A city founded almost 3000 years ago has a lot to offer. Magnificent architectural feats, palatial ruins, famous art, religious relics, and marinara sauce come together for a flavor that only Rome can provide. For lodging, I heavily recommend the Navona Gallery and Garden Suites. The location can’t be beaten for the price, as it is right next to the famed Piazza Navona. Luxury rooms, beautiful equipped and decorated, were part of a 16th century palazzo.
On your first day, stroll through the hustle of street performers in Piazza Navona. Almost all piazzas are worth a look, usually holding impressive fountains or statues. Then, head to Campo de Fiori. Formerly a scene of executions, now all you’ll find is vendors selling fresh flowers and food and a variety of bars and cafes. Eat a little of this, a little of that, before checking out some nearby churches. In Rome, all churches are like mini museums, no matter how humble their exteriors may be. San Luigi dei Francesi is no exception. Make a quick stop here on your way to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is about 2000 years old and remains the single largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It’s 142 feet of awe-inspiring ancient architecture. Next, head to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This 14th century church is the only gothic one in town. Assuredly, you’ll find little cafes, shops, and other churches to take up some time as you head toward the Trevi Fountain to toss in a coin. It’s nice to visit here during dusk, and there are plenty of trattorias nearby.
Today is a good day for The Vatican. Vatican City crosses another country off your bucket list, and all you have to do is head over the St. Angelo Bridge. St. Peter’s Basilica is the main draw here. There is a moderate dress code that is strictly enforced, so be dressed appropriately. This attraction is visited by millions and is free, so be prepared to wait in a queue. This most famous of churches is imposing on the outside, but somehow even larger and more ornate on the inside. Inside are many works of art, including Michelangelo's Pieta. Be sure to see the impressive tombs, Bernini's altar, and the bronze statue of St. Peter.
Tickets must be purchased to climb the 491 steps to the top of Michelangelo’s dome, which I strongly recommend. Besides being a great view, the climb up top is really neat and one of the better adventures you’ll have. Don’t forget to see the colorful Swiss Guard. For the devoted, an audience with the Pope should be registered for well in advance.
Grab a lunch in any of the nearby cafes and the head on over to the Vatican Museums. Much like the Uffizi in Florence, this museum is loaded with historical relics and it’s nearly impossible to see everything. Take in what you can and head for the Sistine Chapel. Even though you’ve seen pictures of it, nothing can compare to craning your neck back and gazing at the work in person.
If you have time, you can explore St. Angelo Castle on your way back. But I recommend taking a detour to Trastevere for dinner. While there is a noteable Basilica to see here as well, it’s the bohemian vibe in the area that makes walking around fun. There are plenty of pubs and artisan shops to hold your attention as long as you’d like.
There are a lot of options for the morning. If you’re looking something interesting or macabre, visit the Capuchin Crypt to see the skeletal remains of over 3700 friars. However, you may be more interested in climbing the beautiful Spanish Steps. Then, head over to the Pincio Terraces for a beautiful and romantic overlook. Vendors will rent you flowers for photo opportunities with your sweetheart.
The afternoon is best spent steeped in history at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. There’s so many ruins to discover here, depending on how deep in Roman history you want to go. If you’re efficient, you may have time to walk over to Circus Maximus or the Baths of Caracalla, but I recommend just spending time enjoying the Forum.
You’ll probably notices throngs of people heading to the Coliseum, but I’d purchase tickets for a night tour. Most guided tours meet at Piazza Venezia and walk to the Coliseum. The beauty of a night tour is it is limited to just one or two groups, so you get the entire place to yourselves. Plus, most tours will let you go down into the gladiator barracks to see the trap doors and ancient pulley systems underneath. It’s totally worth the price for a truly unforgettable experience.
For your last day in Rome, take public transportation or taxi to the Catacombs of Domatilla or the Catacombs of San Callisto. Nestled in a beautiful area along the ancient Appian Way, the guided tours are quite informative and you’ll be sure to find the catacombs an amazing yet revere place. When you’re done, a moderate walk will get you to the Appia Antica road, where you walk on stones placed by ancient Romans!
In the afternoon, churchgoers should visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and have a pizza outside at a nearby trattoria. Or, take a trip to some of the notable basilicas just outside the city walls. Another options is heading 30 minutes outside of town to Hadrian's Villa, an impressive ruin of an absolutely huge villa from 120AD. If you want to stick in town and are a museum lover, explore the Borghese Museum and stroll the gardens. No matter what you decide, end your stay in Rome with a delicious dinner at Il Gabriello.