Rome is the perfect place to spend a 2-3 day weekend, mainly because the city can be easily visited on foot. Visiting Rome means immersing yourself in a city of eternal charm and a thousand facets. The capital of Italy is in fact a city with more than two millennia of history, rich of art and beauty.
Best Things to Do in Rome
We begin the tour of Rome by visiting its symbol: the Colosseum. Located in the historic centre, it is undoubtedly among the first monuments to visit during your vacation in Rome. With a capacity to accommodate over 50,000 spectators, it was the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. Everyone is fascinated by the monument for which Rome is known all over the world.
Inaugurated as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was called the Colosseum only later, probably because of the huge statue known as the “Colossus of the Sun God”, located nearby, and which had the appearance of Nero. A lot of blood was spilled in this arena, where the famous gladiator fights were held. The Colosseum is still one of the most important and representative monuments of Rome, which imposes its majestic presence in the centre of the city. In the surroundings of the Amphitheater, it is easy to find the “Centurions”, nice characters dressed in the typical clothing of the Roman fighters always photographed by tourists, so much so that they have also become part of the attraction.
The visit is paid and you will probably have to wait a few hours before being able to enter, especially in the high season. The entrance ticket to the Colosseum also includes access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia, one of the most fascinating archaeological areas to visit in Rome extends the Forum, the area where Roman civilization was born and developed over the centuries. The Forum was the center of public life in ancient Rome for over a millennium and it is still possible to see the ruins of ancient markets, administrative and religious buildings.
The Palatine Hill, one of the 7 hills of Rome, according to mythology, is precisely the place where the city was founded by Romulus and Remus, the two twins who were found and nursed by a she-wolf inside a cave. At the top of the Palatine Hill, you will have access to this cave and to the ruins of the residences of historical figures such as Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.
Mouth of Truth
The Bocca delle Verità (Mouth of Truth) is another obligatory stop for the many tourists who visit Rome. It is said that in the Middle Ages this huge marble face was used to expose the betrayals of wives and husbands. It was enough to introduce the hand into the mouth of the sculpture, and if it came out intact, the accused was considered innocent. The sculpture was located in the Piazza della Bocca della Verità until 1632 when it was walled in one of the walls of the pronaos of the nearby Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the place where it can still be visited today. It is normal to see many tourists in the queue near the famous sculpture, waiting to be able to take a photograph with their own hand in the Mouth of Truth.
Not far from the Roman Forum, at the other end of Via dei Fori Imperiali, you can find Piazza Venezia, one of the main squares in Rome. From there, all roads lead to Rome’s main tourist attractions.
Altare della Patria
Here you can admire the Altare della Patria or “Vittoriano”, a huge white marble building erected in honor of the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, promoter of the Unification of Italy. Today it is the symbol of national unity.
Next to the square, there is also the famous Trajan’s column, with bas-reliefs that show the military conquests of the emperor Trajan.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Not far away is Piazza del Campidoglio. To get to enjoy all the beauty of this square you have to face a long and steep staircase (La Cordonata), designed by Michelangelo. In Piazza del Campidoglio, you can see the Palazzo Nuovo, which now houses the Capitoline Museums and the Museum of Art and Archeology.
In the centre of the square stands a copy of the statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback. The original copy of this work is located in the Capitoline Museums, which offer an extraordinary journey through the history of Rome. One of the most famous pieces of art that you can find here is the statue of the Capitoline she-Wolf: that is, the legendary she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. The staircase next to the one leading to the Capitol leads to the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church much loved by the Roman people.
The Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient building in Rome. Originally dedicated to all deities, it was built by the emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD. It then became a Christian church in the 7th century.
Inside you can admire the immense hemispherical dome and the oculus (the opening in the dome), capable of giving a rather unique lighting. The light comes from this hole but when it rains also the waterfalls which, however, flows away quickly thanks to both the central and lateral holes on the floor, which prevent the formation of puddles.
In the Pantheon, you can also see the tombs of Raffaello and Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy.
Among the places to visit in Rome is certainly Piazza Navona, a square located in the heart of the historic centre, not far from the Pantheon. It is one of the most beautiful and famous squares in Rome, where you can admire 3 fountains: the Fountain of the Four Rivers, by Bernini; the Neptune Fountain, and the Moro Fountain. Piazza Navona stands in the place of the ancient stadium of Domitian (hence its oval shape), wanted by the emperor to host athletics competitions.
Near the Pantheon, you will also find the most famous fountain in Europe: the Trevi Fountain. Tradition says that you should flip 1 coin to make sure you return to Rome.
Behind the fountain, there is also a large Baroque palace that contributes to enriching the charm of the place.
Piazza di Spagna
Walking along Via Condotti you will then arrive directly in the suggestive Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), surely one of the most famous and beautiful squares in Rome.
Piazza di Spagna is located at the foot of the monumental staircase leading to the Trinità dei Monti church. On the square, you can also see the Barcaccia fountain, which adds even more charm to this place.
Heading north of Piazza di Spagna, we meet the most beautiful public park in all of Rome: Villa Borghese, the green “heart” of Rome. You can walk among its wide avenues and on the shore of a lake surrounded by temples, statues and many fountains. The park also has a splendid botanical garden, an amphitheater (Piazza di Siena) and some museums. The most famous is the Borghese Museum and Gallery, one of the most important art museums in the city, housed in the seventeenth-century villa of the same name. The villa is divided into two sections: the collection of sculptures (Museum) on the ground floor, among which you can admire some masterpieces by Bernini (“Rape of Proserpina”, Apollo and Daphne “) and the famous statue Paolina Borghese depicted by Canova. The Pinacoteca (Gallery) on the first floor, instead, includes works by great masters of painting such as Tiziano, Raffaello, Caravaggio, Rubens.
Piazza del Popolo
In Rome, among the places to visit absolutely there is certainly Piazza del Popolo, which is located near Villa Borghese. It is one of the largest squares in Rome, famous for being the starting point of three important shopping streets: via del Corso, via del Babuino, and Via di Ripetta. It is an important point of interest, with its fountains, the 2 churches and the central obelisk. It also constitutes a magnificent access to the heart of Rome. From the square you can take the stairs to the top of the hill: from there you will have a splendid view to the Vatican.
From Piazza del Popolo it is possible to follow the Tiber river to the Sant’Angelo bridge and the homonymous castle located on the opposite bank. The bridge is decorated with 10 statues depicting angels, all designed by Bernini.
Castel Sant’Angelo was built by Emperor Hadrian to serve as a mausoleum. Later, it also began to play a very important military role, becoming a place of refuge for the Popes during the invasions. Direct access was even created from the Vatican. You can visit the castle, see the tombs and the ancient apartments of the Popes.
The visit of the Vatican is a must during a trip to Rome. It is the smallest state in the world. Only priests and nuns, guards, and of course the Pope can live there. A little curiosity about the guards: they can only be Swiss and must obviously be Catholic. They take an oath of allegiance to the Pope himself. This tradition dates back to the sack of Rome in 1527 when the Swiss guards protected the Pope during his escape to Castel Sant’Angelo.
You enter the Vatican through the famous Piazza San Pietro, the square has been designed to allow the greatest number of people to see the Pope while he gives his blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Two colonnades – designed by Bernini – surround the square, made up of almost 280 columns and 145 statues of saints. In the center of St. Peter’s Square there is an Egyptian obelisk surrounded by two large fountains.
St. Peter’s Basilica
In St. Peter’s Basilica you can admire a series of altars and monuments and you will be impressed by the rich Baroque decoration. You will see the numerous funerary monuments of the Popes; the famous statue of San Pietro (St. Peter) and the gigantic dome designed by Michelangelo.
Inside there are masterpieces of extraordinary beauty, such as the wonderful Pietà by Michelangelo, the Chair of San Pietro, the monument of Urban VIII and the sumptuous Baldacchino by Bernini. An unmissable place therefore for pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
On the right side of the Basilica, you can access the dome. You will have to take an elevator first and then, the most difficult thing, to climb another 323 steps: from here you can enjoy the magnificent view over the city of Rome. Admission to St. Peter’s Basilica is free. Access to the dome is paid.
The Vatican Museums are considered among the most beautiful museum complexes in the world, equipped with one of the most beautiful art collections, such as the works of Greek and Roman antiquity, as well as the rich collection of Egyptian and Etruscan art. And again, works of art by Raphael, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci. And the famous Sistine Chapel (from the name of its founder, Pope Sixtus IV), that Michelangelo’s genius has made it one of the most celebrated artistic treasures in the world, a destination for many visitors every day. The frescoes are considered among the largest and most intense pictorial masterpieces in the history of art.
During your vacation in Rome, it is advisable to also visit the Trastevere district. It is one of the most characteristic neighborhoods of the city, which best preserves the Romanity of the capital with its cobblestone streets overlooked by medieval houses with small balconies from which climbing plants hang. Unlike the rest of Rome, there is no particular historical monument here, but you will discover a real “Italian” neighborhood with its inhabitants and its local shops. Today it is one of the favorite places for young people who meet in Trilussa square, to have a beer taken in the pubs that populate the narrow alleys of Trastevere. Do not miss the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in the homonymous square.
Gianicolo – Janiculum hill
Not far from Trastevere it is possible to climb the Gianicolo hill to admire a beautiful panorama of the city.
Campo de ‘Fiori
Campo de ‘Fiori is the square where a fruit, vegetable, meat and fish market is held every morning. This small market has managed to retain all its authenticity.
The statue placed in the centre of the square depicts Giordano Bruno, the philosopher who was burned here by the Catholic Inquisition. If in the sixteenth century the Campo was famous precisely because it was the scene of executions of death sentences, today its fame is linked to the lively life that animates it at all hours of the day. Campo de ‘Fiori is the most genuine image of Rome.
Another place worth a visit is the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus. Once used as cemeteries for Jews and Christians, they are the most famous and largest in the city. The visit of the catacombs lasts about 30 minutes and must be done through a guide. The catacombs reach a depth of 20 meters and extend for about 15 km. In them, dozens of martyrs, 16 Popes and many Christians were buried.
Other catacombs such as San Sebastiano, Domitilla or the Catacombs of Priscilla can also be visited.