After my arrival to Rome, the biggest problem was to decide where to begin. I firmly believe that if you have only 72 hours like me, you do not have a chance to see everything. Therefore, this time I focused only on the main attractions such as Colosseum or Trevi Fountain, determined to return one day and explore the life of real Romans, whom you do not really meet while chasing the famous ancient monuments. Here is the list of what to do, where to begin, and I am also adding some tips for the best ice-cream, pizza and tiramisu places in Rome.
Day 1: Wednesday
- Colosseum and Roman Forum (and Palatine Hill) - I got here at 8.15am and waited about 20 minutes in the line for tickets. They open at 8.30am and if you want to be able to actually move inside (notably in Colosseum), be there as soon as possible because after 9am it quickly fills up. Tips: You do not need to buy your tickets online in advance if you turn up before the opening time. Also, go to the cashier in front of Roman Forum, less people. The ticket is for both Colosseum and Roman forum.
- Piazza Venezia - You cannot miss this massive white museum commemorating Italian soldiers. Tip: By this point you will be seeing guys offering you bottled cold water. Do not spend money on it. All you need is one bottle (from some supermarket) and just look for small drinking fountains, which are spread across Rome. The water is fresh, cold, safe to drink and delicious.
- Trevi Fountain - Once again, try to get here as soon as possible (I was there around 10.30am and it was already full of people as the square is not that big to contain all the tourists). Tip: I was always too tired to go there at night, but if you still have enough energy, head there around 10.30pm when the tourists are slowly returning to their hotels, or sleeping like me.
Before you get to Spanish steps, you can stop by these places:
- Pazza Pizza (Via della Mercede) - This is a small shop with slices of pizza (real Romans always get slices of different flavours, never one whole as we are normally used to do) so you can combine and try more types. Why is it my favourite pizza in town? Because it is a place where even police officers and other locals come for lunch! Do you need a better review?
- Anglo-American Bookshop (Via della Vite) - For all book lovers. Plus here I was told about Pazza Pizza.
- Piazza di Spagna and Spanish steps - Beautiful, although it does not belong to my favourite places in Rome. Tip: Do not open a canned drink while sitting on the Spanish steps. Police officers are not happy about it as technically you could spill it.
- Piazza del Popolo - You can decide if you want to walk here from Piazza di Spagna through Via del Corso or Via del Babuino. But I would suggest to walk the little area around Via Borgognona with cute streets and restaurants, and then just turn towards Piazza del Popolo.
- Pincio Terrace and Borghese Gardens, Gallery and Villa - My favourite view on Rome is definitely from Pincio Terrace. I was there a couple of times and it was never really crowded as tourists either do not know about it or are too lazy to climb a steep hill to get there. But it is worth it! Borghese Gardens are huge, so be careful not to get lost there as you will be certainly tired by this point.
- Capitoline Hill and Capitoline museums - For some reason, this place is my favourite one from the entire Rome. To get there, you can walk the hill from Via dei Fori Imperiali. The museums open at 9.30am. I would recommend to be on time, because if you are lucky you can end up in some rooms just by yourself and fully enjoy the atmosphere of the ancient world preserved through the old statues displayed in the museums. By the way, here you can find the famous bronze statue of a she-wolf feeding Romus and Remulus. Tip: One of the underground balconies offers an amazing view on Roman Forum. Do not miss it when you are walking from one museum to the other through the underground hall.
- Pantheon - You cannot forget to visit this breath-taking building. Find some time to just sit down and soak in the atmosphere.
- Piazza Navona - Another symbol of Rome.
- Campo de'fiori - My beloved part of Rome. Here you happen to meet some locals just casually shopping at the local market. Tip: I got one of the best pizzas here, in a small shop called Forno Campo de'fiori.
- Via Giulia - If you are now heading to Vatican and St. Angel's Castle, walk through Via Giulia. I cannot explain why as I do not have any logical reason, but this wide street is simply amazing.
- Ponte S. Angelo and St. Angel's Castle - I totally forgot about the castle, therefore, it was a pleasant surprise for me when I saw this beautiful building. I never went in so I am not sure about the ticket situation.
- Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica and Vatican Museum) - There is no other spot in Rome where you see so many tourists in one place. I got here at 2pm because I reserved a ticket to the Vatican museum for that time, but if I were you, I would try to be here in the morning so you can avoid a massive queue to St. Peter's Basilica where the entrance is free. Tips: If you want to see the Sistine Chapel, you need to go to the Vatican Museum. In this case, I would strongly recommend to reserve your tickets online (at least two days in advance) as otherwise you could end up waiting for a very long time in the direct sun. Also, do not forget that you are heading to Vatican, a holy place. Thus respect the dress code - no shorts or skirts above your knees. You cannot reveal your shoulders. This gets really strict when you enter the Sistine Chapel.
- Trastevere (get here alongside the river from Vatican) - Right after Capitoline Hill, this whole area is my favourite part of Rome. Just walk around, buy homemade biscuits in small local shops, or try some ice-cream and eat it in a small street, sitting on the pavement. Here, you have a chance to meet some Romans in their everyday lives. Tip: My favourite reastaurant from here is Terra Satis. (Piazza dei Ponziani). If you get there around 6pm, you can choose a drink and main meal/a drink and an open buffet for only 10euros.
Day 3: Friday
- Bocca della Verita - It is not as big as I thought.
- Jewish Ghetto - Read something about the history of this magical place.
- Tiberina Island - Well, this is my favourite spot no. 3. In general, once you walk alongside the river you get to see a different part of Rome with less tourists, who usually stick to the city centre.
- Janiculum - One of the best views is from this terrace, right after Pincio Terrace. To walk there, you need to get ready for a steep hill and a lot of sweat before you reach the top. But it is worth it. Tip: Once you walk to Janiculum, keep going and you find another terrace right next to it, which is not that busy with tourists and the view gets even better.
- And now just wander around, returning to your favourite places.
- (OR you can head to Aventino Hill, Piramide and Circus Maximum - however, I did not make it there, therefore, I do not want to recommend it as I have no experience from there.)
Fair Warning - I walked a lot and everywhere. Please, consider the weather and your physical skills before starting a sightseeing tour in Rome. I was fairly exhausted on the third day of my visit.
Some last tips and notes:
- I was in Rome from Tuesday to Friday evening, the first week in June. I tried to get there in the middle of the week on purpose - to avoid all the tourists during a weekend. However, I do not think that you can ever actually avoid all of them, no matter when you go. A local Roman told me that the best time is probably in the end of November or in February, when it gets slightly colder and less people flood in.
- Once I got lost and happened to turn up right next to Pantheon. My point is that if you get lost in Rome, you will ALWAYS bump into some historical and beautiful buildings.
- My favourite ice-cream - Petrini (Piazza dell'Alberone 16) - it is not in the city centre, but it is definitely worth to get there and try some real Italian gelato with a bit of fresh cream.
- My favourite tiramisu - Pompi - il Regno del Tiramisú (Via Albalonga) - my Roman landlady took me here and as I say: "Always listen to Romans when it comes to the best tiramisu".
- My favourite pizza - Forno Campo de'fiori (Campo de'fiori)
- My favourite place for dinner - Terra Satis (Piazza dei Ponziani) - around 6pm you can get a dinner only for 10 euros.