When you travel to Rome, there are so many things to do. When we went, we were only in Rome for 3 or 4 days, so we didn’t have nearly enough time to do everything we wanted to do. We will definitely need to go back to finish exploring Rome the way it is meant to be explored. Regardless, we got to see a bunch of really amazing things in Rome that I would highly recommend. There are the obvious choices, such as visiting the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, etc. I definitely recommend all of those things, though I will admit we didn’t make it to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. While I still sometimes feel guilty about going to Rome and not seeing those things, we had to pick and choose and wanted to pick things that we wanted to do, not things that we felt like we should want to do! We generally try to stay away from tours as much as possible; we prefer doing things on our own time and not having to rely on a tour. However, there are a few Rome day tours that I actually do recommend. Keep reading to see some of the things we recommend that you see when you travel to Rome!
Before we get into all the wonderful things there are to do in Rome, I’ll start with what we’ve found to be the cheapest flights to Rome! Obviously it is different depending on where you are flying out of, but when we travel to Rome, we are either going from Philadelphia or Newark. Sometimes going from Newark saves us some money. We used to only fly American Airlines, but it gets expensive. In the past, we have done a one way ticket from Philadelphia to Rome, then a round trip from Rome to Philadelphia, then back to Rome a few months out for our next vacation. Then, we would obviously have to get a ticket BACK to Philadelphia again, but for whatever reason, this was often cheaper than just doing a standard round-trip ticket from Philly to Rome.
Recently, we have started trying to use Norwegian Air, which flies non-stop to Rome out of Newark, New Jersey. We take the train to Newark, which takes about an hour and costs around $50, and then take a direct flight to Rome from there. It ends up saving us anywhere between $500-$1000 dollars. While it is a budget airline, I recommend trying this if you are trying to save money when traveling. Regardless of where you are traevling from, I strongly recommend you look into Norwegian Air for cheap flights to Rome.
THE TREVI FOUNTAIN
While this is one of the more cliche things to do when you travel to Rome, I still highly recommend it going to The Trevi Fountain. The water is an amazing light blue color, and the entire thing is just amazingly beautiful. It’s definitely fun to go throw a coin or two into the fountain. It gets pretty crowded, so try to go at an off-peak time to get a good view and some good pictures. Try going early in the morning or late at night. The Trevi Fountain is located, surprise surprise, in the Trevi district. When you travel to Rome, it’s so important to make sure you have a good map so you can maximize your time and see all the places you want to. From termini station, you can easily walk to the Trevi Fountain and many surrounding attractions and restaurants.
Seeing the Colosseum in person was pretty spectacular. It is something I would recommend not missing out on. One of the cool things about Rome is that even if you aren’t into history or Ancient Rome, the buildings are just so spectacular that anyone would enjoy seeing them. I would advise, however, to do at least a little bit of research on what you are going to see so you actually know what you’re looking at. For me, knowing a little bit more about what I was looking at and what it was used for, what happened to it, etc, made it that much better. You can definitely walk to the Colosseum from the Trevi Fountain. I recommend walking to as many places as possible – it’s a great way to see the city of Rome in between the big attractions you have planned for your vacation.
TORRE ARGENTINA CAT SANCTUARY
I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but when I was planning my trip to Rome, seeing the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary was high up there on my list. It’s actually a really cool place to see, and it’s a quick visit so it’s something you can do if you’re just looking to kill a little time or do something relaxing that doesn’t involve standing in lines. This haven for cats is the same place that Caesar was murdered, though that doesn’t seem to bother the cats; they have taken over this area. On any given day, especially a warm one, you might see 30 cats walking around, sunbathing, or even coming up to the street to hang out with the tourists. There’s also the option to go down into the area where cats are actually housed and where sick cats are taken care of.
ALTARE DELLA PATRIA
I think the Altare della Patria, also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, is one of the coolest looking buildings in Rome. It was built to honor Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. You can go inside the building and see panoramic views from the top, which are absolutely spectacular. I highly recommend going by this building, at the very least to see the outside of it. If you have time, you can go inside and see the museum if you’re interested. Seeing the panoramic views from the top is well worth the money and effort.
DARK ROME – GHOSTS, MYSTERIES AN LEGENDS OF ROME NIGHT WALKING TOUR
We usually like to avoid taking tours if at all possible – we prefer to see things at our own pace and save money when possible. However, the ghost tour, run by Dark Rome, was actually worth the money (the exact name is Ghosts, Mysteries, and Legends of Rome Night Walking Tour). As the name suggests, it’s a night-time walking tour, which is a completely different way to see the city of Rome; everything looks so different at night. Our tour consisted of about 15 people, and the tour guide was engaging and very funny. He took us to different places throughout the city of Rome, and basically told us some of the history of these places and shared ghost stories with us. If you have a night with nothing planned, I suggest taking this tour. One of the coolest parts of the tour was going to the Ponte Sisto bridge, which is beautiful during the day, but very cool to see at night as well. Legend has it that sometimes you can see a ghost on this bridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the ghost!
CRYPTS AND CATACOMBS TOUR
The other tour that is an absolute must-do is the Rome Crypts and Catacombs tour. We did this tour with City Discovery; it was around $83 per person, but it was one of the Rome day tours that was actually worth the money. The tour took us to 3 different places, and took up a pretty solid chunk of the day, so I felt like we got our money’s worth. With the tour, you also get to skip the lines, so that is a huge pus if you travel to Rome during a crowded time of the year. The first place we went was the Roman Catacombs, an extensive network of tunnels that was used for burials and celebrations at one point. The second place the tour took us was to the Basilica San Clemente, which was arguably one of the coolest places we saw in Rome. There are countless impressive churches and temples throughout Rome, but to say that this one was unique would be an understatement. The Basilica San Clemente is a 12th century basilica built on top of a 5th century basilica built on top of a 4th century basilica, all built on top of an aqueduct. Each basilica is built so differently and in a different style because of the different time periods. I’m honestly not huge on temples and churches, but this was absolutely awesome and something you shouldn’t miss.
SANTA MARIA DELLA CONCEZIONE DEL CAPUCCINI AND THE CAPUCHIN CRYPT
The last part of the tour took us to Santa Maria Della Concezione Del Capuccini and the Capuchin Crypt, which is also a must see. It’s a bit creepy and morbid, but it’s also absolutely amazing. Located underneath the church, there is the Capuchin Crypt, which is said to be decorated with the bones of about 4,000 friars. The entire place, from head to toe, is decorated with bones, including countless skulls, which is a bit unnerving. Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed so I don’t have any photos of the inside – of course, you can find pictures online, but we followed the rules and didn’t take any. It’s something that I highly recommend. I have a feeling it’s something that may make some people a bit uncomfortable, but it’s definitely worth the experience.
See the interactive map below for some of the main attractions in Rome (and some interesting but maybe less popular spots) – some of them we visited and I talked about in this post and some of them we didn’t get a chance to visit. There’s always next time!