I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Rome a couple of times – once for a romantic weekend away and then for a weekend getaway with friends. It’s such an astonishing city – wherever you look, you see sights that will truly take your breath away. Both times, I’ve had such a fabulous time there. There really is so much to see and do and what’s even better, you can visit most of the sights without having to pay a penny! It’s a great option for a short break away, both times I went in April when the temperature was just nudging on 20 and in the Summer it can get hot (with highs of over 30). As the capital city of Italy, Rome is of course busy with tourists, so I’d advise going outside the school Summer holidays. here’s my top tips for sightseeing in Rome:
Head for the Colosseum first – get there before the crowds! This place is stunning – this is the place where gladiators fought and where history was made. Started in 72AD, it’s still the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built. You can wander around outside and pose with the gladiators, but they’ll want a few Euros from you in return! We bought some cheap entrance tickets for 16 Euros and it was well worth it (this includes access to the Roman Forum also). You can opt for a guided tour or grab some headsets and go along with the audio tour. We went with a guide and it was so interesting listening to the histories and tales from times gone buy. This is a must-see sight of Rome!
From the Colosseum all you have to do is pop over the road and then you’re in the Forum – another of the most famous sights in Rome. The entrance fee is covered with your Colosseum ticket. In ancient times this was considered the heart of Rome. Here you can still see the impressive ruins of temples, law courts and basilicas. Dating back to the 7th Century BC, the Forum is easy to wander round – but a guidebook might be handy so you can spot all the old buildings and learn of their history.
Vatican City/ Sistine Chapel/ St Peter’s Basilica/ St Peter’s Square
Again, like the Colosseum, I’d recommend that you get here early before the crowds. This is another of the “must see” sights when in Rome. Vatican City is the World’s smallest state – with a population of only 825. You can wander around St Peter’s Square free of charge but to see the Sistine Chapel and Vatican City, I’d recommend that you buy your tickets well in advance (from back in the UK) or you could try the “skip the line” queue jumper options. If you’re only in Rome for a short while, you might not want to queue for 2-3 hours for access. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy our tickets in advance and didn’t fancy queuing so we spent some time in the beautiful St Peter’s Square and then wandered over to….
Castel Sant’ Angelo
It’s only a 10 minutes stroll to walls of the beautiful Castel Sant’Angelo complex (you might recognise it from the film Angels and Demons). The Castel sits on the banks of the River Tiber. Once the tallest building in Rome, the castle was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum, it was later used as a castle and fort – and is now museum, showing papal artefacts. It’s a fascinating place to visit, and from high upon the terrace there’s some stunning views of Rome. It’s not so good if you have mobility problems (you have to ask to use the lift) – although I think the best viewpoint is from the other side of the River, looking back across the Sant Angelo Bridge. Just stunning! From here it’s only a 10-minute walk to…
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Italy and is outstanding. I have to admit that this is one of my favourite spots in Rome just to while away some time. The architecture is amazing (some of the finest examples from the Baroque period) and features Bernini’s gorgeous Fountain of Four Rivers in the centre. Here, the atmosphere is amazing, it’s fabulous to stop and watch the artists, singers and performers – there’s so much to see. There’s loads of small bars and cafes, but as it’s a tourist stop, it can be expensive. We grabbed a gelato and sat by the fountain and just enjoyed people watching and soaked up the atmosphere.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome at 86 feet tall and is probably one of the most famous fountains in the World. Finally completed in 1762, it is huge! Legend goes that you have to throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain – ensuring your return back to Rome one day! Again, as is everything in Rome, it’s so impressive – but at night when all lit up, it really takes on another dimension. You’re best off visiting the Trevi Fountain either early morning or late in the afternoon once the crowds have long gone. From here we aet off for the half mile walk to..
The Spanish Steps
There are 135 steps to climb from the Piazza de Spagna with its lovely little fountain up to the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Known as the Spanish Steps, as the old Spanish Embassy was at the top of the steps also. Today, the area is surrounded by some very high-end designer shops and exclusive boutiques. The whole area has again some stunning architecture and it’s well worth a visit to the top, as you’ll be rewarded with some breath-taking panorama views of Rome below. Head up the steps and then it’s less than a 10 minute stroll over to…
Villa Borghese Gardens
Wow! Take some time out from and simply relax in the stunning grounds of the Villa Borghese. Jam packed with lakes and ponds, Italian and English gardens, fountains, sculptures and monuments and a museum gallery, I’ve never been to such a charming park -it really was wonderful. The shady trees give a welcome respite from the sun and it was so lovely just to relax a while. We hired some bikes to get around the park and explore or you could hire a boat and go out on the lake if you like! Head over to the main terrace for some magnificent views over the city.
Santa Maria Maggiore Church
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major) is a Papal Basilica and is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome, Italy. Tripadvisor rates this as the number one thing to do in Rome! Founded in 432AD, this is a beautiful church, it’s richly decorated with golden mosaics, exquisite statues and paintings – you’ll be so impressed by its splendour even if visiting churches isn’t your thing!!
After a busy day visiting all the tourist hot spots, then head over to the West of the River Tiber and seek out the true, authentic Rome – the picturesque area of Trastevere. It’s next to the Isla Tiberina (also beautiful), we stumbled upon this area entirely by accident, but we were so glad we did. This is a lovely and lively neighbourhood of Rome and it’s where the locals go; where the streets come alive at night with Italian families chatting and dining in the charming (but narrow) cobbled streets. It’s well known for excellent restaurants (not too pricy either) and many bars. It’s a great night out, a mix of authentic Rome but with a trendy twist. Evening markets by the River Tiber are a bonus too! We liked this area so much that we visited a couple of times – well worth a visit for a true taste of Rome.
Well, that’s my Top Ten hints and tips for an enjoyable time in Rome. Want to know more? Get in touch with Tate’s Travel and our staff will be happy to help answer all your questions. We know Rome well and know all the best hotels in the right locations. We’re helpful, customer focused and will go out of our way to get you the best deals for your next trip to Rome!