Written by Jill Fischer.
- Do the Hop On/Hop Off Bus – This is a fantastic tool to use on your first day to get a lay of the land and figure out where you may want to spend more time during your trip!
- See the Colosseum – I booked a small group tour where you enter the Colosseum through the Gladiator gates so you’re looking up at the audience, versus coming in the normal spectator entrance and looking down at the floor. Make sure you see the underground area as well! Pre-booking this tour is highly recommended.
- Climb to the top of St Peter’s Basilica – It is a hard 551 stairs to climb, but so worth it once you reach the top! You can pay a couple extra euros and take an elevator to skip the first 320 stairs too. The last few go around the dome, so it is very cramped and the wall is curved with the dome itself. I honestly got a bit claustrophobic, but they have openings and that part doesn’t last long. St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter, but you need to pay €7-9 (as of April 2017) to go to the top.
- See the Sistine Chapel – Get a guided tour if you want to make the most of your visit to the Vatican Museums! I was short on time, so I just shot through to the Sistine Chapel and it was better than I ever imagined. Make sure to pick out the story depicted as well. Also, do not take pictures! The guards WILL yell across the very quiet room filled with people, then everyone stares at you. There are always huge lines to get into the Vatican Museums, so I highly recommend pre-booking your tour.
- Go to Gladiator School – You’ll take a short taxi ride south of the Colosseum area to Gladiator School, where you learn all about the various types of equipment, protection, and medical care used at the time. Then, you gear up and learn how to fight like a gladiator. My husband loved it, and even I had a great time sword-fighting with him! Pre-booking this is highly recommended.
- See the Pantheon – Free to enter, but closes a bit early in the evening. There’s a lot more to this building than meets the eye (even though it is very impressive to look at), so make sure to have a tour guide or you can download an audio guide on your phone.
- See the Trevi Fountain – Always packed with tourists, but we managed to squeeze in for a picture with minimal people in the background. Make sure to toss a coin into the fountain over your shoulder to bring you good luck to return to Rome someday. Grab a gelato from Il Gelato Di San Crispino around the corner and just sit and stare at the fountain’s architecture for a bit. I couldn’t believe how relaxing it was!
- Grab a gelato in Piazza Navona – My last tip included gelato as well. That means you’re supposed to make the most of your trip to Rome! Piazza Navona, another great spot to sit and relax, is one of the best known public squares in Rome. There are a few restaurants as well, so you can sit outside for dinner. Make sure to download a guide to learn about the three fountains there as well.
- See the Roman Forum – My small group Colosseum tour included the Roman Forum as well. I highly recommend this since you won’t get nearly as much out of this without a guide, even though you’ll be very impressed with the architecture! Rome’s tour guides are required to have a degree in archaeology, so you know your guide will know what they’re talking about. It was fascinating to learn about how the ancient government operated.
- Visit Trastevere – A much quieter neighborhood with cheaper food and you’re not surrounded by tourists. Take a visit and you’ll feel like you’ve found the “real” Rome. We didn’t get to this area until towards the end of our trip and wish we had gone earlier since we would’ve spent a lot more time here.
- Make sure to have cash at all times and preferably exact change! Far fewer places accepted credit cards that I expected and I’d get flack for not having exact change because they didn’t have enough change!
- The one aspect that I noticed about Rome is that the sites are sprinkled everywhere throughout the city. We were walking down an alley and were a bit surprised to turn a corner and run into the Trevi. Be aware of where you’re at so you don’t miss anything! You could miss a major site just by being on the wrong side of a modern building.
- We stayed in Ostia, right on the beach and close to the airport, for our final night. It was a nice way to slow down a bit before heading home and the Barcelo Aran Blu was more than accommodating! We bought a bottle of wine from their selection and brought it right up to our balcony and had a very relaxing final evening of our adventure.