Christened the Eternal City long before New York was bestowed its notorious nom de guerre, very few places in the world conjure up such mythical and romantic notions as Rome. Perhaps Paris could give the Italian capital a run for its money but Rome has the advantage of basically being the origin of Western civilization, no matter how many whimsical flights of fancy one may undertake in the City of Love. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, steeped in art, culture and centuries of history, there is nowhere on earth quite so breathtaking as Rome. To set a cultural tone and quote Giuseppe Verdi, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” By the time your dream trip to the Eternal City is done, hopefully you’ll understand what he means.
The only problem with Rome is that there’s so much to see and do. It’s not a dream destination for nothing. With endless works of gorgeous art, fascinating, sometimes deliciously creepy old churches, mouth-watering ristorantes, tavernas as far as the eye can see and several iconic cultural hotspots, it’s no wonder why its on everyone’s Bucket List. But where to begin? That’s when you turn to BUCKiTDREAM, right? Skim through other users’ trips to the Italian capital and start getting inspired with the things that interest you. You can log them in your ever-handy BUCKiTDREAM planner, and start checking them off for your own trip. But before you do that, have a look at our own list of Roman activities and see if you can find a few to get you started!
Crane Your Neck in The Pantheon The Pantheon is one of Rome’s most enduring churches. Located smack bang in the center of the city, it’s one of the more impressive buildings you’ll see on your trip. Don’t forget to look up and take in the beautiful oculus in the centre of the roof dome.
Splashdown at the Trevi Fountain Another of Rome’s signature sights is the Trevi Fountain. It won’t take too much out of your day, but the crystal-clear waters and chiseled sculptures are certainly worth a look.
Take in the Circus Maximus from Palentine Hill There are seven hills in Rome and the crest of Palentine Hill provides the best view of the ancient Circus Maximus. Despite its size, you may miss it when walking by, so an aerial view is definitely the way to see this ancient Roman chariot racing stadium.
People-watch in Trastevere Situated across the Tiber river, this labyrinthine district of Rome is one of its most interesting and a favorite with locals, which can make for some authentic Roman atmosphere. It features one of the oldest churches in Rome, as well as numerous places to eat some of the best food in the city.
Call in to the Pope No guarantee he’ll be there, but you might as well try his front door. The Vatican, a separate city (not to mention country!) in itself and the stronghold of the Catholic Church, is an amazing architectural feat of overindulgence and artistic splendor.
Gaze at the Sistine Chapel Just behind the Vatican lies Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. If you don’t mind queuing, allow the Renaissance maestro to blow you away with his detailed fresco and marvel at how physically awkward it must’ve been to paint.
Visit the Crypts of the Capuchin Monks Not for the faint of heart by any stretch, but a visit to the crypts of the Capuchin Monks will stay with you for life. These monks have an interesting way of celebrating death; they arrange the skeletons of their fallen brothers into large-scale, intricate patterns. Has to be seen to be believed.
Call in to Caravaggio The small, unassuming church of San Luigi dei Francesi, a few meters up from the Pantheon, contains one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’, and you can see it for free (or for a small donation, if you’re feeling generous).
Feel the History in Piazza Navona Featuring three ornate fountains and one obelisk, which is two fountains and one obelisk more than any decent piazza needs, the beautiful Navona is an acute lesson in Roman history and the site of many ancient events and spectacles.
High-end If you want boutique flavor with a dose of luxury, look no further than the ever-impressive J.K. Place Roma Hotel. Location-wise, you can’t get much more central, and Roma is most definitely a city you want to live and breath up close.
Medium A good bet for a medium-priced stay in Rome is to find yourself an apartment to rent; you can find these all over the city, but why not try out the district of Trastevere (see above) to get the most out of your stay?
Budget Airbnb is always your friend when looking for budget accommodations and Rome is no exception. The city is also full of hostels if you fancy making a few new friends.
We could write a separate article on Rome’s food culture alone…in fact, we probably will at some point. Everybody knows about the Italians’ preoccupation with food, and, of course, when it comes to the capital, you’re positively overwhelmed with options. Here are the things Italians do well: pasta, pizza, bread, ice cream, coffee and pastries. If you’re a fan of any of those, chances are you’re going to find the best of that particular substance in Rome.
In terms of recommending individual restaurants, there are so many fantastic ones that it renders the exercise futile. But a top tip would be to go where the locals go and try and avoid the tourist throughways, where prices will be high and the quality maybe not as good. Once again, Trastevere has an amazing selection of tavernas and pizzerias, including Pizzeria Nerone, rumored to be one of the best.
Drinks and Nightlife
Like any capital European city, Rome has a vibrant and diversified nightlife in each one of its districts. Keep in mind that Italians stay out late anyway, even if it’s just for a meal, and you’ll discover that Rome truly comes alive from 9 p.m. onwards.
The Goa Club has been heralded as one of the best electronic clubs in Italy, with cutting-edge programming and an intimate, acoustically brilliant venue. If you’re after something a little more laid back, the Shari Vari Playhouse in the center of town has an interior modeled on ’50s Americana and features a week-long program of different genres of club music, from hip-hop to electro-rock.
Tips and Culture
The first thing to remember about Rome is that it’s a lot of people’s dream destination. It’s almost always constantly crowded, especially around the hotspots such as the Trevi Fountain and the main high street, Via Del Corso. Slugging through the throngs of people in the dead summer heat might really put a dampener on your experience, so the time to visit Rome is late September/October. You’ll dodge the major crowds and get the best of the Roman summer, which is to say the tail end of it.
The traffic in Rome is frantic and seemingly hazardous, but it seems to have a system all its own which (barely) works. Be extra alert when crossing roads and don’t be alarmed if an impatient native blares a horn at you; they all do it, to everyone and anyone they can.
Rome isn’t too hot on the ol’ public transport, but that’s fairly irrelevant; the way to see the Eternal City is by walking. It’s not as unwieldy as Paris or Berlin and can be easily traversed on foot if the heat isn’t too much for you. There are buses and a metro (of sorts), but these annoyingly skirt the main area of the city and by the time you’ve figured out how to use them, you’re usually better off walking.
Finally, get into the Roman swing of things and learn to eat late! Italians go out for a pizza much the same way that the Irish would go out for a pint. Fall in step with their culinary ways and you’ll start to feel right at home in Rome.
A little obvious perhaps, but you couldn’t give the title of ‘must see’ to anything else but the magnificent Colosseum. As impressive now as it no doubt was back then, you simply cannot visit Rome and not stand inside its ancient stone walls. Tours are available during both day and night and since 2010 you can even descend under the floor to view the secret passageways used to transport wild animals and gladiators to their fate.
So there’s our rundown of the very best that Rome has to offer; now that we’ve fired up your imagination, why not log the ones that most appeal to you in your BUCKiTDREAM planner and get booking that dream trip. The Eternal City is waiting for you to get over there and start creating some eternal memories!