What to do, where to eat, when to visit, and where to stay in Rome.

Rome is one of the most romanticised cities in the world, it is the birthplace of modern civilization after all. Like Paris, New York, and Bangkok, Rome gets mixed reviews, as it’s a big, busy city. Where you stay, when you visit, and what you know, will all impact your experience. This complete guide will ensure you have the ultimate visit to Rome.

When to visit

My favourite month is December! Temperatures are chilly yet pleasant, Christmas markets and decorations are up, it’s low-season with cheaper rates, and there are hardly any queues with fewer tourists around.

The best time to travel is October through to May with the winter being the quietest time for tourism. This makes winter prime time for an authentic experience for the best value.

Avoid June, July, August, and September. It’s sweltering hot, expensive and extremely busy. It’s not a true representation of what Rome has to offer. If you must visit in summer, early June or late September are best.

Rain and winter weather means less crowds!

Food & Drinks

One of the highlights of visiting Rome is the food and wine. The food is excellent, especially if you do a bit of research. Wine is plentiful and affordable. Rome has a few notable beer bars and some excellent cocktail bars.

Traditional Roman food: Tripe, brains, chopped liver, liver pate, Osso Buco (beef or veal shanks), pasta Carbonara with pig cheek, not bacon! And if you don’t eat meat, don’t worry! I’m mostly vegetarian (sometimes pescatarian) and enjoyed so many delicious meals in Rome. The pizza and pasta are excellent, of course. There are also lots of vegan places and salad options.

Culinary neighbourhoods: My favourite area is Trastevere, which is an excellent place to spend an evening hopping around enjoying little bites and drinks at each place.

Top tip: Aperitivo is a great Italian tradition, similar to tapas in Spain. It’s an excellent way to save money and enjoy delicious bites. Every afternoon from 3/4pm to 8 pm most wine bars and cafes will provide free food with a drink. Buy a glass of wine and get a plate of olives, cheeses, meats, and bread to enjoy with it. We did this almost every day!

Restaurants and cafes to visit

Barred – Natural wine, craft beer, and exceptional food in a cool minimalist setting in San Giovanni. This was the culinary highlight of our visit.

Jacopa – Modern and creative cuisine in Trastevere.

Zia – Top-notch dining in Trastevere.

Freni e Frizoni – Great wine bar and restaurant in Trastevere. Excellent Aperitivo.

Il Margutta – a delicious Vegetarian restaurant.

Roscioli Ristorante Salumeria – Bustling cafe with a deli, bakery, and wine shop in central Rome.

Antico Forno Roscioli – Order at the counter from a great spread of pizzas and pastries. Full of locals!

La Prezzemolina – affordable pizza restaurant near the Colosseum.

La Casetta a Monti – Instagrammable cafe near the Colosseum.

Antico Cafe Greco – A great cup of coffee and cakes, by the Spanish Steps. Make sure to stand to avoid paying exorbitant prices.

Giolitti – for legendary gelato. There are a few locations around Rome.

Enjoying local natural wine at Barred

Cocktails & bars

Drink Kong – Serving Asian fusion in an 80s Donkey Kong inspired bar. If you love cocktails, this is the spot.

Salotto 42 – One of the coolest bars in Rome. Delicious cocktails in a great setting.

Coffee Pot – Cocktails and Japanese fusion in a lively venue for dinner or drinks, in Trastevere. They often have a DJ in the lounge.

Blind Pig – Cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere. Close to Barred in San Giovanni.

Brewdog Roma – Popular beer bar with a great selection and friendly service, by the Colosseum.

What to do in Rome

Rome is chock-full of historical sites, museums, galleries, parks, and culinary adventures to enjoy. You could stay for months and never see it all. I challenge you to get bored in Rome!

For more details on what to do, read about a Perfect 3-day Itinerary: https://www.novatravels.org/the-perfect-72-hours-in-rome/

Historical Sites

The main free sites include the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the numerous basilicas around Rome, all churches are free to enter. The Church of Jesus Christ is truly gorgeous and never crowded. If you don’t mind battling the masses, St Paul’s at the Vatican is also free to enter.

Tip: Visit these sites early in the day and you may have them to yourself! Especially the Trevi Fountain, before 8 am is ideal. Throw 3 coins over your LEFT shoulder with your RIGHT hand into the fountain, 1 to visit Rome again, 1 to find romance and 1 to have everlasting love!

The most popular paid sites are the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel), the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Whatever you do, invest in skip-the-line tickets online prior to visiting. This will save you hours! Visit first thing in the morning, when they open at 9am, to beat the tour buses inside.

Tip: Roman Forum has multiple entry points, look for the one with no line!

Other notable sites include Villa Borghese, the Baths of Caracalla, Villa Farnesina, Victor Emmanuel II Monument, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Campo de’ Fiori market, and Castel Sant’Angelo.

Tip: Visit the Roman ruins at the Largo di Torre Argentina, this was where Julius Ceasar was killed. There is also a cat rescue centre in the ruins!

Largo di Torre Argentina – where Ceasar was killed

Museums & galleries

For lovers of art and culture, Rome is hard to beat. There are so many art galleries and museums I could never name them all. The most well-known is the Vatican Museum. It’s extensive and busy so get there early. Other notable galleries include Galleria Borghese, Capitoline Museums, National Museums (divided into 4 collections), National Gallery of Modern Art, and Palazzo Barberini, which is in a spectacular Baroque building. Some smaller galleries include MACRO, MAXXI, Frutta, and the Keats-Shelley house.

Inside the Vatican Museums on a good day

Activities & adventures

Walking tours: A walking tour of Rome is the best way to get insight into its history and the stories behind the places. I recommend Urban Adventures, Intrepid Travel‘s day tour brand, as they offer sustainable local-style tours that cap out at 12 people, for a more intimate experience. Food, beer or wine tours offer an alternative way to learn some history amidst bites.

Cooking Class: We made pasta and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Learning how to make delicious fresh pasta while drinking wine, then getting to eat it. Brilliant!

Bike ride: If the weather is nice, biking around Rome is a great way to explore the city. Especially around the river bank or in the park by Villa Borghese. Many hotels include bike rental.

Enjoy the food: You could spend days sampling espresso, bread, cheese, gelato, wine, and the food of Rome. Find a great spot to have some wine or coffee and watch life go by in Rome. Don’t beat yourself up if you bring a book and take a day off exploring. Immerse yourself and do as the locals do!

Catacomb tours: Explore beneath the surface. Crypta Balbi are the catacombs below the city. There are a number of catacombs tours at various locations around Rome.

Intrepid Travel Urban Adventure walking tour of Rome

Where to stay

The first thing to figure out in Rome is where to stay. There are many excellent neighbourhoods and it really depends on what accommodation style you’re after, what you’re going to do when you’re there, and what your budget is.

Neighbourhoods

There are tons of great areas in Rome but in the essence of keeping it simple I have narrowed it down to three; Monti, Trastevere, and Termini.

Monti is an excellent area for first-time visitors and those wanting to be in the centre of everything. It has great bars and restaurants and is right by the Colosseum and lots of central sites.

Trastevere is for foodies or culture seekers who still want to be somewhere central. This is my favourite area.

Termini is great for those on a budget. I wouldn’t pick it unless you’re wanting to save some cash, as it’s about 15-45 minutes walk anywhere desirable. If you’re not a big walker, you’ll end up spending more on cabs. The draw is the affordability and proximity to the train station.

Night time wandering in Monti

Hotels

Luxury Hotels

I’m a huge believer that you get what you pay for! Having worked in the travel industry for so long, I love luxury hotels. There’s nothing like staying in a villa that’s centuries old, or waking up with a view of a historical site. Rome is covered in incredible properties. Here are a few of my faves.

Palazzo Dama – 5-stars on the Tiber River with a pool in a great location near Villa Borghese. From $200USD per night.

Hotel Locarno – lovely property near Villa Borghese with a rooftop terrace and bike rental. From $220 USD.

Villa Spalletti Trivelli Dimora d’Epoca – luxury boutique villa with a rooftop bar, hot tub, gym and luxe spa minutes from the Trevi Fountain. From $400 USD per night.

J.K. Place – 5-star property near the Tiber river within 10 minutes walk to the Pantheon, includes a delicious breakfast. From $450 USD.

Hotel Vilon – Luxury at it’s finest. Located close to the Tiber River and Colosseum with striking artwork and terraces. From $500 USD.

Hotel de la Ville – An elegant property atop the Spanish Steps. It features an impressive spa, rooftop bar, and restaurant with Michelin star chef. Next-level luxury. From $600 USD.

Quality Mid-Range Hotels

Fifteen Keys – 4-star hotel in Monti with a terrace, cozy bars and complimentary bike use, 15 minutes from the Colosseum. From $150 USD.

Hotel Albergo del Senato – Lovely 3-star hotel with a rooftop terrace minutes from the Pantheon. From $180USD.

Voi Donna Camilla Savelli – One of the more affordable semi-luxury options in a fantastic location in Trastevere. From $150 USD per night.

Stand-out Budget Property

Generator Hostel Roma is an excellent budget property located in Termini area. It even landed on one of Conde Nast’s lists. The area isn’t the nicest but it’s only a 30-minute walk to the centre of Rome and the Generator is located next to a metro station. There are clean and comfortable private rooms with good bathrooms. It has a great bar, in addition to a rooftop terrace. They also offer dorms for those on a tighter budget. Private rooms from $50 USD.

Top tips for a great visit to Rome

  • The Metro is a great way to get around. Just tap your credit card!
  • Vodafone SIMs are available all over the city, buy one of these for 15 Euro and get 10G data for your stay, so you can research on the go.
  • Many sites (like the Pantheon) have apps that are free to download and offer audio tours that provide some history for when you visit.
  • Skip-the-line tickets are essential for the major sites, they’re available online and often require picking a time-slot.
  • Visit major sites before 10am to beat the masses (the Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain).
  • Book hotels in advance (3-6 months) to get the best prices.
  • If it’s your first visit, you will want to allocate a week to Rome. If you are tight on time, 3 nights minimum.
  • Learn a few Italian words and it will go a long way with the locals!
  • Indulge in Aperitivo for free food with your wine as a pre-dinner ritual at wine bars and cafes.
  • Drink your espresso and eat your pizza standing up in cafes to avoid crazy prices.

Rome is one of the world’s great cities and if you plan it right, you are guaranteed to fall in love!

For the perfect 72-hrs in Rome, read here:

For more info on Rome, have a read of my other article: https://www.novatravels.org/the-perfect-72-hours-in-rome/

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