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A Guide to Rome: the best things to do in the Italian capital

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What are the top attractions and activities in Rome? That’s a tough one! Rome is undoubtedly one of those cities where you could stay for a lifetime and still not have seen it all! It is also unsurprisingly one of Captain Ulysse’s favorite destinations in Europe!

Planning your visits and activities in Rome can therefore be somewhat daunting when faced with the endless list of attractions, museums and monuments in the Eternal City.

But no fear! Captain Ulysses has drawn up a “shortlist” of the top attractions and tourist activities in the Italian capital. Feel free to pick ideas to create your very own holiday program.

What are the best things to do in Rome? Follow the guide!

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!

Contents – A Guide to Rome
👉 How to get around Rome?
👉 The sites of ancient Rome
👉 Vatican City
👉 The emblematic museums of Rome
👉 The iconic churches of the Italian capital
👉 Other must-see monuments in Rome
👉 The picturesque squares and districts of the Italian capital
👉 Discovering Italian gastronomy
👉 Day trips around Rome
👉 What are the top attractions in Rome?

How to get around Rome?

Before exploring the Italian capital, let’s regroup and focus for a moment!

Rome’s points of interest are indeed scattered all over the city: it is therefore impossible to explore the whole city on foot.

The good news is that the public transport network (metro, bus, tram, train) is convenient and relatively cheap. You will therefore be able to move around the Eternal City easily. You should also know that unlimited access to public transport is included in the Omnia Card and the Roma Pass. Find out more here.

If you’d rather avoid public transport, alternatives are also possible: hop-on hop-of bus touurs, scooter rental or vespa rental

💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you want to tip the tour guide!

Visiting the sites of ancient Rome

What would Rome be without its ancient sites? The archaeological remains scattered around the capital rank high on the list of the capital’s main attractions!

Follow the guide!

The Colosseum

Built nearly 2000 years ago, the Colosseum is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic monuments in Rome. With more than 7 million visitors per year, it is also unsurprisingly one of the most visited sites in the Italian capital.

Built in the 1st century AD at the request of Emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum was for almost 500 years the scene of countless games and entertainment: wild animal fights, hunting parties, gladiator fights, re-enactment of battles, public executions…

The Colosseum could accommodate up to 50,000 spectators!

💡 Visiting the Colosseum 💡
The Colosseum is one of the most popular sites in Rome and the queues at the entrance to the monument can often be quite endless. The Captain can therefore only advise you to book your entrance ticket or your guided tour in advance:
Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill combined skip-the-line ticket
guided tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
For information, entrance to the Colosseum is also included in the Roma Pass.

Colosseum - Rome
Pexels

The Roman Forum

Nestled between the Capitoline Hill and the Palatine Hill, a stone’s throw from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is the largest archaeological site in Rome.

If the first traces of development found onsite date from the 7th century BC, the Roman Forum truly expanded under the Roman Republic (509 BC – 27 BC) to become the political, commercial and religious center of the city.

Under the Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD), the Forum lost its political and commercial functions to become only a religious and honorary space, before being abandoned in the Middle Ages.

💡 Visiting the Roman Forum 💡
The ticket for the Roman Forum includes access to the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum:
Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill combined skip-the-line ticket
guided tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Entrance to the Roman Forum is also included in the Roma Pass.

roman forum
Theo GN

The Palatine Hill

A stone’s throw from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill is a legendary hill considered to be the cradle of Rome.

According to legend, the she-wolf discovered the twins Romulus and Remus at the foot of the Palatine before taking them to her cave. Once adults, the two brothers decided to found a city, but disagreed on the location of this new city. Romulus emerged victorious from this confrontation: Rome was born!

Occupied from the 10th century BC, the Palatine Hill became the “posh district” of ancient Rome under the Roman Republic. Later, before the emperors appropriated the hill to build their palaces.

Abandoned during the Middle Ages, the Palatine Hill was rediscovered during the Renaissance by wealthy Roman families who decided to develop vineyards and gardens on the hill.

💡 Visiting the Palatine Hill 💡
The ticket to the Palatine Hill includes access to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum:
Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill combined skip-the-line ticket
guided tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Entrance to Palatine Hill is also included in the Roma Pass .

Palatine Hill
Melissa Delzio

The Pantheon

Located in the heart of the historic center of Rome, the Pantheon is the best preserved ancient monument in the Italian capital.

While a first version of the building was built in 27 AD, Emperor Hadrian had the Pantheon completely rebuilt between 118 and 125 AD following a fire. This 2nd version of the temple has stood the test of time and remains incredibly well-preserved today.

At the beginning of the 7th century, the Pantheon was consecrated as a Christian church. From the Renaissance, it became a burial place for emblematic characters like the painter Raphael or King Victor-Emmanuel II.

💡 Visiting the Pantheon 💡
Access to the Pantheon is free. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, you can opt for the audio guide available on site (€5) or bookable online (€4).
Find out more: audio guide for the Pantheon

Pantheon of Rome - pediment
AshMarshall

The Domus Aurea

Built for Nero after the great fire that devastated Rome in 64 AD, the Domus Aurea (the Golden House) was an immense, extravagant – and somewhat megalomaniac – palace spread over several dozens of hectares!

After falling into oblivion, the Domus Aurea was rediscovered in the 15th century and is now open to visitors curious to discover life in 1st century Rome.

The Domus Aurea is the subject of a vast program of excavations and restoration.

💡 Visiting the Domus Aurea 💡
Due to the excavations, the Domus Aurea is only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. All visits are guided tours and visitors have to wear a helmet (provided on site) for the entire duration of the tour.
You can book your guided tour of the Domus Aurea here.

Domus Aurea
Fred romero

The Baths of Caracalla

A stone’s throw from the main ancient sites of the Italian capital, the Baths of Caracalla are a huge and surprisingly well-preserved thermal complex, built between 212 and 216 AD.

At the time of their construction, the Baths of Caracalla were the largest thermal complex in the capital. They were later dethroned by the Baths of Diocletian, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, but remained, according to ancient sources, the most beautiful baths in Rome. So much so that some Romans went so far as to describe them as one of the seven wonders of ancient Rome!

💡 Visiting the Baths of Caracalla 💡
If the Baths of Caracalla are less crowded than other more famous ancient sites, you should still consider booking your tickets in advance, especially during high season and school holidays: skip-the-line ticket for the Baths of Caracalla.
If you are a history buff and want to learn more about the baths and ancient Rome, Captain Ulysses recommends this guided tour : Guided tour of the Baths of Caracalla and the Circus Maximus .

Baths of Caracalla - Rome
Julian

The Circus Maximus

Nestled between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, the Circus Maximus ( Circo Massimo in Italian) was the oldest and largest hippodrome in ancient Rome.

According to legend, the Circus Maximus has existed since the 6th century BC. But the stadium was enlarged to reach its current monumental dimensions under the Roman Empire.

Ancient authors claimed that the Circus Maximus could accommodate between 150,000 and 300,000 spectators! A study from the 2000s, however, proved that the capacity of the racecourse was closer to 95,000 to 100,000 spectators

💡 Visiting the Circus Maximus 💡
Good news, access to the Circus Maximus is free!

Rome - Circus Maximus
Carole Raddato

Trajan’s Forum

In the 1st century AD, the Roman Forum became somewhat cramped for the growing Roman population. The political and judicial activities of the Empire were transferred to the Palatine Hill.

The Emperors therefore decided to build new forums: Julius Caesar first, then Augustus, Vespasian, Domitian and Trajan.

Trajan’s Forum (Forum Traiani) – where you will find Trajan’s Markets as well as Trajan’s Column – is the largest and best preserved of the Imperial Forums.

💡 Visiting Trajan’s Forum 💡
While it is possible to visit Trajan’s Markets which now house the Museum of the Imperial Forums (€9.50 full price), the rest of Trajan’s Forum is unfortunately not open to the public. Visitors can therefore only admire Trajan’s Column from afar.

Trajan's Forum
Ade Russell

The Bocca della Verita

Dating from the 1st century AD, the Bocca della Verità is a large marble disc: 1.75 meter in diameter and weighing around 1300 kilos. The sculpture depicts a bearded male face whose eyes, mouth and nose are carved into the stone.

While it is difficult to determine its original function with precision, specialists agree that it may have been a sewer outlet, an impluvium outlet (water collection system) or a fountain.

Be that as it may, the legendary Bocca della Verità quickly went beyond its primary function to become a mysterious and magical curiosity. According to legend, the Bocca della Verita can cut off the hand of those who dare to utter a lie in its presence, just like a supernatural lie detector!

💡 Visiting the Bocca della Verita 💡
The Mouth of Truth is located in the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Access to the church is free. But you’ll have to pay a small contribution of two euros to take your picture in front of the Bocca della Verità.

Mouth of Truth - Rome
Tyler

Visiting Vatican City

Want to add another country to your list? Yes, although located in the heart of Rome, the Vatican is an independent city-state. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the residence of the Pope… In short, a must-see for any visitor exploring Rome!

St. Peter’s Basilica

Nestled within the walls of Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica ( San Pietro in Vaticano in Italian), listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the spiritual centre of Catholicism as well as one of the the most visited monuments in the world.

While a first version of Saint Peter’s Basilica was built in the 4th century at the request of Emperor Constantine, the basilica as we know it today is a second version built between the 16th and 17th centuries.

Some of the greatest artists of their time took part in the project: Bramante, Raphael, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Bernini. The result is breathtaking: Saint Peter’s Basilica is a Baroque and Renaissance jewel.

💡 Visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica 💡
Entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free (+ €8 to access the dome), but the queues can be absolutely endless. If you only have a short time in Rome, if you are staying in the capital during school holidays/high season or if you are traveling with children, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends buying a skip-the-line ticket for St. Peter’s Basilica.
Skip-the-line access to the basilica is also included in the Rome Tourist Card and the Omnia Card .
You should also know that proper attire is required to visit the basilica: you must cover your shoulders and legs.

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
Pixabay

St. Peter’s Square

Nestled at the foot of St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter ‘s Square represents the heart of the Vatican and the spiritual center of Catholicism.

Thirty years after the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica, in 1656, Pope Alexander VII entrusted Bernini with the difficult task of completely restructuring Saint Peter’s Square in order to showcase the new basilica and to be able to accommodate large gatherings. Work began in 1658 and was completed in 1667.

It can now accommodate up to… {drum roll}… 300,000 people!

💡 Visiting Saint Peter’s Square 💡
If you want to avoid vast crowds, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends that you set your alarm clock (very) early to arrive in St Peter’s Square early in the morning.

St. Peter's Square - Vatican - Rome
Pexels

The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

Nestled in the Vatican Palace, the Vatican Museums – home to the unrivaled Sistine Chapel, among other marvels – rank very high on the list of the most iconic museums in the world!

The Vatican Museums are a gigantic complex comprising 12 museums, 3 chapels and 5 galleries, spread over approximately 1,400 rooms over an area of 42,000 m2 !

You won’t be able to see it all and will have to select the works of art and exhibition rooms that you don’t want to miss.

Captain Ulysses particularly recommends visiting the Pinacoteca (Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Veronese, etc.), the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Borgia Apartments, the Gallery of Geographical Maps, Raphael’s Rooms, the Bramante Staircase …and of course the incomparable Sistine Chapel.

💡 Visiting the Vatican Museums 💡
The queues at the entrance to the Vatican Museums can be absolutely endless: 3 or 4 hours if not longer!
Captain Ulysses can therefore only recommend that you opt for skip-the-line tickets for the Vatican Museums: believe him, it’s well worth it!
You should also know that skip-the-line entry to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel is also included in the Omnia Card and the Rome Tourist Card.

Sistine Chapel
Unsplash

The Vatican Gardens

Fun fact: the Vatican Gardens represent more than half of the surface of Vatican City, which is incidentally the smallest state in the world!

The Vatican Gardens spread over almost 23 hectares with, among others, a square garden, an English garden, a French garden, an Italian garden, a vegetable garden and a vast wooded area (3 hectares).

While the Vatican Gardens are not one of Rome’s top attractions, they will delight botany lovers. The visit is well worth it if you’re staying in Rome long enough.

💡 Visiting the Vatican Gardens 💡
Unaccompanied tours are unfortunately not authorized in the Vatican Gardens… The only solution to discover this oasis: guided tours. Places are limited, so it is best to book your visit in advance.
Find out more: guided tour of the Vatican Gardens (with or without access to the Vatican Museums)

The Vatican Gardens
Pierre_Bn

Visiting Rome’s emblematic museums

Attention, all art lovers! Rome is a heaven on earth for museum aficionados!

Follow the guide!

The Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese ranks very high on the list of Captain Ulysses’ favorites in the Italian capital!

Nestled in a sumptuous 17th century palace in the middle of vast gardens, the gallery boasts absolutely splendid collections. Among the artists exhibited in the museum: Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Veronese, Bruegel, Rubens… in short, the crème de la crème!

If you’re not a big fan of museums, know that the palace alone is worth the visit: it is an architectural gem!

💡 Visiting the Galleria Borghese 💡
Be warned! The Galleria Borghese is only accessible by reservation. You can book your tickets by phone or online. Find out more here: skip-the-line tickets to the Galleria Borghese.

Galleria Borghese

The Capitoline Museums

Perched on the Capitoline Hill, the Capitoline Museums are the oldest museums in the world.

The Capitoline Museums were founded in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated four ancient bronze statues to the city: the Capitoline She-wolf, the Thorn Shooter, the Camillus and fragments of a statue of Domitian.

In the following centuries, the successors of Pope Sixtus IV continued the work of their predecessor by donating ancient works to the Capitoline Museums. Later, Pope Benedict XIV bought the collections of the Pio and Sacchetti families to found the Capitoline Pinacoteca.

💡 Visiting the Capitoline Museums 💡
Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month.
If you are visiting Rome during high season or school holidays, Captain Ulysses recommends that you purchase a skip-the-line ticket in advance online.
If you don’t want to miss any of the treasures of the museums, you can also opt for a guided tour of the Capitoline Museums.
If you prefer to visit the museum on your own, why not opt for the audio guide (available on site)?

Capitoline Museums - Rome
Pixabay

The National Roman Museum

The National Roman Museum was founded in 1899 and took up residence in the Baths of Diocletian. The museum aimed to bring together ancient works and sculptures discovered in the Italian capital and its surroundings.

The collections were enriched over the years to such an extent that the Baths of Diocletian became too cramped to store and exhibit all the collections of the National Roman Museum.

The museum’s collection are therefore now devided between 4 distinct locations: the Baths of Diocletian, the Palazzo Altemps, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and the Crypta Balbi.

💡 Visiting the National Roman Museum 💡
Admission tickets are €13 at full price, €2 for European nationals aged 18 to 25 and free for European nationals under 17 and over 65. Tickets include access to the four sites of the National Roman Museum.
Admission is also included in the Roma Pass.

Altime
Flickr

The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Nestled on Via del Corso, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj houses in an exceptional setting one of Rome’s finest private art collections.

Ready to go back in time? Far from the modern museums with their sober and stripped down museography, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj invites visitors to immerse in the world of 17th and 18th century Roman aristocracy.

The gallery gathers works from some of the most emblematic Italian and European artists of the past centuries: Raphael, Velázquez, Caravaggio or even Titian… In short, heaven on earth for art lovers and one of the Captain’s favourites in Rome!

💡 Visiting the Doria Pamphilj Gallery💡
Admission tickets to the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj are €12 full price, €8 reduced price. The audio guide is free.

Palazzo Doria Pamphili
Wikimedia Commons

The Palazzo Barberini

Built in the 17th century at the request of Pope Urban VIII, the Palazzo Barberini is a Baroque jewel designed by some of the greatest architects of their time (Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini, Pietro da Cortona).

The palace now houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art: a marvelous museum whose collections will no doubt delight all art lovers. Among the artist exhibited in the museum, you’ll find: Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Tintoretto, Poussin, El Greco…

💡 Visiting the Palazzo Barberini💡
The Palazzo Barberini is located halfway between the Galleria Borghese and the Roman Forum.
Admission tickets for the Palazzo Barberini are €10 full price, €2 reduced price. Admission is free for visitors under the age of 18.

Palazzo Barberini
Rodney

The iconic churches of the Italian capital

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major

Nestled on the Esquiline hill, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome is the largest church in the capital dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one of the four major basilicas of Rome (alongside St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls).

The construction of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major began in the 5th century at the request of Pope Sixtus III. It was renovated and enlarged several times over the following centuries; notably in the 13th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The result is an architectural patchwork combining early Christian, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque influences.

💡 Visiting the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore💡
Entrance to the basilica is free. However, you will have to pay 3 € if you want to access the small museum on site.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore - Nave
Wikimedia Commons

The Basilica of Saint John in Lateran

Perched on Mount Lateran, the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran ( Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano ) is one of the four major basilicas in Rome.

Built some 17 centuries ago, it is the oldest Christian building in the West. Be sure to have a look at the inscription engraved on its pediment: Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (= Mother and head of all the churches of the city and of the world).

However, the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran as we know it is largely the result of renovation work carried out in the 18th century by the architects Francesco Borromini and Alessandro Galilei.

💡 Visiting the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran💡
Entrance to the basilica is free but you’ll have to pay €2 to access the cloister.

Basilica of Saint John in Lateran
Lawrence OP

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Located outside the Aurelian Wall marking the limits of ancient Rome, the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is one of the four major basilicas of Rome and the 2nd largest church in the capital after Saint Peter’s.

According to Christian tradition, the remains of Saint-Paul were recovered by a Roman Christian woman after his execution before being buried in a necropolis located outside the Aurelian Wall, hence the name of the basilica: Saint-Paul Outside the Walls.

In 1823, a fire almost completely destroyed the original basilica, dating from the 4th century. Rebuilt in the 19th century, the new basilica follows the layout of the original building, but incorporates neo-classical elements which were all the rage at the time of its reconstruction (coffered ceiling…).

💡 Visiting the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls💡
Access to the basilica is free but you’ll have to pay 4 € to access the cloister and the art gallery. To avoid having to queue, you can buy your tickets online in advance.
Find out more: tickets for the cloister, the art gallery and the archaeological area of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls .

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls - Rome
Wikimedia

Visiting the other must-see monuments in Rome

The Trevi Fountain

With its extravagant baroque architecture and its monumental dimensions, the Trevi Fountain unsurprisingly ranks very high on the list of the most emblematic monuments in the Italian capital!

While the Trevi Fountain was built in the 18th century, its origins are much older. The fountain marks the arrival of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built in 19 BC on at the request of the Roman General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

The fountain appears in many movies, among which, of course, the great classic of Italian cinema: La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini. The mythical scene of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni’s midnight bath in the Trevi Fountain has made the monument famous throughout the world!

💡 Visiting the Trevi Fountain💡
Access to the Trevi Fountain is free 24/7. That said being said, be prepared: massive crowds of tourists pretty much constantly flock to the fountain. If you want to admire the monument (relatively) quietly, you should either go very early in the morning or after dinner in the evening.

Trevi Fountain - Rome

The Castel Sant’Angelo

Located on the right bank of the Tiber, opposite the Vatican, theCastel Sant’Angelo – Saint Angel’s Castle in English – has watched over the Italian capital for almost 2000 years.

Built in the 2nd century AD at the request of Emperor Hadrian who wanted to make it his mausoleum, Castel Sant’Angelo was converted over the centuries into a fortress, a refuge for the popes and a prison.

Restored at the start of the 20th century, the Castel Sant’Angelo has been since 1925 a national museum open to the public.

💡 Visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo💡
Be careful, during high season and school holidays, it is not uncommon for long queues to form at the entrance to the castle. To avoid having to wait or postpone your visit, you can opt for a skip-the-line ticket, even if it is a little more expensive than a standard ticket. Find out more here.
Guided tours of Castel Sant’Angelo are also available: guided tour of Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo - Rome

The Villa Farnesina

Nestled along the Tiber, in the beautiful district of Trastevere, theVilla Farnesina is a sumptuous Renaissance palace whose walls are covered with frescoes painted by great Italian masters.

Built between 1505 and 1511 for a wealthy Sienese banker, the Villa Farnesina is the work of famous architect Baldassare Peruzzi.

As for the interior design, the owner called on some of the greatest painters of his time: Raphael, Peruzzi, Il Sodoma, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco Penni.

The Italian State bought the villa in the 1920s. It is now partly open to the public.

💡 Visiting the Villa Farnesina💡
Tickets are €10 full price, €9 reduced price. The audioguide is €3.
If you’re budget isn’t too tight, Captain Ulysses recommends this guided tour of Villa Farnesina and Trastevere.

Villa Farnesina

The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument

Nestled in Piazza Venezia, at the end of Via del Corso, the The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument (aka the Vittoriano) is a gigantic neo-classical building celebrating the unification of Italy under the aegis of its first king: the legendary Victor-Emmanuel II.

Built in a neo-classical style with touches of eclecticism, the monument’s architecture is quite rich…if not over-the-top!

The Vittoriano is 140 meters wide and 70 meters high (for a total area of 17,550 m²)… there is no missing its immaculate silhouette built in white Brescia marble and travertine!

💡 Visiting the Victor Emmanuel II Monument💡
Access to the monument is free but you’ll have to pay €10 to take the panoramic lift (€2 reduced rate / free for young people under 18 and visitors with disabilities).

Victor Emmanuel II Monument - Rome
Flickr

Visiting the picturesque squares and districts of the Italian capital

Piazza del Popolo

Nestled north of the historic center of Rome, Piazza del Popolo was once the gateway to the Italian capital. Although it has long since lost this role, the Piazza del Popolo remains one of the most emblematic squares in Rome.

At the end of the 16th century, the builder pope Sixtus V – Felice Peretti – launched a vast development program for the Piazza del Popolo.

At the time, the piazza was the very first thing that visitors saw when arriving in Rome, and it had to live up to the legendary reputation of the Eternal City. Over the next three centuries, Sixtus V’s successors continued his great development project.

💡 Visiting Piazza del Popolo💡
A few steps from the Galeria Borghese and Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo marks the northern limit of the historic center of the Italian capital.

Piazza del Popolo
Gabriella Clare Marino

Piazza di Spagna

Located at the crossroads between the most exclusive shopping streets of the capital, Piazza di Spagna is best known for the magnificent Spanish Steps between the square below and the Church of Trinità dei Monti.

The stairs are particularly grandiose in the spring, when they’re covered with blooming azaleas!

Be sure to have a look at the beautiful Fontana della Baraccia, sculpted by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

💡 Visiting Piazza di Spagna💡
Halfway between the Trevi Fountain and the Villa Borghese, Piazza di Spagna is located in the historic center of Rome.
The Captain recommends treating yourself to a gourmet break at Babington’s Tea Room, a tea room opened in 1893.

Piazza di Spagna
Ptra

Piazza Navona

Located a few steps from the Pantheon and Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful squares in the Roman capital.

Lined with cafés, ice cream parlors and restaurants, this Baroque masterpiece is a meeting place for strollers, tourists and foodies.

In the 17th century, Pope Innocent X launched a vast rehabilitation project of Piazza Navona and called on the most famous sculptors and architects of the time. The Fountain of the Four Rivers is the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini’s great rival, Francesco Borromini, was entrusted with the construction of the church of Santa Agnese in Agone.

💡 Visiting Piazza Navona💡
Piazza Navona is located on Campus Martius, a few steps from the Pantheon, Palazzo Altemps and Campo de’ Fiori.
If your budget allows, you will find in a small street, at the corner with Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful and emblematic hotels in Rome: Hotel Raphael.

Piazza Navona
Unsplash

The Campo de’ Fiori

A stone’s throw from Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori is one of the most picturesque squares in Rome.

In ancient Rome, the Campo de’ Fiori was a vast meadow stretching between the Tiber and Pompey’s Theatre. The area remained a pasture until the 15th century, hence its name: Campo de’ Fiori, “field of flowers” in English.

The district is now a meeting place for Romans and tourists alike.

Its enticing fruit and vegetable market, it’s lovely bars and restaurants as well as its historic architecture have made it a must-see for any visitor exploring Rome!

💡 Visiting Campo de’ Fiori💡
Campo de’ Fiori is located halfway between the Palazzo Farnese and Piazza Navona. The market is held every morning from Monday to Saturday.

Campo de' Fiori
Andy Montgomery

Trastevere

Nestled on the west bank of the Tiber, Trastevere is one of Captain Ulysses’ favorites in Rome.

The district’s name is derived from the Latin Transtiberim: “beyond the Tiber”, due to its geographical position.

Popular and multicultural since its origins – it has been inhabited since ancient times by Jewish and Syrian communities – Trastevere is a district that has managed to preserve a culture of its own, of which its inhabitants – the Trasteverini – are very proud!

But Trastevere has become quite touristy and has tended to become gentrified in recent years, particularly around the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. The alleys surrounding the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere remain more authentic and peaceful.

💡 Visiting Trastevere💡
The district of Trastevere is located on the west bank of the Tiber, south of the Vatican. The bad news is that this little corner of Rome is not accessible by metro… so you’ll have to walk, or take the bus or tram!
Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this guided tour of Trastevere + Villa Farnesina.

Trastevere
Mario Sanchez Prada

Discovering Italian gastronomy

Attention, foodies and gourmet lovers! Rome is undoubtedly synonymous with gastronomy! Ready for delicious discoveries?

One downside, however: Rome is a very touristy city and some restaurants can be quite disappointing. A word of advice: follow the locals rather than the tourists. Choose restaurants where customers speak Italian.

As for the famous Italian ice creams, Captain Ulysse warmly recommends the Giolitti ice cream parlor, in service since 1890 and located a stone’s throw from the Pantheon. Delicious!

💡 Italian gastronomy💡
Want to find out more about Italian gastronomy: Captain Ulysses warmly recommends these activities:
Food tour in Trastevere
Italian pizza cooking class
Italian cooking class: fresh pasta and tiramisu
Italian ice cream cooking class

Day tours around Rome

The Appian Way

Want to take a breath of fresh air between two visits to the historic center of Rome? A world away from the city’s hustle and bustle, the Appian Way (or Via Appia Antica) is one of the Captain’s favourites in the Italian Capital!

The Appian Way was created in 312 BC at the request the censor (= Roman magistrate) Appius Claudius Caecus, after whom it was named. Originally linking Rome to Capua (in Campania), the Appian Way was gradually extended and eventually reached Brindisi, in Apulia (in the heel of the Italian boot).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Appian Way gradually fell into disuse. In the 18th century, Pope Pius VI ordered for the Appian Way to be restored.

Today, the Via Appia Antica is part of a protected national park covering 3500 hectares at the gates of Rome. Lined with pine trees, cypresses and historical monuments, the ancient Roman road has all the makings of a picture-postcard landscape.

💡 Visiting the Appian Way💡
If you plan to visit the Appian Way on your own, Captain Ulysses strongly recommends renting bikes. You can rent your bikes here: bike rental on the Appian Way (electric bike, mountain bike or city bike) .
If you don’t want to miss any of the treasures of the Appian Way, why not opt for a guided tour? Captain Ulysses recommends two tours in particular: Guided electric bike tour of the Via Appia | Guided tour of the catacombs from the center of Rome (transport included) .

Appian Way- Rome
Bert Kaufman

The Villa d’Este in Tivoli

The history of the Villa d’Este begins in the 16th century: offended at not having been elected pope, Cardinal Hippolyte d’Este decided to build in Tivoli a villa which would rival the most spectacular buildings of its time.

And he did! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Villa d’Este is an absolute gem! Its mannerist architecture, its lush terraced gardens and its spectacular fountains make it a must-see for any visitor exploring Rome and its surroundings!

💡 Visiting the Villa d’Este in Tivoli💡
To get to Tivoli, the Captain recommends taking the bus rather than the train (Tivoli train station is further from the city center than the bus stop, which is located a stone’s throw from the Villa d’Este).
If you’d rather avoid taking the bus, you can opt for anan organized day tour to Tivoli (Villa d’Este + Hadrian’s Villa).

Villa d'Este - Tivoli
Graham Triggs

Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Villa ( Villa Adriana in Italian / Villa Hadriana in Latin) is a vast complex built in the 2nd century AD at the request of Emperor Hadrian.

Wonderfully well-preserved, Hadrian’s Villa is by far one of the most impressive ancient sites in Italy: a must-see for any visitor exploring Rome and its surroundings!

But a word of advice: put on good shoes! While only a minority of the Villa Adriana is open to the public today, it still represents almost 40 hectares (out of 120 hectares in total)!

💡 Visiting Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli💡
The CAT4 bus line goes to Villa Este (in the center of Tivoli) from Hadrian’s Villa. To return to Rome, you can then take the Cortal bus a few steps from the Villa d’Este.

Hadrian's Villa - Tivoli
Dmitry Djouce

Ostia Antica

Located some thirty kilometers from the center of Rome, the archaeological site of Ostia Antica ( Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica ) invites visitors to go back in time to discover one of the most prosperous cities of ancient Rome.

If some sources evaluate that Ostia Antica was created around 620 BC, the oldest traces found by archaeologists are dated to 335 BC.

The city’s inhabitants originally earned a living exploiting local salt marshes, before being conquered by Rome. Ostia Antica then became a naval base as well as a commercial port whose importance grew continuously as Rome extended its influence over the Mediterranean basin.

💡 Visiting Ostia Antica💡
Good news: getting to Ostia Antica from the center of Rome is quite easy. Take metro line B to Piramide station before taking the train towards Ostia Lido. Get off at the Ostia Antica station. The archaeological site is located a ten-minute walk from the train station (follow the signs).
The train ticket is the same price as a metro ticket, ie €1.50.
If’d rather avoid public transport, you can also opt for an organized day tour to Ostia Antica.

Ostia Antica
F.Tronchin

So, what are the top attractions and activities in Rome?

Faced with the interminable length of this article, you’re probably thinking that’ll will never have time enough to visit all of Rome’s top attractions, especially if you are only staying in the Italian capital for a few days!

To help you out, Captain Ulysses racked his brains to sort out and select only the best things to do in Rome:

  • Ancient sites: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Pantheon
  • Vatican: Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Museums: Galleria Borghese, Capitoline Museums
  • Other monuments: Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Squares and districts: Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza di Spagna, Trastevere

Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions!

🛏️ Accommodation : to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking:
the best hostels
the best affordable hotels
the best mid-range hotels
the best high-end hotels

🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide , Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!

🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card . As well as entry to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.

🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.

🚌 Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).

✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
As for trains, the Captain recommends Trainline to book your tickets.





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