Rome, the capital of Italy often features on the bucket list of every explorer worth their salt. Here’s our take on making the most of your visit to Rome and getting the most authentic experience out of your stay. Make sure to add a few (if not all!) of these Rome bucket list experiences to your itinerary for the real experience.
52 Bucket list Experiences in Rome
Below are the tips and hacks you're here for. Read on and thank me later!
#1 A rendezvous with Michaelangelo at the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo’s rendition of the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and “The Last Judgment” depicted on its altar wall, are 2 of the most legendary frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Explore the Vatican’s classical sculptures and tapestries and its section containing Modern Religious Art with paintings and sculptures from Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.
#2 Climb the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
Michelangelo’s St. Peter's Basilica dome offers a breathtaking view of the city’s wonders. This climb is not for the faint-hearted, involving both a staircase, and an elevator in order to reach the highest point of the Basilica. From the top, take in the confluence of the ancient and modern accents of Rome that lay sprawling before you.
#3 Some eerie fun at the Roman Catacombs
Discover how this ancient city has developed through the ages with a guided tour of the Roman Catacombs. Out of the many historic sites hidden below the Eternal City - the Christian Catacombs, the eerie Capuchin ‘Bone Chapel’, and the Basilica San Martino Ai Monti are all must-sees. The Catacombs are also sprinkled with frescoes, iconography, and burial sites.
#4 Walk the footsteps of the Roman Gladiators at the Colosseum
The Colosseum has a bloody history in Ancient Rome, having served as a stage for grisly games and Gladiator fights. Explore this grand outdoor arena that is synonymous with the city of Rome itself today. Also visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill - now an extensive archaeological site since it was considered the most coveted neighborhood in Rome where Emperors built their homes.
#5 Channel the art lover in you at the Borghese Gallery
Take in the splendor of artists like Raphael and Caravaggio, and sculptors such as Bernini as you explore the Borghese Gallery, situated in what was once the Villa Borghese Pinciana. It houses world-renowned sculptures like David, and a vast display of rare paintings. Afterwards, contemplate your visit with a stroll through the Villa Borghese Gardens with its vibrant flowers in bloom.
#6 Peek through the Aventine hill keyhole to catch a glimpse of St.Peter’s Basilica
What looks like a regular keyhole on an ordinary door, actually holds one of the most breathtaking views of Rome. As legend goes, Aventine Hill is the site of the initial settlements of Rome, and was chosen by Remus (one of the twin brothers responsible for establishing the city). The mysterious origins of this keyhole, alongside the picture-perfect view it offers of the villa hedges and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica - are responsible for its abounding allure.
#7 Ride the glass elevator to the Vittoriano
The spectacular view from the Terrace of the Vittoriano is unmissable. Although a trip to the monument used to involve a laborious climb, recent developments have introduced a wonderful way to go about your visit with ease due to the glass-walled elevator to the top, nicknamed “Rome from the Sky.” The top of the monument affords one of the best views of Rome.
#8 Take a day trip to the buried city of Pompeii
A day trip from Rome to Pompeii is a great way to explore the sobering remains of Pompeii’s streets and houses that archaeologists have excavated and preserved after this Roman city was buried under the carnage of the Mount Vesuvius eruption. The site also houses the preserved plaster casts of those who lost their lives during the eruption.
#9 Say hello to the Pope at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday or Sunday
Join this age-old custom of gathering for an audience with the Pope at St. Peter’s Square. The Papal Audience involves small teachings and readings being imparted. The gathering ends with a collective prayer led by the Pope followed by his Apostolic Blessing upon the visitors.
#10 Hop on a segway and tour old Rome
Jump onto these nifty machines and make your way through the charming streets of this ancient city where modernity and history mingle with grace. Dodge the traffic and large groups of tourists as you zoom around the city in style.
#11 Amble aimlessly around Piazza Navona
The Piazza Navona is an open public space that replicates an open stadium where ancient Romans gathered to watch games. It is a worthy specimen of Baroque Roman architecture. Apart from having featured in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, it is renown for the iconic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi a.k.a the Fountain of the Four Rivers.
#12 Sit on the Spanish Steps and people watch
Sit on the monumental stairway of 135 steps built with the funds provided by the French diplomat Étienne Gueffier in 1723–1725. The Spanish Steps form a link between the Trinità dei Monti church and the Bourbon Spanish Embassy situated at the top of the steps, to the Holy See at the bottom of the steps. Grab a gelato, find a spot on the steps and watch life in Rome go by.
#13 Toss a coin into Trevi Fountain
The famous Trevi Fountain with its tradition of tossing a coin into the fountain while making a wish, is one of the most popular experiences when visiting Rome. Apart from the fantastical lore of this site, the fountain is special for its intricate Baroque style carvings which are in pure white travertine stone. In fact, this is the material that was used to create the Colosseum as well.
#14 Visit the Pope’s summer villa at Castel Gandolfo
Known as the Apostolic Palace, this has historically been the Pope’s summer residence for centuries. Full of historical treasures and artworks, the private gardens of the Pope offer a rejuvenating experience. Interestingly, the emperor Domitian once occupied these very quarters, with the Papal Villas extending over the remains of what was once the Villa of Domitian.
#15 Go on a street art tour in the bohemian neighborhood of Ostiense
An important ancient Roman road known as Via Ostiense is the origin of the neighbourhood that came up around this street. What was once an industrial area has transformed into a hub for cultural expression and art, swiftly becoming known for its compelling street art and murals. Explore the buildings-turned-canvasses and revel in the language of colours.
#16 Eat your way through Trastevere
Italian cuisine is so much more than pizza, risotto, and spaghetti. Trastevere offers a host of culinary experiences to treat your tastebuds to. Explore the vibrant options of street food and taste Rome from the perspective of a native through artisanal sweets, traditional gelato, local cheeses - and more. Complete the experience with a masterclass in making carbonara and making a pit stop at the farmer’s market.
#17 Soak in Roman history at the Castel Sant’Angelo
Explore this historic 2nd century castle and learn about Roman history through the treasure of art, weapons, and architectural finesse that this site holds. Castel Sant'Angelo, or the ‘Castle of the Holy Angel’ served as a military site in the past, and was a place of shelter for popes during sieges. Do visit the museum to soak in the history that revolves around this site.
#18 Wine and dine on a Tiber River cruise
Legend says that Rome was founded on the banks of this river and it proved to be a critically important channel for Roman trade and commerce in the years that followed. Enjoy a musical dinner cruise and sailing gently on the Tiber River as you enjoy amazing views of Castel Sant'Angelo, St Peter's Basilica & Rome's stunning architecture as the sun goes down.
#19 Go window shopping at the designer district in Via Condotti
Take a stroll down this fashionable street overflowing with designer stores and boutiques, and home to Caffé Greco, arguably the most famous café in Rome. A stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, this street is Rome’s runway where you can visit the largest number of Italian fashion retailers based in Rome.
#20 Take a day trip to Orvieto and Assisi
Take a breather from the busy city and escape to the quaint hill towns of Assisi and Orvieto for a day trip. While Assisi houses the St. Francis Basilica, and is the birthplace of this patron saint of Italy, Orvieto sits atop a cliff overlooking a scenic view of Umbria. Don’t forget to sample some of the famous white wines that this region is famous for.
#21 Zipline your way through Rocca Massima
You mustn’t miss the chance to soar over the lush expanse of Rocca Massima. Ziplining over this commune in Lazio is sure to be an experience to remember. Situated some 40 km southeast of Rome, this is a must-do if you’re looking for a story for the books.
#22 Sign up for a pasta cooking class
Savour the real taste of Italian cuisine in this 3 course pasta making class as you uncover the intricacies of this staple delicacy in Rome. This is a wonderful way to understand the history of this beloved Italian dish and learn the importance that each ingredient holds. Take a piece of Rome back home with you with this invaluable cooking class.
#23 Love animals? Visit the Bioparco Zoo
Visit the Bioparco Zoo and marvel at the array of exotic wildlife housed within the premises of this historic zoological garden. Home to nearly 200 different species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles - it was founded in 1911 and today, has evolved into a park focused on wildlife conservation and educational programs.
#24 Go on a legends and mysteries tour of the Eternal City. It’s spooky!
An ancient city that’s seen the rise and fall of emperors is bound to be shrouded in mystery to some extent. This Night Walking Tour uncovers the legends of Rome and introduces you to the ghosts and stories that haunt this historic city in a different light. This one’s not for the faint hearted and can get really spooky!
#25 Visit the bustling Trajan’s Market
This is a large sprawl of ruins situated in the opposite direction from the Colosseum. Trajan’s Market is believed to be the world's oldest shopping complex. The buildings that survive are a study in the model life of a Roman citizen, and are a testament to the restoration work carried out to preserve hidden treasures of Roman architecture.
#26 Listen to the buskers at Terrazza del Pincio
Located in the Villa Borghese, the Pincio Terrace is a relaxing rendezvous spot to unwind from a day of traipsing about the city taking in the sights. Head to this promenade close to sunset to enjoy a spectacular view of Rome. This grandiose public park was created by Giuseppe Valadier in 1834.
#27 Catch an opera at the Circus Maximus
This is your chance to travel back in time to enjoy the splendour of the Circus Maximus using Virtual Reality. The lifelike recreation of imperial times in Rome allows you to experience the first and the largest stadium in ancient times in Rome, which was used for chariot-racing and other entertainment events back in the day.
#28 Shop till you drop at the Art Noveau styled Galleria Alberto Sordi
Named after the actor Alberto Sordi, this shopping arcade was designed by the architect Dario Carbone in the early 1900s, in the Art Noveau style. Walk in and admire the unique stylistic architecture of this mall, or shop till you’re about to drop!
#29 Visit the resting place of Bernini at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Pay your respects to the prolific Gian Lorenzo Bernini (the Italian sculptor and architect credited with creating the style of Baroque sculpture) at his resting place at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The church is a Major papal basilica and is also one of the7 Pilgrim Churches of Rome.
#30 Admire modern art at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
Founded in 1883, the Galleria Arte Moderna Nazionale is one of Italy’s most famed museums. Regardless of whether your interest lies in neoclassicism, impressionism, futurism, or surrealism - the almost 20,000 works of art housed by the museum feature something of interest for everyone. Be wowed by the works of artists like Monet, Antonio Canova, Vincent Van Gogh, and many more.
#31 Sample some authentic local delicacies at Testaccio
Picture a lively bar or a colourful disco hosted inside a cave dug into a mound of discarded ancient Roman jars. That is what Tertaccio holds in store for you, should you prove brave enough to wander into one of the innovative and vibrant joints. Visit this area to taste the authentic street food of Rome and experience a dynamic dining-out situation.
#32 Hike up Belvedere del Gianicolo to catch a glimpse of Rome in its true glory
Pack your camera and a bottle of bubbly, hike up the winding pathway on Gianicolo Hill, and watch as Rome unveils its beauty to you in the glory of the sunset. Glimpse the historic skyline of this city, dotted with domes, statues, and bell towers. You’ll even be able to spot the Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica.
#33 Gobble up gelatos to your heart’s fill from San Crispino
Treat your tastebuds to the famous authentic gelato made by San Crispino in Rome. Made with the freshest ingredients, using advanced production techniques that compliment the skill and creativity of the ice cream makers - this is an absolute must-try while in Rome. Taste a range of unique and innovative flavours free from any artificial colours, chemical emulsifiers, and preservatives.
#34 Go vintage shopping in the Monti district
Situated in the city center somewhere between the Colosseum and Termini station, head here for a day of exciting vintage finds. This pocket of Rome has an intriguing history and oozes charm with its cobbled streets, tiny alleys, churches, and eccentric restaurants and shops. Its mix of traditional and hipster is what makes it quintessentially Roman.
#35 See ancient imperial baths at Caracalla
This ancient Roman bathhouse was completed in the 2nd century in the southern section of Rome, under the aegis of Emperor Caracalla. The massive sprawl of baths also functioned as gymnasiums, spaces to gather and study or relax. History lovers will truly enjoy a glimpse at ancient Rome through its second largest public bath.
#36 Take a romantic stroll down the garden of oranges on Aventino
Perched atop the Aventine Hill (historically one of the 7 hills of Rome), this beautiful public garden is sprinkled with charming orange trees and offers a stunning view of Rome that is second to none. The view, framed by pine tree branches, makes this one of the top romantic spots in the city.
#37 Find a slice of Gaudi in Rome at the Coppede district
The Coppedè district is a complex of buildings and streets, built around the Piazza Mincio. Its architecture stands out as completely different from that in the other parts of the city. The district is named after its visionary designer, the artist and architect Gino Coppedè. Explore the district’s 18 palaces, and its 27 buildings and villas.
#38 Enter the Roman Pantheon for free
You can’t travel to Rome and skip a visit to the iconic Pantheon, a stunning ancient Roman temple which is among the best preserved monuments of the city. Keep an eye out for the ‘Eye of the Pantheon’, the elephant with its obelisk, and the marble freezes. Do pay your respects to the Renaissance artist Raphael, at his tomb.
#39 Cycle your way through the ancient Via Appia
Also known as Statius, and the Appian Way, this strategic road is among one of the earliest and most important paths of Rome. Rent a cycle and enjoy a serene ride through this cobbled path, enshrouded in greenery and ancient ruins on both sides.
#40 Take a selfie in front of the Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius was built as the final resting place for Gaius Cestius. Standing at a fork between two ancient roads, its incorporation into the city's fortifications makes it one of the most well-preserved ancient buildings in Rome. Although the tomb had been sealed upon completion, with no exterior entrance, it was sadly plundered sometime afterwards.
#41 Take a day trip to Tuscany and sip on wine and indulge in farm-fresh Italian produce
Explore Tuscany in style on a relaxing day trip, complete with a 3 course lunch and wine-tasting at an authentic vineyard. Have your fill of authentic Italian cuisine and true Tuscan culture with a walking tour of Montepulciano. The view is complete with rolling hills, lush green fields and the perfect quaint towns.
#42 Take a picture with Pinocchio and his father Gepetto at Bartolucci
“Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood.” In May 1981, Francesco Bartolucci carved his first Pinocchio in the small workshop in his family’s basement. The rest is history. Meet these master craftspersons who, since 1936, have been chiseling unique creations with care and precision out of Italian wood sourced from FSC-certified plantations. This family business is world-renowned for their masterful craft.
#43 Put your hand inside the Mouth of Truth (because why not?)
The Bocca della Verita represents a legend from Ancient Rome. As the story goes, the marble face will bite the hand of a liar who places their hand in its mouth. The giant mask weighs about 1300 kg and is speculated to be a depiction of the face of the sea titan god Oceanus. Do you dare to test the myth?
#44 Enjoy a panoramic view from the Complesso Vittoriano AKA the Wedding Cake
Colloquially also known as “The Wedding Cake” or the “Typewriter”, this monument is an important national symbol for Italy. It symbolizes the complex process of unification and liberation that was spearheaded by King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, to whom it was dedicated. Enjoy the scenic view this prolific monument offers.
#45 Spend a macabre afternoon at Santa Maria della Concezione’s Crypts
Home to an installation known as the “Crypt of Pelvises”, and adorned by the bones of about 4,000 friars who passed away between 1528 and 1870, the Santa Maria della Concezione crypt is not for the faint-hearted. The morbid site was meant as a reminder for the monks who decorated the walls of the crypts, that death could come at any time.
#46 Attend a true Roman opera at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
This legendary opera house has held world premiers of several famous operas, including “Cavalleria Rusticana”, “L'Amico Fritz”, “Tosca”, “Le Maschere”, and many more. Don your evening wear and make your way to this historic theatre for the experience of a lifetime, listening to a true Roman opera.
#47 Get lost on Tiber Island
Head to Tiber Island on the southern end of the Tiber River, for a day of culture and relaxation. The island is connected to the mainland through 2 bridges, of which the Ponte Fabricio is the only bridge in Rome that’s still in its original condition.
#48 Wander around the Roman Ghetto
This Ghetto was a walled area allocated to the 80% Jewish population of Rome through a public decree promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1555. The area chosen for the ghetto was one of the most undesirable sectors of the city, and was subjected to constant flooding by the Tiber River.
#49 Explore the Capitoline Museums
Known as the Musei Capitolini, this is a must-visit for history lovers and art lovers alike. Enter the world’s oldest museum and explore the masterful artworks and sculptures that showcase Rome’s rich past. Do check out the famous she-wolf sculpture representing Lupa who rescued Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus, from the Tiber River.
#50 Watch some football at Stadio Olimpico
Step inside Rome’s largest sports facility which hosted the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final and is home to the Roma and Lazio football clubs. Put on your jersey and represent your favourite team if you get the chance to watch some football in this legendary stadium.
#51 Go to the Flea Markets of Porta Portese
This ancient city gate at the end of Via Portuense, is the site of regular flea markets put up every Sunday. The gate was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII to be built by Vincenzo Maculani in 1644. The market began as a way for Romans to exchange wares in a communal space, but has lasted till present day.
#52 Drive the cobblestone streets of Rome in a Fiat 500
Exploring the streets of Rome while driving a Fiat 500 is almost a cinematic compulsion when visiting this ancient city. There are plenty of available options to rent vehicles and tour the city in a self-driven, or chauffeured car. We suggest taking the latter so you can safely take in the sites and snap all the pictures you want from the comfort of the passenger seat.
Where should you avoid in Rome?
Here are some areas of Rome that you should avoid for safety reasons: Esquilino, San Basilio, Corivale, Tiburtina, Pinietto, and Torpiniattara.
How many days are enough to see Rome?
Seasoned travelers hold that anything less than 3 days is unfit to visit Rome and partake of its culture and architecture. However, if your stay in Italy is for over a week, you should certainly spend a minimum of 4 days in Rome.
What is the best month to visit Rome?
The best times of the year to visit this historic city are from April to June, or between September and October. Remember that almost the entire city is on vacation during August - so do plan your visit accordingly.
What do non-tourists do in Rome?
Visit the famous Testaccio neighbourhood to party like a true local. You can also visit some of the public libraries for a quiet day of reading, or spend an evening listening to true Roman opera at one of the many theatres in the city.
What are some fun things to do in Rome?
Put a fun spin on your visit to Rome with a guided pasta-making class led by an expert chef. You can also take a picnic to the garden of oranges on Aventino, or go hunting for legends on a guided night tour of this historic capital.
What are 2 things Rome is famous for?
Rome is well-known for its rich cuisine and the array of historic sites spread across this ancient city.
What are some adventurous things to do in Rome?
Get your adrenaline rush by zip-lining through Rocca Massima, or challenge your fear with a guided night walking tour that uncovers the mysteries and legends of this ancient city.
What are fun things to do in Rome with kids?
If you’re visiting with children, we suggest going to the Bioparco Zoo, or the array of gardens and outdoor historic sites in Rome. If it rains, make sure you visit the Pantheon to see a live demonstration of the nifty drainage system on the floor of the structure.