Rome is one of the world’s most beautiful and historic cities. Its history extends over 2500 years and has always been a center of politics, culture, and progress. The city’s construction is shrouded in tradition and folklore, and there are numerous versions of how this magnificent city came to be.
Various Roman emperors ruled over mighty Rome, and it was from there that the massive Roman Empire arose. The Eternal City, however, does not disappoint in any aspect, and the top things to do in Rome are among the best in the world.
History makes the news, but it does not take center stage. The city’s clubs, bars, restaurants, and wider nightlife will provide plenty of entertainment for partygoers, while bargain seekers can expect to find some of the continent’s most fascinating markets.
Hidden Gems in Rome: Discover Rome Off the Beaten Path
“Rome” means “power” in ancient Greek. And make no mistake: Rome’s power comes from 3000 years of uninterrupted history. No other city in the world can claim a cultural heritage as vast and diverse as Italy’s glorious capital. Once the center of a massive empire and now a modern metropolis, the “Eternal City” has something for everybody.
Finding what to do in the city is easy. With millions of visitors every year, tourism is one of the most developed sectors of the local economy. However, if you want to discover the hidden gems of Rome, check out our local guide to the real side of Rome!
Ghetto Ebraico – The Roman Jewish Ghetto
Want to get off the beaten track for a taste of real Rome? The Roman Ghetto is going to be right up your street. Established in 1555, when the Jews of the area were restricted to a small part of the city and walled in, this is one of the oldest Jewish communities outside of Israel.
Take the time to visit the local Synagogue and don’t miss the chance to try out one of the little kosher restaurants, known for their special artichokes recipes.
Insider Tip: Have a lazy lunch or dinner and order the Carciofi alla Giudea, Roman-Jewish fried artichokes. You won’t regret it.
La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
According to Erica Firpo, founder of “Ciao Bella”, a visit to La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea is a must when you’re in the city. It is a gorgeous museum that will take you on a trippy adventure through Italian modern and contemporary art.
Another top thing to do in Rome according to Erica is to visit the Quadraro neighborhood, an open-air museum, where you will immerse yourself in street art!
The Mirabilia Gallery is a must-visit for those interested in curiosities and bizarre objects. Founded in 2016, the gallery contains oddities from the personal collection of its founder Giano del Buffalo.
Inspired by his travels to exotic places and collected with the help of his international associates, the gallery contains rare items such as the skull of an extinct Mosasaur and ritual objects sourced from different parts of Africa and New Guinea, in addition to artworks from some of the local contemporary artists.
The Colosseum and other major monuments
As stated by Sarah Walker, the founder of dogfooddesire.com, Rome is a city of historical experiences, from the Pantheon to the Colosseum. Firstly, it is a must to go to the Colosseum and check out other ruins while you’re there. And, take a selfie with the Colosseum in the background to capture the moment!
Moreover, Sarah suggests visiting the Vatican Museum, the Palazzo Massimo, and the National Etruscan Museum to see artifacts dating back to 2,000 years ago.
And, a pro’s tip from Sarah: “Talk about it like Teddy Tofu says that Michelangelo’s statue is the best work of art ever and even better than The Last Supper”.
Giardini Vaticani – Vatican Gardens
This not-so-well-kept secret doesn’t usually get the full attention of tourists as you need to book at least a week in advance for a chance to peek into the Vatican’s world. Those with the foresight to do so will be met with finely manicured gardens with an Alice-in-Wonderland ambiance, styled with groomed symmetrical box hedges and grottoes.
Located on the corner of Via Dora and Via Tagliamento, tucked behind the main streets of Quartiere Trieste, this fairytale-like neighbourhood is often referred to as the “Fantasy District”.
Obscured from the view of daily passersby and oblivious tourists, expect to see a jumble of different architectonical style peacefully coexisting: Art Nouveau, Greek influence, Baroque, and a dash of Gothic. With such a mishmash of design, it can be hard to know where to focus first, but take your time because exploring the architecture is the whole point.
The Capuchin Crypt
Madison Krigbaum recommends visiting the Capuchin Crypt. It is underneath the church of Santa Maria Della Concezione dei Cappuccini. There are five underground chambers decorated with skulls and bones (estimated to be around 3,700 corpses total). Entrance tickets are €8.50 and you’re not allowed to take any photos.
Giardino Degli Aranci
Madison also recommended Giardino Degli Aranci. This garden translates to “Orange Garden” and is located high on a hill near the Roman Forum. The views of Rome from this vantage point are spectacular!
If you’re feeling hungry you should head to the Trastevere district. If you want a midday snack, then grab a “suppli al telefono”. It is a cult street food that is made of deep-fried rice balls, coated breadcrumbs, and filled with red sauce and mozzarella.
Sarah suggests hitting an authentic Italian meal at one of the numerous traditional restaurants there. Also, make sure to try some gelato, especially flavors like tiramisu or Nutella.
Torben Lonne, the co-founder of DiveIn, agrees that Trastevere is your best choice for food, especially if you want to eat like the Romans.
Looking for the best pizza by the kilo? Then, the pizzeria at Piazza Mancini across from the tram tracks has a great selection of pizza. The one at Piazza Sonnino is also pretty good, but they have a more minimal selection. If you want a simple pizza, then try the pizza Bianca, which is plain pizza with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.
The co-founder of Best in Singapore Erica Tan also suggests planning a visit to Trastevere, and more specifically in Villa Farnesina. Villa Farnesina is one of the most underrated places in Rome and a treasure trove of aesthetic decor.
It features incredible frescoes by Raphael, “the prince of painters”. Agostino Chigi, a wealthy Sienese banker, commissioned the young painter, who decorated the loggia with an impressive ceiling fresco depicting the marriage of Cupid and Psyche just in time for the banker’s own wedding to Venetian courtesan Francesca Ordeaschi.
Chigi often hosted lavish meals at the villa and it’s said to have encouraged his guests to toss their silver plates into the nearby Tiber River, though he secretly had his servants set up nets to catch them.
Villa Torlonia – Casina delle Civette
Gothic castle meets Swiss cottage with a guest appearance from Art Nouveau stained glassed windows. Intrigued yet? This whimsical house-museum is part of Villa Torlonia park, a local favourite for Sunday picnics and best known for being the state residence of Mussolini. Wander around the countless arches, gables and mullioned windows, we promise you will be thoroughly enchanted.
It is known as the ‘Little House of the Owls’ because several owl-themed stained-glass windows were added in an extensive Art Nouveau redesign. While there is a fee to visit the Casina Delle Civette, admission to the grounds of Villa Torlonia is free.
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Shannon Jones, the founder of KeeKee’s Big Adventures proposes an off-the-beaten-path experience to do in Rome; the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary.
The famous Roman ruins at Torre Argentina span a full city block and are home to over 300 stray cats. The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, located down below in the ruins, is a shelter for homeless cats formed in 1993. Volunteers feed and care for all of these Italian cats. You can even go down inside to visit the shelter and adopt the cats!
The address of the sanctuary is Feral Feline Colonies Torre Argentina, scavi archeologici, 00186 Roma RM.
If it’s not clear already, every single corner in Rome is a reflection of the city’s fascinating history and culture. Why queue for hours just to hide away in an overcrowded museum? In Rome, priceless art is literally everywhere. Art lovers just need to ditch the main attractions and visit these three low key Roman churches where you’ll find world-famous Caravaggio’s paintings.
First stop is San Luigi dei Francesi to admire three paintings representing Saint Matthew’s life. Afterwards, head to Basilica di Sant’Agostino, just around the corner from Piazza Navona, to catch a glimpse of the Madonna di Loreto. Finally, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo is home to two of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, the Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul.
One of the most amazing things about Rome is that you never know from the outside what you will find on the inside. This is exactly the case with Galleria Colonna: Its magnificent rooms are an open art gallery full of paintings and sculptures from XVI to XVIII century.
Expect to see lavish multi-coloured marble floors, enormous chandeliers and high-ceilinged rooms. Don’t blame us if your neck is all stiff after staring at the incredible ceiling paintings for hours on end!
Insider Tip: Every Saturday morning the Gallery is open to the public and you can even get a free tour in English at 12.
According to Joanna Agopoglu, the founder of FrenchScope, a visit to the archaeological site under the famous Trevi Fountain is a must! This hidden gem called Vicus Caprarius (The City of Water) is located underground.
You can walk around and discover the remains of ancient Roman houses as well as beautiful pools of water. So, once you’re done tossing your coin in the fountain, consider making your way to Vicus Caprarius!
Mattias Magnusson, the founder of CruiseTrail, highly suggests visiting Palazzo Spada. This 17th-century palace contains a mesmerizing optical illusion, created by the architect Borromini. Once privately owned, it is now public administration offices.
Walk between the row of columns under the arcade towards what looks like a life-size statue at the end. The arcade seems to be very long, about 40 meters, when in fact it is a much shorter corridor and the life-size statue is only 60cm high.
And this amazing palace is just a short walk away from Piazza Navona. It is also just across the street from the beautiful Renaissance palace, Palazzo Farnese. So, you do not even need to stray very far from the beaten path to reach it, but it’s easily overlooked.
Via Niccolò Piccolomini
According to Sylvie Coleman, Head of Marketing for Family Destinations Guide, this place was one of her favorites when she first visited Rome. The place will give you an awesome view of the Magical Optical Illusion of Saint Peter’s Dome. A special feature of the street is that it is perfectly aligned with the dome of Saint Peter’s.
Santo Stefano Rotondo
Also, Sylvie Coleman says that this is the first circular church in Rome. It’s an ancient basilica and church dating back to the 5th century A.D. The church has a lot of history to offer its visitors and its architecture is very unique and picturesque. Not many people talk about this place because it’s somehow overshadowed by other popular sites in the country.
Church of the Gesù
While everything about Rome is scenic and mesmerizing, it’s hard to take your eyes off the ceiling of the Church of the Gesù.
While visiting you will see that the art is amazing and the hues are breathtaking. Baroque painter Andrea Pozzo painted the ceiling and portrayed the life of St. Ignatius. When Cindy enquired from locals, she got to know that the painting is painted as slant but gives you an impression of being distorted as one approaches it.
Candice Criscione, the founder of MomInItaly, says that the combination of ancient sculptures in a completely unexpected setting makes the Centrale Montemartini museum hard to beat.
Centrale Montemartini is Rome’s first public electricity plant, and it powered parts of the city from 1912 to 1963. In 1997, the building was used to temporarily house ancient Roman and Greek sculptures. People loved the juxtaposition of beautiful art and man-made machinery so much that it became a permanent exhibition.
There’s something so powerful and poetic about walking in and seeing ancient busts on display in front of enormous diesel engines or Roman mosaics with a backdrop of iron pipes. It’s such an unexpectedly beautiful arrangement of art that makes it a favorite for many visitors in a city of powerhouse attractions.
Campo de’ Fiori
Becky Moore, the founder of GlobalGrasshopper, loves to roam around Rome in the evening. In general, the locals are out in full force, biking, dining al fresco, strolling in the neighborhood parks, etc. When she’s there, she always heads to Campo de Fiori in the heart of the city, which is the oldest outdoor market. It’s a great place to soak in the ambiance, and there are lots of good restaurants and cafes surrounding it.
Becky also says that the best insider tip when traveling in Rome is to always try gelato at a local gelateria rather than a touristy one. This is because the gelato at a local place is always fresher and tastier. A gelato at a gelateria costs around 1.50€, while a cone will cost you 3.00€ at a touristy place.
Parco del Colle Oppio
An archaeological site only recently opened after a big fire destroyed most of the city. No, it’s not Pompeii we’re talking about, Rome has its own history of natural disasters. This ‘Golden House’ belonged to Emperor Nero and dates back to 64 AD. Covered in frescoed, gold leaf, stucco and precious stones, the term Golden House doesn’t even begin to describe the property’s opulence and dazzle.
It’s one of the seven hills of Rome, and although it has archeological ruins, like the Baths of Trajan and Titus, and an ancient underground Roman Palace called Domus Aurea, Nero’s 1st century Palace, its magic lies in the views of the Colosseum as you approach it. Especially around dusk.
And, like other ancient ruins without many tourists, it’s easier to let your imagination wander back to antiquity and envision what it was like when the original Romans went about their life there.
Become A Gladiator for a day
According to Mike Miller, editor-in-chief at wilderness times, if you’re into history, you should definitely sign up for a class at the Roman Gladiator School. You get to reenact gladiator fighting while wearing traditional clothing.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also sign up for a gladiator tournament and win a prize! This is a great way to spend an afternoon in Rome, whether you’re traveling with friends, kids, or even solo.
A Day Trip to Anzio
A good idea for a day trip is Anzio. Anzio is a little-known beach town about an hour train ride from Rome. Barely any tourists make the trip there and the beaches are pristine for enjoying a day on the beach.
The Best Bars And Restaurants In Rome To Taste Local Delicacies
Hungry? Check out these recommendations!
Rivendita Libri “Teatro e Cioccolata”
Sira Mas is a writer and digital entrepreneur. She is from Rome, so she knows the city pretty well. According to Sira, there’s a place in Rome that she always recommends to anyone who wants to have some fun at night.
It’s a bar in the Trastevere neighborhood and its name is Rivendita Libri. Many people also call this bar La Bottarella. They make delicious shots and serve them in chocolate glasses topped with cream. The names of the shots are hilarious and a bit ambiguous, for example, they have these two sexy shots: Punto G (which means G spot) and 69.
Also, the staff is always very friendly and makes the experience enjoyable. Here’s the address: Vicolo del Cinque 11 a, 00153, Roma.
According to Samantha Gallo, the co-founder of the travel blog S&A Getaway, the Wisdomless Club is one of the most out of the ordinary places in Rome. You walk into what seems like a classic, old-school English 1920s bar. But, after a quick tour of the bar, you will find out it’s a cocktail bar, art gallery, and tattoo parlor.
Wisdomless’s decor is based on the adventures of Phileas Fogg, a fictional character who bet he could travel around the world in 80 days in the 1870s. The place is decorated with exotic animals, statues, and more to highlight Fogg’s adventures.
The bar used to be someone’s home, so there are many different rooms throughout the bar, each decorated differently than the next, with each room representing a different leg of Fogg’s voyage.
Rooftop Lounge Trevi
Choua Lao suggests a secret spot; the Rooftop Lounge Trevi, which is a rooftop bar with a nice view of the Trevi fountain. Reservations are limited but it has a nice and romantic atmosphere, with the sound of the water running from the fountain.
The Ice Club
The Ice Club is an excellent choice if you are looking for a completely different atmosphere in Rome. Especially for those hot summer days, this place with its nice decoration and its variety of drinks and cocktails is a unique option. The place is completely made of ice: the seats, the glasses, and the decoration. Definitely, a must if you want to have a unique experience in Rome.
Even though Rome is known as the city of seven hills, the 8th hill of Rome, often overlooked by most travel guides, is the one offering the best views over the city. It’s easily reached on foot, it’s just above the Vatican and the Trastevere neighbourhood, and is the perfect spot to catch your breath and enjoy a nice breeze during the hot summer months.
Insider Tip: The cannon at Piazzale Garibaldi fires each day at noon, don’t miss your chance to hear it.
In the Campo de Fiori neighborhood, it is worth visiting a little brewpub called Open Baladin. It opened in 1986 and serves mainly Belgian beer. It’s one of her favorite breweries in Rome and, since Italy isn’t known for its craft beer, it’s an activity most tourists don’t get to enjoy.
Clubbing in Testaccio
Testaccio is a very non-touristy area of Rome, and the nightclubs in this neighborhood are more authentically Italian than other neighborhoods in Rome. Akab is a great club for a fun night out listening to Italian music!
The Jerry Thomas Project
Finn Cardiff, the founder of Beachfix, says that one of the best-kept secrets in Rome is the Jerry Thomas Project. This vintage-inspired cocktail bar is candlelit with soft piano music playing in the background. It is also a bit of an exclusive bar as you have to have
a password to get in which is given to you when you make a reservation. They only allow so many people in at once which makes it a more intimate experience.
This bar is technically a Speakeasy so you would never know it was there unless you were aware of it. It looks like a normal building from the outside, and you can’t understand that there’s a fancy cocktail bar inside!
Hua Qiao Restaurant
One unique and culturally diverse spot that gets forgotten in the Italian cuisine for tourists is Hua Qiao, a Chinese place with authentic Asian hallmarks like dumplings and duck tongues.
Italy doesn’t have to just be spaghetti and lasagna because the country offers many diverse experiences. If you want some familiarity while at Hua Qiao, they also serve a large selection of signature Italian wines. It’s truly a great time that feels different from other dining trips through the city.
Ristorante Enoteca La Torre
David Adler, the founder & CEO of The Travel Secret states that this restaurant offers very different and authentic dishes with a unique taste. Ristorante Enoteca La Torre is a restaurant that combines style, tradition, creativity, and quality. Only with its location in an aristocratic mansion you will feel transported to the past while you delight with the different flavors of the signature dishes that make the real Italian food experience.
Rome Insider Tips
Rome Market Tour & Cooking Experience
Madelyn Alster is an independent PR Consultant at TouristJourney. She strongly suggests experiencing the exclusive Rome Market Tour & Cooking Experience which is a great way to get an insider taste! This experience leads travelers through the vibrant stalls of Campo de’Fiori, a bustling market located in the center of the city.
Offered every day and year-round, you will begin the tour by making your way through the market with a local chef that will help you pick out the freshest ingredients. The chef will then bring you to a kitchen tucked away in the center of the city where he will showcase tips and techniques to prepare three types of pasta, sauces, and the second course of a fresh vegetable medley followed by desserts.
In addition to the above tour, Tourist Journey also offers an elevated version – a 5 Day Food Tour Package – inclusive of the same market tour and cooking experience along with a walking tour of the city, wine tastings, and a Roman pizza making class.
A Hidden Gem: the Mouth of Truth
According to Barbara over at Trip101, a hidden gem in Rome is the Mouth of Truth. It is a marble mask found on the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. Its features are based on the face of the sea god, Oceanus.
According to legend, this massive mask can determine whether people are telling the truth or not. Those who put their hands in the mask’s mouth and utter a lie would supposedly get their hands bitten off.
This legend started during medieval times when a woman accused of adultery was put to the ‘Mouth of Truth’ test. Now, the belief that this stone face can be used as a ‘lie detector’ is still present in some groups. Tourists are intrigued by this mask and want to test it on their own. Although, it’s common for some of them to back out at the last minute!
Go City Pass
Samantha Silvas from NJF shares information about how travelers to Rome can save time and money with Go City. Go City is a multi-attraction sightseeing pass that is great for people exploring new cities and having access to under-the-radar experiences in a
destination. And with one low bundled price, Go City provides amazing cost savings, and you don’t have to worry about paying extra upon entry or hidden fees!
In Rome, you can visit between 2 to 7 attractions, including but not limited to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, a wine tasting experience, Pantheon tour, Capitolini museum, a Leonardo da Vinci experience, and so much more. All attractions can be found here.
Unknown Facts & Places in Rome
Valentina Sorpresa, the founder of Peripatetic Inc, shares some relatively unknown facts and places with us. These are:
- Women have to cover their shoulders and they can’t wear short skirts above the knees if they want to go into the Basilica.
- An important sight that is generally unknown by tourists is the Aqueduct’s park. The place is highly underrated, maybe because it is at the very southern border of the city, far from the center. It’s a huge open park, with free access, and it’s situated alongside the old Roman aqueduct; an impressive sight on a sunny day. However, you shouldn’t go there at night. The best way to reach it with public transportation is through Metro A, Subaugusta station, then a 10 minutes walk.
- There’s a statue of St. Peter whose feet are so worn down because pilgrims keep touching it for blessings and kissing it for good luck. Over the years, people have done that so much that the statue’s feet are completely round and have lost shape.
Pizza A Taglio
It translates to pizza by the cut, which means that you don’t have to sit down at a restaurant. There are many places where you can choose from a wide range of pizzas and baked goods that are priced by kilo. Meaning that you can taste many kinds of pizza for the same price as a full-sized pizza at a restaurant.
Ask for a suppi as well, which is one of Italy’s most underrated culinary exploits. Basically, it’s a deep-fried breaded ball of rice that has tomato sauce and a chunk of mozzarella cheese inside. When you bite into it, the sauce and cheese literally explode out of the breaded shell, so make sure to grab a few as they are delicious!
Vanessa Gordon, a publisher at Eat and Taste Magazine, says that when in Rome you should look for the airy and cloudy gelato instead of the flat, neutral-colored gelato. This is because there are some gelaterias that pump the gelato with air. As a result, the gelato doesn’t taste as good as the real traditional gelato of Rome. She recommends trying Giolitti | Antica Gelateria Pasticceria dal 1900 and Gelateria Del Teatro for a taste of a real gelato.
Private Golf Cart Tours
Vanessa also suggests taking a private golf tour as they take you off of the main roads and down those narrow cobbled streets to bring you to some of the most beautiful and tranquil spots in Rome, including spots that you may not be able to reach by car or by foot. Her personal recommendation for a golf tour is Rolling Rome.
Strikes in Rome
As stated by Axel Hernborg, the CEO of Tripplo, Rome faces a lot of strikes in its public transport network. You might find the metros and public transport on 24-hour strikes or more and sometimes they even block the road.
So, if you have a tight travel schedule, this experience is going to be challenging. Hence, before you plan your trip to Rome, make sure to keep some extra days aside. Also, ensure that your schedule is not so compact that any strike or delay can hamper the remaining days of the trip.
Tips on Using ATMs in Rome
Julie Decocker says that sometimes there are hidden fees when withdrawing cash. ATMs, or Bancomats, in Rome are one of those places.
ATMs associated with banks do not charge fees, at least not on top of what your bank may charge. ATMs not associated with a bank, however, do charge extra fees. So, make sure to always use one associated with a bank. Avoid stand-alone, private ATMs.
Also, if the ATM offers to convert the exchange into your home dollars, you’ll be charged a higher rate. So, it’s advisable to do the math yourself and select the rate in the country you are visiting to minimize fees.
One more tip on ATMs in Rome is not to wait until the last minute to get cash. This is because, in heavy tourist areas, the ATMs might run out of cash!
What is the best area to stay in Rome?
Finding a place to book accommodation in Rome can be quite challenging, especially if it’s your first time visiting the city. If you are wondering where to stay in Rome, read some of our suggestions below
Rome’s central station is where the heart of the city beats. The station connects Rome to the airport and other cities in Italy and Europe. Therefore, there is an abundance of budget and luxury hotels, as well as Airbnbs in the area.
Only one stop away from Esquilino, one of the most exciting parts of Rome, the Termini area is also close to some of the city’s most famous landmarks. The National Roman Museum, the Baths of Diocletian and the remains of the Servian walls are all within walking distance.
Navona Square is an iconic landmark of Rome, decorated with the magnificent Fountain of Four Rivers at its center. This marvelous baroque monument made by Bernini somehow manages to steal the show in an equally impressive environment.
Interestingly, Navona Square is the only historical square in the city without a church in sight. Some of the most important sights in the area are the Pantheon and the Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola church. If you don’t mind crowds and your budget allows it, you will have an amazing time staying in the area.
The area around the Colosseum is where the heart of Rome’s nightlife beats. Once home to gladiators and similarly dangerous types, Monti is one of the oldest areas of Rome, with endless dining and entertainment options.
Don’t miss the Saint Peter in Chains church, as well as Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the oldest basilicas in the city. If the idea of sleeping in the same grounds as emperors, gladiators and senators appeals to you, then Monti is a great place for you to stay in Rome. Just make sure to make the most out of the nearby restaurants!
Is there Uber in Rome?
Taxi drivers in Rome will tell you that using Uber is illegal in the city. However, this is not exactly the case. The truth is that the service was briefly banned in 2017 amidst backlash created by taxi drivers, however the decision was swiftly overturned. Using Uber in Rome and Milan is perfectly legal, although these are the only cities the ride sharing app actually operates in.
Even though you shouldn’t believe the rumors spread by disgruntled taxi drivers, you’d better believe Uber is quite expensive in Italy. Legislation only allows for Uber Black and Uber Vans. Combined with the high demand and surge pricing, this can make Uber a surprisingly expensive option. Therefore, you might be better off just taking a regular cab.