Situated in the central Lazio region and bordered to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Rome is geographically and spiritually the beating heart of Italy. Once the epicenter of the Roman Empire, this city enthralls like no other, with colossal architecture and unrivalled art collections.
This is a city that looms large in the imagination long before you’ve even set foot here, as the backdrop of countless movies, from Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita starring a Trevi Fountain-dipping Anita Ekberg. If all the world is a stage, the show is right here: come to walk in the footsteps of emperors, legends, movie stars and artistic greats (Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, you name it), people-watch on café-rimmed piazzas, and wander in operatic backstreets.
For the highlights wrapped up in one expertly curated tour, check out this 5-day Rome itinerary.
Planning Your Visit
Rome wasn’t built in a day—and you shouldn't attempt to see it in just one, either. Less is more here. Limit yourself to one or two major sights per day, exploring trophy spots like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum early in the morning (or in the afternoon when many day-trippers have departed). In summer, make the most of late-night openings. Always book advance tickets for the major sights if you can. Bear in mind that many sights and attractions close on Mondays.
It's often the little things that make a stay here memorable: allow time to linger in the sunlit backstreets of a little-known neighborhood, idle over an espresso at a sidewalk café, or find picnic goodies at a produce market. When you slow the pace, Rome really begins to work its charm on you.
When to Go
Rome is blessed by the weather gods with clement weather year-round. Expect mild temperatures, thinner crowds and cheaper room rates in spring and fall, making this an excellent time to visit. Winters are mild and comparatively quiet. Things get much busier and more expensive in summer (mid-June to September) and during school vacations. In August, when the Italians go on holiday, the prices of rooms sky-rocket and the city heaves with tourists.
Time your visit to catch (or avoid) major events. These include the pre-Lenten Roman Carnival, with costumed parades and street performers. Easter is, as you might expect, a big deal, with the Pope leading a torchlit procession to the Colosseum on Good Friday and an Easter Sunday blessing in St Peter’s Square. Rome throws a massive birthday party for itself on 21 April at Natale di Roma, with historical reenactments and fireworks. In summer, outdoor performances in dance, music and film abound at Estate Romana. The Romaeuropa festival, from mid-September to late November, turns the spotlight on theatre, opera and dance.
Here's more on the Best Time of Year to Visit Italy.
Getting There & Around
If you’re coming by plane, you’ll most likely land at Fiumicino Airport. From here, express trains run every 30 minutes to Rome Termini (main station). A taxi into central Rome takes approximately 45 minutes. The airport is 18.5 miles west of the center.
The main station has frequent high-speed trains to other major Italian cities. Getting around by car is not recommended as traffic and parking can be a nightmare. Travel around by public transport instead, or rent out a scooter to zip around the streets Italian style.
Highlights & Activities
Rome offers art and architecture on an epic scale. Nothing can prepare you for that first glimpse of Michelangelo’s fresco dancing across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or the spine-tingling moment when you enter the Colosseum amphitheater, where gladiators once did ferocious battle. You’ll most certainly also want to throw a coin over your shoulder into the baroque Trevi Fountain (ensuring your return to Rome), climb the Spanish Steps, and roam the ruins of the Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city in 753 BCE.
But Rome has more to offer beyond these obvious crowd-pleasers. See our guide to Getting off the Beaten Path in Rome to see classical sculptures in a former power station, walk and learn in the former Jewish Ghetto, and more.
For a truly local angle, take a tour. You can whizz around the city of seven hills Roman-style on a scooter, explore the backstreets by bike or Segway, or delve into the centro storico (historic center) on a walking tour tailored to your interests.
Where to Stay
Rome has accommodation for every mood, moment, and budget, but you should book well ahead for the peak season when rooms fill up in a flash. The centro storico is incredibly atmospheric and places you right in the thick of things, but it’s also popular and at the more expensive end of the spectrum. See our guide to boutique hotels in Rome for our top picks.
Trastevere is historic and appealingly hip, with some enticing B&Bs in old palazzi and guesthouses, but be warned that it can get noisy here at night. Another good area is Prati, near the Vatican State. Many of the cheaper digs cluster around the main station, Roma Termini. Better for the budget-conscious, perhaps, is bohemian-flavored and still central Monti, with some of the best hostels and family-run guesthouses in Rome.
Room rates peak in August and are at their lowest from November to March. A city tax applies to all stays, ranging from €4 to €7 per night depending on how luxurious your hotel is.
Where to Eat
Italian’s live to mangiare bene (eat well) and food-obsessed Rome is no exception. You’ll find it all here: from neighborhood trattorias to the bounteous produce market on piazza Campo de' Fiori, pizzerias to Michelin-starred restaurants with season-driven menus.
Foodie hotspots include Testaccio for nose-to-tail dining (try trippa alla romana, tripe with tomato, mint, and pecorino cheese), and the Jewish Ghetto for kosher bakeries and the likes of carciofi alla giudia—deep-fried, Roman-style artichokes.
For snacks on the hoof, good central bets include Vuliò in the Vatican for Pugliese street food, and Fatamorgana in Monti for artisan gelato in flavors from avocado-lime to basil, walnut, and honey. Antico Forno Roscioli rolls out perfectly thin, crisp pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice).
Eataly near Ostiense station is a cool combination of stores and food stalls, with cooking classes and wine tastings. Vino Roma in Monti is another fine choice for wine tasting and food tours with a Roman slant.
Where to Drink
When in Rome, you should drink as the Romans do—beginning your evening with the much-loved ritual of the aperitivo (post-work drinks served with an assortment of free snacks). A buzzy option is Freni e Frizioni, a vintage-cool former mechanic’s shop in the happening nightlife district of Trastevere. Craft beer fans won’t want to miss out on hole-in-the-wall Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà nearby, with a chilled vibe and locals spilling out onto the street.
For a classy cocktail in the center, try the slickly modern Gin Corner, or The Race Club, a retro-style speakeasy near the Colosseum where the mixologists know their stuff.
Campo de’ Fiori is another great spot for alfresco drinks as Rome lights up. As things heat up later in the evening, Testaccio is the go-to district for clubbing.