Rome, the eternal city. And a city that I had avoided since I began traveling. While I heard great things, I am not *as* interested in tourist-y things and places. I try to avoid them like the plague. Instead, filling my time in small towns or visiting in off-season. Unfortunately, with the rise of social media, it does seem that all cities these days fall under the “tourist” category. Being a “tourist” seems to be unavoidable unless you plan on not leaving your little corner of the world. And that isn’t me.
I found myself planning for Rome sooner than expected. At the time I was a on a solo winter trip through Europe, with no plans to visit Italy. I used to think, oh I’ll go to Italy for the first time on my honeymoon (that’s right, I don’t even have a boyfriend). But that isn’t exactly how it went. Instead I found myself sick of the cold weather and having a pizza craving. That pizza craving turned into 2.5 weeks in Italy, four days being in Rome, and the beginning of my love affair with the eternal city.
While there is tons to see and do in Rome, read on for my top 10 things to do in Rome on limited time.
1. Go back in time inside the Colosseum
Built in A.D. 72, construction took eight years and it the Colosseum is the biggest amphitheatre ever built. Being inside the Colosseum allows you to picture what drew people to the amphitheatre. People traveled from all over the world to see animals fight; gladiators fight, and be a part of world history. At one time there was 100 days in a row of games played.
I would recommend taking a tour through the Colosseum. This way you get the history of Rome, special access to the bottom of the Colosseum, plus a tour of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Beware of which company you book through. The cheaper isn’t always better. I tried to book cheap originally and it was a scam. I re-booked with The Roman Guy and had a wonderful experience.
Hours: Monday-Sunday 0830-1900
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
*The company that I booked with originally I found through the website Colosseum Rome Tickets. Online, the website stated that the tour was supposed to include access to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. However, when I arrived the guide mentioned that we would only be going inside the Colosseum, and viewing Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum from outside. They did refund me, but I would not recommend to book with this company.* – For more insight on tourists scams in Italy, make sure to check out, Italy, the Country that Has Mastered the Art of the “Tourist Scam”?
2. Indulge, Italian style
You can’t come to Italy without eating proper Italian food. Make sure to head to Gioletti to taste some of the best gelato in Rome. And afterwards? Osteria da Fortunanta for true Italian pasta. After all… life is short. I operate on the thought that dessert should be eaten first.
3. Marvel at Michelangelo’s work inside the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel lies in Vatican City and is an ornate Chapel decorated by paintings from Michelangelo. Although construction on the Sistine Chapel began in 1473, it wasn’t until 1508 that Michelangelo painted it. It took a total of four years to paint. Entrance will set you back 16 Euros (not including entrance into the Vatican).
Hours: Monday-Saturday 0900-1800 (ticket box closes at 1600); Closed Sunday except the last Sunday of each month, where entrance is free. Hours 0900-1400 (ticket box closes at 1230).
Address: 00120 Vatican City
4. People watch at Piazza Navona
A public space originally built in the first century A.D.; restaurants line the square making it perfect for people watching. If you want cheaper food or drink visit the square, but wander a bit further from the main centre. There are many quaint streets waiting to be explored in this area.
5. Visit Vatican City
The Vatican City is essentially a country of its own rule with approximately 1,000 residents. They have their own currency, banking, etc making them a fully functioning city-state outside of Rome and Italy. Most famously known for housing the Pope, Vatican City also holds the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
6. Climb the never ending steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica for the highest views of Rome
Entrance into St. Peter’s Basilica is free (you do have to pay for entrance into Vatican City), but if you want to go to the top it will cost. By elevator, 10 Euros and by foot, eight Euros. I would argue it’s worth it to see Rome sprawled out in front of you.
Hours: Open seven days/week 0700-1800 (1900 in the winter)
Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Vitta del Vaticano, Vatican City
7. Watch the sun set from the Spanish Steps
Close to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps are most beautiful when watching the sun set over the city. You can watch the sun set and then head to one of the many bars or restaurants around. Just be prepared for crowds.
Address: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
8. Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
Although incredibly tourist-y, you can’t miss the chance for all your wishes to come true. Expect major crowds, but be patient and take your time. You’ll get to the front and realize why the Trevi is still a hot-spot.
9. Get lost in the Trastvere neighborhood
Trastvere is a trendy, hipster neighborhood in the heart of Rome. It takes you a bit out of the crowds and tourist spots and allows you to enjoy the city at your leisure. With tons of bars, restaurants, and shops you could spend all day in this hidden neighborhood.
10. Stroll down Rome’s most beautiful street – Via Marguetta
A close walk from the Spanish Steps and you’ll find yourself on one of Rome’s most picturesque streets. Take a quiet stroll down Marguetta for a taste of what a less crowded Rome feels like.
Rome is truly a museum in itself. Whether you’re there for one day or a week, taking Rome on by foot will guarantee you the best experience. If you don’t want to pay to enter the Colosseum, hang out outside. Same goes for Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and more. To save money go with the crowds, but then go further. I didn’t enter one place where I was disappointed with the food or drink. Put down your phone, be spontaneous, and get lost in the streets. You’re guaranteed to fall in love with the city, and understand why Rome is such a destination hot spot.