What to see and do on your first trip to Rome?
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What to see and do on your first trip to Rome?

What to See and Do on Your First Trip to Rome?

Rome, the Eternal City, is a treasure trove of history, art, and vibrant life. It's a city where ancient ruins meet modern vibrancy, offering an unparalleled travel experience. If you're planning your first trip to Rome, you're in for an unforgettable adventure. From the awe-inspiring Colosseum to the majestic Vatican City, there's an abundance of sites to explore. This guide will walk you through a curated Rome itinerary, ensuring you capture the essence of this historic city. Here's what to see and do on your first trip to Rome.

Day 1: Dive into Ancient Rome

Morning: Visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum

Begin your first trip in Rome with a visit to its most iconic landmark, the Colosseum. As one of the world's most magnificent ancient structures, the Colosseum is a must-see. To enhance your experience, consider booking a Colosseum audio tour. This guide will provide you with detailed historical insights and stories, bringing the amphitheater's bloody gladiatorial battles and public spectacles to life.

Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, the hub of ancient Roman life. Here, you can wander among ruins that once hosted the city’s most important religious, political, and social activities. Consider booking a Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill audio tour to discover everything at your own pace. Walking through the Forum, you'll feel transported back in time, surrounded by temples, arches, and government buildings from ancient Rome.

Afternoon: Explore the Palatine Hill

Just a short walk from the Roman Forum is the Palatine Hill, one of Rome’s seven hills and the mythological birthplace of Rome. As you explore the lush archaeological site, you'll discover the ruins of imperial palaces and gardens. The Palatine Hill offers a fantastic view of the Forum and the Nero’s Circus Maximus, an ancient chariot-racing stadium.

Evening: Stroll Through Trastevere

Conclude your first day in Rome with an evening stroll through Trastevere, one of Rome's most charming neighborhoods. Known for its narrow cobblestone streets, ivy-covered walls, and lively squares, Trastevere is the perfect place to enjoy authentic Roman cuisine at one of the many cafes or restaurants.

Day 2: Encounter Renaissance and Baroque Rome

Morning: Visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica

On your second day, start early by visiting Vatican City, the heart of the Catholic Church. Purchase a Pantheon entry ticket, which often includes skip-the-line access, saving you time and hassle. Explore the vast collections of the Vatican Museums with a self-guided tour of the Vatican museum, including the Sistine Chapel famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling and the Last Judgement.

Next, head to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and a central pilgrimage site. Inside, you can admire the magnificent architecture and sacred artworks, including Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s Baldacchino.

Afternoon: Discover the Pantheon and Piazza Navona

After lunch, make your way to the Pantheon, a remarkable ancient Roman temple now serving as a church. With a Pantheon entry ticket, you can explore this well-preserved architectural masterpiece known for its massive dome and oculus.

A short walk from the Pantheon is Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s largest and most beautiful squares. Explore Piazza Navona with a self-guided tour and all the neighborhood restaurants bustling with street artists, performers, and a vibrant atmosphere, it’s a perfect spot to relax and soak in the city's beauty. Don’t miss the stunning Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed by Bernini.

Evening: Enjoy a Rome City Tour at Night

Rome transforms as the sun sets, with its monuments beautifully illuminated against the night sky. A Rome city tour at night is a wonderful way to experience this. These tours often cover major landmarks such as the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the vibrant Via del Corso.

Day 3: Experience Rome’s Living History

Morning: Take a Rome Self-Guided Tour and explore Aventine Hill

On your third day, embark on a Rome self-guided tour and explore Aventine Hill, one of Rome’s seven hills, known for its gardens, churches, and peaceful atmosphere. Don’t miss the keyhole at the Knights of Malta, where you can peek through to see a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Afternoon: Explore the Catacombs and Appian Way

Spend your afternoon exploring the Catacombs of Rome, an ancient underground burial place under the city. Tours are available that provide insights into the early Christian and Jewish life in Rome. Afterwards, take a walk along the Appian Way, one of Rome’s oldest roads, surrounded by ruins and lush countryside.

Evening: Dine in the Monti District

For your final evening, head to the Monti district, Rome’s hidden gem filled with vintage shops, artisan boutiques, and trendy bars. Enjoy a leisurely dinner at a local trattoria or a contemporary restaurant, reflecting on the unforgettable experiences of your first trip in Rome.

More Roman Experiences to Consider

Visit the Galleria Borghese

For art lovers, no first trip to Rome would be complete without visiting the Galleria Borghese. This art gallery houses a substantial collection of sculpture, ancient mosaics, and masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio, Titian, and Bernini. Due to its popularity, booking tickets in advance is essential to secure a spot.

Explore the Jewish Ghetto

Take a walk through the historic Jewish Ghetto, one of Rome's most fascinating neighborhoods. This area offers a mixture of rich history, stunning architecture, and delicious cuisine. Be sure to try some Jewish Roman specialties like 'carciofi alla giudia' (Jewish-style artichokes) and visit the beautiful Great Synagogue of Rome.

Discover Ostia Antica

If you have a half-day to spare, consider a trip to Ostia Antica, an ancient port city of Rome. This archaeological site provides a glimpse into ancient Roman life with its well-preserved baths, theaters, and homes. It’s less crowded than Pompeii but equally fascinating, offering a more relaxed experience.

Attend a Cooking Class

When in Rome, why not learn to cook like a Roman? Several cooking classes are available throughout the city, where you can learn to make classic dishes such as pasta carbonara and tiramisu. This is not only a fun experience but also gives you a taste of local culture—literally!

Evening Walk and Gelato Tasting

End one of your days with a leisurely walk through Rome’s cobblestone streets and indulge in a gelato-tasting tour. Rome boasts numerous artisan gelaterias, where you can savor a variety of unique flavors. This is a delightful way to experience Rome's sweet culinary traditions.

Insider Tips for Navigating Rome

Getting Around

Rome's historic center is best explored on foot, as many attractions are close to each other. However, for longer distances, Rome has an extensive public transport system, including buses, trams, and a metro. A travel pass can save you both time and money.

Stay Hydrated and Refreshed

Rome can be quite warm, especially from late spring to early autumn. Make use of the city's many nasoni (public water fountains) to stay hydrated. The water is clean, cool, and free, so carry a reusable water bottle as you explore.

Respect the Local Culture

When visiting religious sites, remember to dress modestly. Covering shoulders and knees is required in places like St. Peter's Basilica and other churches. Additionally, always be respectful when taking photos, especially during religious services or in quieter, more residential neighborhoods.

Avoid Tourist Traps

Rome is a popular tourist destination, which means it can be crowded and some areas may be overpriced. Research restaurants and shops before you go to avoid tourist traps, especially around major attractions. Look for places to eat where the locals go, often a little off the beaten path.

Learn a Few Phrases of Italian

While many Romans speak English, particularly in tourist areas, learning a few phrases in Italian can enhance your interaction with locals and show respect for their culture. Simple greetings, thank you, please, and asking for directions can go a long way.


This Rome itinerary for your first trip in Rome is designed to blend a mix of the city's iconic landmarks with lesser-known attractions, giving you a comprehensive view of what the Eternal City has to offer. From ancient ruins to vibrant street life, and from world-class museums to quaint neighborhoods, Rome promises an adventure that will capture your heart, leaving you longing to return.

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