When in Rome … there are so many things to see and do. The Colosseum, the Roman ruins at the Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon (and Raphael’s tomb), the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trastevere, Piazza del Popolo, Via Condotti (high-end shopping) and Piazza Navona — just to name a few. It depends on how much time you have and what you enjoy doing.
Here are some of my favorite things to do when in Rome…
- The Borghese Gallery is a villa that houses the art collection of Cardinal Scipione. The cardinal was very passionate in his acquisition of art — and the Borghese now houses works by Raphael, Rubens, Bernini, Carvaggio and many other artists. This is my favorite art collection in all of Italy.
- Reservations are mandatory as they only allow 360 persons to enter the museum, every 2 hours. You can get admission information and make reservations online at http://www.galleriaborghese.it/info-in.htm.
- Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before your assigned entry time to pick up your tickets. I highly recommend the audio guides.
- My family really loved the Bernini sculptures — most especially the sculpture of Apollo & Daphne (pictured to the right).
- Take a Tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican is huge and there is much to see. You can do it on your own (or use the audio guides). But, I recommend a personal tour guide — at least for your first couple of visits. You can book a private tour through your hotel or you can make reservations directly through the Vatican (http://www.vatican.va). Either method allows you to bypass the long lines and you’ll get an incredible history lesson!
- Be sure to visit the Sistine Chapel, the works by Raphael and Michelangelo and the Basilica.
- For those 18 years and older, Vatican Scavi tours are available to explore the underground excavations of the Vatican. Only 150 visitors are allowed daily and you must make reservations months in advance.
- Stroll the Trastevere neighborhood in the evening. Trastevere is known as the “Italian quarter”. The neighborhood streets are narrow and mostly car-free. There are numerous restaurants, gelato shops, bakeries and boutiques — most of which tend be less “touristy” than other areas of Rome. At night, the place is hopping with locals — especially on the weekends and during the summer. This visit, we stayed in an apartment in Trastevere. We ate all of our breakfasts and all but one dinner in Trastevere. I personally think Trastevere has the best food in Rome. One of our favorite restaurants is Osteria Pizzeria Margharita on Vicolo del Cinque.
- Day trips from Rome. If you have the time, there are many incredible places outside of Rome that are easy to get to by train or car for the day. Here are some of my favorites:
- Pompei is a full-day, but it is so worth the trip. It’s best to take the fast train (Euro Star) to Naples then transfer to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei Scavi. It’s easy to spend 3 to 5 hours at Pompei, as the excavation site is quite large and extremely interesting. It’s a good idea to bring snacks with you into the site, as there are very few food and drink options once you enter onto the grounds.
- Orvieto is a beautiful hill town that is one hour outside of Rome by train. At the center of town is their beautiful duomo. From the Piazza del Duomo, there are narrow, windy streets that take you throughout the town. The views from the edge of the hill town are breathtaking. Il Giglio D’Oro serves a great traditional Umbrian lunch (great pasta). We took a tour of the Orvieto Underground that was fascinating. There are over 1200 underground caves that were dug by the Etrusans under the city. The villagers used the caves for storage (wine and olive oil), pidgeon raising, making olive oil, and other uses.
- Tivoli is an hour outside of Rome by car. We’ve rented a car and also hired a driver for the day. The Villa d’Este has some of the most incredible gardens and fountains. It’s quite the place for taking photographs!
If you are planning a trip to Rome anytime soon, send me an email. I have a more detailed list of tips for touring Rome.