Top 5 Things to Do in Rome

When doing research for my trip to Rome, I found lots of conflicting opinions.  Some people raved about Rome and all the beautiful architecture, while others complained that it’s just not worth it.  I planned my trip at the beginning of April, so to avoid major crowds, but still ran into lots of people.  I personally love architecture and the ornate details on buildings, so Rome was a beautiful city to me.  I walked this city up and down and from everything that I saw and did, here are my top five favorite things!

1)Wander Through the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Visiting Rome, the number one thing people expect you to do is visit the Colosseum.  However, I enjoyed wandering through Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum so much more than the Colosseum.  The tickets for Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum are €12 and valid for 48 hours.  Palatine Hill is considered to be the place where Rome was born and is closely linked to the city’s history, preserving many of its ancient and important sites.  Palatine Hill was one of the most affluent areas in Ancient Rome, housing many prominent figures.  It offers views of Rome’s best ancient sites including excavation of the House of Augustus, the House of Livia, homes of several of Rome’s emperors, the Domus Augustana and the Palace of Septimius Severus.   The Roman Forum was the central area of the city where Ancient Rome developed, where commerce, business, and administration of justice took place.  The main sites include the Arch of Titus, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and Church of San Luca e Martina. I loved viewing all the ruins that were right in the middle of the city, seeing how different columns were still preserved, and others had crumbling pieces lying in the grass.  I also loved standing on Palatine Hill and looking out at the Forum and seeing the Colosseum.

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Standing on top of Palatine Hill, looking out over the Roman Forum

2)Imagine Yourself a Spectator in the Colosseum

The Colosseum dates from 70 AD and is considered a wonder of the world.  Originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre, it could seat up to 50,000 people, with the magistrates and senior officials sitting in the lowest tier nearest the action, wealthy citizens in the middle, and average citizens at the top.  Gladiators met in the center for mortal combat and condemned prisoners fought off wild animals.  The Colosseum was at the center of a complex, housing tunnels, rooms and passageways underneath.  The Passaggio del Commodo was a passageway that led to the Imperial Palace so the Emperors could access the Colosseum without interacting with the public citizens.  80 arch entrances existed to allow for the audience to quickly enter and be seated.  Majority of the Colosseum no longer exists, but it is still a vast and complex arena.  We arrived early in the morning and bought our tickets on the spot, and loved watching the sun light up the stone amphitheatre.  It is easy to see where the four tiered seating was, and walk along two separate floors to gaze around all the stone and columns, imagining the bloodshed that must’ve happened here.

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The Colosseum

3)Enjoy a Glass of Wine in Piazza Navona

Seeing as no trip to Italy is complete without wine, this is one of the cutest places to partake in Rome.  The Piazza Navona is one of the most popular squares in Rome, housing three fountains: Fountain of the Four Rivers, Fountain of the Moor, and the Fountain of Neptune.  The plaza was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian and follows the open space of that stadium.  Here, Ancient Romans came to watch games in this competition arena.  In present day, the plaza is surrounded by restaurants and terraces, where one can sit, enjoy a glass of wine, an appetizer, and even some lunch.  Entertainment includes people-watching and live performances by street artists, magicians, and dancers.  I love the feeling of the open square which is a refreshing contrast to the busy streets and areas surrounding places such as the Trevi Fountain.

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The open square at Piazza Navona and it’s three fountains

4)Learn All About the Pope in Vatican City

Although Vatican City is not necessarily considered a part of Rome, it’s right there, so I lump it together.  Vatican City consists of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro.  You can choose to stand in line for tickets, purchase online, or purchase a tour.  I would absolutely recommend purchasing tickets in advance or booking a tour.  It is possible to show up and book a tour on the spot.  We arrived, booked a tour, and within 5 minutes started our tour.  I personally enjoyed seeing all the different carriages and cars that various Popes have ridden in, while walking among different Roman statues and biblical frescoes.  The Vatican Museums house more masterpieces than many small countries with frescoes painted by both Raphael and Michelangelo.  The Sistine Chapel portrays “The Last Judgment” and “The Creation of Adam” and St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest, grandest and wealthiest in Italy.  Its double dome was also created by Michelangelo, soaring 137 meters high, ornate with marble and effigies, squeezing 15,000 people during papal mass.    On Wednesdays, one can attend the General Papal Audience with a chance to see the Pope.  To learn more and reserve a ticket click here.

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Piazza San Marco outside the Vatican

5)Visit the Pantheon

The Pantheon can be found in Piazza della Rotonda and was first built in 27 BC, and later rebuilt in 126 AD after the original burnt to the ground.  The dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and it is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings.  This may be due to its continuous use throughout history.  Originally, it was a Roman temple which was dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, and now it’s being utilized as a church.  The architecture of the Pantheon was unlike anything of Ancient Rome, utilizing a spherical dome with a central opening to the sky and a series of intersecting arches.  The dimensions of the height of the dome are equal to the diameter of the dome to represent the harmony of the building.  The Pantheon is free to enter and is wide open inside.  It is immaculate, with marble, columns, and statues that embody the holiness and harmony of the space.  Looking up, you can find five rings of 28 sunken panels which sit mesmerizing.

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The open dome of the Pantheon

Runners up to my list include Trevi Fountain and Ponte Sant-Angelo, but there is still so much worth doing and seeing! 

What was your favorite thing to do in Rome?

Keep checking in, as I’ll be publishing my guide for Two Days in Rome shortly!  Or subscribe to my blog and get notifications!

Looking for a sample itinerary in visiting Italy?  Check out my 7 Day Sample Italy Itinerary.  Looking for what to do in Florence?  Check out my Top 5 Things to Do in Florence

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12 thoughts on “Top 5 Things to Do in Rome

      1. Wellll I lived in Greve in Chianti for an artist residency so I spent most of my time there and wanted to use my time art making. But I did see montefioralle, and some of the others. I like Florence as well.

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