So you’ve googled, “Best things to do in Rome”

Good idea!

Ah, Rome, where do I start?

You are both one of the best and most frustrating tourist cities I have been to. 

Actually, I must clarify this. 

You are mainly amazing, but there are some things that really do let you down.

First, I want to start with the good, the grand, and the unbelievable:

The Good

  • The Leonardo Express 

The Leo Express is the train that takes you from Rome’s International Airport to Rome itself. 14 Euro’s, and 20minutes later and you are on the ground in one of the oldest cities in the world. What a brilliantly efficient system (when they aren’t striking). Hat’s off, Rome.  

  • The food

Ice-cream Spaghetti, anyone?

The food goes in the good category because it was good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great or unbelievable. When you visit a cultural hub, one with such a reputation for great food, you have certain expectations.

No, I didn’t hit the fine-dining scene, but still, when you come to Rome, you expect the best pasta in the world from even the humblest of ‘trattoria’. 

Unfortunately, I’ve had much better at home.

The Great

  • The Colosseum, The Trevi, Fountain, The Pantheon 

When you walk in these places you really gain an appreciation for the architectural genius operating in centuries gone by. You can feel yourself floating back to a vision of marketplaces, fresh food, gladiators, lions, soldiers

It’s hard to explain unless you are there, but its one of those places that really immerses you into history. 

The Unbelievable (Best things to do in Rome)

  • A walking tour of the Forum and Vatican 

Words can’t explain just how important a tour guide is to your cultural experience in Rome. And hats off to it, because on every occasion that I hired a guide to show me around, my level of intrigue and understanding went through the roof. 

It’s very easy to walk through historic areas and glance past the best bits. 

On tour, you are provided the context and meaning that really brings purpose to the things you are seeing. 

Sure, the Forum, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel are unbelievable pieces of preserved history in their own right, but the tour makes it so much more special. 
On a practical note, a tour is actually the most efficient way to see these attractions. One of the things you’ll notice about Rome is that it’s always packed!
There are always lines!
 It’s one of my bugbears. However, If you sign up to a tour, not only does it work out cheaper, you skip the line, and they get to take you to places that are off limits to the public. 
Don’t worry about booking, just head down to the attraction and they’ll find you. An investment well worth your consideration!
  • The Altare Della Patria 

 I didn’t have a tour guide for this place. But I didn’t need to. I was in love. This white travertine building has to go down as one of my buildings in the world. 

Wow! Un.b.lievable.

The Bad

I’m going to make this short. But there are 3 reasons I got really peeved with Rome.:

  1. People love to scam you. Here’s an example: Gelato is usually 1 Euro. Fine. But never sit down! If you do, they’ll try charging you 15 Euro for the seat! It’s a big scam.
    Another:  Moneychangers have exorbitant fees in this city. Don’t use them.
  2. Because its so popular, the place is packed. You are always lining up and you can never just get that photo of you and the scenery. Forget it. 
  3. Because Rome is so historic and unchanged, the public transport in this massively expansive city is atrocious. Sure, walking is good for you, but tell that to someone after 3 days of blisters!

If you’ve made it this far, it’s time for a few quick tips to make your Rome adventure as efficient, enjoyable, and relaxing as possible:

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan – Rome’s central city area is just enormous. From the Vatican to the west to the Colosseum in the east, it’s really the biggest theme park in the world. Because the public transport really has no hope in this city, planning your most efficient walking tour is the only way to really feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to see.
  2. Get up super early to beat the queues – I stole this tip straight out of the Disneyland playbook. As I said, Rome is the biggest theme park in the world, so the only way to beat the crowds is to get their first!
  3. Don’t forget your sunscreen – When you’re walking all day, the sun can just creep up on you. I learned this the hard way.
  4. Keep your stuff secure – check out my article HERE on keeping your gear safe in tourist traps.

And if the idea of getting Rome done in just a few days is making your head spin, here’s a quick itinerary you may want to stick to:

Day One: 

7:30 am Get to St. Peters Basilica in the early morning, sans crowds and with gorgeous light
9:00 am Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel
11:00 am St. Peter’s Basilica, if you don’t see it in the morning 
12:00 pm Castle St. Angelo
1:00 pm Grab lunch in Trastevere 
4:00 pm Cross over the Isola di Tiber and into the Jewish Ghetto
5:00 pm Campo di Fiori
6:00 pm Fill your stomach with as much pasta as you can

Day Two: 

8:15 am Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
9:30 am Colosseum
11:00 am Piazza Navona 
12:00 pm Pizza time
1:00 pm Pantheon
2:00 pm Trevi Fountain
3:00 pm Spanish Steps 
4:30 pm Capuchin Bone Church (if you’re into that stuff)
5:30 pm You guessed it, more pasta!

If you can get around with all of these in mind, then I wish you well on one of the most informative, enjoyable trips the world has to offer.  

Bonus Material: If you can’t get enough of Rome, then I suggest also reading similar articles from TIME Magazine, Lonely Planet, and Timeout.

If you loved this post then please share it with your friends on facebook!

  • Got any of your own experiences to share with us about your time in Rome?
  • Maybe you’re a local and have your own insights to share?