If you’re looking for a good reason to visit Rome – there are many. Whether you’re here for a romantic getaway or a historic city excursion, you’re guaranteed to find something that intrigues you.
Is Rome really worth visiting?
Rome is a quintessential European capital surrounded by ancient ruins and century-old buildings. But this buzzing capital is more than just a window into the past. Gourmet restaurants, trendy boutiques, and vibrant street art are becoming increasingly more popular in the Eternal City.
For this reason, Rome truly is a mix of the old and new.
Reasons Rome Is Still Worth Visiting
The Delectable Dishes
Italian restaurants can be found on every corner in every country around the world, but nothing compares to eating Italian food right here in Rome. Roman cuisine is different from other regions in the country, with a heavy emphasis on pasta, vegetables, and fresh cheese.
Some of the most famous pasta dishes in Rome include Bucatini all’amatriciana (tomato sauce and guanciale), caci e pepe (cheese and pepper), spaghetti alla carbonara (egg yolks, cheese, and guanciale), and penne all’arrabiatta (garlic, tomato, and chili pepper).
Rome’s Jewish community dates back 400 years and is reflected in many of the local dishes. Head to the Jewish Ghetto (Rione XI) and try carciofo alla giudia (Jewish-style artichokes), fiori di zucca pastellati (fried zucchini blossoms), or aliciotti con l’indivia (endive with anchovies).
And don’t forget the sweets! Rome has plenty of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. You’ll find traditional Italian desserts in restaurants, including panna cotta, tiramisu, and tartufo al cioccolato. Of course, you can also grab a scoop of handmade gelato and one of the many street booths in the city instead.
Walking through the streets of Rome is like taking a step back in time. The weight of the Roman Empire can be felt almost everywhere you look, from the thousand-year-old ruins to the awe-inspiring landmarks and buildings. Even if you’re not a history buff yourself, you can still appreciate the splendor of Rome’s history.
Rome’s most recognizable landmark is the Colosseum. Built over 2,000 years ago, this arena was home to some of the bloodiest gladiator fights to ever be fought.
It’s worth booking a tour of the interior, although admiring the Colosseum from afar is just as mesmerizing. Nearby the Colosseum sits the Roman Forum, the political center of ancient Rome. Here, you’ll find shrines, temples, pillars, and structures from this influential civilization.
The city center also has its fair share of fascinating structures. Visit the baroque-style Trevi Fountain (toss in a coin for good luck!), the 15th-century Piazza Navona, or the well-preserved Pantheon temple. As you wander towards the river, you’ll also come across Castel Sant’Angelo, a 2,000-year-old fortress and tomb to Emporer Hadrian.
Although it’s technically not even in Italy, the Vatican is a must-see for anyone visiting Rome. It’s the headquarters of the Catholic church and the smallest city-state (by size and by population) in the entire world.
The Vatican is home to several fascinating cultural sites, which are all centered around St. Peter’s Basilica. Considered to be one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in Catholicism, St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church on the planet and the burial site of St. Peter (the first bishop of Rome and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.
It’s also an architectural masterpiece designed by some of the finest artists in history. Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini all left their mark on this magnificent structure.
The Vatican is also home to the Sistine Chapel, where you’ll find Michelangelo’s iconic ceiling frescoes, The Last Judgement and The Creation of Adam. Nearby are the Vatican Museums, which contain over 70,000 sculptures, paintings, and artifacts.
You can see the Pope in person during his weekly papal audience when visiting Rome. He also gives an address every Sunday morning to the people in St. Peter’s square.
The Diverse Neighborhoods
The biggest attractions in Rome are located in the Centro Storico, including Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. However, it’s worth venturing outside of the touristy area to see different neighborhoods and a more authentic side of Roman life.
Rome has 14 different neighborhoods, or Riones, each with its own unique style and atmosphere. Cross the Tiber and visit Trastevere, a picture-perfect neighborhood dotted with ivy-covered buildings and charming cobblestone squares. Although Trastevere has become more touristy over the last few years, it still feels like you’ve stumbled across a hidden gem in the middle of Rome.
The Testaccio is an up-and-coming neighborhood ideal for foodies, bar hoppers, or market lovers. Visit the Mercato di Testaccio to pick up fresh produce or meats or stop by for lunch at one of the many local trattorias in the area.
If you’re looking for a young and hip rione to pass the time, visit the Monti. You’ll find trendy art galleries, hidden cocktail bars, and small boutiques here. Come during sunset and watch the young Romans flock to the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti to meet with friends for a beer.
The Easy Day Trips
There is a lot to discover within the city of Rome, but there is also an entire world of beauty if you’re willing to travel outside of it too. Thankfully, there are a handful of places that you can easily reach within just a few hours from the city.
Tivoli Gardens is a popular day trip located less than an hour by train from Rome. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its lush gardens, tranquil fountains, and a grandiose villa that was home to Emperor Hadrian.
You can also visit other major cities by train in just a few hours. Naples, Florence, Assisi, and Orvieto also make wonderful day trips or weekend getaways.
If you’re craving a bit of sun and surf, then you can also visit one of the many beaches along the coast. 90-minutes by train is Sperlonga, an idyllic stretch of sand with warm waters and beautiful Mediterranean views.
Santa Marinella is closer (less than an hour), and more popular with locals thanks to its laid-back vibe and family-run seafood restaurants. Other nearby beaches include Anzio, Fregene, and Lido di Ostia.
The Seemingly Endless Number of Churches
In a city so heavily influenced by Catholicism, it should come as no surprise that Rome has several noteworthy churches. In fact, there are 900 of them just within the city limits, although this number is closer to 1600 if you include private chapels inside buildings.
Although you won’t be able to visit each and everyone during your visit, several ones stand out in terms of history and beauty. The Santa Maria in the Trastevere neighborhood is the oldest church in the city. The church was created nearly 2,000 years ago and contains colorful mosaics by Pietro Cavallini. The Basilica of San Clemente is another must-see, as it’s built on top of two other churches (all of which you can visit).
Many of the churches feature historical works of art, especially from renowned masters like Pinturicchio, Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio. The Santa Maria del Popolo, the Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and the Santa Cecilia are all known for their artwork.
Rome is also home to the only four Papal basilicas. In addition to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, there is also the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls, and the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
The Italian Fashion
It may not be as fashion-focused as Milan, but the streets of Rome are still filled with some of the best shops and brands in the country. International chains, Italian fashion houses, locally run boutiques – you name it, Rome has it!
Via del Corso is arguably the most famous shopping street in Rome. While many major brands are found on the main pedestrian street, the narrow back alleys are filled with Italian designers, trendy boutiques, and charming cafes.
For up-and-coming designers or vintage hand-me-downs, visit the Monti neighborhood. This eclectic area is popular with students and artists looking for unique items that can’t be found anywhere else in the city
If you prefer something more upscale, Via Condotti is your street for high-end designers like Armani, Miu Miu, and Dolce & Gabbana.
Other popular shopping streets include Via dei Coronari for antiques, Via Margutta for art, or Via Frattina for handmade leather goods.
The Italian Wine
As with many regions in Italy, Rome and its surrounding areas are a wine enthusiast’s dream. While you may not have the rolling vineyards or grand estates as you would in Tuscany, there are still many excellent wineries where you can sample Italy’s finest varietals.
75% of the wine produced in the Lazio region is white wine. The most popular grape is Frascati, which can be made either sweet, dry, or sparkling. If you want to sample red from the region, you can try Merlot or Cesanese.
You can sample Frascati along with other wines in Castelli Romani, Rome’s largest wine region in the Alban Hills. Vigna Barberini, Cincinnato, Marco Carpineti, and Villa Simone are a few well-known wineries to visit.
However, you don’t have the leave the city to enjoy a taste of Roman wine. There are many enoteche (wine bars) where you can post up for the evening. Local favorites include Ai Tre Scalini, Salotto 42, Porto Fluviale, and NECCI dal 1924. Grab a glass and enjoy a beloved Roman pastime – aperitivo, Italy’s version of happy hour.
Although Rome has its fair share of bars, clubs, and late-night joints, it’s not by any means a party capital. But as the sun sets, the streets become alive with locals and tourists alike, giving Rome nightlife a whole new meaning.
The entire city is illuminated in an orange glow, adding to the already over-the-top romantic atmosphere. Stroll through the streets and piazzas to see Rome at its most beautiful. Or visit the city’s top attractions like the Trevi Fountain or Spanish Steps. You can even book an evening tour of the Colosseum, which is even more breathtaking at night than it is during the day.
For the best nighttime views of the Eternal City, make your way to the top of Gianicolo Hill. Located across the river from the city center, you’ll be treated to panoramic views over the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Castel Sant’Angelo. Or spend the evening on a dinner cruise along the Tiber. You’ll get to see these historic landmarks up close while also enjoying a great dinner and live music.
If you prefer spending your night with a glass of wine or cocktail, then you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to bars. Trastevere, the Monti, or the streets around Piazza Navona are great for bar hoppers. At around midnight, head to the Ostiense or Testaccio neighborhoods to hit up one of the hottest outdoor or underground nightclubs.
When is the Best Time to Visit Rome?
As one of the most popular European cities in the world, Rome is bustling all day, all month, and all year long. Throngs of tourists flock to the streets in summer, driving up prices and booking out popular restaurants.
If you want to avoid the crowds (and high heat and humidity), visit during the shoulder season in late spring or early fall. Not only will you be blessed with more pleasant temperatures, but you’ll also get to experience a quieter side of the city.
How Many Days Do I Need in Rome?
Rome is a city that shouldn’t be rushed. You could easily spend weeks in the city without getting bored with dozens of historic sites, hundreds of churches, and thousands of restaurants to explore. But you’re just tackling the big sites, 3 or 4 days should be sufficient. However, the more time you have in Rome, the better. This will allow you to explore the city at your leisure and to truly experience the meaning of “la dolce vita”.