I CAME. I SAW. I LOVED.
It’s hard not to be impressed with Rome. Italy’s capital is a crazy, chaotic, sprawling city with nearly 3,000 years of architecture and art on display.
History is all around you. When you stand amidst the ancient ruins of one of the world’s most important archeological sites, The Roman Forum, in the exact spot that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., you can’t help but feel the power of the former Roman Empire.
If it’s your first time visiting the Eternal City, by all means, go see the Forum, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. You’ll be awestruck. And if you only have one day, you’re going to need to prioritize. Rome in two days is better, but you’ll still have to hustle.
(If you’re still in the planning stages for your first trip to Italy, check out this 10-day itinerary for inspiration.)
But being impressed isn’t the same as being in love.
The love part comes after you get the sightseeing out of the way. At least for me, it did. Once I stopped standing in lines and dodging the street peddlers who were hell-bent on selling me a selfie stick, the romance kicked in. Sitting on a park bench in Villa Borghese watching a puppet show while enjoying a picnic lunch, or sipping a beautifully garnished bellini on a rooftop terrace admiring the sun setting over the city. These are the moments that stay with you long after the journey has ended.
And then, of course, there’s the food!
Pizza al Taglio that is cut with scissors and sold by weight. Banana chocolate Tiramisu. Flaky araogosta pastries with a cup of cappuccino with foam so thick you’ll eat it with a spoon. Pasta dishes, like carbonara and cacio e pepe, that will blow your mind. How can a dish with so few ingredients be so complex?
Of course, there is also plenty of horrible food sold in tourist traps all over the city. But don’t worry. I’ve got your back with my self-guided food tour that will help you find the good stuff!
Top Tips for Your Trip to Rome
Where to Stay
When in Rome, I stay at The Inn at the Spanish Steps. The location is perfect – right above the luxury shops on Via Dei Condotti and literally steps from the famous Spanish Steps. It is exactly where I want to be!
While not a 5-star, the service is remarkably good at this luxury boutique hotel. And it has the character and quirks (like a vintage lift) I’ve come to expect from properties associated with Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It also has a lovely rooftop terrace perfect for enjoying an aperitivo after a long day of sightseeing.
Bonus: the oldest cafe in Rome, the Antico Caffe Greco is right next door! A latte will set you back about 9 euro but consider it the price of admission to a Roman institution.
Essential Rome Experiences
My only regret when touring Rome was not upgrading to a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. Instead, I stood shoulder to shoulder with 2,000 strangers, unable to see my toes, barely able to breathe, and just a heartbeat away from a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!
If you only splurge on one thing in Rome, let it be a VIP Small Group Tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel with Viator. After the doors close to the public, you’ll have 30 minutes inside this incredible (and empty!) chapel. You’ll also get to skip all the lines and see secret spots like the Room of Gold plus classic sites like Raphael’s Rooms, before ending with a Sistine Chapel after-hours visit — 30 minutes just for your group of 15 people. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Day Trips from Rome
When you need a break from the crowds and chaos of Rome, escape with one of many Rome day trips. Popular day tours from Rome include exploring the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, making a trip to Tivoli to see Hadrian’s Villa, and taking a gleaming high-speed boat to the island of Capri where you can sip limoncello and visit the world-famous Blue Grotto.
If you’d rather explore on your own, you can hop a train to the nearby medieval town of Zagarolo and explore the ancient city of Palestrina.