Rome is filled with so much history that it can be a little overwhelming for a first time visitor to prioritize what to see, myself included. My goal was to see as many of the highlights as I could in one weekend, however, I was a little anxious about this because all the guidebooks kept reiterating how awful the lines can get over the summer.
So how did I maximize my time and fit everything in? I booked a few guided tours with skip the line access! I would highly recommend this if you’re short on time and don’t have much knowledge about Roman history. I really enjoy guided tours in general because I consider myself a lifelong learner, but it’s fun to spend time with a local guide who is passionate about their city. The specific tours I booked are included in the relevant sections below.
Probably the most iconic site in Rome, your visit would not be complete until you see the Colosseum. This amphitheater was built between 70-80 A.D. and was mainly used for entertainment purposes including the gladiator fights that we have all come to know. I even watched the movie Gladiator before my trip so I could compare notes 🙂
I booked a guided tour with the company Walks of Italy that included both the Colosseum and Roman Forum. I didn’t have to wait in any lines, and I had exclusive access to the Colosseum floor and upper balcony which had amazing views.
The Spanish Steps were built in the 1700s and are named for the Spanish Embassy that sits at the bottom of the square. This is a perfect place to just chill out with a gelato in hand and people watch.
Built in 1762, legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain over your left shoulder with your right hand you are ensuring yourself a return visit to Rome. An even better legend encourages you to throw in three coins (which I did), this ensures your return to Rome, a new romance, and marriage. Whether you believe in legends or not your contribution to the fountain goes toward a good cause. The coins are collected at the end of each night and donated to feeding the poor.
Built between 113-125 A.D the Pantheon was originally a temple dedicated to the Roman gods, but later became a church. It’s considered a great architectural wonder displaying the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The Roman Forum is a plaza that houses the remains of the religious and political center of the former Roman Empire. I wouldn’t recommend exploring these ruins on your own because you will have absolutely no idea what you’re looking at, so join a tour! Here’s the link to the one I did that was combined with the Colosseum…
I grew up Catholic, and when I asked my grandpa what he wanted me to bring him back from my trip he said a rosary from the Vatican. So I was on a mission this day! Regardless of your religious affiliation, Vatican City is an incredible site to see filled with amazing art and architecture including St. Peter’s Basilica (the largest church in the world) and the Sistine Chapel with frescoes by Michelangelo. Of course I made a point to climb the dome which is 491 steps in a very narrow and cramped stairwell, but the views are always so worth it!
I booked a complete Vatican tour with Walks of Italy that included early skip the line access into the Vatican Museums with a guided tour of St. Peter’s. Again, I highly recommend joining a tour because it can be a little overwhelming tackling the museums on your own. There’s just so much to see.
Take a food tour
Another thing I love to do when traveling is taking a local food tour. They usually last 3-4 hours and you get to try so many different types of local cuisine. Don’t even both eating before or after because you will feel so full! I did a food tour with the company Eating Italy. The tour took place in the trendy neighborhood of Trastevere which is off the beaten path across the Tiber river. The coolest spot we hit was this ancient wine cellar dating back to 80 B.C. which is 150 years older than the Colosseum! We actually did a wine tasting in the cellar which was very cool.
Italian Parliament Building
Make sure you walk by the Italian Parliament Building. It definitely stands out and can be seen in all the panoramic views of the city.
That’s it for my weekend in Rome! This concludes my documentation for the 6-week backpacking trip through Europe that I did back in the summer of 2017. Thanks for reading!