The best things to do in Rome
Our favourite things to do in Rome
La dolce vita; that’s what awaits in Rome.
Although we’ve already covered Rome, briefly, in our Bank Holiday getaways blog, we’re covering it again here, as there’s simply so much to do and see while you’re there.
And, with return trips from Glasgow Airport to Rome starting from as little as £158, there’s no reason not to read this guide, book your flights, book your Glasgow Airport parking on Airport Park and Ride, and jet off to the Eternal City for the trip of a lifetime!
Visit the Colosseum
Gladiators fought and died here. It was flooded, to enable it to hold magnificent mock sea battles. Exotic creatures, procured from the far-flung depths of the Roman Empire were shown off – and often killed – here. Chariots were raced. Fortunes made and lost. Fame won.
The Colosseum is probably the most recognisable landmark in Rome; it was opened in 80 A.D with 100 days of games, and was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, with a capacity crowd believed to have been around the 50,000 mark.
Make sure you book your tickets in advance, either that, or be prepared to queue. Potentially for hours.
Formerly a Roman Temple, the Pantheon was built over 2,000 years ago and is now a church, and the burial place of the Kings of Rome. Raphael is buried there, too.
Built by the Emperor, Hadrian, over Marcus Agrippa’s earlier temple, the Pantheon is home to the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world, and was, until the modern era, the largest dome of any kind. It has also been described as the world’s only architecturally perfect building.
If you time your visit between 11amand 1pm, you’ll see the sun, beaming through the oculus and echoing across the walls and marble floors. If you’re there whilst it’s raining, take a trip over anyway, and see the water cascading into the building, before being caught by the drains built into the floor.
Take a pilgrimage to the Vatican
Vatican City is the world’s smallest city state, and both the literal and spiritual home of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican Museums, – the Gallery of Maps, is one to look out for! – St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square (where the Pope holds Papal Audiences on Wednesdays, at 10am, and recites the Angelus prayer and gives a Papal blessing on Sundays at 12pm), the Sistine Chapel; which has Michelangelo’s truly awe-inspiring masterpiece, The Creation of Adam on its ceiling.
A little south of the Vatican, you’ll find the Castel Sant’Angelo (at the foot of which you will see the Ponte Sant’Angelo, replete with Bernini’s stunningly carved marble angels), where, historically, popes went for refuge when Rome was under siege. From the top, you’ll see brilliant views of the Vatican and the river Tiber.
Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
Probably the most famous fountain in the world… makes it sound like the beginning of a Carlsberg advert, but it probably is.
It’s also one of the most beautiful! A veritable cacophony of Baroque sculpting. The centre-piece of Nicola Salvi’s work is a marble statue of Neptune, encircled by Tritons, snakes and winged horses. The water in the fountain shimmers with the thousands of coins thrown in by tourists – legend has it that if you throw a coin in, you will return to Rome.
I think the Trevi Fountain is best to visit as evening falls, to avoid the crowds, and see it when it is lit-up.
Wander around the Centro Storico
If you want to relax and escape from the more touristy attractions of Rome for a time, the narrow, cobbled streets that make up Centro Storico are well worth meandering down of an afternoon.
There are three main streets, forming a trident, leading towards the Colosseum. Within these streets, you’ll find a warren of smaller side-streets and alleys filled with boutiques, cafés, churches, restaurants, gelaterias and much more.
Escape the bustle of the attractions for a while, and have a stroll around Centro Storico, no trip to Rome is complete without one.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The ancient ruins at the Roman Forum are vast. Here you can walk streets where temples rubbed alongside brothels, victorious parades rumbled down the streets, criminal trials took place and crowded markets thrived.
The site isn’t very well (at all) sign-posted, so it’s worth employing a guide to make sure you don’t miss anything – for example, the Temple of Caesar, built in the memory of Julius Caesar, after he was stabbed 23 times, resulting in his death.
When you’ve finished exploring the Forum, why not wander over to the Bocca della Verità? Legend has it that the ancient stone carving of a bearded man’s face will bite off the hand of any visitor that doesn’t tell the truth.
Get Romantic at the Spanish steps
Rome beguiled and inspired Keats and the other poets of the English Romantic movement, and a visit to the Spanish steps – leading to the church of Trinità dei Monti from whence you can admire the Piazza di Spagna and Bernini’s ship-shaped fountain from above – will allow you to find the Keats-Shelley house, where John Keats lived and died, and take a look around the museum that now resides inside.
When you’re worn out from the day of sightseeing, cross the Tiber (both literally and figuratively – Trastevere means “across the Tiber”) and find yourself in a mesmeric burrow of ivy-twined, cobbled streets, packed with trattorias, microbreweries and graffiti-covered bars.
If you’re enjoying an aperitivo in the area as the sun is setting, you’ll be greeted with a host of street performers, from violinists to tambourine players, serenading the terraces well into the dusk.
The atmosphere in Trastevere is stylish and relaxed, and with the plethora of bars and eateries, you’re sure to find somewhere to while the night away.
Go shopping at the Galleria Alberto Sordi
The 1922 construction, Galleria Alberto Sordi is filled with magnificent mosaics and stunning stained-glass skylights, making it, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to shop in Europe, if not the world.
And if shopping while on holiday is your thing, you’ll be pleased to find that it’s also filled with shops like Zara and Massimo Dutti, alongside a fantastic array of designer boutiques in the surrounding streets.
See Saint Valentine’s skull at the Basilica Maria
Whatever your thoughts of the legitimacy of religious “relics”, the flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is really quite a sight. Sitting in a solid gold box, surrounded by an array of candles and bouquets, whilst the skull itself is festooned in flowers; it’s certainly an interesting viewing.
The rest of the Basilica Maria is pretty impressive, too!
The Jewish Ghetto
Historically, the gates of the Jewish Ghetto were locked after sunset, and it still retains its diversity and feels different from other neighbourhoods in Rome.
Sitting between Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Venezia, it has a wide variety of Jewish shops, bakeries, and restaurants. One of which, Ristorante Piperno, is one of the oldest, and best, places to try carciofi alla giudia, or Jewish artichokes – fried whole and well worth a try – and the Fiori di zucca, stuffed and fried aubergine flowers.
The area is also stuffed with historic artefacts, including the Porticus Octaviae – a brilliantly preserved expanse of temples and libraries built by Emperor Augustus.
Eat true Roman cuisine
Don’t eat Bolognese in Rome. Italian cuisine is particularly regional and to get the best food on offer, eat the local varieties.
La cucina Romana, or, la cucina povera as it is sometimes known, is traditionally quite simple, using relatively few ingredients, but leaving a big impression with its flavours.
There are hundreds of restaurants across Rome, in which you can try the traditional Roman cuisine, so there’ll be nothing stopping you from tucking into some fantastic Italian food while you’re there.
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Park with us and jet off, safe in the knowledge that your car is in good hands. Glasgow Airport parking perfected.