Yay! You're finally going to Rome! Now it's time to plan. There's nothing worse than flying to another country and returning home thinking: ugh, I wish I did that! We wish you did, too, and that's why we've put together this checklist for you.
Rome is one big open-air museum, so be sure to roam around and check off most, if not all, of these sites and activities. When in Rome, do Rome right. Buon viaggio!
1. Eat gelato
If you're like us, you'll eat a different flavor of this creamy goodness every night. For some of the best gelato in the city, try these local favorite spots: Fatamorgana and (notice: we didn't say "or") Giolitti.
2. Eat pasta
We promise, this is not all food-related, but when in Rome, eating is a priority. Try pasta all'Amatriciana, pasta alla carbonara, cacio e pepe, and tons of other delicious dishes. After all, pasta is considered the "first course" in Italy, so there's no excuse to not eat it every night.
3. Stand inside the Colosseum
Whether you splurge on a tour or simply purchase an entry ticket, going inside the Colosseum is a must. Sure, it's amazing from the outside, but its dizzying interior is a whole other gladiator-game.
4. Step into the Pantheon
An architectural favorite of many, the Pantheon is by far one of Rome's most breathtaking structures - and it's totally free to enter! Gawk at mesmerizing artwork on its walls, then feel yourself gasp as you look up at the moon-like light of its heavenly oculus.
5. Trevi Fountain at night
Sure, this iconic landmark is beautiful at any time of day, but something magical happens when it lights up against the darkness of night. We guarantee you'll stop dead in your tracks and think whoa. Toss a coin over your shoulder and wish for a return trip to Rome!
6. St. Peter's Square
This massive square will make you feel absolutely tiny. Do yourself a favor and visit once during the day and again at night - it'll feel like a whole different place!
7. Cool off by a public water fountain
Walking around the city got ya' tired? Cool off by the cold water from any of its 2,500 public fountains! Yes, that does say 2,500. They're pretty, practical, and safe. All the locals are doin' it!
8. Unwind with an Aperol spritz
You might notice just about everyone drinking a bright-orange drink in the afternoon. What is it? An Aperol spritz, of course! Sip on this refreshing, slightly bitter orange aperitivo as you people-watch in a buzzing piazza.
9. Wander around the Quartiere Coppedè
This unexpected neighborhood in Rome is a true fantasyland. Gawk at whimsical, unique architecture in this quirky little area of the city.
10. Stroll through Trastevere
Colorful, bohemian, and funky, Trastevere is a now-cool area with old, working-class roots. Known for its innovative trattorias, unique boutiques, and craft beer halls, it's the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
11. Ease into the morning with a cappuccino or espresso
C'mon, do it like a real Italian! As you sip your frothy-coffee goodness, nibble on a flaky marmalade-filled cornetto (Italian version of croissant) or dip crunchy biscotti into your warm, silky espresso.
12. Stare up at the Sistine Chapel
Yes, visiting the Vatican Museums really is worth it. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance online - you'll be happy you did.
13. Climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica
Even those who are afraid of heights should test their bravery and try to do this. Experience one of the most iconic views of Rome and take postcard-worthy photos!
14. Attend a mass in Vatican City
Whether you're a religious person or far from it, attending a mass at St. Peter's Basilica is something special. Yes, most of them are recited in Italian, but it's a truly unique spiritual and cultural experience.
15. Walk the Spanish Steps
Let's be honest - this site is really about the photo-op. Snap tons of pics and soak up the baroque beauty of the "Scalina Spagna."
16. Step back in time at the Roman Forum
If you need a reminder of just how old Rome is, head to the Roman Forum. Right next to the Colosseum, the Forum is a spectacular collection of ancient ruins. A couple of tips: first, purchase a combo ticket that grants entry to the Colosseum and the Forum, and second, wear comfy shoes! It should be no surprise that a place this old has some rocky stone pathways.
17. Mangia la pizza!
Okay, that didn't take long - we're back to talking about food again. This one is a no-brainer: eat pizza!
18. Drink some local vino
With Tuscany as your upstairs neighbor, trying local wines is a must. Not to mention, the rumor that wine is cheaper than water is absolutely true! For just a few euro, you can sip and sample your way throughout Italy.
19. Drive to the ocean
If you've never seen the Mediterranean, this one's even more important. Feast your eyes on bright blue waters and picture-perfect coastlines. Relax the day away on a sun-soaked beach and taste the freshness of local seafood at a cute seaside restaurant. Popular spots among the locals include Ostia and Anzio. If you drive a little farther south, about halfway to Naples, you'll find Sperlonga. Yes, it's a bit of a ride, but it's a scenic ride! And, the beach itself is a fan-favorite.
20. See an opera
Calling all culture-enthusiasts! What better place to see an opera than in the birthplace of the music, itself? (Okay, if we're being technical, opera was invented in Florence, but close-enough.) Put on your fancy pants and head to the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma for a truly unforgettable experience!
21. See sites at sunrise and sunset
Lighting makes everything look different. The Colosseum backed by a bright blue, fluffy-clouded sky is a whole different Colosseum than the one illuminated by the reds and oranges of sunset. When in Rome, it's important to see iconic sites in different lights - literally. You never know when you might see the most beautiful thing you've ever seen!
22. Get lost in the Centro Storico
Most of Rome's most-visited tourist attractions are in its historic center, so you'll probably end up here without actually trying. Sit in Piazza Navona and take in the architectural beauty of this area. Take a stroll down the cobblestoned Via Del Governo Vecchio and weave in and out of interesting shops. Let the Centro Storico take you back in time!
23. See the best view of Rome from the Gianicolo Hill
Located west of the Tiber, north of Trastevere, and south of Vatican City, Gianicolo Hill offers that perfect postcard view of Rome. Take tons of pictures, bring some prosciutto and a bottle of wine, and watch a once-in-a-lifetime sunset over the city.
24. Stroll through the Villa Borghese gardens
This is way more than just "another garden." Villa Borghese is filled with museums, old buildings, amazing statues, and other masterpieces. Feast your eyes on the stunning Tempio di Esculapio while lounging by a sparkling lake. Why not pack a picnic?
25. Shop 'til you drop at the Galleria Alberto Sordi
Nestled on the bustling Via del Corso, this grand shopping mall is a sight in itself. You'll catch yourself looking up, down, and all around. Admire this amazing structure's gorgeous columns, ornate decor, and detailed glass ceiling. What better way to buy that Italian leather handbag!
26. Find the "Secret Keyhole" on Aventine Hill
Peek through the Knights of Malta Keyhole on Aventine Hill and gasp at a picture-perfect view of St. Peter's Basilica. This spot has been one of Rome's best-kept secrets, but the word is quickly getting out. Hint: use the Via San Sabina footpath and explore Piazza Cavalieri di Malta to find it! You'll definitely win "coolest Instagram post of the year" for this one.
27. Sample foodie faves from Campo de’ Fiori
Peruse this loved-by-locals market and taste yummy olive oils, balsamic vinegars, bread, and produce. Make a unique lunch out of it! Buy a bunch of different things and have a smorgasbord picnic of Italian delights.
Bonus: Book a Vespa tour
When in Rome, right? Treat yourself to a ride on one of these iconic scooters and see the city from a whole new perspective. Zip through narrow streets and fulfill your movie-scene dreams of riding a Vespa through Italy.
Accountant-turned-travel planner, I share all things travel here!