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Rome Italy – the eternal history, gladiator fights for survival, toga dressed emperors and their beautiful women, floating wine at parties, intrigues, fantastic architecture – all of these give me the tremendous, tingling feeling of awe. All of these are Rome the eternal city that was not built in one day.
BUT the wine and the food, the fountains, the churches and basilicas, the dazzling young vibe and football (soccer) is also Rome. Add the new and the old with a beautiful climate, and you will have ROME as we know it today.
So, when is the best time to visit Rome in Italy? We all assume that it is during the high season – summer months. But that would probably depend on many things. If you have fixed vacation time in summer than you have not much of choice, but to visit Rome during the summer. High season in Rome starts in May and lasts through August. Shoulder season is between cold and warm seasons and is usually from March to May and from September to December. The off-season for Rome is from December to March. It is so much easier to pick a quieter time to travel to Rome than for example Venice. You can read my article on how to avoid the largest crowds while in Venice because this place has hardly any low season.
Visiting Rome in winter
If you have flexibility regarding your vacation time you should consider visiting Rome during shoulder- or offseason. This rule will apply to many places, and not only Rome. Low and shoulder seasons are the seasons you will have the best chance to interact with the locals and the queues to the attractions are much shorter than during the high season. The weather can be rather good, and it is not as hot as during summer. There are some exceptions to the shoulder and off-seasons – Easter and Christmas. Rome has strong ties to Christianity and a very popular destination during Easter and Christmas. Especially Vatican City and St. Peters Basilica are crowded. Easter is the most packed out of the two holidays.
Rome in winter weather
The weather is not as hot as during the summer. During winter it can rain and be cold. If you come from a country with a cold winter, you will not find winter in Rome cold. C’omon, +10 to +15C at the end of December is not cold! We arrived on the second day of Christmas and had +15C and beautiful sunshine. Our second day in Rome was stormy with hail and +10C. We got soaked wet on our way back from Vatican City. It was only 30 minutes to walk back to our hotel, and I had to twist my boots and socks to get rid of the water when we got back. So check the weather forecast before your trip. You can do it here.
What to do in Rome in winter
If you are visiting Rome in winter, you can do the same things as in summer. Again, check the weather before arriving. Rome has so many beautiful and interesting attractions and is a huge city, so you won’t be able to see everything during your 2 or 3 days stay. The only things you will see in winter that you won’t see in summer are Christmas markets. There was a Christmas Market on Piazza Navona, a 5-minute walk from our hotel, but there are several Christmas Markets around Rome.
So, what should you do in Rome if it rains? Visit churches and museums. You can easily spend a few hours in larger museums in Rome. Vatican city can take a whole day if you use your time. All the museums in Rome are closed on Christmas Day (25th of December) and St. Stephen’s Day (26th of December) and St. Peter’s Basilica is also closed on Wednesdays between 08 am – 11 am, so plan your visit accordingly.
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Interesting facts about Rome
Rome is an ancient city with a long, exciting, reach and intriguing history. Some of the architecture in Rome is as old as the city itself. Ancient Rome was known for the Colosseum and gladiator fights, for emperors and intrigues, the knowledge and authority of the Romans. Today’s Rome is known for its ancient roots, ancient architecture, its many fountains, churches and basilicas, pasta, wine, football, and the city’s seaside.
– Romans were the first to discover concrete and started using it 2000 years ago
– Romans believed that the early Christians were cannibals because they misunderstood the Christian practice of taking communion.
– Have you heard saying “All roads lead to Rome”? Romans were good at building roads, and during the time of the Roman Empire, approximately 1000 years, they built 53,000 miles of roads leading to and out of the city.
– Ancient Romans often went to communal toilets, where they combined the tasks of relieving themselves and having a chat
– There are about 280 fountains in Rome and more than 900 churches.
-The Trevi fountain is emptied for coins every evening, and the coins are donated to charity.
Where to stay in Rome Italy
I always recommend picking an area next to a few attractions. This way you can walk between attractions and see more than if you stay close to one site. If you are in Rome for only 2-3 days, decide what you want to see and book your accommodation nearby. We booked our hotel at friend’s recommendation next to Pantheon. The hotel was very nice, not expensive and close to many popular attractions. When you are in a city like Rome for only 2 days, you won’t be able to see all the landmarks without running around like a headless chicken. So I recommend you save yourself from trouble, pick a few sites to see, chill and have an amazing time.
We stayed at the Hotel Sole Al Pantheon. Our room was spacious with a view of the Pantheon, beautiful decorated and a spacious bathroom, with a small bathtub. The breakfast was served in a backyard in a summer tent, which is set up during winter to protect guests from rain and cold. It was very cozy, and you could see the plants through the plastic walls. It was a typical Southern-European breakfast with baguettes, ham and cheese, tomatoes and olives, jam, yogurt, pastries, orange juice, and coffee – and it was delicious. There were several famous Rome attractions located near the hotel – Piazza Navona and Neptune fountain, Spanish steps, the bridge of Engels and Vatican City. Check out availability and prices for Hotel Sole Al Pantheon. If you want to stay close to everything you should check this one out.
Hotels in Rome Italy
We also recommend you to check out these hotels.
Grand Hotel Plaza a 5-star hotel near Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain. The hotel has a beautiful rooftop terrace, and you might not be able to use during winter, but if the weather is nice, you will have a beautiful view of the city. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and breakfast for an extra charge. Check out prices and availability for Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome here.
Hotel Locanda Cairoli is a 4-star hotel located in a Roman Jewish ghetto. The area is one of the hidden gems of Rome and is not only a cultural and religious experience but also a culinary. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a breakfast for an extra charge. You will find all the attractions in a 10-28minutes walking distance from the hotel. Check our prices and availability for Hotel Locanda Cairoli in Rome here.
Hotel San Silvestro is a 3-star hotel in the city centrum next to Spanish steps and with all main attractions within 1-31 minutes walking. The hotel offers free of charge continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, free toiletries and luggage storage. Check prices and availability for Hotel San Silvestro in Rome here
Whichever hotel or area in the city centrum you find best to stay at the main attractions will be a walking distance away. All hotels in Rome charge a city tax, which is an extra of 4 euro a night per guest for up until 10 nights. Kids under the age of 10 are excluded from the taxes.
If you are still not convinced check out these hotel deals
Things to see in Rome in 2 days
As always on our day of arrival, we don’t make huge plans. We like to stroll around and get familiar with the area we stay in. Rome is a safe city, except petty crime, but that is the curse of every large tourist magnet, so keep an eye on your belongings. We felt safe at all times and didn’t experience anything inconvenient. If you want to do a guided walking tour or get a Rome Pass, there is no need for that. You will find most of the attractions close to each other, but it is also easy to find a taxi if you need one. However, I will strongly recommend you get skip-the-line tickets for the most popular attractions like the Colosseum, The Roman Forum, the Vatican City, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
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Free things to do in Rome Italy
There are many free things you can do in Rome in Italy. Rome is known for its many fountains and Piazza, and its architecture is amazing.
Sant’Agnese in Agone church on Piazza Navona
I told you we watched “Angels and Demons” movie before we came to Rome, so Piazza Navona was sort of on our list. Speaking of the movie you can book a walking tour taking you to the places from the scenes in the film.
Piazza is a lovely square with two fountains – the Fountain of the four rivers and the Neptune Fountain. Piazza Navona is known as Rome’s most elegant and cheerful piazza. Here you can visit the church of Sant Agnese in Agone. The church has a free entrance, but you can donate money if you wish.
Piazza has gorgeous surrounding architecture, restaurants and open-air bars, and a Christmas market during winter. As you can imagine it is crowded during the whole year, but it was still charming. We drifted off to one of the side alleys and sat down outside for some ham and cheese and a glass or two of red wine and did some people watching.
The Pantheon in Rome is earlier stated to be a Roman temple, but recent research shows it might have had a different purpose. Many modern historians question Pantheon’s history, and you can read a fascinating article on this matter here. The Pantheon now serves as a church. This architectonic landmark is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world and shows the excellent skills and knowledge of Roman engineering.
One of the theories about the Pantheon goes like this – “The dome’s coffers (inset panels) are divided into 28 sections, equaling the number of large columns below. 28 is a “perfect number,” a whole number whose summed factors equal it (thus, 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28). Only four perfect numbers were known in antiquity (6, 28, 496, and 8128) and were sometimes held to have mystical, religious meaning in connection with the cosmos, by Pythagoras and his followers, for instance. Additionally, the oculus (open window) at the top of the dome was the interior’s only source of direct light. The sunbeam streaming through the oculus traced an ever-changing daily path across the wall and floor of the building. Perhaps, then, the sunbeam marked solar and lunar events, or simply time.”
The opening hours at the Pantheon Rome are:
Monday-Saturday: 8.30 -19.30
Sunday: 9.00 – 18.00
Public holiday on a weekday: 9:00 – 13:00 (last admission at 12:45)
Closed: January 1, December 25
Last entry 15 minutes before closing time
The Pantheon has free entrance.
The Spanish Steps – The Trinità dei Monti steps
The Spanish steps once provided a link between a part of the city that was occupied by the French and the area below, held by a colony of Spaniards. Most importantly, the steps provided a place where people could meet, relax and enjoy the surroundings. The Spanish steps are located on Piazza di Spagna.
The Trevi Fountain
One of the most famous fountains in Rome. The Trevi fountain is another Rome attraction that has appeared in a movie – “La Dolce Vita.” The fountain is sculptured against the backdrop of Palazzo Poli. The theme of the Trevi Fountain is Triton taming Oceanus’ shell-shaped chariot drawn by sea horses. The fountain got a new lighting system, making it super popular evening attraction for picture taking. Don’t forget to toss a coin before you leave the fountain. The money gathered from the fountain go to charity. The Trevi Fountain is located on Piazza de Trevi.
The Capitol Hill Rome
Campidoglio was the center of the government of ancient Rome. Michelangelo designed Campidoglio – The Capitol Hill. Three palaces – the Palazzo Nuovo, the Palazzo Senatorio and the Palazzo dei Conservatori border Campidoglio. The Capitol Hill is a must visit at night from where you can admire Rome. You can look down on the Forum from two lookouts they have up there. There is a museum and a church if you want to do more sightseeing. Mount the slow staircase uphill, right behind the Vittorio Emanuele II monument and let Michelangelo impress you.
Campo de Fiori
Campo dè Fiori is a picturesque market by daytime which comes alive at night when the streets fill with the restaurants and bars. For centuries Camp dè Fiori was the stage for public executions. The statue of Bruno Giordano, Dominican Friar, Philosopher, Mathematician, and Astronomer, indicates the exact point of his burning alive killing. Visit the nearby historical streets, such as Via dei Baullari, Via dei Cappellari or Via dei Giubbonari, which are lined with an assortment of small shops still bearing the name of artisans who once worked there.
Places to visit in Rome in 2 days
Although you can do Rome on a budget and spend your time sightseeing for free, there are a few must-sees in Rome that you have to pay for. And they are absolutely worth paying for.
The Vatican City and the St. Peter’s Basilica
Get your tickets online before you arrive. You will meet your guide and the rest of the group at the stated on the tickets location. We had an English guide, which was difficult to understand, but he guided us through the security gates, X-rays, and ticket gates. The security line was long, but not as long as the line for people without the tickets. It took us about 45 minutes to get inside. I strongly recommend you get the combinations skip-the-line-tickets for both the Vatican Museums and the Basilica. It is not possible to only visit the Dome.
You will have to either get entrance tickets for the Vatican Museums or the St. Peter’s Basilica. You will still have to purchase entrance tickets especially for the Dome, and this tour is not guided.
Once you get in the Museums of the Vatican, you can wander on your own. There is a dress code in the museums and Basilica – you need to cover your shoulders and knees. The dress code means you cannot wear a singlet or an open shoulders dress or top and if you wear a skirt, shorts or dress it must cover your knees, you can otherwise be denied the entrance.
The Vatican Museums are a must visit even if you are not interested in art or religion. There is an extensive collection of fascinating and beautiful artifacts, and if you manage to understand your guide, you will learn some interesting stories.
The Sistine Chapel is a world known chapel where the conclave – the election of the Pope- is being held. The famous Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. In addition to the Sistine Chapel, you will find 5 more pieces of his art in The Vatican. His work in the Sistine Chapel is incredibly detailed and colorful. It is forbidden to take pictures in the Chapel, and it must be quiet at all time. But it is difficult to get a room full of people totally quiet, so there is a constant buzzing noise. People are also taking photos with their phones. Some try to do it very discretely like I tried, while some do it more open.
After you are done with the museums, you can enter St. Peter’s Basilica or go to the Dome. We went to the Dome first. It is logistically more convenient choosing this direction because when you exit the Dome, you end up in the Basilica. The entrance to the Dome is 10 euro for the elevator and 8 euro for stairs, cash only. There is an elevator up to the roof level, but after that, you will have to climb 300+ steps to get all the way to the top. But if you do that, you will be rewarded with the epic views of St. Peter’s Square. The stairway is narrow, and you should be in OK shape for the climb. It can also feel claustrophobic. If you don’t want to go all the way to the top, you can go out to the roof on the first level. Here you will see the statues of Jesus and the apostles.
The St. Peter’s Basilica is stunning. It is enormous, with beautiful decorations, which are the work of art of some of the history’s most mystical and famous artists, such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini.
The tour to the Vatican Museums may take you a good half a day or as long as you want, depending on the level of your interest in the history, architecture, art religion and reconciliation. Bring some water, maybe a little snack and wear good walking shoes, no matter the season.
– Do not wear high heels!
– The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel have free entrance on the last Sunday of each month.
Who has not heard of the Colosseum in Rome? It is, along with the Vatican City (which is its own state and not Rome), the symbol of the eternal city of Rome. Colosseum is almost 2000 years old and could room more than 50 000 people. It was used for exhibitions of exotic animals, executions of prisoners, recreations of battles and gladiator fights, and was active for over 500 years. I recommend you to go there early to get a head start and get your tickets online. Children under the age of 17 and seniors of the age 65 or older have free entrance. The tickets to Colosseum are in combination with the tickets for the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was a place where religious and public life in ancient Rome took place. There are several magnificent temples located in the Forum, Saturn, and Venus among others. Besides the temples, there are other things of worth, such as several arches, a basilica, column of Phocas and Via Sacra, the main street, among others.
The Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill is located just above the Roman Forum, is one of the oldest parts of the city and is most central of the Seven Hills of Rome. Although the Palatine Hill is all impressive, there are few things you might want to focus on, such as Domus Flavia, Farnese Gardens – first botanical gardens to be created in Europe, and Hippodrome of Domitian.
The Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery or Galleria Borghese is located in Villa Borghese and is one of the most renowned art museums in the world. The Gallery houses the works of some of the world’s known artists like Raphael, Rubens, Bernini, and Botticelli. Don’t know what to do in Rome when it rains? Visit the Borghese Gallery.
Basilica of St. John Lateran
There are four major Basilicas of Rome – St. Peter’s, St. Paul outside the walls, St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. St. Peter’s may be the most known, but St. John Lateran is the most important of the four major Basilicas. The St. John Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral of Rome and is called archbasilica as it is considered the mother church of Roman Catholic. It was here that all popes were enthroned up until 1870.
2 or 3 days in Rome itinerary
You can use this itinerary for a 2 day trip to Rome. If you are staying in Rome for 3 days, you can add a few things from the above sections to day 3, or you can take a day trip out of Rome.
Stroll around and get familiar with the area around you. Feel the atmosphere and vibes of Rome. If this is your first full day in Rome, I suggest you start with a morning tour to Colosseum, Roman Forum, and The Palatine Hill. You can easily spend here 3-4 hours.
From the Colosseum you can walk to Trevi Fountain – it will only take you 20 minutes. On your way, you will meet Trajan’s Column and the Palazzo Colonna art gallery. Remember to have some lunch between all the sightseeing – low blood sugar and sightseeing is not a good combination.
Now would be the perfect time to have lunch. On your way from the Colosseum, you can stop at Fuorinorma restaurant – best place in the neighborhood, vegetarian-friendly and you won’t break the bank. If you are into Italian cuisine (who isn’t?) check Kasia’s post on Italian cuisine’s history and why it is so diverse.
From Trevi Fountain you can take a walk to the Spanish steps – it is an 8-10 minutes’ walk. When you are done with the sightseeing of the day find a place to take a glass of wine, watch people, relax, and let the impression sink in.
For dinner, I recommend you try Origano Campo de Fiori – great pizza, salads, pasta, and wine.
Visit the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Dome. Take an early tour to get it out of the way while you have lots of energy. You can easily use 4-5 hours there, depending on your interests. Bring water and some snacks for that blood sugar.
On your way back from Vatican City head to Castel Saint Angelo and have lunch at Coffee in Castel Sant’Angelo. It will take you 15-20 minutes to walk. After lunch, you can explore the Castel and the museum and take some beautiful pictures of the river. This is a 2nd-century castle that houses furniture & paintings collections in Renaissance apartments.
From here you can walk over the river Tiber by crossing the Bridge of Angels. Overview of this bridge is unique, it’s worth to walk around, and the atmosphere and surroundings are lovely.
Now you can continue exploring Piazza Navona and Pantheon; they are located 5 minutes walk apart. After all the walking you deserve to sit down and have a glass of wine. And what is the better place to do it than a wine bar located just 8 minutes away? Visit Cul de Sac and let your feet rest for the rest of your trip.
For dinner on your second day, I recommend you visit Mr. 100 Tiramisu that serves 100 different Tiramisu. What impressed me the most is actually the food. They don’t serve dinner dishes, but they make lovely bruschetta of a different kind, fantastic prosciutto and have a great wine selection. The place is tiny, you can’t make a reservation, but it is super cozy, and I would definitely go back here. This place is perfect if you have had a late lunch or wine and snacks. The tiramisu is premade, but you get different toppings and glancing, although I still loved mine.
If you are a foodie you can read about our food tour in Hong Kong, which was absolutely amazing!
Day 3 additional day
Visit Florence and Pisa on a day trip from Rome. It is a 12-hour tour, including 2 hours guided tour in Florence. CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY FOR A DAY TRIP TOUR FROM ROME TO FLORENCE HERE
I hope you enjoy Rome! Be a doll and be a responsible traveler. Rome in collaboration with 4 other major Italian cities, created a campaign #enjoyrespect to remind the travelers to behave while traveling. One last thing – don’t leave a trail, especially garbage trail, after yourself on your travels.
Are you a big city lover than Paris is definitely a place for you. You can read our guide on the Best time to visit Paris here
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