From world-class art and architecture to fabulous dining and shopping, Rome serves a sensory feast that rivals any European capital. But the city’s endless options for culture and entertainment can seem overwhelming, especially when combined with its relentless urban pace.
My first trip to the Eternal City was over 20 years ago—and marked by a series of tactical errors, including wasting hours in line at the top sights and dining in dubious “tourist-trap” restaurants. Still, I was spellbound by how the city mixes historic glory and contemporary cool in such a uniquely Roman way. I’ve since realized how much more magical that first visit could have been with better planning. Here’s how to avoid my rookie mistakes and make every minute in this city unforgettable.
Pack your lightest clothes to survive Rome’s sizzling summer temps, but don’t forget options that cover shoulders and knees to enter St. Peter’s and other top churches.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the Colosseum—even a simple stroll around its magnificent outer walls.
Now that you’ve covered the A-listers, it’s time to check out Rome’s excellent food scene, equal parts traditional and trendy. Choose from a variety of food-centric adventures, including market visits, street food strolls, pasta extravaganzas, and hands-on cooking classes.
Today you’ll dig deeper into Rome’s “greatest hits,” beginning with the Colosseum. Skip-the-line tickets are essential, and a guided tour is by far the best way to get the most out of your time. Opt for an express tour that focuses on the amphitheater or a longer visit to cover the adjacent ruins in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill; the Colosseo metro stop is just across the street from the stadium.
Trade ancient wonder for modern indulgence with some late afternoon shopping in buzzy Monti, just a ten-minute walk away from the Colosseum. Vintage shops and hip independent boutiques reign supreme in this shopping district, making it a local’s favorite–and more affordable than posh Via dei Condotti.
Head across the Tiber River to Vatican City. With fast-track admission tickets and a sharp guide, you can cover the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica in a few hours—with time left over to climb to the top of the dome and snap a photo. Two different metro stops are just a short walk from St. Peter’s Square.
Put some distance between you and the Vatican throngs by leisurely exploring one of Rome’s atmospheric neighborhoods (Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto are great places to start). Otherwise, leave the city behind completely with an e-bike excursion along the Appian Way, lined with catacombs, aqueducts, and roaming flocks of sheep.