza San Pietro) stretches in two semicircles in front of one of the main Catholic shrines, St. Peter's Basilica. It was built in the middle of the 17th century, designed by Giovanni Bernini, the best Italian architect and sculptor. It is in Piazza San Pietro that thousands of Catholics from all over the world gather to hear the Pope speak live. It is also a favorite destination for travelers who love such things as history and culture.
“Piazza” means “square” in Italian.
The square is framed by semicircular colonnades of the Tuscan order. There is an Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square that was brought to the city of Rome from an African country by the scandalous and infamous Caligula (by the way, the emperor adhered to the ancient Roman religion and believed in the existence of various deities). The obelisk also serves as a gnomon, an ancient astronomical instrument.
The best squares in Rome:
Piazza San Pietro
Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Santa Maria
Piazza del Campidoglio
The Pantheon is an ancient pagan temple, later consecrated as the Christian Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs, dedicated at once to all the Roman deities. This architectural object from the pre-Christian era has survived to this day and amazes with its grandeur not only specialists-archaeologists but also ordinary travelers. On the temple's perimeter, in niches, were statues of deities, on which during the year the light from the hole in the dome fell alternately. But those statues, unfortunately, didn't survive for our time (the building is over 2000 years old), and their place is now taken by sculptures and paintings of the 18th century.
“Basilica” means “cathedral” in Italian.
According to legend, the Capitoline Hill is one of the seven hills on which the Eternal City of Rome arose. Only a few people know that this most significant hill is also the smallest and lowest in area. Today, the Capitol is the center of Rome. Although it no longer has the temple of Jupiter and the temple of Minerva, the influx of travelers doesn't cease for a single day. Almost everything seen today was created by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the best artist, and architect of all time. Following his genius plan, the master created the Capitoline Piazza, rebuilt the facade of the Palace of Senators, and designed the famous Cordonata staircase of white marble.
Everyone can visit Capitoline Hill for free. However, you should pay to enter the museums and temples located here. Visiting the hill is not limited in time. But it is advisable to get here during daylight hours to catch all the splendor of the Capitol: see a copy of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Egyptian lions standing at the foot of the stairs, and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Araceli.
The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is one of the most famous and popular among travelers all over the world. It is a monument of culture and history. The building was built in the second half of the 15th century by order of Pope Sixtus IV. The building was built under the direction of architect Giorgio de Dolci. Externally, the building, hand on heart, looks rather modest. However, once inside the room, you stop breathing from the beauty surrounding you. Here, since the end of the 15th century and until today, the Conclaves have been held. It is the assembly of Catholic cardinals, who, after the death of the current pope, elects a new pontiff. White smoke over the Sistine Chapel announces that the Catholic world has a new pope.
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo ("People's Square") is the most famous Piazza in Rome. It's easily recognized by the Flaminia obelisk in the center and the twin churches around the edges. According to local belief, Emperor Nero was buried here in the Piazza del Popolo. The emperor's body did not last long in the tomb. The citizens of Rome thought an evil spirit had gotten into it, and they threw the body of the former ruler into the river. The church of Santa Maria del Popolo was soon erected on the site of the tomb.
The Piazza’s square has a sad history. In the days of public executions in Rome, the guillotine was erected here, where criminals and conspirators were beheaded. Today, despite its grisly past, Piazza del Popolo is very popular with Rome's citizens and visitors. In the evening, the Piazza is beautifully illuminated by lights. It also offers a wonderful view of the city.
The Vatican Museum Complex
The Vatican Museum Complex is rightfully considered one of the largest historical and art museums in the world. There are about two dozen museums and museum halls entirely on Vatican territory, as well as the famous Sistine Chapel, where cardinals have gathered since the 15th century during the conclave to elect the new Pope. It is world-famous for Michelangelo's frescoes on Old Testament themes. Despite its modest size, the Vatican possesses enormous treasures. The Vatican holds truly fabulous riches, and it takes several days just to examine them carefully because they were assembled over many centuries. Over time, the collections have grown so large that it was necessary to create separate museums and build new facilities for their storage and display.
The museums are open to the public from Monday to Saturday, from 9:00 to 18:00; the ticket office is open from 9:00 to 16:00. In summer, it is worth bearing in mind that short shorts and open tops are not allowed in the museum. On Sundays (except the last Sunday of each month), admission is free from 9:00 to 12:30, and museums close at 2:00 pm.
The Appian Way
The Appian Way is the first ancient pedestrian and horse-drawn highway. At one time, it connected the city of Rome with the far reaches of the Apennine Peninsula, and today it is a recognized landmark of Italy. The quality of this road was amazing for its time, and even one of the ancient Roman writers noted its monolithic nature. Around this "queen of the road" the Romans, after a while, began to place their ornate tombs. Today, there is a regional park on one section of the road, and the road itself has state status. Tours along this route will help to learn more about its history and the many structures, both modern and ancient.
There are a lot of museums. The Universal solutions are the Capitoline Museums, the Vatican Museums, and the Villa Borghese museums. Comparing ancient and modern Rome will help the Museum of Roman Civilization, close to the Planetarium and the Museum of Astronomy. The National Museum of Rome boasts the best collection of ancient sculpture of all time, and for modern art, head to MAXXI and MACRO. For the unusual, check out the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, the Museum of Lost Souls and Purgatory (not for the nervous or the impressionable). Also take a look at the Italian Police and Criminology Museum in a former penitentiary, the Pasta Museum (of course!), the Aviation and Car Museums, the Military and Armaments Museums, and the Napoleon Museum. Based on your interests, pick the best and go.
The beauty of exploring ancient buildings of Rome is the relative crowding of most of them. Here's the best plan for the day in Rome: walk from the Forum to the Colosseum, take pictures of the arches of Titus and Constantine, climb the Capitoline Hill, or Palatine, and mentally put on a toga. Then sit on the thousand-year-old stones of Caesar's Forum, fighting off the pesky gladiators, go to the Forum of Trajan, and touch the same Trajan's Column. Then turn around and make your way to the Great Circus. From there, walk and see the Thermae of Caracalla, come back and check yourself at the mouth of Truth, and then gaze at the Theater of Marcellus at dusk. Don't miss the Pantheon, the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo, the Mausoleum of Augustus, and the Field of Mars the next day.
Churches and basilicas
The most difficult part of the program is that there are too many churches in the old part of Rome. Each one has an interesting story to tell, and even the most unassuming building inside can be a real masterpiece or hold the works of art of the best artists and sculptors of all time. Sure, you can't miss St. Peter's Basilica, Il Gesù, la Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Lateran Basilica, or Santa Maria del Popolo. Even a short walk in Rome may turn out to be an introduction to not only the most famous works of Michelangelo or Bernini but to the traditions of the freemasons, the Jesuits and Capuchins, the sacrament of rites or a mesmerizing service. Entrance to Rome's churches is free as usual, but donations are accepted; buy a keepsake card, for example. Inside be quiet, do not violate the prohibitions on taking pictures, if any, and do not go behind the fenced area. The main thing - do not be shy and do not hesitate, open the doors of all the churches on your way and thus join the treasures of world culture.
The best panorama of Rome opens from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It is possible to get there for 15 EUR (elevator + 300 stairs) or 12 EUR (no elevator, 500 stairs).
What to eat in Rome?
Roman cuisine is delicious but very controversial. Rather than refined olive oil, frying oil is frequently made from the fat of salted prosciutto ham. Those with strong stomachs should try the oxtail stew "coda alla vaccinara," which has been popular in the city of Rome for several thousand years, as well as pork brains, stewed giblets, and veal intestines as a main dish or pasta ingredient, tripe with cheese, or fried lamb or bull testicles. There will be something to remember later!
Those who don't agree with such experiments can indulge in "saltimbocca" rolls, "abbacchio" in spices and herbs of lamb, baccala cod filets with vegetables in the form of steamed thick soup or one of the many pastas. Just be aware of the likely tripe or salty guanciale pork cheeks in the mix. If you're absolutely terrified, opt for "cacio e pepe" — traditional Roman spaghetti with grated cheese, olive oil, and black pepper. For an appetizer in both cases, order the bruschetta. Don't forget to taste the best gelato in the world!
Fans of non-alcoholic fizzy drinks are advised to go on a hunt for the local drink of the gods, chinotto, an unusual and aromatic soda made from the extract of the fruit of the bitter orange pomegranate. Try several different varieties and find the best one. There are little drinking fountains all over Rome: you can (and should) drink from them! It's completely harmless because it's still delivered by the aqueducts of antiquity. Furthermore, it is cost-effective: after purchasing a bottle of 0.5 liters of water for about 2 euros, you can constantly replenish the life-giving moisture for free in these very fountains.
Rome for kids
Rome is probably not the best city for kids, but if you have to go with a child, it is better to do it in the summer. Maybe, the kids will not love Piazza del Popolo or Colosseum, but they will probably like the local amusement parks. The most noteworthy amusement park in the city of Rome (if not Italy) is Rainbow Magicland, which opened in 2011 on the outskirts of the commune of Valmontone. It is the best for a relaxing day! Rainbow Magicland will be interesting both to very young travelers and older children. Some attractions will bring back memories of childhood for adult guests.
On hot days, visit one of the water parks closest to Rome. The best way to get to Hydromania is on the western border, with 1-2 subway and bus changes that take about 1.5 hours. At 35 km to the east of the military airport of Guidonia-Monticello in the warm season, one of the largest water parks in Europe, Aquapiper, and to the north of the port of Civitavecchia, is Aquafelix park, loved by residents of central Italy. The Zoomarine amusement park in the coastal village of Torvaianica combines a water slide, a swimming pool, an oceanarium, a sea lion and dolphin show, a science fair, and an educational center, as well as some quiet land rides and cafes.
Not only Rome is rich in priceless historical and architectural monuments. Around the Eternal City, you can also find a lot of interesting and beautiful places. A trip to the picturesque countryside of Italy will allow you to relax and take a break from the noisy and crowded streets of the capital. Especially since the distances are short, and such trips can be done in a single day. It is the best way to escape the hustle and bustle and have some rest.
Ostia Antica represents the ruins of the very first colony of the Roman Empire, the city of Ostia. In the 4th century BC, by order of Julius Caesar, a seaport was built here. During a walk around the ancient things, you can see the remains of ancient temples, theaters, thermae, and market stalls. Some buildings have survived, even fragments of mosaic floors. It is better to visit Ostia as part of an excursion; you can learn many interesting facts about the birth, prosperity, and decline of the empire. Afterward, you may go for a swim and sunbathe on the beach, which is only two stops away.
The ancient city of Viterbo, often called the Papal City, was the ancient capital of the Etruscans, subsequently conquered by the army of Rome. Only the Etruscan thermal springs remain from that era — all other attractions date back to the Roman period. The open-work papal residence, built in the XIII century, and the Basilica of San Lorenzo are the most important. In addition, Viterbo has beautiful ancient fountains, a Renaissance town hall, the medieval quarter of San Pellegrino, and the late Gothic Palazzo Farnese.
The small town of Frascati is located just 21 km from Rome, on the slopes of the Albanian mountain range. It is famous for a large number of medieval villas. They were built in the XVI-XVII centuries when the city was the Papal residence. However, you can only admire the elegant buildings from a distance — most of them are now privately owned. The main architectural landmark is St. Peter's Cathedral. Frascati is famous for its white wine, and here you must try the original local cookies, Pupazzo Frascatana.