Who has not seen “The Gladiator” yet? Rome lives in everyone’s memories, either because of History or the movie industry, who have been playing vital roles in immortalizing the great ancient Roman Empire. Hence, the capital of modern Italy welcomes millions of curious travellers every year, whose expectations are, (almost) always, fulfilled!
Rome is not only fascinating, but is also one of our most cherished cities, so far. We have been to Rome twice in the past years and it always feels like it is one of those places nobody would get tired of.
Given our experience, the following travel guide is designed to match the main purposes of a trip to Rome and it can be adjusted for either less or more days in the city.
- When to go?
Rome is a delightful destination year-round. On the one hand, due to its Mediterranean climate, in summer it gets warm to hot, with temperatures often climbing to mid-30ºC. The days are mostly sunny and rain is practically nonexistent.
On the other hand, in winter, the temperature drops to below 10ºC in average, with random peaks getting below 0ºC. The wettest months are usually October and November.
- How to get to Rome?
The Italian capital city is served by two international airports. The Italian flag-carrier airline, AlItalia, and the majority of European, American, African and Asian airlines flying to Rome land and depart from Leonardo Da Vinci – Fiumicino International Airport. Ryanair and Wizz Air, two low-cost airlines, are based in Ciampino International Airport, the secondary city airport. From both airports, buses and trains will take you to the Rome Termini Station, the main railway station located in the heart of Rome.
For further information or to buy tickets, click here.
- How long should you stay?
The first time we went to Rome, we stayed for a week, which gave us enough time to do everything we had planned. The second time, we stayed for three nights. Since Rome wasn’t new for us, it was easier to get around and we managed to make the most of our time there. Therefore, we believe that four full days is the average time any traveller would need to visit Rome for a first time.
Plan your stay in Rome carefully, so that, afterwards, you’ll be able to make the decision to buy the Roma Pass or not, depending on what you want to do. Check here Roma Pass official website.
GUIDE – DAY BY DAY
- Day 1 – Colosseo, Foro Romano, Circo Massimo, Terme di Caracalla & Santa Maria Maggiore
Please, bear in mind that, since our favorite way to visit any city is by walking, this guide will take that into account.
While wandering through Via Nazionale, the feeling is no other than slowly approaching the ex-libris of ancient Rome: the Colosseo. There are no secrets to avoid rush hour here, because anytime is rush hour. The long queues guarantee hours of waiting, but, after all, it is going to be worthy. The Colosseo is a masterpiece, the symbol of the Roman Empire and a recently elected Wonder of the World. It is a former amphitheatre, constructed between 70-80AD, where public spectacles and gladiator fights took place. An impressive legacy from times gone by.
After completing your tour in the Colosseo and before moving on to the Foro Romano, make sure you find the Arch of Constantine, which is located in the surroundings of the Colosseo.
After visiting the Foro Romano and the Palatine Hill, where several remains of the important domus are located, the Circo Massimo lies shortly after the end of Via di San Gregorio. This ancient Roman arena, mainly used for entertainment and where some games where held, is, today, a public park in Rome, but still worth seeing, given what it does stand for.
Not too far, the Terme di Caracalla – the baths of Caracalla – were once one of the largest public baths of ancient Rome. It is possible to visit the inside of the baths for an admission fee.
At last, this first day in the eastern and southern part of Rome would not be completed without going to the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the major churches in Rome. Although it is located in Italian territory, the Basilica itself is a property of the Vatican.
- Day 2 – Piazza Venezia, Altare della Patria, Via del Corso, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, Borghese gardens & Quirinale
The second day in Rome will take you from the heart to the northern area of the city.
Kick off your day in front of the Altare della Patria, standing right in front of Piazza Venezia. The majestic monument is also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, honoring Vittorio Emanuel II, whose reign as king of Italy – the first after the Italian unification – lasted for nearly 17 years, between 1861 and 1878. Widely regarded as the largest monument within the city, it also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Furthermore, the Palazzo Venezia, which was the palace where the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, had his office, is also located in the same central Roman square.
Head north to Via del Corso, not only one the main streets in the city, but also a great place for shopping. Before getting to Fontana di Trevi, there is a hidden secret in Rome you should take a look at. Walk for about three blocks in Via del Corso and turn to Via dell’Umiltà. As soon as you get to a small square, called Piazza dell’Oratorio, you will easily find a building that belongs to the National Anti-Corruption Authority. It is possible to cross to Via Marco Minghetti through it. The inside is stunning, with highly decorated walls and a glass ceiling, which makes it impossible to be there and not taking a picture.
A couple of metres away is the located the famous Fontana di Trevi. Besides its notable design, this eighteenth century Baroque fountain carries a long tradition among travellers. Throw a coin and you might have bought your return ticket to Rome. In the adjacent Via del Lavatore, taste some delicious traditional Italian ice-cream at Gelateria Valentino. Trust us and you won’t regret!
Move on to Largo del Tritone and from there make your way up to Piazza di Spagna. There are four major landmarks in and around the square. On the one hand there are, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, the Fontana della Barcaccia – a fountain made by the father of the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini – and the column of the Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, after climbing the steps, visit the church of Trinità dei Monti and the surrounding Villa Medici, whose backyards lead to the Borghese gardens.
End up your day right in the heart of Rome once again. To reach the Piazza del Quirinale and the Palazzo – the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic – take both the Via Sistina and Via delle Quattro Fontane until the intersection with Via del Quirinale. We advise the beautiful church of San Carlino alle Quatro Fontane to be a short stopover before reaching the Quirinale palace.
- Day 3 – Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Palazzo di Giustizia & Castel Sant’Angelo
The third day will make you cross the Tiber river for the first time, which means it is dedicated to the western part of Rome.
Hence, begin the tour at the Pantheon, witnessing one of the best preserved buildings from ancient Rome. Despite its previous purpose of being a temple dedicated to gods, nowadays it is both a church and a burial site of important Italian notable figures. Take a close look at the dome and its centre opening. Visiting the Pantheon at different times of the day allow visitors to enjoy it with different light and brightness, according to the position of the sun.
As you leave the Pantheon surroundings you’ll be reaching, in a blink of an eye, the inspiring and breathtaking Piazza Navona, a marvellous example of the Italian Baroque architecture. Take some time in the square, visit the church and enjoy (if it is the case) some occasional markets held there.
Later on, move towards the river. Cross either the Umberto I bridge or Ponte Sant’Angelo. If you choose Umberto I bridge, you’ll get to Palazzo di Giustizia. However, if you decide to cross Ponte Sant’Angelo first, you’ll get to the Castel San’Angelo, whose museum is worth a visit. The castle, which had been used as a fortress by the Pope, provides beautiful views to Rome and the Vatican.
- Day 4 – Vatican: St. Peter Square, St. Peter Basilica, Musei Vaticani & Sistine Chapel
Finally, we have decided to advise you to dedicate a full day to the Vatican. Yes, we know it is not a big nation. Nevertheless, according to our experience, queues are usually long and it may take several hours to get access to some museums – e.g. Musei Vaticani.
The highly renowned Pietà sculpture, by Michelangelo, can be seen while visiting the Basilica of Saint Peter. Inside, several tombs of former popes are displayed along the Basilica’s aisles and chapels. Furthermore, St. Peter’s tomb is said to be located beneath the altar, whose bronze-made baldachin, made by Bernini, lies beneath the beautiful dome.
In addition, visit the Vatican Museum and, of course, the one and only, Sistine Chapel, where the Papal Conclaves are held. Taking photographies inside the Sistine Chapel is extremely prohibited, so that, the paintings are not damaged.
If you still have time, take the rest of the day to either visit the Trastevere neighbourhood or to return to any of the other places we have advised before. Rome is also a great city for shopping or, instead, relax and taste some of the exquisite Italian cuisine’s flavours.
Rome does not disappoint whoever decides to visit the city. Get lost through its alleys, in a place where History is all we breathe. Every corner will be pleasant to turn and good enough to take a picture. Natives will do their best to make you feel like home and you’ll pursue the subtle flavours of pasta and pomodoro.
All in all, Rome will certainly become a place to return, even if a coin was not thrown to Fontana di Trevi.