17 Amazing Roman Experiences
When visiting Rome, you have no time to waste enjoying incredible Roman experiences. The Eternal City has been around for almost three millennia. It still preserves the traces of all the history that happened here over the centuries. From magnificent ancient buildings to narrow cobblestone alleys and quaint neighborhoods, there is much to discover in Italy’s capital city.
Pack some walking shoes and make sure you have at least five days to see the main sights and also these off-the-beaten-track spots. Get ready to try delicious food, discover areas you had never heard about, and visit some unusual sites. You’ll be enjoying some beautiful panoramic views.
1.) First the main sights: Colosseum and the Historical Center
When in Rome you obviously can’t miss its main landmark. The millennia-old yet incredibly well-preserved amphitheater is the largest one in the world that is still standing. Make sure to buy a ticket to visit the inside of the Colosseum. You’ll also want to visit the Roman Forum, which extends from the amphitheater all the way to Piazza Venezia.
The area is filled with ruins of ancient temples and squares. It can also be seen from the street (Via Dei Fori Imperiali). However, walking among the ruins will give you a much better sense of what Rome used to be like several centuries ago.
From Piazza Venezia, you can easily visit some of the main squares and fountains. Make sure you climb the Spanish Stairs. Check out the beautiful Fontana Della Barcaccia, discover Piazza Navona with the beautiful fountains and the baroque architecture. Visit the nearby Pantheon, walk all the way to Piazza del Popolo and discover the lovely Villa Borghese. Here you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from Terrazza del Pincio.
2.) Throw a coin (or three) in Fontana di Trevi
Trevi Fountain deserves a special mention due to the good luck ritual you should follow here. Hold a coin in your right hand, turn your back to the fountain, close your eyes, make a wish, and throw a coin back over your left shoulder. The ritual is particular, so make sure not to mix it up if you want your wish to come true. Or so they say.
You can also follow the legend inspired by the movie Three Coins in the Fountain, and triple your luck: one coin is to ensure your return to Rome, one to meet the love of your life, and one to get married. But also, don’t forget to take in the beauty of the fountain. It was recently renovated and looks more stunning than ever.
3.) The Vatican and its surroundings
Right in the heart of Rome, you’ll also get the chance to visit another country, Vatican City. The Vatican Museums require almost a whole day to visit, and the Sistine Chapel is definitely the highlight. You’ll find yourself staring at the ceiling in awe, admiring the stunning frescoes of The Last Judgement.
The museum tends to get very crowded, so booking online is recommended. And make sure to set some time aside to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica and climb to the top of the chapel for a view. After you visit the Vatican, stop at Castel Sant’Angelo, on the bank of the Tiber River. The bridge in front of the Castle is probably the most beautiful in Rome, lined with angel sculptures on both sides.
4.) Watch the sunset from the Orange Trees Garden
Being built on seven hills, Rome has many lovely viewpoints, as the legend goes. They offer a panoramic view of the city, but few ones beat the Orange Trees Garden on the Aventine Hill in Italian Giardino Degli Aranci. As you enter the garden and walk the central alley, you’ll see Saint Peter’s Chapel right in the middle.
Through an interesting optical illusion, the chapel seems much closer than it really is. As you walk to the terrace, you’ll notice the chapel seemingly backing away until it’s just another landmark in Rome’s skyline. The sunset from here is guaranteed to be magical so don’t forget to bring your camera.
5.) Look at St. Peter’s Chapel through the keyhole
This little spot used to be a well-guarded secret, only known to insiders but has now grown in popularity, so you should expect a queue. Just a few meters from the Orange Trees Garden, in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, there is a massive green wooden door, and through its keyhole, you can see the ever-present Saint Peter’s Chapel.
Behind the walls of the Villa, which hosts the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, there is a lush garden, and bushes have been cut so that they would form a narrow corridor right in front of the door. The chapel appears framed by the carefully cut plants and once more incredibly close, although it’s on the other side of the city. An interesting fact is that you’re on Italian soil, looking through Malta’s territory at a landmark that is set in the Vatican State.
6.) Breathe in the perfume of the Rose Garden with a view of Circo Massimo
If you’re visiting Rome in late spring, you’ll find the Rose Garden in full bloom. Near Giardino degli aranci and right above Circo Massimo, the garden is filled with all kinds of colorful roses, and it’s free to visit. Until 1934, the site used to hold the Jewish cemetery, which was then moved to Campo Verano. In memory of its past, the garden’s footpaths form the shape of a Menorah.
As you stroll among scented rose bushes, you can also admire the view of Circus Maximus from above. The huge stadium used to host chariot races in Ancient Rome, and it was the very first and largest stadium in the Roman Empire.
7.) Find out the secrets of Monte Testaccio
Probably one of the most underrated neighborhoods in Rome is Testaccio. It’s a neighborhood that foreigners tend to skip in favor of Trastevere and Campo de Fiori. Testaccio is a quaint and lovely neighborhood. Just a couple minutes from Piramide, Testaccio is filled with theaters, little shops, and cozy restaurants and bars.
The neighborhood is also famous for Monte Testaccio, also known as monte dei cocci because it’s an artificial hill made of fragments (cocci) of ancient Roman pottery counting several millions of broken amphorae. If you feel like having a gelato while you’re walking around, a must-try is Gelateria La Romana, close to the Piramide metro station.
8.) Visit the tombs of poets and artists at the Protestant Cemetery
Right near Monte Testaccio, the Protestant cemetery holds the tombs of many important Italian and foreign personalities. Notables include the poets Keats and Shelley. “The cemetery of artists and poets” is dedicated to all those who could not be buried in a Catholic cemetery. These people include Jews, orthodox people, protestants, those who committed suicide, and even actors.
The cemetery contains many beautiful tombs and sculptures, the most renowned one being the Angel of Grief, a sculpture made by the American poet and sculptor William Wetmore Story for his wife. The cemetery is a sad yet beautiful place worth visiting in Testaccio.
9.) Attend an event at Mattatoio
Still discovering the neighborhood of Testaccio, Mattatoio is now a complex of buildings where events, exhibitions, and concerts take place regularly. Especially in summer, the place is trendy among locals, and sometimes local fairs occur here. Check out the calendar to see what is on during your visit.
In Italian, “mattatoio” is the slaughterhouse, and in fact, this used to be the main slaughterhouse in Rome. After its closure in 1975, the site started being used for temporary events. One of the most famous parties of the LGBTQ scene in Rome was born here, and the name Muccassassina was inspired by the slaughterhouse. It means The Killer Cow and its logo are a cow with a sickle to avenge the other slaughtered cows.
10.) Check out the flea market and vintage stores in the Monti neighborhood
The quaint neighborhood of Monti is located in between the Colosseum and Termini train stations. Narrow cobblestone alleys form an intricate web around the old and fascinating buildings. Building covered in climbing vines host bars or restaurants serving traditional Roman dishes.
Right outside the metro station Cavour you’ll find the vintage market Monti Urban Market. The whole neighborhood is filled with vintage stores and small shops selling local products, unique fashion, and handmade objects. If you’re looking to buy something unique and help the local economy, Monti is a great spot to do so.
11.) Discover the masterpieces at Galleria Borghese
Back in the green heart of Rome, Villa Borghese, you can visit one of the most beautiful art galleries in the city. Galleria Borghese hosts many masterpieces, from paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, to sculptures by Bernini and Canova. On top of the permanent exhibition, you may also find temporary ones. Make sure to book your ticket online in advance.
Galleria Borghese YouTube Video
12.) Go out for dinner in Campo de Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Rome, especially at night. Filled with bars, traditional restaurants, and clubs, this is one of the best places to go out for dinner or enjoy a drink. The area is also popular among exchange students and tourists, though frequented by locals as well.
You can sit at one of the many terraces in the main square. Consider trying a traditional pasta dish like a Carbonara or Cacio e Pepe at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina.
13.) Check out the nightlife in Trastevere
Just across the river from Campo de’ Fiori, Trastevere is another lively neighborhood, great for an aperitivo or a drink after dinner. Usually, the area starts to fill up in the late afternoon for the aperitivo in the bars around Piazza Trilussa. Try the casual Bar Meccanismo or Freni e Frizioni for a laid-back atmosphere. Or, go to Coffee Pot if you’re looking for something classier and more sophisticated.
In Trastevere, the nightlife continues until early in the morning as the narrow alleys become crowded with people. However, during the day the neighborhood is just as lovely. It features narrow streets, the ever-present sampietrini (Roman cobblestones), and the many restaurants and shops.
14.) Climb the Gianicolo for a panoramic view
From Trastevere, you can climb up Janiculum Hill for another gorgeous panoramic view of the whole city. Though this was not one of the original seven hills Rome was built on, it is the second-highest, right after Monte Mario in the northwest. At the top of the hill, there’s an equestrian monument to Garibaldi.
On one side of the hill, the view embraces almost the whole city. The nearby Saint Peter’s Chapel can be seen in between the trees on the opposite side.
15.) See an open-air movie on Isola Tiberina
If you’re visiting Rome in summer, chances are you’ll find the open-air movie theater on Isola Tiberina. The small island in the middle of the Tiber River is guaranteed to be the most scenic place you’ve ever seen in a movie. Even if you don’t get the chance to go to the movies, the island is a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.
During the summer season, the western bank of the river just across the island is lined with pop-up restaurants, bars and shops so don’t miss a chance to have dinner or a drink there.
16.) Go on a hunt for antiques and vintage objects at Porta Portese flea market
Mingle with the locals at Porta Portese. Check out all kinds of vintage objects, second-hand clothes (and new ones as well). Plus, there are books and DVDs, furniture, and other antiques. The lively market occurs near the ancient city gate Porta Portese, close to Trastevere train station, every Sunday morning.
You’ll also find stands selling street food and an area selling fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re looking for a more local experience, this is the place to go.
17.) Enjoy happy hour in Pigneto: Delightful Roman experiences
For a more local experience in Rome and escape the tourist spots, head for a happy hour in Pigneto. The up-and-coming, bohemian neighborhood is just a half-hour walk from Termini train station. The main pedestrian street is lined with bars and restaurants where you can have an afternoon drink, and people watch.
It’s also much cheaper than other areas in Rome. And if you feel like exploring, you’ll notice how the neighborhood feels like a small village, with narrow streets and colorful villas.
These 17 truly Roman experiences will make any trip worthwhile.
By Roxana Fanaru
Roxana Fanaru is a writer, traveler, and avid reader. She has a Master’s in Journalism. A native of Rome, Roxana likes writing about complicated things in a simple way.
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