Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

You have been dreaming about your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy. Friends have been telling you stories about their amazing trips. You have been seeing pictures on social media depicting all the dreamy destinations in Italy. The desire in you for this trip is so overwhelming, but you are not sure how to make it happen or where to start. Keep reading, because this article is the first of three that will guide you toward planning your perfect Italian getaway. Let us start with Rome and the top 10 must-see attractions that will allow you to see as much as possible while appreciating the sights and the history of Rome.

Before you go to Rome

You may recall from a previous post that the main purpose (or excuse) for our trip to Italy was to visit our son who was studying abroad for a semester in Southern France. He wanted to travel cheaply in Italy for a week and what better way to do that than to have mom and dad pay for most of it. We decided to meet in Rome and make our way north so that in about a week we could send him back to his school in France as we continued our adventures in France for two more weeks.

Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome
Experiencing the People and Wonder of Rome Italy

We flew from Minneapolis to Paris with a short layover and then on to Rome. We had shared transportation scheduled from the airport to our hotel, but this was our first experience in Rome and found that not everything runs on time. The bus was about 45 minutes late and then it took about an hour to get to our hotel in heavy traffic. The driver was a bit confused as to who was on the bus and what hotels he needed to stop at. Ultimately, we saved money with shared transportation but had a lesson in patience in Rome. It is important for you to know this before you head to Rome, so take note! One other must-know tidbit before visiting Rome is that you should purchase the book Rick Steves Italy 2018 (or newer), which features a complete list of things to do each day. You may also want to download the Rick Steves Europe Travel App onto your phone before you travel. The app has all kinds of content and tours that we found to be invaluable to us on our trip.

Hotel & Transportation Recommendations

Hotel choices abound, and we found The Bailey’s Hotel Roma to be a wonderful stay.  It was lovely and comfortable with fantastic service. The recommendations for food and activities were spot on, making this a smart choice for first-time visitors to Rome.

Stairway The Bailey's Hotel Rome 7 Days in Italy - The Perfect 1 Week Italy Itinerary
Stairway The Bailey’s Hotel Rome

Once you decide on a hotel, you’ll want to consider your transportation options while in Rome. To help make transportation around the city as easy and as flexible as possible, we purchased the Big Bus Premium 2 day Hop on Hop off Rome package. This first gave us a much-needed overview of the city, and later helped us get from place to place as we were not familiar with the area and with the bus routes. This was very easy and convenient to use, making it another smart purchase if you are visiting Rome for the first time.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome Italy - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Castel Sant’Angelo Rome Italy

Map of Rome Italy

Google Maps - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Google Maps – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Use this map of Rome to get an idea of the layout of the city and also an idea of the size of the city so that you can determine how my might get around. Here is a link to the Google Maps live map of Rome Italy and these spots for your convenient access. Now, onward with your 10 must-see attractions in Rome!

The List – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome

1) Trevi Fountain

trevi fountain rome italy
Trevi Fountain – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

The first stop you’ll want to make is to the Trevi Fountain. This is a massive fountain that measures 86 feet tall and more than 161 feet wide. You may recognize its appearance in several different movies throughout the years. The Trevi Fountain is very busy all the time so you can expect crowds. Remember to be patient and just take it all in. If you want to see the fountain when there are not as many people around, you will need to arrive before sunrise to beat the crowds.

Trevi Fountain - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Trevi Fountain – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

But crowds or no crowds, early risers or late risers, the place is still breathtaking!

2) Spanish Steps

Your next must-see attraction is the Spanish Steps. This is no ordinary set of stairs, as you will see upon your arrival. There are 174 steps total here (go ahead and count them!), so you will get a bit of a workout going up these steps. Wear your walking shoes for this stop! You will not be sorry that you visited this place, as the exertion is completely worth it for the spectacular views you’ll find once you reach the top.

Spanish Steps - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Spanish Steps – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

After your climb, go ahead and take a well-deserved break. I recommend savoring your first meal in Rome and taking the rest of your day to relax and explore the area around your hotel at your leisure. You will have plenty more to see and do tomorrow!

Your second day in Rome – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Begin a new day with a terrific breakfast at the hotel, which will likely include the classic staples of most of the hotels here: a continental breakfast with coffee, cheese, sliced meats, boiled eggs, assorted fruit, some breakfast cereals. This Roman breakfast is perfect for your full day of exploration today because it won’t weigh you down. You may want to consider grabbing some extra fruit, bread, meat, cheese or yogurt that will serve as your lunchtime meals. After all, you’re going to need some fuel for your action-packed days of touring the must-see attractions of Rome!

3) Vatican City

Now that you’ve filled up on breakfast and planned your lunch accordingly, your main attraction today will be the Vatican City. We took a taxi to the Vatican and got there pretty early in the morning, so I would recommend you don’t sleep in too late on your second day.

Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome
Vatican City – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome

One of the most Amazing Art Collections in the World

If you are someone who appreciates art, you will be delighted to know that this place encompasses one of the most amazing collections of art in the world. You will be surrounded by art and beauty just about everywhere you look in the Vatican City. First though, you must make your way into it. One way of getting in is to get “skip the line tickets” and meet up with a tour agency that will get you in to the Vatican. With this option, you’ll be on your own once you get in so the Rick Steves app and audio tour will be valuable guides for you.

Actually Getting In the Vatican

Even with the tour agency option, getting in can still a bit of a trick. There were huge crowds that were waiting in line, so the skip the line tickets are a must. Beware though that there may still be hiccups. In our case, the tour company took a group of about 20 tourists to the front of the line at a specific time where there was a security guard and a lot of excitement. The security guard told our leader that something was not in order. Our leader took us aside and called headquarters to attempt to straighten things out. Someone from headquarters ran over with some extra paperwork and we went up to the guard again. Tension was going up a bit. Again, a call to headquarters, again another rush. Apparently, that time it worked. Everything appeared to be in order.

Finally Got In

What I think actually happened was that the guard was sick of seeing us or a bribe was paid. But either way, finally we got in. Apparently, if you miss your scheduled time slot there is no chance of getting in. So be mindful of timing and allow yourself plenty of cushion for using shared transportation, as noted previously.

4) Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Vatican Museums – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Once you arrive within the Vatican City, you’ll see the Vatican Museums. Be prepared to feel a bit overwhelmed as you try to navigate the crowds while trying to see all there is to see. Whenever you can, get off to the side and take a rest. If a window is open at the museum, stop by the window and take a deep breath while you take in the view. Change things up a bit and don’t push yourself to keep going without a break, otherwise you might not enjoy it as much.

If it helps, think of your time here as a marathon instead of a sprint. Make sure you are well fed and have had plenty of water to drink so you stay well-hydrated. Preparation matters and the lunch you packed with you will come in handy here for sure. There are places for bathroom breaks so there is nothing to worry about there.

5) Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Sistine Chapel – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Another must-visit attraction within the Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel which has a most famous ceiling, painted by Michelangelo. You may have seen photos of the Sistine Chapel ceiling before, but it is so much more magnificent when you view it in person. It is everything you might imagine and so much more.

Sistine Chapel - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Sistine Chapel – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

While you’re admiring the Chapel, don’t be alarmed to hear someone yelling “no photo!” at you. Read this article for the whole story behind it, which will probably blow your mind. The reason for banning photography is no longer valid, but they continue the mantra anyway. It really makes this part of the visit unpleasant for no reason, so be prepared for this and do your best not to let it get to you as you savor the intricate details of the place.

6) St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
St Peter’s Basilica – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

I have a confession to make. We snuck into St Peter’s Basilica based on the recommendation of travel expert Rick Steves. Rick recommended an easy, quick way to get into the Basilica if you aren’t part of a tour group. While you are still in the Sistine Chapel, you will see tour groups congregating and preparing to go into the Basilica. When you see that, put your head down and get very close to a group and pretend you are with that group; you will get ushered into the Basilica and won’t have to wait in another line. We tried this trick and it worked like a dream.

St Peter’s Basilica - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
St Peter’s Basilica – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

If you’re uncomfortable going this route, you may need to wait in line a bit longer to get in. It is up to you, but this travel tidbit will help smooth your way within the Vatican City. (Just don’t tell them I let you in on the secret!) Once you’re in, you will understand why it is so hard to describe the grandeur of this place. It will simply take your breath away and leave you so grateful you chose to make this a stop on your visit to Rome.

7) Colosseum

The Colosseum - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Colosseum – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Are you ready for more adventure and breathtaking history and beauty? It works out best if you plan your visit to the Colosseum on a fresh new day, as it can be exhausting navigating the crowds of the Vatican City. It is also advisable to plan this visit on a clear, sunny day if possible.

The Colosseum - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Colosseum – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Apparently, when it is raining the ground in the Colosseum can get slippery so they stop people from going in to let it drain. We only had to wait about 30 minutes but be aware of the weather when you plan to visit the Colosseum, especially if you have a tight schedule to keep. Again, you will have the option to purchase a skip the line pass (we bought ours via Crown Tours Italy). The crowds will be large again here, especially if you plan your visit during mid-summer.

The Colosseum - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Colosseum – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Your tour guide will point out many things, but one rather poignant detail about the place is that it was used a powerful propaganda tool for the emperor to recruit an army for the next grand campaign. Our guide informed us that the event was scripted in such a way that all the peasants were entertained and put in awe of the great powers of the emperor; they would do anything for him. A week or so after the event the peasants would get their papers to join the army for the next campaign and die for the emperor. And they would happily do it.

Emperor Mark at the Colosseum Rome
Emperor Mark at The Colosseum Rome

Wander around the Colosseum and just imagine it in its original state, full of people from another era far removed from smart phones and tourists. It is almost as though you are visiting the set of a movie, though this was very much a real and thriving place in its time.

8) Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Arch of Constantine – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

While in the Colosseum, you will be able to spot the Arch of Constantine. The Arch dates back to the year 315 AD and was commissioned in honor of Emperor Constantine I’s win during the Battle of Milvian Bridge. You’ll notice that there are actually three arches to this landmark and that the architectural style is quite distinctive. A fun fact is that this arch is one of the last surviving triumphal arches in all of Rome so it is a rare gem, indeed. Can you believe this is made of marble? It is rather exquisite and most certainly worth stopping to admire.

9) Piazza Navona

Your next must-see attraction is the Piazza Navona. It, too, contains rich history, going back to the 1st century AD as a place for spectators to watch competitions and games. Take your time exploring as many of the marvels here as you possibly can! If you aren’t able to spend much time in the Piazza and would like some guidance on which places to see, these are the more notable locations:

Fountain of the Four Rivers

Fountain of the Four Rivers - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Fountain of the Four Rivers – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

The Italian name is “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” and was commissioned in 1651 for Pope Innocent X.

The Fountain of Neptune

The Fountain of Neptune - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Fountain of Neptune – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

Back when this fountain was built, it was located near various metal workers or businesses that gave off a lot of warmth, giving rise to its name.

Pantheon

The Pantheon - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Pantheon – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most amazing places to see and experience in the entire city. Stand in awe of it as you remember it dates back to around 126 AD. Then, take in how well-preserved it is considering the many, many years it has seen. Finally, take a moment to savor the incredibly amazing architecture. Simply stunning!

The Pantheon - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
The Pantheon – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

To consider how much has gone on in this region, how many people have lived and died here, and yet to have a piece this amazingly beautiful still standing is almost beyond comprehension. This Piazza is just amazing! Just imagine what it would be like to live around this area. You would be overwhelmed with beauty and history all the time and would never be able to get anything done!

10) Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola

Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola - Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola – Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy

As you walk away from the Piazza Navona, you have the opportunity to soak in a little more history. One place you can visit after the Piazza is Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola or Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius. Its Baroque style is beautiful and it contains a rich, storied history if you care to read more about it. By the end of the day, you are likely going to be rather exhausted. But it will be oh-so-worth-it! And what better way to revive yourself than with some exquisite Italian cuisine?

Bonus – Where to Eat

The maître d of the hotel was our guide to the best food in Rome, so I will pass along one of the best recommendations here.

Osteria 44

Osteria 44 - Best Places to Eat in Rome 
Osteria 44 – Best Places to Eat in Rome 
 
 
 

If you’re looking to experience interesting, beautiful, memorable food and wine for a perfect evening, you simply must patronize Osteria 44. Be sure to make reservations, although if you’re a typical American that goes out to eat a bit earlier, it will likely not be very full. The restaurant is beautiful and professionally run.

 Osteria 44 Best Places to Eat in Rome 
Osteria 44 – Best Places to Eat in Rome

In our experience, we were quickly greeted by a friendly, warm, well dressed, middle aged gentleman who we later found out to be the owner Sergio Mignanelli. He asked where we were from and upon hearing Minneapolis he chatted about Bob Dylan, Prince and the sad Minnesota Vikings. We were soon laughing and we knew this was going to be an amazing night.

Osteria 44 Best Places to Eat in Rome
Osteria 44 – Best Places to Eat in Rome

Sergio asked each one of us what were our likes and dislikes and from there he crafted a menu for each one of us. Of course we ended the evening with limoncello!

Osteria 44 Best Places to Eat in Rome
Osteria 44 – Best Places to Eat in Rome

Needless to say, the meal was “to die for” and the evening was enchantingly memorable. If you can, try to meet Sergio while you’re there.

Gelato

Best Gelato in Rome - 7 Days in Italy - The Perfect 1 Week Italy Itinerary
Best Gelato in Rome 

Oh, don’t forget to stop for Gelato while in Rome. Come Il Latte is the Best Gelato in Rome. You will be glad you did.

Conclusion

Rome offers a rich array of history, culture and beauty that can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. These top 10 attractions to see in Rome will be your guide as you decide how best to spend your time visiting this magnificent city. From structures that date back thousands of years to modern cuisine, every moment of your trip to Rome will be worth savoring.

Co Author: Brittany VanDerBill – www.bvanderbillconsulting.com

 

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Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Rome Italy
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