Help me plan my trip to Rome

According to the Most Traveled People website, Italy is the most popular place in the world to visit…… which I’ve never visited.

As I finally enter Europe in a few days, I’ll like to tap the collective mind of the internet to help me plan my trip to Rome. There are some things I’ll see that are pretty obvious: the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Pantheon. I’d like to get the opinions of people who have been there before me to help me plan my time there.

Here is what I’m looking for from you:

1) What should I see in Rome? What are the out of the way places I should see and what should I take time to see at the popular spots? Where/what should I eat?

2) If you live in Rome let me know. I’d like to schedule a time to meet with people in Rome at a cafe or pub.

29 thoughts on “Help me plan my trip to Rome”

  1. You’ve gotten some great suggestions here. I’d add:

    – for daytrips, consider Orvieto and Civita’ di Bagnoregio
    – go in search of “Le Gattare”, the women who take care of Rome’s cats
    – Pay attention to detail: the sculpture at the base of the fountain; the small statues on walls everywhere; the patterns of the pavement stones. I did a post on this one:

    – sit and watch how Italians use their hands to get a feeling for how important hand gestures are in communication

    have a fabulous time!

  2. Hey, Gary.

    I can second the suggestion about Ostia Antica if you have the time. It is a great example of what Rome probably looked like, with remains of a 5 story apartment building that you can scale (3 stories remaining).

    The other big sights are pretty obvious. While you are over at the Vatican, check out Castel St. Angelo.

    Drop me a note if you need a hand – I’m an American “stuck” here in Rome for a few years. Hope you love the experience.

  3. You should take the train and go to Ostia Antica!
    It used to be a small town that functioned as the habour of Rome. I believe it was because of some flood or wave that moved the coastline. There’s a new Ostia with harbour, but the original village is in surprisingly good shape, considiring the enormous wave hit it that moved a coastline!
    You can take a train there from the main station and a daycard of (when I was there) 4 euro’s whil do. It takes about a half hour / 45 minutes to get at the station and then it Ostia Antica is within walking distance.

    If you like coffee, you should check Sant’ Eustachio’s. Some people claim that they serve the best coffee in the world. Well, I don’t know about that, but their coffie IS pretty damn good!
    It is near the Pantheon, again within walking distance. It might be a little hard to find, I don’t remember how you should walk exactly, but I geuss that a lot of people in the area know where it is. I must warn you that if you sit down outsite, they charge you for that in a absurde way! If you drink your coffee inside at the counter, it is way cheaper and in my opinion also cosier.

    If you like art and Bernini then you MUST visit the Villa Borghese! It is in very nice park where you can also rent a small boat and row in the little pond. It Villa Borghese you can see some of Bernini’s best work. The only downside is that you by a ticket for an hour. After that hour (it could be longer, I’m not sure if I remember it right) you have to leave. It could be different now, I went in the highseason so maybe you’re lucky and get to stay longer.

    Hopefully I’ve been some kind of help!

    Have a great time in Rome.

  4. 1. The Coliseum
    2. Palentine Hill –The Forum
    3. Sistine Chapel
    4. The Pantheon
    5. Piazza Novona
    6. Piazza Baberini
    7. Villa Borghese

    I love Rome!

    Enjoyed your PYRAMID post. Was just there in Sept. 08-fortunately with a tour group. Have marked your site to read more.

  5. Hey Gary,

    I’ll admit I cam across here after remembering you from the PVP strip when it first ran. I went to Ropme a few years ago and I can heartily recommend you try and check out the Capuchin Crypt ( – I didn;t get there but it looks intriguing.

    I liked the Castel Sant Angelo too… but the Pantheon was, for me, athe most impressive building just for age and the fact it’s sucha perfect construction (if you took off the roof it would fit perfectly inside the building with the tip just touching the floor.

    And for your McDonalds series, I recommend the one by the Spanish Steps (incidentally I do much the same when abroad but with Hard Rock Cafes).

  6. Gary,

    I just came here from a link on Love your blog, I’m going to enjoy making my way through the archives. Anyway, I just returned from a trip to Italy, and the most amazing building is St. Peter’s Cathedral. No matter what your religion, you cannot miss it.

  7. You’ve got to hop on the subway and get off at the Appian Way stop. We went there because my husband wanted to see the “Pines of Rome” (Respighi composition where the Roman legions are marching into Rome) I was skeptical because I thought we’d come up out of the subway and see a 7-Eleven or some such. I was shocked! Two lines of pine trees down the middle median of the street and the old Roman city wall right there. I could visualize the Roman troops marching in between the pines and right through the city wall. St. John Lateran is in that area as well. Happy travels!

  8. Whatever you do, leave time in your day to stop in every church you encounter as you walk around. Many of the small local churches I popped into were incredibly cool and almost none of them were in any guide book. In one case, I was completely lost and wandering (a favorite state of affairs), stopped in a church, and noticed that Santa Teresa in Ecstasy was on display in this little church! One of the best moments in my trip to Rome, because it was so unexpected.

  9. When standing on the steps of the Pantheon (which looks like it was built last Thursday) facing out, the road bearing to the right has (had?) a gelateria with the best Pompelmo Rosa (red grapefruit) gelato on earth. If they don’t have that flavour, get another that looks likely. I ate a lot of gelato in Italy and still lost 12 pounds from walking around.

    The Ara Pacis, Forum, Piazza Navona (Bernini’s 4 Rivers Fountain), St. Peters and the Vatican and Palatine Museums, The Spanish steps (in a shopping district where a lot of kids tend to hang out, with a McDonald’s right near there in totally Roman style with Chocolate shakes that must taste like chocolate since the best gelato is around the corner.)

    Get some advice from wherever you are staying there on a nice Trattoria, not as expensive as a Ristorante and probably more genuine cuisine for the region.

    I love Rome and there are lots of way cool places.

  10. Hey, Gary –

    Rome is a blast! Touristy or no, the Galleria Borghese, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Collisseum all live up to their reputations, and you can easily spend an entire afternoon with the locals people-watching on the Spanish Steps. I recommend taking a side-trip to the Catacombs of San Callisto; it’s well worth the time, both as a spiritual experience and as a chance to live out a scene or two from the Last Crusade! (Minus the rats, of course)

    As for the food, it’s universally delicious; you really can’t go wrong with an Italian wine aperivito, and the gelato is practically a matter of national pride. Buon appetito!

  11. We spent a week in Rome and it was fabulous. Did all the typical touristy stuff which I honestly would recommend. I would recommend doing the 2 day trips we took – one to Assisi and the other to Ostia Antica. Assisi was a guided tour, Ostia Antica was self-guided, about a 45 minute train ride south – gives you a perspective on how Romans lived in ancient times, much more than the Forum does. Have a great time!

  12. Hey Gary – A couple of places many tourists don’t get around to… check out the Villa Borghese (both the galleria and the park surrounding it) and, if you can get in, the Vassari Corridor (you need to make reservations in advance as you can only do this special corridor with a guide).

  13. Hey Gary,

    I recommend the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and trying the gelato! Rome’s collection of classical art is almost inexhaustible, but do check out the modern art gallery as well for a lovely breath of fresh air. =)

  14. Well if you check out my blog you’ll see that I pretty much love any little aspect of Roman life. Take a ride on the 3 tram and have it send you from Trastevere through San Giovanni and San Lorenzo.

    Frequent the same local bar every morning for your capuccino and cornetto. You’ll get to feel a little bit like a local. Check out your neighborhood market as well for fresh produce and local flair.

    Book time to see the Galleria Borghese, which is a must see.
    Drink an aperitivo before dinner, Freni e Frizioni is good for a good local/international young and hip crowd.

  15. The absolute best way to see Rome and experience its landmarks, chaotic driving scene, and the layers of history is by renting a scooter and living out your Roman Holiday fantasies.

    Other than that, I don’t think there’s a place in Rome that doesn’t deserve all the hype it receives.

  16. That he is – and a rich one at that. I’d love to write a hack book like that and then laugh alllllll the way to the bank.

  17. This may sound corny, but if you have read “Angels and Demons”, you should go to all the places mentioned.

    Here are some: Piazza del Popolo, Santa Maria del Popolo and the Chigi Chapel, The Spanish Steps, The Palace of the Knights of Malta, The Palace of the Propaganda of the Faith, Piazza Barberini, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, The Trevi Fountain, The House of Bernini, The Pantheon, Church of Sant’Ignazio, The Collegio Romano (seat of the Inquisition), Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo, The Vatican City (Saint Peter’s Piazza)

  18. FYI, I’ll be compiling all of these suggestions into a post later on. Those of you will blogs to link to will be mentioned.

  19. Agree with Expatria: Check out the Borghese Gallery. You usually have to make reservations to get in (you can do it online or via phone) but the art is simply gorgeous and the museum is much less packed with people than the Vatican Museums. The gardens are beautiful.
    We loved the food in Rome. Da Baffeto is one of the most famous pizzerias and the best pizza we had in Rome. We also loved Armando all’ Pantheon, a little trattoria about a block from the Pantheon, with very traditional Roman cuisine.

  20. For lunch one day grab some pizza at Crispi Pizzeria. Funny story I saw the sign and wanted to eat there because I like my pizza crust “crispy”… afterwards I realized the name of the street is Crispi and therefore where the restaurant takes it’s name. Via Francesco Crispi to be correct.

    Anyway the pizza was excellent (and crispy) and the ladies working there that day were stellar. My girlfriend at the time made a comment about them wearing white blouses with black bras but I felt that just added to the ambiance… who doesn’t like ambiance. ;-)

  21. Hi, I’ve been to Rome once for 5 days and think that I covered pretty much at least the basic places and even a few not so trivial ones. One of the tricks I think is to avoid some of the supposed “must see places” and do something else, e.g. sit in the cafes and just enjoy yourself. I’ve written a short story of my trip which you can find at . It’s not really extensive but some tips and opinions on the different places in Rome. You can see where I’ve been and what I like to do on my vacations to better judge if my opinions are of interest to or not Have a great trip!

  22. Rome is full of so much, we could write a whole book on what to see!

    Definitely take some time of get out of the city and visit Ostia Antica. While you’re out there, swing by the seaside and grab a bite to eat.

    A Sunday bike ride and picnic on the Appian Way is always spectacular and makes you feel like you are no longer in Rome.

    Take in some of the best free art in the city – Caravaggio at Sant’Agostino, San Luigi dei Francesi, Santa Maria del Popolo. Bernini at Santa Maria della Vittoria, Michelangelo at San Pietro in Vincoli. View the amazing trompe l’oeil ceilings at Il Gesu and Sant’Ignazio.

    Lastly, have rustic pizza and fritti in the rowdy and local Ai Marmi on viale Trastevere.

  23. I’m in Rome now until the end of May – and there’s a tweetup happening on 5/23 if you’re around!

    Be on the lookout for the niches that sit high on building corners and on the facades:

    Definitely have a gelato at the Palazzo del Freddo, Italy’s oldest gelateria:

    Here are some eating tips:

    I’d love to meet up for dinner at Betto & Mary, Rome’s last standing communist restaurant!

    Also – Frascati, a hillside town outside of Rome, for fresh porchetta and wine at one of the many taverns.

    The Caravaggio stuff at Villa Borghese is not to be missed, as is as a stroll through the park.

    They Keyhole at the Knights of Malta!

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