Things to do in Rome

Get Your Bearings in Rome

By Maria Pasquale
Rome Expert

See & Do

Things to See

No other city in the world is quite like Rome.  It's a living, breathing museum full of history, art and major attractions.  People from all over the world come to visit the Colosseum, the Vatican and to throw a coin (or two) in the Trevi Fountain.  Other main sights like Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps are all within walking distance from each other. While transport is fairly reliable, the city is best seen by foot so that you can take in all the beauty. 


The long wait at the Colosseum - book an audio guide.

Where to Stay

Rome hotel options are plentiful, ranging from the grand and luxurious to mid-range hotels, hostels and B&Bs. The city center is quite compact with many of Rome's major attractions accessible by foot and hotels dotted throughout. For a taste of La Dolce Vita, most of Rome's luxury hotels are located along Via Veneto but even on a smaller budget you'll find that special place to meet your needs.


Hotels in Rome are subject to a city tax of 2 euro per person per day.

What to Eat

Rome is a food lover's delight and restaurants and foodie treasures lurk on just about every corner.  Cucina Romana is the traditional cuisine of the city and can be eaten at trattorias throughout.  You should head to the lively district of Trastevere for a Roman dining experience you won't soon forget, or to the food heart of Rome not far from the center, Testaccio.  With just a little research you can find whatever you're after in the center, whether it be pizza, pasta or a fine dining experience. 


Tourist menus nearby major attractions like Piazza Navona.

Be Sure to Sample:

One of the trilogy of Roman pasta dishes - carbonara, amatriciana or cacio e pepe.

Places to Party

You aren't short of options if you want to experience Rome's nightlife. For a laid back or casual affair like the famed aperitivo (happy hour), there are plenty of bars to choose from in the centro storico or in the Trastevere neighborhood. After dark and for a boogie, Romans generally head to Testaccio where you'll find most of the city's nightclubs. 

Hot Tips:

Do as the Romans do and head out for an aperitivo around 5:30pm at most bars.

Where to Shop

If you love shopping, you are spoiled for choice in Rome.  The center is full of shops catering to all your clothing, shoe and souvenir needs. Head to Via del Corso for all your high street and Italian brands and Via dei Condotti for luxury designers like Bulgari, Dior and Armani. Small streets around Campo de Fiori and Trastevere are your best bet for handmade and locally produced goods. And if you want to shop for food, head to Eataly - a food lover's haven in the Ostiense neighborhood. 


Be mindful of pickpockets on major shopping strips like Via del Corso.

Hot Tips:

Ask your salesperson about tax-free shopping.

Best Local Souvenir:

Why not take home a little vintage Vespa - a remnant of your own Roman Holiday.



Things to do in Rome

Rome is known for...

Five of Rome's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Politics:

Politics play an important role in Italians' lives, especially for those who live in Rome. As Rome is the capital of Italy, it also is where the most important governing bodies such as the Italian Parliament, the Senate and various councils and ministries are located. Visitors can visit the Parliament and Senate by special request. They can also witness protests (manifestazioni) or demonstrations camped out in front of piazzas where prominent government buildings are held such as Piazza Montecitorio (where the Italian Chamber of Deputies is held), Piazza Madama (where the Italian Senate is held), Piazza del Parlamento (where the Italian Parliament is held) and the Quirinale Palace (where the President of the Italian Republic lives). Italians are constantly at odds with the leaders they have in office. In late 2011, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down from his position after constant market pressures and his inability to turn around the country's spiraling economy. Currently, the country is being overseen by a technical government made up of professors and experts in various fields until elections are held sometime in 2013.

2. Religion:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to Rome to visit the Eternal City to visit St. St. Peter's Basilica, explore the vatican Museums and attend a papal mass.  Whether you're a believer or not, the city is surrounded by religion. Churches dominate the city skyline, in particular, the cupola of St. Peter's Basilica. No building project in Rome is to ever surpass the height of St. Peter's dome. The world's most prized artwork is also in possession of the Catholic Church hosted by some of the most important churches such as Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant' Ignazio, San Pietro in Vincoli, Santa Maria del Popolo and the list goes on. Rome is also home to the world's tiniest country, Vatican City where the pope lives and is guarded by Swiss Guards. 

3. Art & Architecture:

There's no other city in the world that has such a vast collection of art and architecture like Rome does. From the ancient architecture legacy such as the Colosseum to the much-disputed Ara Pacis exhibition space builty by American star-chitect Richard Meir to protect the Altar of Peace, the city is filled with structures that demonstrate Rome's constant struggle with Ancient meets contemporary. Other fine examples of ancient architectural structures are the Pantheon, the Roman Forum and Baths of Caracalla. New kids on the block, contemporary structures such as the Auditorium Parco della Musica (where concerts are held) in Parioli and the MAXXI architecture and contemporary art museum in Flaminio have also drawn a lot of interest among tourists over the years.

One of the best parts about visiting Rome for art aficionados is that much of the world's finest art collection can be seen in the city's churches for free. St. Peter's Basilica, the mother of all churches is best known for Michelangelo's Pietà. Other favorites are San Pietro in Vincoli, famous for Michelangelo's statue of Moses. Santa Maria in Trastevere church is often praised for its beautiful Byzantine mosaics. One could literally spend days exploring the city's churches marveling at the best examples of art from the Renaissance and Baroque eras and never grow bored.

4. Soccer (Calcio):

After coffee, there's just one thing that Romans can't live without, and that's calcio. Indeed, calcio or soccer is one of Italians' favorite past times whether you're a male or a female. It's the topic of discussion at the bar over morning coffee. TV shows and radio channels dedicated to the sport. Sports newspapers that talk solely about calcio from cover to cover have the highest readership in the country. In the Eternal City, there are two teams that Romans cheer for. One is the A.S. Roma team and the other is S.S. Lazio. Both teams play at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (olimpic stadium). The biggest match of the year is the 'derby game' when the two teams face off at the Stadio Olimpico.

5. Food:

If there's one thing to be said about the Italian capital, is that Romans sure do know how to eat. Ah, yes. Roman food is considered to be one of the tastiest in all of Italy, with many considering its dishes to be hearty, delicious comfort food. Some of the most traditional Roman fare consists of pasta amatriciana (pasta made with tomatoes, pancetta and a little bit of onion), pasta carbonara (pasta made with egg, black pepper, guanciale and pecorino cheese), cacio e pepe (pasta made simply with lots of black pepper and pecorino cheese). Romans are also known for their tantalizing antipasti (appetizers) such as carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes), olive ascolane (fried olives stuffed with ham), arancini and suppli (fried rice balls made with mozzarella and tomato) and other delightful treats. Rome also specializes in its paper-thin style pizza which makes finishing a whole by yourself a cinch!