What to do in Rome, Italy

Visiting the Eternal City

Interesting little side-street in Rome. Photo by Ed Yourdon (flickr)
Interesting little side-street in Rome. Photo by Ed Yourdon (flickr)

Rome is the capital city of Italy. It's a cosmopolitan place, that has been a bustling metropolis for thousands of years. Look around the city, and you'll see traces of different periods, from the ancient Roman empire, through the Italian Renaissance, to modern times.

With its Mediterranean climate, spring and autumn days are warm, and in the heat of summer you can expect temperatures in the eighties. If you visit in the winter, be sure to take warm things with you. Last time I visited Rome in the winter, the first day found me shopping for a hat and leather gloves!

So what to do when you're in Rome? Here are some of my favorites.

A view of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill. Photo by HarshLight (flickr)
A view of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill. Photo by HarshLight (flickr)
The Coliseum at night. Photo by kjtittle84 (flickr)
The Coliseum at night. Photo by kjtittle84 (flickr)
View towards St. Peter's Basilica from Palazzo di Giustizia. Photo by jimmyharris (flickr)
View towards St. Peter's Basilica from Palazzo di Giustizia. Photo by jimmyharris (flickr)

Major monuments of Rome

  • Visit the Roman Forum, and picture what life was like 2000 years ago, when people like Julius Caesar walked these very paths. This was the political center of ancient Rome, when Rome was the center of the sprawling Roman Empire, the power center of Europe. You can still see ruins of the streets and buildings.
  • See the Coliseum of Rome. This ancient amphitheater is in the middle of the city, and is the largest of its kind built in the Roman Empire. It's an excellent example of Roman engineering and architecture. Close your eyes and you can see visions of gladiators clashing in front of cheering crowds. The ancient Romans had many other entertainments here too -- even flooding it for mock sea battles!
  • Stroll around the Seven Hills of Rome, and along the River Tiber. Although this central area is not large, there are many hotels, palaces, churches, and you'll also find the Houses of Parliament and the official home of the Italian President. This area is full of interesting monuments, bars and restaurants and is popular with visiting tourists from the world over.
  • Visit St Peters Basilica -- the top Roman Catholic cathedral in the world. It's the most prominent building in the Vatican City, it can hold 60,000 people, and you can't miss the huge dome on the skyline of Rome. You're unlikely to see the pope, but when he does show himself, the square is thronged with the faithful. Try to find the marked spots in the center of the piazza -- if you stand in just the right place, you'll see all of the columns line up perfectly.

Sights to see in Rome

The Sistine Chapel ceiling. Photo by JosephLeonardo (flickr)
The Sistine Chapel ceiling. Photo by JosephLeonardo (flickr)
  • Even if you don't fancy yourself a museum buff, it's worth visiting the Vatican museum. They have a spectacular array of paintings and sculptures. The highlight of any visit is the Sistine Chapel with its stunning Michelangelo ceiling. You've seen those images so many other places, now you can see the original! Even though it's in the middle of Rome, Italy, technically the Vatican City is a different country. If you mail a postcard from here, you'll get a postmark of the Vatican, not Italy.
  • When it's time to stop for much needed refreshment, there are many cafes to choose from in Rome. Italy is fabulous for people-watching -- it's a regular pastime. Just grab a seat at a sidewalk table, relax with your epresso, and watch the world go by.
  • The Spanish Steps climb a steep slope from the Piazza di Spagna. They're said to be the widest and longest set of steps in the whole of Europe, though I wouldn't swear to that. If your visit to Rome takes place over Christmas, have a look at the crèche that's displayed there. In May, the steps are adorned with many pots of flowers, and in recent years a fresh flower market has been taking place on the Spanish steps.

Relaxing in Rome

  • If you are a music-lover (especially opera), then why not take in a performance at the Baths of Caracalla, built almost 2000 years ago? The ruins of these old Roman baths act as a spectacular backdrop for the Roma Theatre during the summer season. If you're lucky, you might even see a performance of Aida, complete with real live camels and elephants. This venue has also become popular for other events.
  • If you're a gardener at heart, or just enjoy some relaxing greenery, try a walk through the many gardens and parks in the city of Rome. Many of the green areas around the city are dotted with the remains of villas that originally circled the papal city.
  • Enjoy some of Rome's local cuisine specialties. A few Roman favorites include Pasta amatriciana, Pasta carbonara, or one of my favorites - Veal saltimbocca. Delicious!
  • The city of Ostia is about 15 miles away, but this was the ancient port of Rome. You can easily visit here as a day trip from Rome. You'll find it's an amazing place, with extensive ruins of the ancient city.

Enjoy your time in Rome! Italy's premiere city has so many fascinating sights, such a wealth of history, and such a lively spirit, there's sure to be something to suit everybody.

Explore Rome, Italy

show route and directions
A markerRoman Forum, Rome -
Forum of Caesar, Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00186 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

B markerRome Coliseum -
Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, 00144 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

C markerSeven Hills of Rome -
Seven Hills, Via Cassia, 1216, 00189 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

D markerSt Peters Basilica -
St Peter's Basilica, Piazza San Pietro, 00193 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

E markerPiazza di Spagna -
Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

F markerBaths of Caracalla -
Baths of Caracalla, Terme di Caracalla, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52, 00153 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

Books about Rome

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Comments? 28 comments

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

The Pantheon is the site which blew me away - a building with a roof on that old - 500AD ? is very very rare - the only other one Ican think of is Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Lissie - You're right -- it's another amazing site! Since it was used as a church for so long, it escaped a lot of the vandalism other sites had, with their marble being taken for reuse elsehwere. The Pantheon gives you an appreciation for what some other places must have looked like "back in the day". Thanks for the comment!

sligobay profile image

sligobay 8 years ago from east of the equator

V is for Victory in Rome -the Vatican during the day and Via Venuto at night. Byzantine artworks are preserved at the Vatican from the first millenium and is a real treasure trove. The finest hotels, clubs and cusine are available along the Via Venuto. Ciao.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Sligobay - Thanks for the comments! I'd hate to leave out the street with the finest hotels, clubs and cuisine! Rome is such a wonderful city day or night -- I could happily spend months (or years) there. Arrivederci, - Deanna.

ram_m profile image

ram_m 8 years ago from India

Yes the Roman Forum will evoke memories of such great figures like Ceaser and Cicero. A nice travelogue

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Ram_m - You're right, the Roman Forum is filled with memories. It's easy to sit there, and picture it full of bustling, important people -- the center of a powerful empire.

Thanks for your comment! - Deanna

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

I have to say, the first thing I noticed about your Hub was how well it's laid out and put together! And the content is great too... I'm just sad because I don't forsee a trip to Italy anytime soon :( I'm dreaming of seeing the Coliseum...

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi glassvisage & freonshao -

Thanks for your visit & comments! Hope you both make it to Italy sometime and see those sights you dream of! As for St Peters and the Sistine Chapel -- both definitely must sees! Consider the off-season, though. They can be VERY crowded in the summer tourist season, and you can save $ by traveling in other months, too.

flread45 profile image

flread45 7 years ago from Montana

Pass the wine me friend,let the games begin.

morgan 7 years ago

have visited Rome a long time ago and would dearly love to return

Carla Soho profile image

Carla Soho 7 years ago

Beautiful place!

kuzzi 7 years ago

Been to Rome, Sorrento and Milan. It's a lovely country with great food!

nicky 6 years ago

really nice

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Thanks everybody! Rome certainly is a fascinating city. There's so much to see in Rome, I think you could spend a lifetime and never get to it all. And Kuzzi - and you're right about the great food!

tinaweha profile image

tinaweha 5 years ago from Seattle (and the world)

A few years ago, I spent a week in Rome, but it was in February and it rained quite a bit. I don't mind rain, but I would like to hang out in Piazza Navarro in the evening when it is warm. That sounds like fun.

Mike 5 years ago

Hey great hub. I am travelling to Rome this coming year and was looking at some good things to do there. Well put together and very informative. Thanks a lot, Mike.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi tinaweha! Strolling Piazza Navarro in the evening would surely be more charming if it doesn't rain but I'm sure you had a great time in Rome nevertheless. :)

Hi Mike - Thanks! I'm glad to hear that you find this post informative. Have a great time in Rome!

Jean S. 5 years ago

I've been to Rome and I can see there's a few more reasons why I should go back. I'm glad that you shared these bits here. Thanks!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Jean,

Rome is simply splendid! I'm glad you got more ideas - happy trip!

Mike's Corner profile image

Mike's Corner 5 years ago from Maryland

Wow, terrific hub Happyexplorer -- great pics, packed with info!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Mike's Corner!

Thank you! Rome is rich with history and beautiful scenes - terrific!

applejuic3 profile image

applejuic3 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

one of the prettiest cities in the world from the pictures that i have seen. i want to go here so bad, i hope that one day i will be able to adventure out there. thank you for writing this very information-filled hub.

rome car hire 5 years ago

I've been to Rome several times. Both the Colosseo or Coliseum and the Foro or Forum are amazing. What i did not like is the fact that Rome is a very chaotic town. I'd never live there. By the way, the article is pretty amazing, thanks!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi applejuic3 and rome car hire! Rome is one the prettiest indeed - reason why there's so many who flock the city. Thank you for dropping by.

Jangaplanet profile image

Jangaplanet 5 years ago

I was having a nostralgia for Roma and was looking up some articles on it and found you. The fotos you added here are amazing...I miss Rome. and i simply miss the whole way of life. Very well written and enjoyed it. Now I'm gonna go read what do do in venezia!

Thanks for sharing.

mr-burns profile image

mr-burns 5 years ago

An excellent article. Just what I needed for a heads up when going to Rome. Thanks

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Jangaplanet,

I'm glad you liked it. I surely understand why you would miss Rome -such a beauty!

Evan Smiley profile image

Evan Smiley 2 years ago from Oklahoma City

Wow Awesome! I'm studying abroad in Rome this summer! And this hub just got me even more excited!!

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