Rome Travel Guide
Rome, the city of seven hills, enjoyed a mythic beginning. Romulus and Remus — twin brothers who were nursed by a she-wolf and fathered by a war god — reportedly founded the Eternal City. And although historians are a little skeptical about this epic entry into the world, most travelers are absolutely certain that there is something magical about Rome. Whether it's the mystery of nearby Vatican City or the ghosts of the Colosseum, an afternoon ... continue» Read More
The best time to visit Rome is from October to April when most of the tourist crowds have dissipated and room rates are lower. Although you’ll need a warm coat, weather this time of year hardly ever dips below freezing. For warmer weather — without throngs of tourists and the sweltering humidity — come in May or September. High average temperatures flit between the mid-70s and the lower 80s.Read More Best Times to Visit Rome»
With miles of winding streets, along or between the city's historic seven hills, Rome is a lot to maneuver almost any way you look at it. Understanding the Eternal City's layout can help you from becoming eternally lost.
Rome and all of its world-renowned attractions are split up by the Tiber River. West of the Tiber River is the center of Catholicism and the world's smallest country: The Vatican. Located east of the Tiber is many of Rome's most famous districts and attractions, including the ancient city.
Accessible via the Colosseo and Circo Massimo metro stops.
The crumbling yet still magnificent Ancient Rome is at the center of the city, in part of a larger area called the Centro Storico (or historic district). View the Colosseum, which centuries ago, would host spectator sports — think Russell Crowe in the film "Gladiator." Consequently, Romans donning gladiator costumes (who sadly don't resemble Crowe) fill this area and will solicit many euros for a picture taken with them. Other attractions in the area include Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus.
When you've finished touring the nearby Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini), make sure to check out the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio.
Corso and Spagna
Accessible via the Barberini and Spagna metro stops.
North of Ancient Rome are the districts of Corso and Spagna, but more importantly, the home of the Trevi Fountain. Corso begins at the grand Vittoriano, or otherwise known as the Altar of the Fatherland. The grand structure is dedicated to Italy's first king, Victor Emmanuel II, but now houses the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento, which documents the history of Italian unification. Along with a healthy dose of Italian history, the Vittoriano has a lookout spot at the top, the Roma dal Cielo, providing panoramic views of the city.
Walk straight ahead through Plaza Venezia and travelers will reach one of Rome's most central streets: via del Corso. Along with various trattorias and shops, this street leads to the neighborhood's main attraction, and easily one of Rome's top sights: the Trevi Fountain. The fountain features breathtaking architecture, and was featured in Fellini's iconic film "La Dolce Vita," but it's most famous for its wish-making. To make a wish to return to Rome, toss a coin into the fountain over your left shoulder and with your right hand. Each year the city collects more than €100,000 from the bottom of the Trevi, most of which is given to charity. An excellent gelato shop, the Gelateria San Crispino, backs onto the Piazza di Trevi, but beware, it is usually crowded.
Located north of the Trevi is Piazza di Spagna, known most for its 18th-century Spanish Steps, another iconic attraction in Rome. A great meeting place for Romans and visitors alike, the Spanish Steps are an excellent place to simply kick back, relax and watch the world go by, preferably with a coffee or gelato in hand. Below the steps is the beginning of a series of high-end designer stores, including Italy's very own Prada and Missoni.
Keep heading north and travelers will likely hit Villa Borghese. A sprawling park, Villa Borghese has three museums, as well as numerous beautiful fountains surrounded by winding footpaths.
Navona and Campo
Accessible via the Barberini metro stop.
Navona and Campo are located to the northwest of Ancient Rome and brim with ancient palaces, from Palazzo Altemps to Palazzo Farnese, as well as churches, including the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi. The former pagan temple, otherwise known as the Pantheon, rises in this corner of Rome and even after hundreds of years, fits Lord Byron's description: "Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime."
Travel experts say the Piazza Navona — the baroque-style square, filled with fountains, sculptures and people enjoying gelatos or coffees at the numerous indoor and outdoor cafes — is a good place to rest after a hard day of sightseeing. Located south of Piazza Navona, the pedestrian square Campo de' Fiori is also a sight to see as it has two faces: vibrant market in the mornings and a youth-filled nightlife hangout in the evenings.
Repubblica and Quirinale
Accessible via the Repubblica metro stop.
The districts of Repubblica and Quirinale are located northeast of Ancient Rome, and only a few blocks from Rome's Termini train station. The area is devoid of attractions as renowned as the Trevi or Colosseum but the neighborhood contains many striking palazzos, piazzas and churches. One of the more famous churches, the Santa Maria della Vittoria, holds Bernini's famous Ecstasy of St. Theresa.
A quick walk southwest and visitors can find one of Italy's most important residences. The Quirinal Palace is the official residence of the Italian president. The building originally acted as a summer home for popes, but was later turned over to Italy's kings. Now it belongs to the Italian state.
Parco della Caffarella
Located southeast of Ancient Rome along the low-lying slopes and valley of the Esquiline Hill, Esquilino and Celio are known for their dead. The Tomb of Cecilia Metella (Tomba di Cecilia Metella), the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (Catacombe di San Callisto) and the Catacombs of St. Sebastian (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) are all burial grounds located in these districts.
Trastevere is located west of the Tiber River and south of Vatican City, far enough from the hustle and bustle of central Rome, but still close enough not to be qualified as out of the way. Lined with cobblestone streets and flanked by colorful architecture throughout, the area features plenty more mom and pop restaurants and shops, making it easier to practice some Italian and eat a hearty plate of authentic pasta. Along with the general charm and respite from the crowds, Trastevere's main attraction is the Santa Maria in Trastevere, located in the Piazza di Santa Maria, which is also a hub for nightlife.
Accessible via the Ottaviano and Cipro metro stops.
Northwest of Ancient Rome and across the Tiber River sits the independent city-state of Vatican City, which provided inspiration for Dan Brown's bestsellers, "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code." The pope's home, as well as the worldwide headquarters for the Catholic Church, Vatican City contains Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter's Basilica), the famed Sistine Chapel (with Michelangelo's painted ceiling), and the extensive Vatican Museums, in which hangs Raphael's School of Athens, among other famous pieces. Bernini's Colonnade in St. Peter's Square provides a beautiful optical illusion, and the Vatican Gardens offer respite from art-overload. Note that guards will "shush" you if you're being too loud or reprimand you for trying to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel.
About 20 miles east of Rome is Tivoli, made famous for its Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este — two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The hilly city, crawling with narrow streets and steep cliffs makes for an ideal countryside day trip. The Villa Adriana belonged to the second century Roman Emperor Hadrian, while the Villa d'Este was the old residence of a governor of the town, but is most known for its gardens.
Just 15 miles southeast, the small town of Marino is best known for its Sagra dell'uva or Harvest Grape Festival. In October at the festival, the fountains of Marino are known to spurt out wine rather than water. The small city also shelters a handful of historic churches.
As always, visitors should use common sense when traveling and watch out for pickpockets on public transportation or in and around heavily touristed attractions.
The best way to get around Rome is on foot. And because many of the best attractions are clustered together in traffic-free zones, walking makes the most sense. However, some places, like Vatican City, are pretty far from the central historic district, necessitating the use of the metro or a taxi. An express train can take you from the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) into the city center. Buses are also available, but these aren't recommended — because of crowded conditions aboard and heavy traffic outside. If you must bring a car to Rome, you should park it as soon as possible once you enter the city limits. Otherwise, you'll find heavy traffic, impatient drivers and pedestrian-only areas make driving around virtually impossible.Getting Around Rome»