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Best Things To Do in Rome

The best places to visit and things to do in Rome.

Rome, a city steeped in history and culture, beckons travelers from around the globe with its stunning mix of ancient ruins, captivating art, and vibrant street life. Known as the Eternal City, Rome is celebrated as one of the world's most romantic and visually impressive capitals.

This comprehensive guide offers a day-to-day look at what's on in Rome, helping you navigate its vast array of attractions. The city's rich cultural and historic tapestry makes it challenging to explore every treasure in just one visit. From the iconic Colosseum to the serene Villa Borghese gardens, our curated list includes must-see sites that showcase the best of Rome, catering to both first-time visitors and seasoned explorers.

Each recommendation is tailored to enhance your experience of Rome, allowing you to delve into its historical layers, enjoy its exquisite cuisine, and engage with the local culture. Whether you're looking to explore famous landmarks or discover hidden gems, follow our guide to make the most of your visit to this magnificent city.

1) Palazzo Colonna
Palazzo Colonna in Rome

The Palazzo Colonna stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of one of Rome's most illustrious noble families. For eight centuries, this sumptuous palace has been the residence of the Colonna family, encapsulating centuries of history, art, and aristocratic elegance. The palace houses an extraordinary private art collection, featuring masterpieces by renowned artists such as Annibale Carracci, Pietro da Cortona, and Paolo Veronese. Each piece reflects the rich cultural heritage that the Colonna family has preserved through generations.

A standout feature of the Palazzo is the Galleria Colonna, particularly renowned for its majestic Great Hall. This Baroque masterpiece is an architectural marvel, adorned with lavish decorations that exemplify the grandeur of the period. The Great Hall is not just a feast for the eyes; it also holds a unique historical artifact—a cannonball that remains embedded in its steps. This cannonball was fired during the siege of Rome by the French Army from the Janiculum Hill in 1849, amidst the upheaval of the Roman Republic. This striking detail not only adds a dramatic touch to the hall but also serves as a vivid reminder of Rome's turbulent past.

Visiting the Palazzo Colonna offers a rare glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Roman nobility. However, access to this historical gem is limited. The palace opens its doors to the public only on Saturday mornings from 09:00 to 13:15, making each visit a special and exclusive experience. For those interested in art and history, or anyone looking to explore one of Rome's less frequented but incredibly rich sites, a visit to Palazzo Colonna is a must. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a world of artistic splendor and historical intrigue, all preserved within the walls of one of Rome’s grandest palaces. Ph: editoriale: marcobrivio.photography / Shutterstock.com

2) Aventine Hill Keyhole

Aventine Hill Keyhole

Discover one of Rome's most enchanting hidden gems with a visit to the Aventine Hill, home to a unique and breathtaking viewpoint known as the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta. This popular "peep-hole" offers a magical surprise for those who look through: an artfully framed view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, perfectly positioned between lush green branches. This iconic scene allows viewers to glimpse across three distinct territories—the sovereign land of the property’s owners, the Knights of Malta; Italy; and in the distance, the Vatican.

This mesmerizing perspective is not just a visual treat but also a geographical wonder, presenting a rare opportunity to see across three countries from a single, enchanting spot. The Keyhole of the Knights of Malta is more than just a viewpoint—it's a portal to a storied past and a testament to the Knights' historical significance in Rome.

While you're exploring the serene and picturesque Aventino, be sure to also visit the nearby Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci). This beautifully manicured garden offers sweeping views of the city and a tranquil space to enjoy a sunny Roman afternoon. Additionally, don't miss the chance to explore Rome’s Rose Garden, open from April to June. Located within walking distance from the Aventine Hill, the Rose Garden is a fragrant haven featuring a stunning variety of roses from around the world.

Each of these sites offers a unique view of Rome, both literally and culturally. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the combination of the Keyhole's unique vista, the lush Orange Garden, and the colorful Rose Garden provides a delightful exploration route that showcases some of the best natural and historical beauty Rome has to offer.

3) Coppedè

Coppede

Nestled away from the bustling main attractions of Rome, the Coppedè quarter stands as a hidden treasure, often overlooked by tourists yet brimming with enchanting architectural wonders. This unique neighborhood showcases an eclectic and original mixture of architectural styles, combining elements of Art Nouveau, Baroque, Medieval, and even ancient Greek influences. The variety in building materials and intricate designs contribute to the surreal, fairytale-like atmosphere of the area.

The Coppedè quarter doesn't just offer a break from the typical tourist path but invites visitors into a whimsical architectural fantasy. One of the most captivating sights in this quarter is the Piazza Mincio, home to the famous three fairy houses. These houses, with their intricate facades and whimsical details, look as if they've sprung from the pages of a storybook.

Another must-see is the Spider Building, named for its remarkable web-like decorations that adorn its exterior. Nearby, the Frog Fountain not only adds to the quarter's charm but also holds a pop-cultural footnote: it gained fame after The Beatles famously jumped into it in 1965, a whimsical act fitting for the quarter's magical vibe.

Visiting the Coppedè quarter provides a delightful detour for those looking to explore Rome’s lesser-known yet richly rewarding corners. It's perfect for architecture enthusiasts and anyone intrigued by the unusual and the artistic. The district’s dreamlike quality makes it an exceptional backdrop for photographers and a captivating stroll for romantics and dreamers alike.

Whether you're a first-time visitor to Rome or a seasoned traveler, the Coppedè quarter offers a refreshing glimpse into the city's diverse architectural heritage, hidden away from the more frequented tourist paths. This enchanting neighborhood promises an unforgettable experience for those who seek out the unique and the extraordinary in one of the world's most historic cities. Ph: Alessandro Romagnoli / Shutterstock.com

4) Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps, one of Rome's most iconic landmarks, are renowned worldwide, not only for their stunning Baroque architecture but also for their vibrant cultural significance. Built in 1725, this splendid staircase has long been a magnet for visitors from across the globe. Recently, the Steps made international headlines again when the city introduced a no-sitting policy to preserve the integrity of the 18th-century monument, highlighting its importance and the need for conservation.

Located in the heart of Rome, at the bustling Piazza di Spagna, the base of the Spanish Steps is flanked by two significant cultural landmarks that add depth to the visitor experience. On one side, you'll find the Keats-Shelley House, a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets, where John Keats tragically died in 1821. This house, preserved in its original form, offers a poignant glimpse into the life and times of Keats and his contemporaries, making it a must-visit for literature enthusiasts.

Adjacent to this historic site is Babingtons, the historic English tea-room founded in 1893. Offering a quintessentially British experience in the heart of Rome, Babingtons serves as a delightful contrast to the Italian culture surrounding it. This charming tea-room has been serving traditional English teas and delicacies for over a century, providing a unique culinary experience amidst the Italian culinary landscape.

Visiting the Spanish Steps offers more than just a chance to see an architectural marvel; it's an opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich tapestry of history and culture. Whether you are interested in the artistic heritage of the Romantic poets, looking to enjoy a classic tea experience, or simply wanting to soak in the views from one of Rome’s most photographed locations, the Spanish Steps area provides a captivating blend of art, history, and culinary delights.

This iconic site attracts millions of tourists each year and remains one of the top must-visit attractions in Rome. Its blend of architectural beauty, historical significance, and cultural richness makes the Spanish Steps a key highlight for anyone exploring the Eternal City.

5) Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica

If a trip to Pompeii or Herculaneum isn’t in your travel plans, don’t worry—Rome offers a captivating alternative that’s just a short train ride away. From Piramide station, within just half an hour, you can find yourself exploring Ostia Antica, the ancient Roman seaport that served as Rome's principal harbor during the Roman Republic era (509 BC–27 BC).

Ostia Antica is an archaeological marvel that provides an immersive glimpse into ancient Roman life. As you wander through the well-preserved ruins, you’ll encounter a host of historical treasures, including a magnificent Roman theatre, ancient bathhouses, and intricate mosaics that tell stories of the city’s vibrant past. This site offers a rare opportunity to walk down streets that have been trodden for thousands of years, exploring an array of buildings and temples that have stood the test of time.

Visiting Ostia Antica is an enchanting day trip from Rome, perfect for those interested in history and archaeology. It’s an ideal destination for those who might not have the time to travel further afield to Pompeii or Herculaneum but still wish to experience the profound historical impact of an ancient Roman city. The ruins are extensive and remarkably well preserved, allowing visitors to easily imagine the bustling life that once filled this thriving port town.

Whether you’re a history buff, an archaeology enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique day out from Rome, Ostia Antica offers a compelling and convenient alternative. With its rich history and fascinating ruins, it promises an unforgettable adventure into the heart of ancient Roman civilization, all within easy reach of the modern capital.

6) Centrale Montemartini
Centrale Montemartini

Centrale Montemartini, one of Rome's most intriguing and lesser-known museums, offers a unique blend of industrial heritage and classical art. Located in the multicultural Ostiense district, this former industrial power plant has been ingeniously transformed into a museum space. Among its most striking features is the contrast between the ancient and the modern: over 400 exquisite ancient marble sculptures are displayed against a backdrop of giant engines and boilers, creating a fascinating juxtaposition.

This unusual setup not only highlights the beauty and intricacy of the sculptures but also celebrates the industrial architecture of the early 20th century. The setting provides a stark yet visually appealing contrast that enhances both the artworks and the remnants of the plant’s industrial past. This creative use of space makes Centrale Montemartini a standout destination for those looking to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions.

In addition to its permanent collection, Centrale Montemartini hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions, offering visitors a dynamic and ever-changing experience. The museum’s location in Ostiense, a district known for its vibrant cultural scene and eclectic mix of old and new, complements the museum's fusion of classical art and industrial heritage.

Centrale Montemartini is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 09:00 to 19:00, providing ample opportunity for visitors to explore its unique collections. Whether you are an art enthusiast, a lover of history, or simply someone looking for an off-the-beaten-path attraction in Rome, Centrale Montemartini offers a compelling visit that showcases a different side of the city's rich cultural tapestry. ph: Sibil Photos / Shutterstock.com

7) Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps, nestled near the bustling Piazza Navona, is a Renaissance gem that is often overlooked by visitors to Rome. This historic palace, designed in the 15th century by Melozzo da Forlì, is both an architectural masterpiece and a treasure trove of classical art. Housing a highly important collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, Palazzo Altemps offers a deep dive into the ancient world within a beautifully preserved Renaissance setting.

The palace itself is an architectural work of art, with rooms that blend historical opulence with the solemn beauty of its artworks. One of the standout features of Palazzo Altemps is its exquisite private chapel, which provides a quiet space of reflection amid the grandeur of the rest of the building. However, the true highlights of the museum are its notable sculptures, including the Galatian Suicide—a poignant depiction of a warrior in his final moments, the Grande Ludovisi sarcophagus, which is famed for its intricate battle scenes, and the enigmatic Ludovisi Throne, which has captivated historians and art lovers alike.

Each piece in the collection tells a story, not just of the artistry of the ancient sculptors but also of the periods in which they were rediscovered and the palace’s own fascinating history as a cultural hub. Palazzo Altemps is more than just a museum; it is a historical journey through time, offering visitors an intimate glimpse into the past, surrounded by the splendor of Renaissance architecture.

For those looking to explore the rich tapestry of Rome’s art and history, Palazzo Altemps provides a quieter, more reflective experience compared to the city’s more frequented museums. It's an ideal destination for enthusiasts of classical art and architecture, promising a rewarding exploration of one of Rome's finest collections of antiquities. Ph: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com

8) View from Janiculum Hill

Fontanone

 

Janiculum Hill, one of Rome's famous seven hills, offers an unparalleled vantage point with sweeping panoramas over the charming Trastevere neighborhood and the expansive cityscape beyond. From this lofty height, visitors can gaze across to the Castelli Romani and the distant Apennines, making it a prime spot for breathtaking views, especially as the sun sets and bathes the city in golden light.

The hill is perhaps best known for the Fontanone, a monumental fountain built in 1612 to commemorate the completion of the Acqua Paola aqueduct. This impressive structure is not just a feat of Baroque engineering but also a stunning visual spectacle, with water cascading grandly down its tiers, making it a favorite among photographers and history enthusiasts alike.

Yet, just a short walk downhill leads to another, less expected highlight. In the courtyard of S. Pietro in Montorio, visitors will find a hidden gem of High Renaissance architecture: the Tempietto. Designed by Bramante, this small yet perfectly proportioned temple is considered a masterpiece of its era. The Tempietto marks what is traditionally thought to be the site of Saint Peter's martyrdom, and its harmonious proportions and domed design have influenced Western architecture profoundly.

Exploring Janiculum Hill provides not only a scenic retreat with some of the best views over Rome but also a journey through significant cultural and historical landmarks. Whether you’re an architecture buff, a history enthusiast, or simply in search of Rome's best sunset, Janiculum Hill offers a diverse array of sights and experiences that showcase the depth and beauty of the Eternal City.

9) Casina delle Civette

Casina delle Civette 

Nestled within the lush grounds of Villa Torlonia, the Little House of the Owls stands as a remarkably unexpected architectural delight in Rome. Originally designed in 1840 as a 'Swiss cabin' for Prince Alessandro Torlonia, this curious building later underwent a transformation into the style of a 'medieval hamlet', making it a striking homage to Art Nouveau.

The Little House of the Owls is renowned for its intricate and bespoke motifs, which include owls, swans, and peacocks, intricately woven into the architectural details. These designs not only embellish the exterior but are also echoed throughout the interior, creating a thematic continuity that enchants visitors of all ages. The building's nooks and crannies offer a delightful exploration experience, particularly appealing to children who can imagine themselves in a whimsical, storybook setting.

This hidden gem within Villa Torlonia provides a unique cultural experience, showcasing the fusion of different architectural styles and the whimsical creativity of its designers. Visitors can expect to marvel at the detailed craftsmanship and artistic expression found in every corner of the Little House of the Owls, making it a must-visit for those looking to discover one of Rome's less conventional attractions.

A visit to the Little House of the Owls not only offers a break from the more crowded tourist spots in Rome but also a deeper appreciation for the city's diverse architectural heritage. It's a perfect spot for families, art lovers, and anyone with a penchant for the unique and extraordinary, promising an enchanting and memorable experience.

10) Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum

Palatine Hill and Colosseum

A trip to Rome would undoubtedly be incomplete without visiting the iconic Colosseum, an ancient landmark of truly colossal proportions. This architectural and historical marvel not only captivates with its grandeur but also tells the tales of gladiatorial battles that once thrilled ancient Roman audiences.

The Colosseum's ticket offers added value as it includes integrated entry to the majestic Roman Forum and the vast Palatine Hill, both of which are located within the same archaeological area. Exploring these sites provides a comprehensive glimpse into the life of Ancient Rome, from the daily activities of its citizens to the grandeur of its empires.

For those looking to extend their journey into Rome’s imperial past, reserving tickets for the nearby Domus Aurea—Emperor Nero's golden palace—is highly recommended. Constructed after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD, this opulent palace is now an intriguing underground site buried beneath the Oppian Hill, directly opposite the Colosseum. Here, visitors can marvel at the remnants of Nero’s extravagant lifestyle and the innovative architecture that characterized his reign.

Visiting these sites allows travelers to immerse themselves in the depth of Rome's history and appreciate the architectural and cultural advancements of the Roman Empire. Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply a curious traveler, these landmarks offer a compelling exploration of Rome's ancient heritage, making your visit an unforgettable experience.

11) Campo de' Fiori area

Campo dei Fiori Area

While the bustling Campo de' Fiori is a popular destination for tourists in Rome, some visitors find its market “too touristy.” However, just a short walk away are two lesser-known treasures that offer a more authentic glimpse into Rome's rich history and culture.

First, there is the Arco degli Acetari, a picturesque internal courtyard that seems to be frozen in medieval times. This hidden spot, once the workplace of Rome's vinegar makers, is tucked away from the usual tourist paths and offers a serene and charming slice of old Rome. Its timeless atmosphere and rustic charm make it a perfect place for photography or a quiet moment away from the city's hustle and bustle.

Just around the corner, you'll find the Passetto del Biscione, a hidden laneway adorned with frescoes of cherubs. This secluded alley holds a special place in local lore due to an event in 1796, when, according to tradition, a mural of the Madonna located here miraculously moved her eyes. This event has imbued the lane with a sense of mystery and spirituality, attracting those interested in the mystical and the historical aspects of Rome.

Both the Arco degli Acetari and Passetto del Biscione offer unique experiences that stand in contrast to the commercialized atmosphere of Campo de' Fiori. These sites are ideal for visitors looking to explore the lesser-known nooks of Rome that resonate with history and local legend. Perfect for those seeking tranquility and a step back into a quieter, more mystical past, these hidden gems are must-visit locations for anyone wanting to see a different side of the Eternal City. Ph: Pedro Rufo / Shutterstock.com

12) Borromini's optical illusion

Borromini Palazzo Sapda

Located in the captivating inner courtyard of Palazzo Spada, which is renowned for its gallery featuring masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian, and Rubens, is a stunning example of forced perspective created by the Baroque genius Francesco Borromini. Dating back to 1632, this optical illusion is a remarkable architectural feat that continues to astonish visitors.

Borromini's design centers around a colonnade that plays with visual perception. Through cleverly diminishing rows of columns and a gradually rising floor level, the eye is tricked into believing that the corridor stretches for 37 meters, whereas it is actually only nine meters long. This ingenious manipulation of space is a prime example of the innovative techniques used during the Baroque period to enhance architectural impact.

Adding to the illusion, at the far end of the corridor stands what appears to be a life-size statue, which, upon closer inspection, is revealed to be only 60cm high. This further compounds the effect of the perspective trick, making the experience of walking through the courtyard one of continual surprise and delight.

This unique feature of Palazzo Spada not only showcases Borromini’s mastery of architectural illusion but also enhances the overall allure of the palazzo, making it a must-visit for art and architecture enthusiasts. Visitors to Palazzo Spada are treated to a dual experience of enjoying high Renaissance art within the gallery and experiencing firsthand one of the most intriguing architectural tricks of the Baroque period. This blend of art and illusion makes Palazzo Spada a standout destination in Rome’s rich cultural landscape. Ph: Paolo Gallo / Shutterstock.com

13) Pantheon

Pantheon

Despite its ever-increasing crowds, a visit to the Pantheon in Rome remains an unmissable experience. Built by Emperor Hadrian between 119-128 AD, this former temple not only showcases Roman engineering prowess but also serves as a historical monument of immense significance. The Pantheon is best known for its world's largest concrete dome, which is suspended without reinforcement, a marvel of ancient architecture that continues to draw admiration for its grandeur and technical ingenuity.

One of the most enchanting events held at the Pantheon is the feast of Pentecost. During this celebration, firemen climb to the oculus at the center of the dome to drop thousands of rose petals, creating a breathtaking spectacle as the petals flutter down into the interior of the Pantheon. This hugely popular ceremony attracts hordes of people who queue up hours in advance to witness the stunning sight and participate in this unique tradition.

The Pantheon also serves as the final resting place for notable Italian figures, including two Italian kings and the Renaissance master Raphael. This adds a layer of cultural and historical depth to the visit, making the Pantheon not just an architectural wonder but also a sacred site that has been pivotal in Italian history.

Visitors to the Pantheon can expect to be awed not only by its architectural brilliance but also by its rich historical tapestry. Whether you are drawn by its architectural uniqueness, historical significance, or the special events that take place within its walls, the Pantheon offers a profound glimpse into the heritage and enduring influence of ancient Rome.

14) Chiostro del Bramante

Chiostro del Bramante

Commissioned around 1500, Bramante's square cloister stands as an extraordinary example of High Renaissance architecture and forms an integral part of the complex of the adjoining church of S. Maria della Pace. This architectural gem encapsulates the elegance and harmony typical of the Renaissance style, featuring precise geometric forms and classical proportions.

Today, the cloister serves a dual purpose. It is not only a historical landmark but also an active art museum, hosting important temporary exhibitions that draw art lovers and cultural enthusiasts from around the world. These exhibitions offer a diverse range of artworks, providing visitors with a rich tapestry of visual experiences in a historically significant setting.

Adding to the charm of visiting Bramante's cloister is the unique opportunity to enjoy a coffee in the splendid upper gallery. This space allows visitors to relax and soak in the ambiance of the Renaissance architecture around them. The gallery’s tables are nestled between elegant Corinthian columns, offering a perfect spot to pause and reflect amidst the beauty of the cloister and its surroundings.

Whether you are drawn by the historical significance, the architectural beauty, or the art exhibitions, Bramante's square cloister at S. Maria della Pace provides a tranquil and enriching experience. It stands as a testament to the artistic and architectural achievements of the Renaissance, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in the cultural heritage of Rome. Ph: penofoto / Shutterstock.com

15) Appia Antica

Appia Antica

Experience the enchanting Roman countryside by tracing the footsteps of Rome's emperors and saints along the Appia Antica, a historic pathway that winds through the Parco dell'Appia Antica. This ancient road, once the most important military and economic artery of Rome, remains largely intact, offering a direct connection to the past amidst the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.

The Appia Antica is not only a testament to Roman engineering and strategic planning but also a scenic route that makes for a fascinating walk or a somewhat bumpy cycle ride. As you travel along the flagstoned path, you'll be walking the same route that Roman legions marched thousands of years ago, surrounded by remnants of the empire's grandeur.

A highlight of this journey is the opportunity to visit the ancient Catacombs of S. Calisto and S. Sebastiano. These underground burial sites provide a unique glimpse into early Christian Rome, with their intricate network of tunnels and chambers adorned with early Christian art. These catacombs are among the most significant and revered Christian sites in Rome, offering insights into the spiritual and daily lives of its ancient inhabitants.

Whether you’re an avid historian, a lover of nature, or simply looking for a unique adventure outside the bustling city center, the Appia Antica provides a serene escape into the heart of ancient Rome's history. This historic road not only connects you physically to the landscapes once traversed by emperors and saints but also offers a profound sense of the continuity of history, making it a must-visit for those looking to explore the depth and breadth of Rome’s cultural heritage.

16 ) Doria Pamphilj Palace

Palazzo Doria Pamphili

 

 

 

Rome's best-known private gallery, the Doria Pamphilj collection, is a treasure trove of art housed within the majestic Doria Pamphilj Palace. Built in the 17th century, this splendid palace is situated on Via del Corso, one of Rome's main thoroughfares, making it a central and accessible destination for art lovers and history enthusiasts alike.

The collection itself is remarkable, featuring works by some of the greatest masters in art history, including Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Velázquez. Among the highlights is Velázquez's fearsome portrait of the Pamphilj Pope, Innocent X, which is not only a masterpiece of portraiture but also a significant historical artifact, capturing the powerful personality and the complex politics of its subject.

Visitors to the Doria Pamphilj gallery are treated to more than just an art exhibition; they experience a journey through the rich cultural and artistic heritage that has shaped Western art. Each room of the palace offers a different array of artworks, all meticulously maintained and displayed in a setting that reflects the grandeur and elegance of the Baroque period.

A visit to the Doria Pamphilj is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the luxury and artistic brilliance of Rome's aristocratic past. With its central location, exceptional collection, and historical significance, the Doria Pamphilj Palace stands as a pillar of Rome's cultural landscape, offering a profound and enriching experience for all who walk its storied halls.

17) Caravaggio walking tour

Caravaggio in Rome

Rome is a veritable treasure trove for admirers of Caravaggio, hosting about 25 of his masterpieces that are publicly accessible. This makes the city a must-visit destination for those interested in the dramatic intensity and revolutionary technique of this Baroque master. Several of Caravaggio's works can be viewed for free within the sacred confines of Rome's churches, offering a unique opportunity to experience his art in the context for which many pieces were originally created.

Additionally, many of Caravaggio’s paintings are featured in some of the city’s most important art collections housed in palaces and museums. These venues provide a broader context of Italian art and culture, enriching visitors' understanding of Caravaggio's place in the art historical canon. While entry to some locations, like the esteemed Galleria Borghese and Casino Boncompagni Ludovisi, requires advance booking due to their popularity and the exclusivity of their collections, most of Caravaggio’s works in Rome can be admired without the need to book ahead. This accessibility makes it easy for tourists and art lovers to plan their visits around seeing these incredible pieces.

Whether displayed in the intimate setting of a church or alongside other masterpieces in a grand museum, Caravaggio’s paintings in Rome offer a profound insight into the genius of one of Italy’s most influential artists. The city’s rich assortment of Caravaggio’s works invites visitors on a captivating journey through the shadow and light of his life’s work, making Rome an essential destination for anyone passionate about art and history. Ph: Anna Pakutina / Shutterstock.com

18) Rome's Non-Catholic Cemetery

Rome's Non-Catholic Cemetery

Also known as the Protestant Graveyard, this serene cemetery located in the shadow of Rome's ancient pyramid offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city and serves as the final resting place for some of the most significant figures in literary and political history. It is here that the English Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried, making it a site of pilgrimage for literature enthusiasts from around the world.

The cemetery also houses the grave of Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party, whose influence on Italian political thought and culture was profound. Alongside these historical figures, the cemetery continues to be a resting place for modern-day writers and poets, including Gregory Corso and Andrea Camilleri, bridging centuries of intellectual and creative thought.

Known for its tranquil beauty and the notable figures interred within its walls, the cemetery is considered one of Rome's most romantic and enchanting places. The unique combination of its historical significance, the literary giants it commemorates, and its quiet, lush surroundings make it a distinctive and deeply reflective spot to visit. Whether you're a history buff, a poetry lover, or simply in search of a quiet corner in Rome, the Protestant Graveyard offers a unique glimpse into the city's rich cultural tapestry and a chance to pay respects to some of the great minds who have shaped our world.

19) Open-air street art museum

Street Art in Rome

The Big City Life street art project is a vibrant initiative that has transformed the once-forgotten suburb of Tor Marancia into an open-air urban art museum. Launched with the aim of regenerating the area through cultural enrichment, this project showcases the power of art to revitalize communities. Completed in 2015, the scheme features 18 giant murals painted on social housing tower blocks, each a canvas for both Italian and international street artists. These striking works contribute not only to the visual appeal of the neighborhood but also to its cultural and social revival.

Visitors can easily reach Tor Marancia by taking the 160 bus from Rome's city center. However, for those who prefer a more scenic and immersive journey, consider taking a leisurely ramble through the charming district of Garbatella. Celebrating its centenary in 2020, Garbatella is itself a hidden gem within Rome, known for its quaint architecture and community-focused atmosphere. Wandering through Garbatella offers a delightful prelude to the vibrant street art of Tor Marancia, setting the stage for an exploration of Rome's dynamic and evolving urban landscape.

This unique blend of historical ambiance and contemporary art makes a visit to Tor Marancia an enriching experience for art lovers, urban explorers, and anyone interested in seeing a different side of Rome. The Big City Life project not only enhances the aesthetic of the area but also highlights the role of art in community building and urban renewal, making it a must-visit for those looking to explore beyond the traditional tourist paths.

20) Rome's oldest pharmacy
Spezieria di S. Maria della Scala

Located in the picturesque Trastevere quarter, the Spezieria di S. Maria della Scala is one of Rome's historical gems, dating back to the second half of the 16th century. This ancient pharmacy was originally established by friars who utilized medicinal plants grown in their monastery garden to create remedies and potions. Over the years, the expertise and effectiveness of these natural remedies garnered widespread acclaim.

By the end of the 17th century, the Spezieria had earned such a distinguished reputation that it attracted a prestigious clientele, including princes, cardinals, and even the personal doctors of the popes, leading to its affectionate nickname as the "pharmacy of the popes." This esteemed history not only highlights the Spezieria's significance in medical history but also its role in the cultural and social fabric of Rome.

Today, visits to the Spezieria di S. Maria della Scala are available by appointment only, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to step back in time and experience a piece of living history. Those who venture inside will find themselves immersed in an atmosphere of old-world charm, surrounded by antique jars, traditional apothecary equipment, and an array of herbal concoctions that tell the tale of centuries-old medical practices.

This unique attraction is a must-visit for history enthusiasts, medical historians, and anyone interested in the traditional uses of medicinal plants. A visit to the Spezieria offers a fascinating glimpse into the legacy of ancient healthcare practices within the context of Rome's rich historical tapestry, making it a standout experience in the heart of Trastevere.


21) Capuchin Crypt
Capuchin Crypt

Visiting the crypt in the Capuchin Church of S. Maria della Concezione on Via Veneto is undoubtedly one of the eeriest yet fascinating things to do in Rome. This unique site, often referred to simply as the Capuchin Crypt, offers a macabre yet mesmerizing glimpse into a unique aspect of historical and religious practices.

The crypt comprises six small rooms, each ornately decorated with the bones and skulls of approximately 3,700 monks who died between 1528 and 1870. This chilling decor is not merely for artistic expression but serves as a profound memento mori—a reminder of the transient nature of life and the inevitability of death.

In a longstanding ritual reflecting their beliefs in life, death, and resurrection, the Capuchin monks practiced a cycle of burial and exhumation. When a monk died, he was initially buried without a coffin in the crypt. Over the years, as space became needed for new burials, the longest-buried monks were exhumed. Their bones were then carefully arranged to create the elaborate decorative motifs that now adorn the walls and ceilings of the crypt, adding to its somber and reflective ambiance.

The crypt is open to visitors daily from 09:00 to 18:30, offering a unique experience that goes beyond traditional sightseeing. A visit here is not just about confronting the eeriness of death but also about pondering deeper questions of existence and spirituality. For those intrigued by history, religion, or the simply unusual, the Capuchin Crypt provides a profound and unforgettable exploration of one of Rome's lesser-known but immensely impactful attractions.

22) Trevi Fountain at dawn

Who hasn't heard of the Trevi Fountain? This iconic late Baroque jewel in the heart of Rome was completed in 1762, based on the imaginative designs of Nicola Salvi. The fountain showcases the work of four sculptors, with the principal artist Pietro Bracci creating the stunning central statue of Oceanus, the god of the sea. The dramatic figures and powerful horses depict Oceanus commanding the waters, a theme that symbolizes the fountain's connection to Rome's ancient aqueducts.

In the mid-20th century, the monument gained further fame through its memorable appearance in the classic film La Dolce Vita, which featured Anita Ekberg wading into the fountain's waters. This scene not only popularized the Trevi Fountain globally but also cemented its status as a symbol of Roman glamour and artistic allure.

Today, the Trevi Fountain attracts a constant stream of tourists, placing it under considerable strain. However, a visit at dawn or late at night offers a different experience entirely. With fewer crowds, the true beauty and artistic detail of the fountain can be appreciated in a more tranquil atmosphere. The sound of the cascading waters against the backdrop of the Roman night or the early morning light makes for an unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to enjoy one of the city's most famous landmarks in peace.

Visiting the Trevi Fountain during these quieter times not only enhances the experience but also provides a moment of reflection amidst the grandeur of Rome's Baroque artistry. It remains a must-visit destination for anyone coming to the city, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of history and culture that Rome embodies.

23) Galleria Sciarra
Galleria Aciarra

 After visiting the iconic Trevi Fountain, don’t miss the opportunity to discover a hidden gem just around the corner. The Galleria Sciarra, a glass-domed structure, was originally built in 1888 as a fashionable shopping center. This architectural marvel was part of Rome’s modernization following its designation as the capital of a united Italy in 1870. Although no longer serving its original commercial purpose, the building retains a captivating charm that makes it well worth a visit.

Today, the Galleria Sciarra is celebrated for its magnificent Art Nouveau frescoes that adorn the walls surrounding its interior courtyard. These frescoes are exquisite examples of late 19th-century art, featuring intricate designs and vibrant colors that illustrate themes of femininity and beauty, typical of the Art Nouveau style. The courtyard, bathed in natural light from the glass dome above, offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city streets and provides a perfect backdrop for appreciating the artistic details of the frescoes.

Galleria Sciarra is accessible to the public as a pedestrian thoroughfare during office hours. This accessibility makes it easy for visitors and locals alike to step into a piece of Rome’s artistic and architectural heritage at their convenience. A visit to Galleria Sciarra not only complements a trip to the nearby Trevi Fountain but also enriches the cultural experience, offering a glimpse into the elegance and artistic innovation of late 19th-century Rome. Ph: Only Fabrizio / Shutterstock.com

24) St Peter's

St Peters Basilica in Rome

No visit to Rome is complete without the unique experience of briefly stepping out of Italy and into Vatican City to visit St. Peter's Basilica. This awe-inspiring basilica is not just a central place of worship; it's a monumental showcase of Renaissance art and architecture. Almost all the great Renaissance architects and artists, including Michelangelo and Bernini, had a hand in its design, contributing to its grandeur and spiritual significance.

St. Peter's Basilica can be visited for free, allowing everyone the opportunity to admire its magnificent interior, which includes the stunning altar and the beautifully adorned chapels. Visitors often light a candle here, continuing a long-standing tradition that adds to the basilica's serene and sacred atmosphere.

For those interested in experiencing Vatican traditions, there is a papal audience every Wednesday morning, which gathers thousands of pilgrims from around the world. Additionally, every Sunday at noon, the Pope imparts his blessing on the crowds gathered for the Angelus, making these events a profound experience for those of the faith and curious tourists alike.

It's important to note that the Vatican Museums, which house the iconic Sistine Chapel, are separate from St. Peter's Basilica. Planning ahead is essential, as visiting these museums requires a ticket. Additionally, both St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums have strict dress codes that typically require modest attire, covering shoulders and knees.

For those planning their visit, checking out suggestions for tickets and understanding the dress code can greatly enhance the experience. This ensures that you can appreciate the rich history and artistry without any logistical hiccups. Visiting St. Peter's Basilica and possibly the Vatican Museums provides a deep dive into the cultural and spiritual heart of Vatican City, making it a pivotal part of any trip to Rome.

25) Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Take a break from the bustling city streets and explore Villa Borghese, an expansive 85-hectare park that offers not just green respite but also a cultural feast. This idyllic setting houses one of Rome’s greatest museums, Galleria Borghese. Known as a treasure trove of art, the gallery boasts an impressive collection that includes sculptures by Bernini and Canova, as well as paintings by Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Correggio. This makes it a must-visit for art enthusiasts keen to experience some of the finest pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Beyond the art, Villa Borghese is a vibrant hub of activities and attractions. It's home to Rome's zoo, offering fun and education for family visitors, and features a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, providing a unique theatrical experience in the heart of Rome. Additionally, film buffs can enjoy the charm of the world’s smallest cinema, adding a quirky touch to the array of entertainment options available within the park.

For those looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Villa Borghese, renting bicycles is a fantastic way to navigate the extensive grounds. Alternatively, taking a rowing boat out on the park's little lake offers a serene and picturesque way to spend an afternoon, allowing visitors to soak in the tranquil surroundings at a leisurely pace.

Whether you're an art lover, nature enthusiast, or simply in need of a peaceful escape from the urban environment, Villa Borghese provides a perfect blend of culture, recreation, and relaxation, making it an essential part of any Rome itinerary.

26) Michelangelo's Moses
Michelangelo's Moses

Nestled in the Monti quarter, not far from the Colosseum, the Church of St. Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) is a minor basilica that offers a blend of historical and artistic treasures, making it a worthwhile detour from the typical tourist path. This sacred site takes its name from a highly venerated relic housed within: the chains said to have bound St. Peter in Jerusalem and Rome. These chains are displayed in a reliquary under the main altar, drawing pilgrims and visitors intrigued by this tangible connection to early Christian history.

Aside from its religious significance, the church is renowned for hosting one of the art world’s true masterpieces—the magnificent marble statue of Moses, carved by Michelangelo in 1515. Michelangelo himself considered this statue to be his most lifelike creation, a testament to his skill and passion for rendering human emotion and form in marble. The statue of Moses, characterized by its vivid expression and intricate details, stands as a highlight for those visiting the church, offering a unique opportunity to see one of Michelangelo’s greatest works up close.

The church is easily accessible via the steep Scalinata di Borgia near the Cavour metro stop, making it convenient for those exploring central Rome. A visit to the Church of St. Peter in Chains not only offers a moment of peace away from the bustling city but also a profound cultural and spiritual experience. Its combination of sacred relics, Renaissance art, and historical ambiance makes it a hidden gem in Rome’s rich mosaic of attractions.

27) Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Regarded by many as Rome's most beautiful piazza, Piazza Navona is a Baroque gem with deep historical roots that trace back to the first-century AD Stadium of Domitian. This ancient stadium, whose ruins can still be explored today, originally hosted athletic contests and gatherings in ancient Rome. The modern piazza retains the stadium's elongated oval shape, providing a unique glimpse into the city's layered history.

Piazza Navona as we know it today was largely developed in the 17th century and is celebrated for its architectural and artistic splendor. The piazza is dominated by Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture that features symbols of the four major rivers of the continents where papal authority had spread. This dynamic fountain, with its dramatic statues and intricate details, is not just a visual feast—it also represents the height of Baroque artistic expression in public art.

Directly opposite the fountain stands Borromini's Church of S. Agnes d'Agone. According to legend, this splendid church is built on the site of a brothel where the fourth-century Saint Agnes was stripped of her clothes and martyred, adding a layer of historical and spiritual significance to its already impressive architectural stature. Borromini's design is a fine example of Baroque architecture, with its concave façade and complex geometries that contrast beautifully with Bernini's fountain across the piazza.

Piazza Navona is not just a piazza; it is a showcase of Baroque art, a social gathering place, and a window into the ancient past of Rome. Its blend of history, legend, and art makes it a must-visit location for anyone wanting to experience the essence of Roman culture and history. Whether visiting by day to enjoy the vibrant street life or by night to see the magnificent sculptures illuminated, Piazza Navona offers one of the most enriching experiences in Rome.

28) Largo Argentina

Largo Argentina

Rome's archaeological site at Largo di Torre Argentina is steeped in historical significance, famously known as the scene of Julius Caesar's assassination. This pivotal event in history, which took place on the Ides of March, is vividly brought to life each year on March 15th through re-enactments performed by historical groups. These performances add a dynamic element to the site, allowing visitors to experience a key moment in Roman history in the very place it occurred.

Beyond its association with Caesar, Largo di Torre Argentina is also known for the so-called "sacred area" which contains the ruins of the Theatre of Pompey. This ancient structure, significant in its own right, was a major venue for public entertainment in ancient Rome and adds to the rich archaeological tapestry of the site.

Adding a unique and modern twist to the historical site is its role as a home to a popular cat sanctuary. The sanctuary is located among the ruins, where Rome’s many feral cats are cared for, creating a charming contrast between ancient history and contemporary animal welfare efforts.

In 2019, the luxury jeweler Bulgari announced a major restoration project for Largo di Torre Argentina, signaling a new chapter in the preservation and enhancement of this historic site. This restoration is set to ensure that the site remains protected and accessible for future generations, enhancing visitor experience and maintaining the integrity of its structures.

Visiting Largo di Torre Argentina offers a unique opportunity to explore layers of Roman history, from the dramatic end of Julius Caesar to the architectural splendors of ancient theatres, all within the heart of modern Rome. This site beautifully encapsulates the continuous narrative of Rome’s past and present, making it a fascinating stop for history buffs and casual tourists alike.

29) Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla

 

This enormous complex of Roman public baths, or thermae, known as the Baths of Caracalla, was likely built between 212 and 216 AD during the reigns of Emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. As one of the largest and most advanced bath complexes of its time, it not only served as a center for bathing but also as a social and cultural gathering place, complete with libraries, lecture halls, and gardens.

The Baths of Caracalla remained in operation until the sixth century, after which they fell into disuse and eventually suffered major damage during the earthquake of 847. Despite these challenges, significant parts of the structure have survived, and the site contains a maze of underground areas whose ruins can be visited today. These subterranean passageways offer a fascinating glimpse into the engineering and architectural prowess of ancient Rome, revealing how such a grand complex was managed and maintained.

Adding a layer of modern cultural significance to the historic site, during the summer months, the grounds of the Baths of Caracalla host open-air operas, dance performances, and concerts staged by Rome's Opera House. These events blend the historic ambiance of the ruins with contemporary performing arts, creating a unique and enchanting experience that draws both locals and tourists alike.

Visiting the Baths of Caracalla provides a deep dive into ancient Roman life and culture, enhanced by the opportunity to experience world-class performances in a truly historic setting. Whether exploring the ancient ruins by day or enjoying a performance under the stars by night, the Baths of Caracalla offer a memorable and multifaceted experience that highlights the enduring allure of Rome's rich historical landscape.

 

Cover Photo by Christopher Czermak on Unsplash
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