The Ultimate Rome City Guide
I first visited Rome when I was 17 years old on a school trip in my final year of high school. It was the first international city I ever visited. I was the furthest away from home I had ever been and I could not have felt more inspired. Perhaps that is part of the reason Rome has always held a special place in my heart. In the years that followed, I returned to the Eternal City twice and in 2013, I lived there for nine wonderful months.
Now living in London, it didn’t take long before I returned to reconnect with old friends and revisit some of my favourite haunts. Over the years, friends and family have asked for recommendations on where to stay or which restaurants to try, and I have always excitedly passed along my tips. I've written about some of my favourite things to do in Rome before. But surprisingly, I have never really put together a comprehensive guide - possibly because I relish the opportunity to gush about Rome one on one.
However, for posterity (and to save you from having to endure one of my lengthy speeches) I’m putting fingers to keyboard and noting down the details of all of my favourite places in Rome.
Ancient though the city may be, it is constantly evolving. Neighbourhoods change and there are always wonderful new discoveries to be made. Thankfully, Rome is also a place where tradition is highly valued. If it ain’t broke, they won't fix it. And even if it is broken, they still probably won't fix it. The best gelaterias continue to hold onto their titles despite newcomers to the scene and the same goes for the street eats.
Where To Rest Your Head in Rome
Use the Piazza di Santa Maria as your centre point. Stay in the accommodation radiating from this point and your experience in Rome will be a delight. Trastevere is a maze of cobbled paths dotted with gelaterias, al fresco dining spots and trendy bars. Walking into the centre of Rome takes just 15 minutes and with the number 8 tram running straight passed, you can easily arrive at Piazza Venezia in mere moments.
One of the most beloved squares in Rome, Piazza Navona offers upmarket cafes and restaurants in a typically Roman setting. If you’ve never visited Rome before, finding accommodation in this area will allow you to explore the city centre with ease. Just 10 minutes in all directions from some of Rome’s most popular sites, this picturesque area will help you fall madly in love with the Eternal City — so long as you can handle other tourists.
(Some) Great Places To Eat in Rome
There’s certainly no restaurant in Rome that receives quite so many accolades as Roscioli, and deservedly so. Fresh ingredients, hearty servings and the most incredible carbonara - you cannot go wrong with lunch or dinner at Roscioli.
Bir and Fud
Great beer and excellent pizza in the heart of Trastevere, Bir and Fud impresses with ease. Fill up on Roman pizza and walk it off along the Tiber towards the distant St. Peter’s Basilica as it glistens in the rippling river.
For Sicilian fare in Rome, you can’t go passed Mizzica — the locals certainly don’t. This casual dining spot is located just outside the city centre, (not far from Bologna station), and it serves up Sicilian gelato, cannoli, arancini and, best of all, granita. Summer in Rome is better with a Sicilian granita in hand.
II Baccanale (Campo de Fiori)
For delicious street eats in the heart of Rome, there's Baccanale. Head straight to the take out window on via de' baullari for a focaccia ripiena. These foccacia sandwiches are filled with a variety of cheeses, meats, herbs and vegetables and each and every one of them is moreish - it's an affordable bite out in Rome that won't fail to satisfy.
Where To Drink in Rome
Freni e Frizioni
Aperitivo is an institution at Freni e Frizioni. Head to the bar, purchase a cocktail and make your way to the complimentary aperitivo buffet in the room to the right. Fresh bread, rice salads and pasta dishes cover every inch of the table - your task is to load up your plate with as much as can fit. A perfect pre-dinner pit stop.
For a perfect mojito at a very fair price, this busy watering hole is not one to be missed. Located in Trastevere, stop by as you bar hop the neighbourhood.
Cioccolata e Vino
Not your average bar, Cioccolata e Vino serves up naughtily named shots of liquor inside chocolate cups. Try a Sveltina (Quickie), a combination of coffee liqueur, cocoa and whipped cream or a Punto G (G Spot), crema di assenzio, chocolate flakes topped with cream. Playful and fun, ask the bartenders to explain the drinks to you before you order.
Located in central Rome, not far from Piazza Navona, Salotto 42 is where tradition meets modernity. Take a seat by the front window to gaze out at the 11 Corinthian columns from a Roman temple dated from 145 AD. The menu provides classic cocktails alongside modern renditions of old favourites. The Fior di Spritz is the best on the menu. Hands. Down.
Top Things To See in Rome
First-time sightseeing in Rome
These sites are absolutely unmissable. Stumble around the centre of Rome long enough and you’re sure to see them all. The Colosseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona will occupy at least three days in Rome. When in Rome, you can't miss the opportunity to visit Vatican City too.
St. Clement Basilica
Hidden under St. Clement Basilica’s conventionally handsome first floor is a sprawling, multi-level archaeological site. Spanning almost a thousand years of Roman history, each floor you descend takes you further back in time.
The Crypt Of The Capuchin Friars
Sitting in a dank wing off the Museum of Capuchins, the Crypt of The Capuchin Friars is home to the remains of some 4,000 monks. It’s broken into four rooms, each decorated with ornamental arrangements of human bones and home to a rotting corpse posed uncomfortably in iconic Capuchin robes. This one is not for the faint of heart.
Unmissable Galleries and Museums in Rome
Technically not Rome, but it’s just a 20 minute walk from Piazza Navona so, when in Rome… Set aside a half day for this mammoth visit and be sure to arrive early or with a booked tour as the lines are horrifically long.
Arguably one of the best galleries in Rome, the Galleria Borghese holds an exquisite collection of Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio paintings. Located inside the Borghese gardens, spend time wandering through the gallery before exploring the expansive grounds surrounding it.
Parks To Visit in Rome
Beautiful gardens once owned by Roman elites, the Borghese family, these grounds are free for visitors to roam. A highlight not to be missed is the artificial lake with the 19th century “Temple of Aesculapius” built on it.
Giardino Degli Aranci
There are very few places in Rome that are devoid of raucous noise. Not far from the ‘Mouth of Truth’ (or ‘La Bocca Della Verita’) is an inconspicuous walkway surrounded by greenery, lined by ancient Roman walls. Follow this fairytale-like footpath and eventually you’ll locate the not so well-known Garden of Oranges. Named as such for the citrus fruit trees that grow in all four corners, this wonderfully low-key oasis is the perfect respite for the heavy mind, body and soul.
Dessert in Rome
Giolitti. It is the best, most revered gelateria in central Rome. Giolitti first opened its doors in 1900 and from those humble beginnings it now offers an array of ice-cream flavours, sundaes and cakes. 2.50 euro will easily get you a scoop of creamy world-renowned ice-cream and a deliciously crispy cone.
Self proclaimed, “Il Regno del Tiramisù” (King of Tiramisu), Pompi does its best to live up to the title. Handmade daily from the freshest ingredients, Pompi tiramisu is a winner.
If I’ve missed anything (and I'm sure I have), let me know in the comments. I’m forever keen to revisit one of my favourite cities in the world, I’m just looking for an excuse!