Known as the Eternal City, Rome is one of the most famous cities in the world where past and present converge in perfect harmony. Founded over 2700, Rome is considered the birthplace of the Roman Empire, lying at the centre of ancient Roman history. Every year people have flock to the Eternal City in their millions to visit its glorious monuments of its illustrious past. Its architectural heirlooms are some of the most famous in the world, reminders of its once great empire. There is no other city like Rome. It is the perfect place for a romantic getaway and a perfect city to be combined as part of a two week self-drive holiday around Italy.
Top Attractions in Rome
By far the biggest and most visited attraction, the famous Roman Colosseum is the iconic sight of Rome and one that simply cannot be missed. As its name suggests this colossal amphitheatre measures over 500m in circumference and back in its heyday it could hold over 60,000 spectators all geared up to watch some of the gruesome gladiator battles in Rome. It’s best to arrive here early if you wish to go inside, during the summer months queues can be quite long.
A popular hangout place for young couples in the evening, the Spanish Steps or Piazza di Spagna is one of the nicest squares in Rome, often filled with tourists enjoying the Roman sun on the steps or sitting near the fountain. The combination of the monumental staircase, an obelisk and the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church is a draw for tourists and photographers. The elegant staircase consists of 137 steps over twelve different flights and on a clear day you can get a good view across the city from the top.
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic and famous fountains in the world. Located at the junctions of three streets (tri meaning three) this spectacular fountain draws crowds in their thousands each day and no self-respecting visitor can forgo the traditional ritual of throwing a coin into the basin to vouch a safe return to Rome in the future. But you must throw it over your left shoulder with your back towards to fountain or it is considered bad luck. Even more spectacular at night, the fountain is often a peaceful spot unlike during the day, where couples come to sit and relax in the Roman atmosphere while enjoying a gelato.
Situated on the right bank of the Tiber River, Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) fortress was the former mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian. Later it became prison, part of the city wall and final a refuge for the pope in turbulent times. A secret corridor, known as the Passetto di Borgo, connects Castel Sant'Angelo with the Vatican, made famous in the 2009 film adaptation of Dan Brown’s famous novel Angels and Demons. These days it is used as a National Museum and inside you can retrace its turbulent history or simply enjoy a coffee on the top floors café and enjoy beautiful views of the city.
While Rome has a whole host of ancient Roman sites the Pantheon is probably the most astonishing and best preserved building in the city. Built in 125AD the Pantheon first started out as a Pagan temple, dedicated to 12 of the most important deities. Archaeologists claim its fine state is due to the building being changed to a Christian Church around 608AD when it was then protected by the Pope. It’s most recognisable feature is the occulus, a circular hole in the dome that beams down a ray of light into the church, a symbolic link between the temple and the heavens. The building is still officially a church, and contains the tombs of some of the most well-known Italians, including the artist Raphael and united Italy's first king, Vittorio Emanuele II. The piazza outside the Pantheon is often crowded with tourists but it makes for a nice spot for an evening drink (although pricey).
Piazza Navona is arguably the most famous and the most beautiful square in the entire city of Rome.
Originally built as a stadium in the first century for chariot races, Piazza Navona is one of the trendiest and liveliest squares surrounded my upmarket cafes and no less than three magnificent water fountains in its centre. A visit here may leave you with a stiff neck as you spend the whole time gazing up at the beautiful Baroque facades of the buildings. It is a pleasant spot in the evening; you’ll find artists and tarot readers as well as locals strolling around the back streets with a gelato in hand taking in the evening Roman air.
San Pietro Square & Basilica
Visitors on their way to the Saint Peter's Basilica pass along Saint Peter's Square, an elliptical esplanade created in the mid seventeenth century by Bernini who is also famous for the four rivers fountain that can be found in Piazza Navona. On a busy day, around 20,000 visitors pass through here to visit the magnificent Basilica, the world’s largest Catholic Church and the centre of the Roman Catholic faith. Located on Vatican Hill this highly religious site is said to be built on the exact spot where the chief Apostle Saint Peter died and also where he is buried. He is considered to be the very first pope, therefore it was decided this would be the perfect place in which to build the home of the papacy. Both Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square lay within the boundaries of The Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world covering just over 100 acres. TIP: Please remember to dress appropriately if you wish to visit the basilica. Shorts, miniskirts or bare shoulders are not permitted and must be covered before entering the church.
Right next door to the Colosseum lays The Roman Forum, a maze of ruins of some of the city’s most important archaeological sites. A combined ticket with the Colosseum will gain you access to this open air museum, full of temples, crumbled columns, triumphal arches and basilicas. You can easily spend a whole afternoon wandering around these ruins, but be warned there is no information to indicate what each ruin is, so if you have time and are really interested it might be advisable to put your name down for a guided tour to really gain the best experience from the magnificent archaeological site.
Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
Campo dei Fiori
Another top square in Rome, Campo dei Fiori plays host to one of the busiest open air-markets by day and becomes an open air nightclub by night. Numerous restaurants, wine bars, and pubs surround the piazza making it an ideal evening spot for locals and tourists alike.
Best time to visit
Tourists visit Rome from May to September
The best time to visit Rome is outside the summer period. The city can get stiflingly hot and tourists come in their thousands so expect long queues into the most popular sights. The fine warm weather in the spring can be a pleasant time to visit the city especially if you have children travelling with you or the fall from late September to October is superb and the temperature is perfect for a romantic roam around the streets at night. However it is advisable to also avoid visiting during Easter. Rome bursts at the seams during Holy Week, hotel and flight prices rocket, so unless you like crowds or want to see the Pope on his balcony I would avoid visiting during this period at all costs.
Rome is served by two large airports that are relatively close to the city. Most major European and many North American cities will have weekly flight to the main Fiumicino airport (Leonardo da Vinci Airport) while budget airlines often fly into Rome Ciampino.Rome Fiumicino is linked to the city by train to the main Termini station. After reclaiming your baggage follow the signs to the trains. The Leonardo Express is a fast service that will get you to the centre in 30 minutes and leaves every 30 minutes. A ticket costs approximately 11 euro per person. Alternatively there is a taxi rank and the average journey cost to the centre is around 40-50 euro or a Terravision coach service that will take you to the Termini train station for approx. 9 euro per person. Children under 4 years travel for free. The easiest and quickest way to get to the centre from Ciampino airport is via Terravision coach which drops you at Termini station in the centre of Rome. Tickets can be purchased at the airport from 4 euro each way. Children under 4 years travel for free.
Rome is a very accessible city, with a great comprehensive public transport system although the best way to see the city’s highlights is by foot. Most of the big main attractions are within short walking distances of each other. Walking is also the best way to experience the local rhythm of the city. Avoid taking taxi’s as even the shortest journey can end up being expensive, especially if you get stuck in Rome’s hectic traffic. Alternatively Rome’s underground Metro station is very easy to use. Metro tickets can be purchased at ticket machines inside the metro station.
TIP: If you want to skip the long queues you can also buy tickets at any newspaper stand (edicola) or a tobacco shop (tabaccaio).
TIP: While visitors often arrive to Rome by car it is not advisable to use it within the city to get around. Car parking spaces are very limited in the city centre and you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find somewhere to squeeze your car into. It is best to leave it in a secure hotel car park for the duration of your stay.