Hannah Drake

9 Things to Do in Rome

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We were only in Rome for about three and a half days and we did two different walking tours (Best of Rome Walking Tour & Cooking Class and Rome in A Day), but we also spent a great deal of time wandering around the historic city on our own.

SEE THE COLOSSEUM AT NIGHT

This was absolutely my #1 priority in Rome and we did it the first night (after checking into the hotel and hanging out for a while, watching The Lizzie McGuire movie, of course). We planned on taking the tram from near our hotel in Trastevere to the Colosseum, but a bus had broken down on the tracks, so we were forced to walk. The walk was AMAZING and got us there just as the sun was setting. We walked between the Roman Forum and the Colosseum taking it all in and I just don’t have the words to tell you how beautiful it was. They light up the Colosseum at night and even though you can’t go in and there are people everywhere, it’s definitely worth seeing against the candy coloured sky. There are nighttime tours of the Colosseum available through different tour companies that might be worth looking into as well. It’s just absolutely stunning all lit up!

LOOK UP — AT THE DETAILS

The Romans were absolutely brilliant when it came to engineering and art, as well as combining them in their architecture. And while the city has been rebuilt (or built upon—more on that later), beautiful buildings continue to line the streets. The intricate details in the buildings is absolutely breathtaking and the best part about Rome is that it might be an incredibly famous architect who designed them.

GET HIGH — FOR THE VIEWS

Getting up as high as you can in a new city is one of the first things I try to do when travelling and something I always recommend. Rome is no different. The morning of our first full day, we walked to Parco del Gianciolo, which offered some great views of Rome from above and was a beautiful park. We also went to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, which had 360 views of the whole city and is absolutely worth the cost and the effort to get to the top.

VISIT LARGO DI TORRE ARGENTINA

We actually stumbled upon this location (which is why the next thing is so important) and I’m so glad we did. It’s currently a cat sanctuary, AKA heaven, but once upon a time, it was the site where Caesar was assassinated. You can walk all the way around the area and see the ruins from above. It’s strange to think about such a pivotal piece of history took place there and now the streets around it are bustling with everyday life.

GET LOST

The entire city is packed to the brim with history and art. No matter what street you walk down, you’ll find something beautiful, something historical, something that might just take your breath away. There is so much to do and see in the city and I love that we did two different walking tours (even though there was some overlap on the stops), but I think you should also set aside time to explore on your own. See what you stumble upon and try seeing the city without a solid itinerary.

TAKE THE STAIRS AT ST. PETER’S BASILICA

There is so much to do and see inside the Vatican, but one of the best is to take the stairs all the way to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. There are 551 steps to the top and it’s not for the faint of heart. (Possibly not for the claustrophobic either because those stairways get quite narrow near the top.) It’s worth the views from the top, though. You get 360 degrees views of the Vatican and Rome, though you’re looking through bars. You can stop at a couple of points on the way up or down to get some other views too. It’s €10 per person to go to the top and it’s cash only.

EAT WHERE THE LOCALS EAT

The best tip I can give you for the country is that if you find yourself looking at fettuccine alfredo on the menu, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. We learned in our cooking class that Romans do not eat fettuccine alfredo. In fact, it’s an American invention. Instead, Romans eat cacio e pepe and now, so do I. Italians also don’t eat chicken on pasta. Instead, you’ll find a pasta menu followed by an entree menu that would include various cuts of meat and chicken. Keeping those things in mind, you should be able to tell with a quick glance at the menu whether it was created for tourists or Italians. You may also need to travel away from main tourist attractions to find an authentic Italian restaurant. For example, the restaurants across the street from the Colosseum are probably there for tourists.

VISIT THE JEWISH GHETTO

We got this recommendation from a few people, so we decided to make our way to the Jewish Ghetto on our last night in the city. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked, but it was the most quintessential Roman scene I could have imagined. We sat at a red and white checkered table on the cobbled street eating pasta, drinking wine, and listening to street musicians make their way up and down the street. It was the chilliest night of our trip, but it was still warm enough to sit outside. Aside from the fact that I got mad at Luke for something really stupid, it was a perfect night in Rome!

When we go back, the Jewish Ghetto will undoubtedly be one of our first stops. It’s the oldest Jewish settlement in Europe, dating back to the 2nd century BC. It’s brimming with Jewish culture. Of course you’ll find a beautiful synagogue and kosher bakeries, all the while rich with history. I read that approximately 2,000 of the 7,000 Jewish residents in the area were rounded up in one day in 1943 and sent to concentration camps. Only 16 survived. Today, Rome is said to have fewer than 20,000 Jewish residents and only a few hundred live in the Jewish Ghetto.

Many of the restaurants will be closed Friday evening through Saturday, so it’s worth looking into an advanced booking if you plan on visiting over the weekend.

GO BACK IN TIME AT BASILICA DI SAN CLEMENTE

Nina, our first tour guide, recommended we visit the Basilica di San Clemente to get a better idea of how Rome is layered on top of itself. The city has been built upon itself a few times over and this particular Basilica essentially functions as a time machine as you travel down through the layers. Through excavations, they have discovered two more layers beneath the basilica that stands on the modern Roman street. It’s absolutely breathtaking! No photography is allowed in the excavations, so you’ll have to see it yourself. I recommend checking the hours before you go as they close for lunch. We made it by the skin of our teeth and actually had to beg them to let us go down as they weren’t allowing any more visitors before lunch. That meant we didn’t get as much time as we wanted, but it was worth the €10 admission fee.

(Apparently I didn’t get any photos of the basilica, even from the outside.)

WHAT TO WEAR IN ROME

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. Consider the cobbled streets of Rome when choosing your footwear and stick to something with a sturdy sole. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and you want something comfortable. Rome won’t be as warm as the cities on the coast, but it’s still hot during the day. You might want a light jacket in the evening, especially toward the end of September.

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