29 Incredible Things to Do in Rome

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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Rome is one of Italy’s top destinations. It’s no secret that the city offers food, history, and raw Italian culture. There are the tried-and-true tourist attractions like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain. But, there’s also winding, cobblestone alleyways, espressos served in tiny cafes, and shady parks that are perfect for a gelato or pizza break. If you’re visiting Rome and you want your trip to be incredible, here are 29 things you must do.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Located in the center of Vatican City, this is one of the top destinations for Catholics. However, visitors of all faiths enjoy the incredible architecture, culture, and art. On Wednesdays, visitors can see the Pope as he addresses the audience. And, they make sure to climb up to the top of the dome for world-famous views of Vatican City.

Vatican Necropolis

You’ll find this lost ‘city’ under St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s a Pagan burial ground that dates back to the 1st century AD. There’s also a combination burial ground between 5th century Pagans and Christians. Visitors can see the ruins of mausoleums, arches, and repositories. The site features a 12th century Christian church, and possibly the remains of St. Peter himself.

Cinecittà

Film fans will want to check out this television and movie studio that is open to the public. Visitors can see sound studios, lots, and sets while taking in the atmosphere that many Italian movie stars have experienced in the past. It’s a fun, and more modern way to experience Rome.

Colosseum

A visit to Rome just wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Colosseum. Even off-the-beaten-track-style travelers can appreciate the importance of this site. While its magnificence can be appreciated from the outside, it’s best to wander inside for a tour. You’ll learn all about the history of the ship fighting, plays, and game animal battles that happened inside.

Villa Borghese Gardens

This is Rome’s third largest park but maybe it’s most beautiful. The naturalist garden is home to museums, historic buildings, and perfectly landscaped gardens. Villas are scattered amongst the gardens, each with its own unique history. The intricate garden design is enough to impress visitors alone.

Pantheon

Formerly a Roman temple, the Pantheon is now considered a church. It dates back to 120 A.D, and is well-known and loved for its architecture. The Pantheon is a burial ground for Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, two Italian kings. It’s located in the Piazza della Rotonda, making it a great place to relax while drinking coffee, eating gelato, and watching the tourists go by.

The Protestant Cemetery

While not a well-known or famous site in Rome, this cemetery has an impressive history. It’s one of the oldest, and continually used burial ground in Europe. While a majority of the cemetery is modern, much of it offers historic burial plaques and architecture. This cemetery was used primarily for foreign visitors or expats who were living in Rome. Famous romantic poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats were laid to rest here. The physicist, Burno Pontecorvo, writer, Carlo Emilio Gadda, and Communist leader, Antonio Gramsci, can all be found here.

Borgo Pio

This quiet neighborhood behind the Vatican is a great place to visit if you want a local experience. It’s historic and offers old world charm with cobblestone alleyways and small cafes. Pop into the trattorias and do as the Romans do while visiting this classic town.

Trevi Fountain

This fountain is a sightseeing staple in Rome, so you won’t want to miss it. Its design is Baroque, and its features are mythological. Visitors will be gathered around, throwing coins over their left shoulder with their right hand. While everyone seems to do this at the Trevi Fountain, the move is to ensure that you’ll find and marry a Roman. Honeymooners and married couples may not be in on the real meaning behind their coin toss. Whether you toss in some coins or not, the fountain is truly a beauty both day and night.

Trastevere

Trastevere is a medieval neighborhood across the Tiber River. It was once the home of the working class and today has a well-known nightlife scene. It’s a bit off-the-beaten-path and offers a look into regular life in Rome. The stone footbridge at Ponte Sisto will take you to Trastevere. Crumbling buildings line a maze of cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways. Pop into a cafe, visit Basilica di Santa Maria, and try to get lost amongst the alleyways.

Villa Doria Pamphilj

This is the largest park in Rome. It has a bit of everything including pine forests, manicured gardens, open fields, and hidden picnic spots. Visitors will be surrounded by runners, cyclists, locals, and tourists with maps. The park is huge so make sure to visit when you have plenty of time to roam around. That being said, there aren’t many places to eat or grab drinks in the park. So, make sure to visit with some snacks because it can take a while to find your way out. Nature lovers will be the ones who like this park the most.

Galleria Sciarra

This Art Nouveau courtyard was meant to be a shopping mall but it never came to fruition. It can be found just a few feet away from the Trevi Fountain but is largely unknown. Built in the late 19th century, this courtyard was the passion project of the wealthy Sciarra family. Now, it is a vision for Art Nouveau fans, and a colorful change from the ancient architecture around Rome. The courtyard is four stories and painted with scenes of men, women, flowers, and colors. The main subjects of the paintings are women and how they change throughout different phases of life.

Baths of Caracalla

These ruins used to be a massive public bath complex, built in the third century. They are open during the day so that visitors can explore, take photos, and breathe in the history. Throughout the year, Rome’s opera company holds shows here that use the ruins as a backdrop.

Mercato di Campagna Amica

Rome’s largest farmer’s market is one of its most down-to-earth tourist attractions. Open on weekends, the market is full of stalls selling locally made and grown goods. Fresh pecorino, olives, olive oil, and bread are top buys here (especially for tourists who want to have a picnic in the park.) Visitors will find honey, cured meats, fresh fruit, and leafy greens. The prices can get expensive when it comes to products like olive oil. However, if you want a cheap lunch, grab some bread and cured meats to make your own sandwich.

Capitoline Museums

Centrally located, this is one of Rome’s best sculpture museums. It’s made up of several buildings, two of which were designed by Michelangelo. Visitors will find marble sculptures, bronze statues, ancient wall decorations, and hardly any crowds.

Vatican Museums

Throughout the centuries, the Pope have amassed a giant collection of art and religious artifacts. A visit to Vatican City will offer the opportunity to explore these collections in a series of museums. Guests will probably need more than one day to see them all, especially the sculpture and Renaissance art collections. There are around 20,000 pieces of artwork on display, all visited by millions of people each year. The highlights are the Sistine Chapel, the works of Raphael, and the gallery of maps. Make sure to wander through the multiple sculpture museums as well.

Villa Torlonia

This villa and its gardens were built in the 1800s by Giuseppe Valadier, a Neoclassical architect. It was once the residence of Mussolini before becoming abandoned. After some restoration work, the park was opened to the public and features a museum and former residence. Those who love both history and nature tend to gravitate towards this Roman park.

Piazza Navona

In ancient Rome this was the site of the Stadium of Domitian. It was built in the 1st century AD and was were many Romans would gather to watch the games. Today, the large public space is filled with monuments and classic architecture. The views are so striking that it has been a filming location for movies such as Angels and Demons and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

Palatine Hill

For the best view of the Roman Forum and much of the city, Palatine Hill is the place to visit. It’s an open-air museum with manicured gardens, former emperor palaces, and medieval churches. This area was once the stomping grounds of the Roman elite. Now, it’s open for tourists to learn about the history and take in the views. The first-century palace, constructed by Domitian, is the highlight of a visit. The grounds are scattered with historic monuments, so hiring a guide to explain the history is recommended.

Palazzo Massimo

Built in the late 19th century, this building only became a museum during the 1980s. It’s located next to the bustling Stazione Termini, but is often overlooked by visitors. The halls of this museum are packed with Imperial frescoes, and classical sculptures. Anyone who appreciates ancient art will probably love this place.

Domus Aurea

This pavilion was built by Emperor Nero in the 1st century. Made mostly of concrete, the design and architecture are quite impressive. During the week it is undergoing restoration, but can be visited on the weekends. Archaeologists often lead guided tours here.

Castle of St. Angelo

This circular building was originally built to be a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family. It was once the tallest building in Rome, and has been used by several Popes as a castle and fortress. Today, it’s a museum and visitors can see the location of Hadrian’s ashes, prison cells where historical figures were held, and views of the Tiber River. The architecture and interior design make this place especially worth a visit.

The Gladiator School

This self-funded school teaches its students to become Gladiators. While you may have only seen them in movies, this organization aims to train fighters that would be able to hold their own in a real, Roman battle. Visitors can pop in for a class or take a peak at those who are practicing their art. There’s also an onsite museum which shows off memorabilia from the days of Gladiator battles.

Metropoliz Museum

Those with an adventurous spirit and a love for art may want to check out this abandoned salami factory. While it once was a slaughterhouse, it is now filled with art. There are about 200 residents who are squatting in the building, majority of which are artists. Roman families and migrants found the building in 2009 and began to clean it up, turn it into a home, and create art there. In 2011, a curator discovered the building and started organizing performances and exhibitions. Now, it houses artists from around the world and is an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination for counter-culture enthusiasts.

Via Veneto

This street has been named one of the most expensive and luxurious in Rome. If you want to shop for high-end fashion or just watch others do so, this is the place. The street was built in the 1800s but became the ‘place to be’ during the 1950s and 1960s. Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn, Orson Welles, and Coco Chanel were known to spend time here.

Galleria Doria Pamphilj

Rome’s largest collection of privately owned art can be found in this museum. The collection is made up of pieces owned by the Landi, Pamphilj, Doria, and Aldobrandini families through marriage. It’s located in an ornate palace, off of Piazza Venezia. It often goes overlooked but holds an impressive collection of 16th and 17th century art. The walls are painted with frescoes, and the halls hold sculptures, and oil paintings. The amount of artwork is overwhelming, as the families intended to show off their wealth and status.

The Spanish Steps

These steps lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church and are one of the top sites to visit in Rome. There are 135 steitaly.seotravelmarketing.comps, with a fountain at the bottom. Visitors will be scattered along, taking photos, resting, and climbing. The steps have a long history and have been featured in countless films.

Via Appia Antica

This ancient road has a dark history. It is the site where Spartacus and 6000 of his slaves were taken to be crucified. It is also the place where Christians took their dead to be buried in underground catacombs. Visitors can take a guided tour of these catacombs in addition to walking or biking the rest of the path.

Pigneto

The youth of Rome tends to gather in this non-touristy neighborhood. Twenty-somethings and college students come to look at the street art, and drink at the bars. It’s a little rough around the edges but those who like to explore the counter-culture in new cities will appreciate the atmosphere here.

From old to new, Rome has plenty to keep you busy. The famous tourist attractions are definitely worth a visit. However, Rome has a lot going on under the surface. Make sure to experience a little bit of both for a well-rounded tour of this world-famous city.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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