Once the capital of an empire which stretched across Europe, Africa and Asia, Rome is a sophisticated city where there’s something to see – and eat – around every corner, with great shopping thrown in to boot.
If you’re a lover of Ancient Rome, you can wander through the Forum Romanum, Ancient Rome’s marketplace and home to the courts and temples, or the Colosseum where gladiatorial battles were fought for the amusement of the public (thumbs up or thumbs down?). Then there’s Palatine Hill, where Republican Rome’s rich and famous lived, including the first emperor, Augustus. Or take in the Pantheon with its beautiful oculus (‘eye’), which apparently remains the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome.
Visitors will want to stop off at the city state, the Vatican, and view the jaw-dropping St Peter’s Basilica (remember to cover your shoulders and your legs), which houses Michelangelo’s achingly beautiful sculpture, ‘Pietà’. At least an afternoon is needed in the lush Vatican Museums filled with works of art by many famous painters and features like the Sistine Chapel, as well as the Pinacoteca.
Selfie lovers should head to the famous Trevi Fountain, built in the 1700s and featured in the film ‘La Dolce Vita’, and flick a coin in – it’s supposed to guarantee a return to Rome, so maybe throw in a few. Check out the Spanish Steps, apparently named for the fact that they rise from the Spanish Square.
Any visitor to Italy must try the gelato, as well as pretty much any other food in Rome given that Italian cuisine will blow the minds of any first-time visitors.
Places to Visit in Rome
- The Colosseum, Forum and Capitoline Hill complex
- The Vatican
- Campo de’ Fiori
- Villa Borghese
- Appian Way
Unique Things to See and Do in Rome
- Wander around the remains of an ancient empire, including the Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and more
- Visit the city state and home of the Pope, the Vatican, as well as the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica
- Visit the shops and markets in gorgeous Trastevere
- Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
- Climb the Spanish Steps
Rome is believed to have been founded in 753 BC, and the legend goes that the city was built as part of a competition by two brothers, Romulus and Remus, the sons of a god who were abandoned at birth and suckled by a she-wolf. Legend also has it that the brothers were descended from a Trojan prince, Aeneas, who escaped the Sack of Troy and founded a nearby village.
After a series of reportedly ever more tyrannical kings, Rome became a Republic around 500 BC, which saw the expansion of Roman rule to include North Africa, Spain, Greece, France and parts of Turkey. If you’re wondering about the ‘SPQR’ stamped on manhole covers in modern Rome, this stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus or The Senate and People of Rome, still the symbol of the city and once used on the standards of the Roman legions.
Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC in Rome due to fears he sought to reinstate a monarchy with himself as king, but the murder proved futile, when his great-nephew, Octavian, became the first Emperor as Augustus in 27 BC, from where Western culture gets the name of the month ‘August’ (‘July’ comes from Julius).
Under the emperors, the empire expanded to include England, Egypt, Syria and more. Tales about the excesses and cruelty of the emperors, particularly the early successors of Augustus have survived throughout history, with Nero reportedly setting fire to Christians to provide light in his gardens, while Caligula was said to condemn people to death in order to seize their property and execute or poison members of his own family.
The Empire split in two, with the fall of the Western Empire in 476 AD and since then Rome has seen even more history pile up, including the founding of the Vatican City State in 1929 and the bombing of the city in World War II.
Getting Around Rome
Rome has two airports, Ciampino and Fiumicino, to which there are regular flights from around Europe.
Did you know…?
History is divided as to whether ancient Romans gave a thumbs up or a thumbs down to signal a gladiator should kill a defeated opponent. So be careful giving someone a thumbs up in Rome!
Did you ALSO know…?
The Vatican issues its own coins, and has its own post office, with its own stamps.
Once in Rome, travellers can use the Metro service, which is reliable, comfortable and affordable, as well as buses. Travel to other Italian cities is very easy with Italy’s well-connected and reliable domestic train network.
The roads in and around Rome are well-maintained for travellers looking to hire a car.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Rome.
As a European city, Rome is hot during the months of July and August, seeing maximum temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius. We advise a hat, sunscreen and water (although cold water is offered at drinking fountains around the city).
Winter sees its coldest days between December and January, with maximum temperatures of 11 or 12 degrees Celsius.
Spring and autumn are the recommended times to visit the Eternal City.
Ready to plan your visit to Rome? Check out these popular guides and trips.