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  • Writer's pictureNate + Christa

Discover Rome, The Eternal City

Updated: Jun 8

Is Rome the best destination in Europe? Ask anyone about Roma and it seems they have a polarizing view, especially if they stayed in the wrong neighborhood, booked the wrong tours, and visited during the peak time of year. Rome can be overwhelming city to tackle, it takes careful planning and some good timing. Fortunately, we've done the homework to help make the most of your time and highlight why Rome will always be a top destination in Europe.

Everywhere you turn, there are ancient reminders that showcase the city's stunning beauty and grandeur from the last 2,000+ years. We'll review why you need to make Rome a priority on your next trip to Europe, the optimal time to visit, the best neighborhoods to stay in and rank the top 10 things to do in Rome to make for a memorable trip, whether it's your first trip or returning to uncover new hidden gems. Lastly, we put together an action-packed 3 day agenda to make the most of your time discovering the Eternal City!

Rome is more spread out due to the vast ancient city center, but still retains a vibrant atmosphere, with a bustling street life, lively piazzas, and charming neighborhoods that offer a glimpse into local life.

Rome is renowned for its cuisine, with a range of traditional dishes that reflect the city's history and diverse cultural influences. From classic Italian pasta dishes to the famous pizza margherita, there's something to suit everyone's tastes.

Rome has a rich history and western cultural heritage, with ancient ruins such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon, as well as numerous museums and art galleries that showcase the masterpieces of Italy's Renaissance period.

In terms of variety, it's really difficult to beat a city that offers the best combination of history, culture, cuisine, and architecture. Now that you want to visit Rome lets jump into the details of travel plans.

The best time to visit Rome, Italy, is generally in the spring (April to June) or fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny, and the tourist crowds are relatively smaller compared to the peak summer season. However, Rome is a year-round destination, so you really can't go wrong even during the winter months.

We've returned to Rome many times and used it as the gateway city and jump off point to explore central Italy. Having stayed in numerous areas, here are the top five places we'd recommend for your trip:

  1. Centro Storico (Historic Center): This area is home to major attractions like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon. It offers a vibrant atmosphere with narrow streets, charming squares, and numerous shops and restaurants.

  2. Trastevere: Located across the Tiber River, Trastevere is known for its bohemian vibe, winding streets, and lively nightlife. It offers a mix of traditional and trendy establishments and is a great place to experience local culture. If you're young and want to prioritize easy access to the cafes and clubs, this is your best location.

  3. Monti: This neighborhood is trendy and hip, with a mix of boutiques, art galleries, and trendy bars. It's also close to the Colosseum and other attractions.

  4. Testaccio: Known for its authentic Roman cuisine and vibrant food market, Testaccio offers a lively atmosphere and is a popular spot for food lovers.

  5. Prati: Located near Vatican City, Prati is a more residential area with elegant streets, excellent shopping options, and easy access to the Vatican Museums. This is a much slower pace and less lively, but the trade off is great if you want to experience a more local neighborhood feel.

Now, here are the top 10 things to do in Rome for whether you're young and adventurous first time visitors or returning to explore hidden gems.

1. Explore the Colosseum and Roman Forum: Immerse yourself in ancient history by visiting these iconic landmarks. You can spend the entire day between the two if you want to take your time or book a small-group tour with a knowledgeable guide. Stick around for sunset photoshoot on the top terrace lawn overlooking Forum! Don't forget to book your tickets in advance!

2. Wander through the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica: Marvel at the world-renowned art collections and visit the stunning basilica in Vatican City. Book early as lines can be incredibly long (especially in peak season) and these tickets often sell out.

3. Discover the Pantheon: Admire the architectural marvel of this ancient temple-turned-church. Typically a busy area, but you can walk in for free. Go in the early morning to beat the crowds!

4. Explore the vibrant Trastevere neighborhood: Get lost in its narrow streets, visit local markets, and enjoy the buzzing nightlife. Check out Nannarella for dinner or consider a walking food tour of Trastevere (this one is great).

5. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain: Follow the tradition and make a wish at this iconic Baroque fountain. Come early (really early) for a clear shot without the crowds!

6. Visit the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna: Climb the steps and enjoy the view from the top while savoring gelato.

7. Enjoy the beauty of Villa Borghese: Take a guided tour or visit the Borghese Gallery with its impressive art collection and explore the lush gardens at your own pace.

8. Experience the atmosphere of Piazza Navona: Admire the fountains, street performers, and outdoor cafes in this lively square.

9. Take a walk along the Tiber River: Enjoy the picturesque views and vibrant street art along the riverbanks.

10. Sample authentic Roman cuisine: Take a pasta making class with a local or a walking food tour and indulge in local specialties like pasta carbonara, supplì (fried rice balls), and gelato from reputable gelaterias. Our tip for finding the best gelato is to avoid the tall mounds of gelato with bright, artificial colors and look for spots that keep their gelato in stainless steal tubs with lids!

We last stayed in Rome for over a week and loved taking our time since it is challenging to see everything in Rome in just three days. However, with careful planning and prioritizing, it is possible to see some of the main sights and landmarks in a shorter amount of time.

Here's how we would spend 3 days/nights in the Eternal City:

Day 1:

  • Visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum

  • Walk through the picturesque neighborhood of Trastevere

  • Explore the Pantheon

  • Stroll through Piazza Navona

Day 2:

  • Visit the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica

  • Walk through the Vatican Gardens (optional)

  • Explore the Castel Sant'Angelo

  • Walk through the historic center, including Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps

  • Take a pasta making class

Day 3:

  • Visit the Capitoline Museums and the Piazza del Campidoglio

  • Walk through the Jewish Ghetto

  • Explore the Catacombs

  • Enjoy a farewell meal in one of the city's many trattorias

Note: It is recommended to book tickets in advance for popular sights, such as the Colosseum and Vatican Museum, to avoid long lines. If you're really limited on time, consider booking this Rome-in-a-day tour!

The Eternal City is home to some of the world's most famous landmarks and monuments and has some of the best bar scenes, with numerous festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate its rich history, art, and music.

In our opinion, Rome's combination of history, culture, food, and entertainment make it a must visit and one of the best cities in Europe!

Have you visited Rome? What are your thoughts on the Eternal City?

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