10 things to see and do on a first visit to Rome
Is Rome at the top of your destinations list? It was on mine for years before I finally got the chance to visit last year and I’m already dying to return!
There’s a good reason why Rome is so popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s a gorgeous city with loads of character and history. Throw in glorious weather and friendly people and you have the ultimate destination.
If it’s your first time travelling to Rome, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you want to see. Unless you have a whole week to spend in Rome, it’s challenging to fit everything in. So, I wanted to write a brief post summarising 10 things you should try and see, and/or do, during your first trip to Rome.
The Sistine Chapel & The Vatican Museum
Whether you’re religious or not, visiting the Sistine Chapel is a must when in Rome. The Sistine Chapel is famous for being the temple where Popes are crowned and for its decorated ceiling by Michelangelo which took four years to complete.
The Vatican museum is another must-see for art lovers. They are home to works collected by Popes throughout the centuries, featuring renowned classical sculptures and Renaissance art from all over the world.
Tip: The queues are unlike anything you’ve seen. Book your ticket online and you can usually skip the queues (although not always possible) or go later in the afternoon when it is quieter. Find out more on the official site.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) is the world’s largest church. The dome can be seen from all around Rome and the interior is filled with masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art.
Tip: Everyone should have their shoulders and knees covered to be allowed entrance to the Basilica. St. Peters is open until 19:00 so you can go there after the Vatican Museum closes when it is much quieter and very beautiful in the early evening.
Make a wish in one of the most beautiful fountains in the world. Roman legend claims that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. It dates back to the ancient Romans who threw coins into water to encourage the gods of water to help them travel home safely.
Did you know that around 3000 euros are thrown into the foundation daily? The coins are collected by officials at night and donated to charity called Caritas. Caritas then use the money for a supermarket program giving rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy to help them get groceries.
Tip: It’s always very popular, so visit either very early in the morning, or later in the evening, otherwise you won’t get close enough to throw you coin in and make a wish.
The Roman Forum
The forum is a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of important ancient government buildings, which used to be the centre of everyday life in Ancient Rome. It’s very close to the city centre, which is an interesting contrast compared to the modern buildings, and definitely worth a visit.
Climb the Spanish Steps
These are a great place to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of the the city. The steps are wide and irregular, consisting of 138 steps in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces. Although, as they are so busy it will be hard to spot the designs. They join the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti.
Altare della Patria
This glorious, yet controversial, monument was erected to honour Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. However, its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill with a Medieval neighbourhood. Some locals claim it’s pompos and too large, comparing it to a ‘wedding cake’.
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved Ancient Roman buildings filled with amazing architecture and history. It was an ancient Roman temple, but is now a Church.
Tip: Cover your shoulders and knees or you will be refused entry.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built. It had many uses throughout history, most famously for gladiator fights to the death, executions and entertaining spectators, but also to protect the Royal family during times of war and even as a Christian Shrine.
Tip: The queues look very long, but they move quickly. You can get a discounted ticket for under 25’s and seniors.
Piazza Navona is a square in the centre of the city. You’ll find bars and restaurants, gelato shops, and beautifully crafted foundations. At the centre is Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, a perfect marble fountain featuring an Egyptian obelisk and personifications of the rivers; Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate.
Tip: Get there between 5-7pm and you’ll join in with Aperitiv and get free snacks with drinks.
Drink a Negroni
There is one drink you must try when you are in Italy, if you dare!
A Negroni is a traditional Italian cocktail consisting of one-part gin, one-part vermouth rosso, and one-part Campari, garnished with orange peel. That’s right, no mixer. It’s incredibly strong and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s a firm favourite with the Italians so must be tried. As they say, when in Rome…
If you’re going to Rome for the first time, then I am very jealous of you. Honestly, I can’t wait to return and see even more of it. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to pack everything in, there’s always your next visit to Rome 😉
Did you have a favourite place in Rome that’s not on my list? Let me know in the comments because I’d love to know.