What are the five best things to see and do in Rome?

From major monuments to quiet back streets, Rome is filled with can’t-miss sites and activities. The number of things to see and do can be overwhelming. We love to challenge our Forbes Travel Guide editors to pick five things. Here’s their list of the five best things to see and do in the Eternal City:  

1. Wander through the Roman forum. For more than a millennium, Rome was the capital of one of the grandest and most influential empires — and the Roman forum was the center of it all. This is where the senators debated bills, and the Vestal Virgins guarded their sacred flame; where Julius Caesar’s body was burned in a funeral pyre, and where Romans met to shop, worship and gossip. Our advice: buy a ticket to view the Colosseum’s tunnels and enter the forum through there, then take a tour or pick up an audio guide to see everything. There’s lots of information you don’t want to miss.
 
2. Visit the Sistine Chapel. No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Sistine Chapel, the famous landmark inside Vatican City. Look up to see Michelangelo’s frescoes — considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art — but be sure to look around you, too. The gorgeous frescoes on the sidewalls were done by Renaissance greats like Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was Michelangelo’s mentor.
 
3. You must see Rome’s most famous monuments, and we suggest doing so at night. Many of Rome’s most famous sites, including the Trevi Fountain and the Victor Emmanuel II monument, are lit up at night — making them even more dramatic and inspiring than they are in the daytime when the sun is beating down.
 
4. See some of the best art in Europe at the Borghese Gallery. Located in a beautiful villa on the edge of the city, the Borghese Gallery houses the fine art collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V. It’s about 350 years later, but it’s still a pleasure to explore. Among its masterpieces are lifelike statues by Bernini, some of the most famous paintings by Caravaggio, and works by Raphael, Perugino and Canova.
 
5. Explore Rome’s back streets. Rome’s major tourist sites can get crowded, particularly in the high season (from April to October). Avoid the masses by walking on one of Rome’s many cobblestoned streets, where you’ll see grandmothers poring over produce at market stalls and artisans working in their shops. We especially like the back streets around Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese, and across the river in Trastevere.

  • On July 28, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What are the best places to spot celebrities in Rome?

    Photo by Angela Corrias In Rome you can spot celebrities in many places and neighborhoods. Obviously, most of the times they are Italian celebrities, but it's not uncommon to see also international actors and singers hanging around, especially when movies are being shot in Rome, usually at Cinecittà, the city's movie set production, but also at the main attractions such as Piazza Navona.

    I often met Italian celebrities strolling in Trastevere in the evening, shopping in Via Cola di Rienzo, Prati area, and pushing their baby's buggy in Viale Giulio Cesare, near the Vatican, but probably the easiest place where to spot celebrities on a daily basis is around Piazza Mazzini, near the historic palaces of the RAI, national Italian broadcasting station. Here you have a great chance to see Italian TV celebrities possibly every day.

    Finally, if you are into politics, the best places to spot some Italian politicians are from Corso Rinascimento, near Piazza Navona, to Piazza Colonna, near Via del Corso, area where lie the buildings of the Parliament.
  • On July 28, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What are quirky local customs in Rome?

    Along with centuries of emperors, battles and conquests, Rome has piled up also a decent number of quirky customs. Always the first one that comes to my mind when I'm asked this question, and probably my very favorite, is that still now, after 2000 years, Romans bring fresh flowers to the place where Julius Ceasar was cremated in the Roman Forum, showing a great pride for their imperial past.

    This pride goes also to their river, and Romans never miss the occasion to show that too, even when it's freezing, like for New Year, when a man plunges into the Tiber. Maurizio Palmulli, 60, has been doing this for 25 years, and this year it seems he announced it was the last time. But don't worry, there is already someone ready to replace him in this uncommon adventure.

    Another custom I have seen only in Rome is the so-called “pastarelle” (pastries) on Sunday: every Sunday morning Roman families go to the pastry shop, usually the one close to their house, and buy pastries, cakes and cookies for the day.

    A custom I particularly like is Romans' love for cats. Actually Rome is considered the “cat's capital” as there are many alley cats everywhere and are very much cherished and protected by the council itself. This started long time ago with aged women taking care of the cats living in their street and evolved with young women who today organize proper cats' “colonies” and look after the beloved felines. There are cats' colonies all over Rome, but probably the most famous is the one in Largo Argentina, with some 200 cats living there spoiled and very much looked after, to the extent that if someone wants to adopt one of them, the organizers will run thorough checks on the family to make sure they are fit for cats' adoption.
  • On July 25, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What is the best way to see the Pantheon in Rome?

    Photo by Angela Corrias The Pantheon is one of the best kept ancient temples in central Rome. Built to honor all gods, it's a true architectural masterpiece created as a pagan worship place and turned into a christian church and mausoleum of important figures along with some members of former Italian royal family.

    The best way to fully enjoy the Pantheon is obviously to go when it's quiet, but like all popular sights in Rome, it's always packed with tourists. However, if you manage to go early in the morning, you will have the chance to admire all its interior decorations and important tombs.

    The Pantheon's only window is a huge hole in its dome (the oculus, of 9-meter diameter). This big opening was built for different reasons, such as allowing a light beam to enter and make it possible to conduct astronomy studies, for technical reasons as otherwise the dome would have fallen due to the heavy weight, and for the symbolic reason of directly connecting with the gods.

    Maybe due to its unusual architectural style, there is a legend about the Pantheon saying that no rain comes down inside the church through the hole. As weird as it may sound, there is some truth in this. When it rains, in fact, the opening causes an upward current of air and the consequent crushing of the raindrops, giving the impression that even if outside it's pouring, inside it's raining less heavily.

    Even if it sounds odd, an unusual experience can be visiting the Pantheon when it rains, to personally verify the myth and witness the phenomenon caused by its unique architecture.
  • On July 25, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What is the best way to see the Pantheon in Rome?

    Photo by Angela Corrias The Pantheon is one of the best kept ancient temples in central Rome. Built to honor all gods, it's a true architectural masterpiece created as a pagan worship place and turned into a christian church and mausoleum of important figures along with some members of former Italian royal family.

    The best way to fully enjoy the Pantheon is obviously to go when it's quiet, but like all popular sights in Rome, it's always packed with tourists. However, if you manage to go early in the morning, you will have the chance to admire all its interior decorations and important tombs.

    The Pantheon's only window is a huge hole in its dome (the oculus, of 9-meter diameter). This big opening was built for different reasons, such as allowing a light beam to enter and make it possible to conduct astronomy studies, for technical reasons as otherwise the dome would have fallen due to the heavy weight, and for the symbolic reason of directly connecting with the gods.

    Maybe due to its unusual architectural style, there is a legend about the Pantheon saying that no rain comes down inside the church through the hole. As weird as it may sound, there is some truth in this. When it rains, in fact, the opening causes an upward current of air and the consequent crushing of the raindrops, giving the impression that even if outside it's pouring, inside it's raining less heavily.

    Even if it sounds odd, an unusual experience can be visiting the Pantheon when it rains, to personally verify the myth and witness the phenomenon caused by its unique architecture.
  • On July 23, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What are the best places to buy shoes in Rome?

    Photo by Angela Corrias Along with clothing boutiques, Rome also boasts some great places to buy shoes. Stilettos, boots, sandals or decollete, shoes definitely have the power to make or break a look, this is why picking the right piece is of mandatory importance.

    Some of the most exclusive shoe shops are in Piazza di Spagna, the area where you can also find the most famous Italian and international brands for clothes. Albano, at the number 92, and Casadei, at the number 82, sell truly gorgeous, classy and luxurious shoes, often finely embellished with Swarovski crystals or other precious stones or metals, and their prices easily reach 800-900 euros.

    If you don't want to spend a fortune, there are different stores of “Danielle” brand in 39-40 Piazza Risorgimento, 106 Via Ottaviano, 169-171 Via Cola di Rienzo, in Prati area and 85a Via Frattina in the city center. Danielle displays a huge choice of all types of shoes and their prices are not that high, plus for winter and summer sales there are often 30/50 per cent discounts.

    Another place where I often find shoes I like is Fede Lù in Trastevere, 170 Via San Francesco a Ripa, a young shop that sells very modern styles and latest trends of both shoes and accessories.
  • On July 23, 2013
    Angela Corrias answered the question: Angela Corrias

    What are the best places to buy shoes in Rome?

    Photo by Angela Corrias Along with clothing boutiques, Rome also boasts some great places to buy shoes. Stilettos, boots, sandals or decollete, shoes definitely have the power to make or break a look, this is why picking the right piece is of mandatory importance.

    Some of the most exclusive shoe shops are in Piazza di Spagna, the area where you can also find the most famous Italian and international brands for clothes. Albano, at the number 92, and Casadei, at the number 82, sell truly gorgeous, classy and luxurious shoes, often finely embellished with Swarovski crystals or other precious stones or metals, and their prices easily reach 800-900 euros.

    If you don't want to spend a fortune, there are different stores of “Danielle” brand in 39-40 Piazza Risorgimento, 106 Via Ottaviano, 169-171 Via Cola di Rienzo, in Prati area and 85a Via Frattina in the city center. Danielle displays a huge choice of all types of shoes and their prices are not that high, plus for winter and summer sales there are often 30/50 per cent discounts.

    Another place where I often find shoes I like is Fede Lù in Trastevere, 170 Via San Francesco a Ripa, a young shop that sells very modern styles and latest trends of both shoes and accessories.
  • On July 18, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.  Rome foodies favorite the weekend only Circus Maximus Farmer's Market. A recent addition to Rome's food scene, the market resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas.  From August 1 through September 7, the market will be closed for the summer.  

     Across the river, Trastevere's Piazza San Cosimato market has great produce and an rock-and-roll cheese vendor whose selection includes non-Italian cheese along with local favorites.

    Along with Farmer's Market Garbatella, there are many markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies and are not in the historic center.  The Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale (via Andrea Doria 3, adjacent to Vatican City), is one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, bread and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures,Trionfale has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al. Take note, whether produce, meat, fish, bread or cheese, a great market lists origin of each product, along with price.  

    Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  Additional great markets include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio. Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors.  Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Just remember the golden rule: do not touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On July 18, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best parks in Rome?

    Rome has several parks throughout the city which are each in its own right amazing. Villa Borghese is often considered the best as it is centrally-located, has several museums in and around its grounds (Galleria Borghese, Villa Giulia, Bilotti Chapel, Canonica Museum, National Modern Art Gallery), and entertainment for all ages and kinds-  children's park, dog park, boat rides, rollerblading, cinema, Shakespearean theatre et al.

    On the western side of the city center is Villa Pamphilj, Rome's largest park with rolling hills and lots of places to lose yourself. Pamphilj is great for working out (running, walking), kite-flying, sun bathing, game playing and picnicking.  Near by is Villa Sciarra, a quiet and flowery park that cascades down a hill.  And below in Trastevere is the Orto Botanico, a botanical garden perfect for afternoon walks.

    To the north of the city center are Villa AdaVilla Glori and Villa Balestra. Villa Ada is the former monarch family's grounds. The large park hosts summer music festivals, has children's facilities (including trampolines) and is beautiful. Tiny Villa Glori has horse rides and is great for a quiet afternoon.  Near by Villa Balestra is a tiny oasis overlooking the northern neighborhoods of Rome. It has a large, well-kept playground and basket ball courts.  

    In addition to Villa Borghese, Parents will want to head to the grounds surrounding Castel Sant'Angelo and Villa Celimontana for the playgrounds.  Villa Celimontana also has lovely rolling hills, excellent picnic spots and beautiful views.

    The Park of Appia Antica is one of the most beautiful parks just outside Rome's ancient walls. Its verdant landscape also includes some Rome's oldest and largest tombs and monuments, such as 1st century BC Cecilia Metella and Emperor Maxentius' suburban villa from the early 4th century AD. You can bike the ancient Via Appia Antica, the 2400-year-old Roman road that runs through it to the Adriatic coast or mountain bike through the Parco della Caffarella. 
  • On July 18, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best parks in Rome?

    Rome has several parks throughout the city which are each in its own right amazing. Villa Borghese is often considered the best as it is centrally-located, has several museums in and around its grounds (Galleria Borghese, Villa Giulia, Bilotti Chapel, Canonica Museum, National Modern Art Gallery), and entertainment for all ages and kinds-  children's park, dog park, boat rides, rollerblading, cinema, Shakespearean theatre et al.

    On the western side of the city center is Villa Pamphilj, Rome's largest park with rolling hills and lots of places to lose yourself. Pamphilj is great for working out (running, walking), kite-flying, sun bathing, game playing and picnicking.  Near by is Villa Sciarra, a quiet and flowery park that cascades down a hill.  And below in Trastevere is the Orto Botanico, a botanical garden perfect for afternoon walks.

    To the north of the city center are Villa AdaVilla Glori and Villa Balestra. Villa Ada is the former monarch family's grounds. The large park hosts summer music festivals, has children's facilities (including trampolines) and is beautiful. Tiny Villa Glori has horse rides and is great for a quiet afternoon.  Near by Villa Balestra is a tiny oasis overlooking the northern neighborhoods of Rome. It has a large, well-kept playground and basket ball courts.  

    In addition to Villa Borghese, Parents will want to head to the grounds surrounding Castel Sant'Angelo and Villa Celimontana for the playgrounds.  Villa Celimontana also has lovely rolling hills, excellent picnic spots and beautiful views.

    The Park of Appia Antica is one of the most beautiful parks just outside Rome's ancient walls. Its verdant landscape also includes some Rome's oldest and largest tombs and monuments, such as 1st century BC Cecilia Metella and Emperor Maxentius' suburban villa from the early 4th century AD. You can bike the ancient Via Appia Antica, the 2400-year-old Roman road that runs through it to the Adriatic coast or mountain bike through the Parco della Caffarella. 
  • On July 18, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best attractions in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome, as a city, is an amazing attraction whether meandering the streets or enjoying a glass of prosecco in a piazza, the setting is always beautiful. With nearly three thousand years of visible history, it is easily to stumble into the the 2nd century Pantheon, a picturesque piazza or a lovely church with Caravaggio frescoes. The best attractions in the Eternal City are a wonderful composite of ancient, Renaissance and Contemporary.  

    Start with the heart of the city at the Roman Forum. Rome's history begins here with its 9th century BC Roman atop the Palatine Hill, its pride is showcased with the massive Colosseum and its intense history centers around the Roman Forum.  What you see is not always what you get, so remember to head underground.  The Case Romane on the Celio hill, beneath the Church of Saints John and Paul (Santissimi Giovanni e Paolo) are two subterranean levels of explorable, ancient history.  The nearby Baths of Caracalla are amazing to walk through. Though stripped of adornment, the dimensions of the spectacular baths are still visible in both height and expanse. There is also a mithraeum located on the grounds of the Baths (underground) and is visitable by appointment.

    Rome is a city of reinvention, as best seen with the rise of the papacy.  St. Peter's and its accompanying Vatican Museums contain centuries of art history from ancient to modern/contemporary, and house Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  For a focus on early Renaissance to late Baroque, throughout out the city are several palaces, villas and galleries which house substantial art collections available to guests. Galleria Borghese proudly houses a noteworthy collection of Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures, along with many others, and the newly restored Palazzo Barberini is a treasure for those who love painting.

    In the summer time, the Baths of Caracallas the Teatro dell'Opera for al fresco performances. The banks of the Tiber river and Isola Tiberina become afternoon and evening hangouts with out open-air cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs in the annual city-sponsored Estate Romana, which is also a great resource for daytime and children's programming, detailing events all around the city. Former tomb and fortress, now museum Castel Sant'Angelo is open for evening visits. Not to miss is a wall through the passetto di Borgo, an early Renaissance above ground passageway that connects to Castel Sant'Angelo to the Pope's chambers at the Vatican.

    Not to be overlooked is the contemporary city.  Rome has an engaging community, heralded best by its two contemporary art museums: MAXXI and MACRO.  MAXXI and MACRO buidlings themselves are amazing fetes of architecture and are located in neighborhoods near the historic center, but just far enough away to maintain their distinct atmosphere.  Along with international artists, the museums showcase work by acclaimed Italian artists, providing a glimpse into contemporary Italy.  And finally Rome's pedestrian bridges- Ponte Sisto, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Tiber Island's Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabrizio and the new Ponte della Musica-- are beautiful.
  • On July 18, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    Where is the best architecture in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome is a palimpsest of amazing architecture. Its seems that every piazza, alley and corner has something beautiful and architecturally mind-blowing while at the same time utterly different from the next, so it would be impossible to list the very best.  However, I've come up with a chronological list of what I like this month: 

    1. Repubblican:  Temples of Hercules, the charming round temple by the Tiber river is the earliest extant temple made of marble
    2. Imperial:  Pantheon, the dome is truly awesome, by very definition.
    3. Late Antiqute:  Arch of Constantine, slightly pompous and very monumental
    4. Early Christian:  San Stefano Rotondo, the hard-to-find church is beautiful in its roundnes, yet slightly horrific with its frescos of suffering martyrs
    5. Medieval: Torre delle Milizie, 50 meters high, this tower is the tallest still standing in Roe
    6. Renaissance: Palazzo Farnese, a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture
    7. Baroque: Palazzo Barberini, though the art collection is heavenly, it's Borromini-designed eliptical stairwell is divine
    8. Risorgimento:  Altare della Patria, often known as the Wedding Cake or Typewriter, this mega-monument has a lot going on, but take a closer look, each detail is beautiful
    9. Liberty:  The Coppedè buildings in Rome's north-eastern area are enchanting and architectural homages to fairy tales
    8. Fascism: EUR, lovely and austere lines of the Fascist architecture make this neighborhood  perfect for photos, movie settings and even a Di Chirico painting
    9. Modern: Villagio Olimpico and Palazzetto dello Sport, built for the 1960 Rome Olympics, 
    10. 21st Century has already seen a lot of new architecture (from big names) in Rome like Renzo Piano's Auditorium, Zaha Hadid's Maxxi, Richard Meier's Ara Pacis and Massimiliano Fuksas's Nuvola but lately I am captivated by Rome's newest bridge, Ponte Settimia Spizzichino in the Ostiense neighborhood.
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