Ah, Roma! By far one of my favorite places I have ever had the opportunity to see. The Roman Empire is one of my favorite time periods and cultures to study. Rome’s past has it all: love, conquer, betrayal, murder, peace. I’ve always been amazed by how one (relatively) small city in ancient times was able to become the most powerful nation in the world. Perhaps it was a mindset that the Romans had that involved the notion of conquer or be conquered. Perhaps it was greed. Perhaps it was something else altogether. I have my own theories on this topic that I may post about later, but It’s no surprise that it was one of the greatest civilizations in history. Just as impressive as the origin and rise is the downfall of Rome and subsequent consequences around the world. With all of these aspects, Rome is one of the most fascinating cultures to study. The fact that so much of the original city remains intact makes Rome stand out amongst locations to visit. While Switzerland and Germany offered a great nature escape, Rome’s bustling city atmosphere that blends modern and ancient impeccably is hard to beat. Here are my top things to do in Rome (not in a particular order):
- The Vatican. I could dedicate an entire post just on the Vatican. While I am a Catholic, I believe and have heard from many that are not that the Vatican is a must see if you are in Rome. As the center of the Catholic Church, the Vatican offers much to do and see. There is the Vatican Museum with countless treasures from history, St. Peter’s Basilica, and numerous shops around the area. The pope also hosts general audiences, so you may get to see him if you plan in advance to be there!
- St. Peter’s Basilica is a must. While the lines can be atrociously long to get into the church itself, it is well worth it. I would recommend a tour of the basilica that will offer a small glimpse into the intricately designed church and its history. You will be amazed by how nothing went unnoticed in the planning of it. Even with a tour, you still won’t be able to get a full appreciation of the church, but it definitely hits the highlights.
- Scavi tour. This is perhaps not a well known tour in the Vatican, but was one of my favorite parts of the trip. This tour is small (~10-15 people) and takes you underneath the Vatican into the Catacombs below. Set up to be a story tour, the tour guide takes you on the journey of the building of the Vatican by Constantinople and the mystery surrounding the bones of St. Peter. You are able to see parts of the Vatican not open to the public, including private chapels. You may even get a glimpse of a famous cardinal walking around. The tour ends with a walk through the Grotto, where many previous popes are buried. We also were able to go into St. Peter’s Basilica from there and thus skipped having to wait in the long line.
- Climb the Vatican. You get spectacular views of Rome from the top of the Vatican, with an iconic view of St. Peter’s Square.
- Trevi Fountain. Did you even go to Rome if you don’t throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain? While touristy, there is a reason why this is a favorite spot.
- Colosseum. Another staple of Rome that is definitely worth the time walking through.
- Pantheon. Be sure to at least walk through the Pantheon. The outside square is pretty cool to walk around too.
- Piazza Navona. With it’s multitude of shops, cafes and fountains/statues, Piazza Navona offers a lot to do and see. Whether you are in the mood for a nice outside lunch watching the square, a refreshing glass of wine, sitting by a fountain enjoying the afternoon sun, or shopping- Piazza Navona offers it all!
- Major Basilicas. St. Peter’s Basilica may be the most famous Church in Rome, but there are actually 4 major basilicas in Rome: St. Peter’s, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. These are all worth going to if you have the time. St. Paul’s is a little more out of the way and requires a subway ride, but it was beautiful.
- The Churches. Rome is not short on churches. You could spend a good amount of time in each one learning about its history. Every church, it seemed, had some connection to a major saint or famous figure from the past. It was amazing to happen upon these places as you were walking along. I would recommend keeping a list of the ones you see as they all blur together very easily. But definitely check out a few at least, it will definitely be worth it to see their beauty.
- Spanish Steps. If you want a neat place to sit and relax with some locals, the Spanish steps have you covered. It was a nice spot to take a break for a while. There is shopping around the area if you want to do that too.
- Pizza and Wine! Wine is cheaper than water, that is what I heard from friends who had been to Rome before me. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I could believe them. They were right, however. While I don’t think drinking wine at every meal would be the best idea, Rome offers an amazing collection of wine (although you probably already new that). The food was spectacular everywhere we went. Something to get used to was that locals tend to eat later at night. The service was slower than in the US, but that is a cultural difference. In Rome, they value time spent with good company and dinners lasting hours are a perfect way to do that. Finish off the meal with a cup of coffee and good conversation before heading to the next destination.
- Gelato. Oh, gelato. I would eat it every day if I could (and we did most days while we were in Rome). It’s easy to find as there are places all over the city that sell it. Get it. Eat it. Enjoy it.
- Get lost, and don’t be afraid when you do. With the extensive history that Rome has, every building and statue has some value to it. Often, I would just wander the streets to see where I would end up. You never know what interesting things you will come across, and those opportunities can make great stories.
Well, there you have it. These are some of my favorite things about Rome.