Rome is arguably one of the most famous cities in Italy, and it’s easy to see why (although Florence is still my favourite). It’s absolutely PACKED with things to see and do from every important era in history. From the impressiveRomann Forum to the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, which houses the museum of Italian Unification.
I know when I started my research I felt completely out of my depth with the amount of “must do’s” I honestly didn’t know where to start.
Having visited a fair few of them over our 5 day trip I though I would share with you the things that I would do again, and wouldn’t want to miss.
Take the underground tour of the Colosseum
Getting tickets for this was about as stressful as trying to get Take That concert tickets on the day of release. I had release day marked in my calendar and I was up, bang on time one early Saturday morning to try with many, many others to secure tickets.
Thankfully I did and I was lucky, they were gone in minutes! If you are going, this is the link you’ll need to spend the morning on constant refresh.
Once you’re check in (via a separate queue to the main entrants so you avoid the big lines = BONUS!) you’ll be asked to wait at a specific numbered column for the rest of your tour before you are escorted into the restricted areas.
“Underground” is perhaps underselling it. Yes you do go under the arena floor but you also get to walk ON the rebuilt arena floor and also visit the restricted 3rd ring which gives you some amazing views
Yes, That’s the main queue you’ll be avoiding!
The tour itself went quickly, but given the access levels and the queue jump it’s well worth spending the extra €12 on top of your entrance fee.
After the tour you get the opportunity to visit the rest of the colosseum, so you really do get the best of both worlds
Be sure to visit again in the evening for some stunning external views that make great instagram fodder.
Take a stroll around Trasteveri
Trasteveri is by far my favourite area in Rome. Crossing the Tiber it feels like you’re entering a new city entirely.
Once the area where the less “desirable” residents lived, Trastevere is still a cultural melting today. A gathering place for locals, they are fiercely proud of their heritage and this can still be seen today
While exploring the pretty winding streets be sure to check out Dar Poeta, these guys do the most amazing pizza at a very reasonable price. Be sure to come prepared though, it’s cash only.
When I return to Rome one day Trastevere will definitely be the area I base myself, it’s just so peaceful!
Eat Gelato – Lots of it!
Goes without saying that you should do this everywhere in Italy but we found some really great Gelato in Rome this time. Our two favourites were:
Gelateria Come il Latte – they “line” the cones with melted chocolate to order AND drizzle it on top if you’d like, YUM!
Fatamorgana – amazing flavours and texture
Do a Food Tour
I LOVE food tours, I cannot get enough of them ever since I did a chocolate one in San Fransico 6 years ago. Anywhere we go, I’m looking for a food tour. I can honestly say though that the Twilight Trastevere Food Tour we did with Eating Italy was one of the BEST we’ve done.
They gave us just the right mix of tour, food and drink it was pretty much perfect. I loved the mixture of sweet and savoury stops, and the sit-down meal to rest in the middle was lovely.
I recommended it to a friend who did the Florence tour they run and apparently that’s awesome too.
Visit the Vatican… Early!!
I HATE crowds, I’m pretty sure that’s why I approach holidays like a military campaign, I want to get ahead of the crowds. Because of this I spent a long time researching the best way to do the Vatican with “minimal” crowd levels.
Having accepted that this wasn’t going to be a cheap option with ANY company. I soon opted for the Sistine Pristine Tour from Walks of Italy.
Some guidebooks offer 10% off so keep an eye out.
These guys don’t do the first to enter bit like some companies with partner status, you pay a premium for that. Now at first, as I saw all those tours filing on past us I thought I’d made a big mistake.
However, this wasn’t the case. You still get in earlier than the general public on this tour, but rather than head straight to the chapel with all the partner tours, Walks of Italy hung back in other areas and waited until they had gone… Then we had it alllll to ourselves, using the “lull” between the partner group and the general public.
The tour isn’t just about the Sistine Chapel, although that is the main reason. They do give you a bit of a tour of some other areas of the museums, but really this is the main bag. I mean who doesn’t want to experience this without the noise and pushing and shoving of others.
We actually headed back through at the end of the tour and it was so NOISY (not helped by the guards shouting silence every few minutes!). Here’s a before and after of one of the corridors, big difference in crowd volume!
You also get the added bonus of getting straight into St Peter’s afterwards, a BIG bonus since the queues were HUGE and wrapped right around the square by noon.
Extra – Torre Argentina
ok, yes, I’ve already done 5, so we’ll call this one an “extra”.
If you are a cat lover like me you HAVE to visit here. You may stumble upon it completely by accident as we did. At first you see the ruins.
Then you realise those ruins are FULL of cats. LOADS of them! And there’s a very good reason…
It’s a CAT SANCTUARY!!
Head on down the steps and meet the residents who call these ruins their home. Inside you’ll find even more in the rehoming centre.
A fun little experience I hope you find the time for.
So will you be planning a trip to Rome soon? Are there any places you think I’ve missed?
note: some editorial photos are some shutterstock as my camera died!