Pasta, ruins, & a whole lot of wine! There’s good reason that Rome has been a world-famous destination for over millennia! Rome is one of the few places where there are almost too many iconic sights to see. It might take you a trip or two to get all of these under your belt because there is just *so* much history in the city to tackle – & pasta to eat! So be sure to come with a pair of comfortable shoes and an empty stomach!
To be honest, my first few trips to Rome bring some pretty miserable memories. It was the first place I traveled to internationally when I was a young teenager and the first time I was confronted with the fact that people around the world do things quite differently than us here in the states. My siblings and I couldn’t understand why Italians didn’t put ice in their waters, why they burned the bottoms of their pizza – and why they had such funny plugs! There is much to see and to a privileged 12-year-old, all the ruins start to look the same under the summer sun. Fast-forward 20 years and Rome has become one of my favorite European destinations!
Last year I was fortunate enough to get to Rome twice, once with Brett & his family then again with Justin, Olivia, Travis & Alicia! My favorite time to visit Rome is September/October. There are considerably fewer tourists and the city is absolutely beautiful. Because there is so much walking, sight-seeing & tours it is such a relief to not be in the scorching Sun. If you’ve ever been to Rome in the high of the summer, you know how much of a sizzler the Sun can be in the city! It wasn’t until the second trip (but fourth time to Rome!) that I finally got my head around the ancient city. I felt like I grasped the neighborhoods, orientation of the major sites, and got to explore some real hidden gems in the city!
Rome packing list:
- Armando al Pantheon – Located steps away from the Pantheon, this long-standing restaurant is serving hearty, traditional Roman fare in a wood-paneled dining room.
- *Alla Rampa – Tucked right behind the Spanish Steps, it’s one of my family’s favorite restaurants! The enduring restaurant is serving up classic Roman dishes in a smart, rustic interior or on a scenic terrace (which I prefer!). They have a great covered patio that is great for lunch or dinner! Be sure to get the Paglia e Fieno “Hay and straw” pasta – a family favorite!
- Osteria Barberini – Featuring rich truffle in a range of dishes, they call themselves “the truffle in the heart of Rome” and they mean it. This intimate restaurant also has an assortment of lighter options to balance out the rich truffle (if that’s not your thing!). Be sure to snag a reservation!
- Ristorante Trattoria Tritone 1884 – The food & wine are reasonably priced at this long-standing restaurant.. a 4-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain!
- Urbana 47
- * Il Melarancio – The last time I was in Rome, this was our favorite local spot. We ate here 3 times in the same trip
- * Antica Enoteca – Rustic bar with a wooden counter, frescoes & a high ceiling, plus a large stock of Italian wines. Great little street seating. Was a favorite casual spot!
- * Hosteria del Mercato – This organic eatery has lush plants all over their indoor space – we came here for a few rounds of spritzes and light bites and would highly recommend it!
- Angelina “ai Fori” dal 1947 – Grabbing a spritz after the Colosseum is a must! It’s shaded and is in a prime location next to the Colosseum
- *Emma Pizzeria – Located in the historical center “centre” of the city, some great pizzas as well as delicious starters- get the squash blossoms!
- *Dar Poeta – An absolute must – some of the best pizza we had the whole trip! they also some great crosttini romano (delicious toasts) that we were dying over. I’d recommend going for lunch while exploring the Trastevere neighborhood. And expect a wait!
- Pizzeria Da Baffetto – Simple, compact white-tiled restaurant specializing in Roman-style, thin & crispy pizzas.
- Cantina e Cucina – a 3-minute walk from Piazza Navona!
- Ristorante le Mani in Pasta – Located in the Trastevere neighborhood, this smart, intimate restaurant with exposed stonework & arches, for local seafood & pasta specialties.
- La Montecarlo – No-nonsense restaurant with a vaulted ceiling, renowned for its classic, thin & crispy Roman pizzas.
- La Parolaccia & Sons
- Osteria Der Belli– Great pastas & seafood located in the hip Trastevere neighborhood!
- Salotto42 – This swanky historical bar is serving up craft cocktails and delicious Roman staples.
- Roma Sparita – In the heart of Trastevere, the heart of Rome, the Roma Sparita restaurant overlooks the Piazza di Santa Cecilia away from traffic and chaos. Recommend sitting on their patio!
- Pizzeria Da Remo
- Felice a Testaccio – Celebrated trattoria with a simple, bare-brick interior, dedicated to Roman cooking.
- Dal Toscano Restaurant
- *Club Derriere – One of my favorite cocktail bars in the city! With low lights, this speakeasy is found in the backroom of an unassuming trattoria but accessed through a dedicated entrance. The bartenders who sling sleek cocktails that are often inspired by cultural figures, such as their Edgar Allan Poe: a heady mix of sherry, Knob Creek rye, chocolate, and Angostura bitters.
- Gia Roma 1886 – Cute café a 2-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain!
- Oppio Caffe – This café is a must when you’re visiting The Colosseum. It’s directly across the street, but away from tourists for some unobstructed views of the ancient arena. You’re definitely coming here for the view!
- La Casetta a Monti
- Giolitti – Okay, this should be the only one in this category. It was by far my favorite as they had so many amazing flavors and it’s open really late (2 am!). There’s a reason I went 3 times on my last trip to Rome!
- Gelateria del Teatro
- The Colosseum – The Colosseum, is an oval amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome, Italy, just east of the Roman Forum and is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built, and is still the largest standing amphitheater in the world today, despite its age. It’s definitely worth a guided tour to see the inside of the giant amphitheater!
- The Roman Forum – The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. This is a gorgeous field of ruins and
- The Pantheon – The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a Catholic church, in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It was rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD
- Trevi Fountain – The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.
- The Spanish Steps – The Spanish Steps are a set of iconic steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.
- Circus Maximus – The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire.
- The Vatican – Set aside a half-day to head to the Vatican. I’d recommend a private/guided tour if you are feeling compelled to get a deep-dive into the history and importance of the Pope’s home!
- Altare della Patria – the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or Vittoriano, called the “Altar of the Fatherland,” is a national monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill.
- Campidoglio – The Capitolium or Capitoline Hill, between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
- Piazza Navona – Piazza Navona is a public open space in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in the 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans went there to watch the agones, and hence it was known as “Circus Agonalis”
- Piazza Venezia -Piazza Venezia is the central hub of Rome, Italy, in which several thoroughfares intersect, including the Via dei Fori Imperiali and the Via del Corso. It takes its name from the Palazzo Venezia, built by the Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo alongside the church of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice
- *Villa Borghese – a 10-minute walk from the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese is a landscape garden in Rome, containing a number of buildings, museums & attractions. It is the third-largest public park in Rome and a calm retreat from the tight streets of Rome. Set apart at least an hour to explore the beautiful grounds!
- Hotel Chapter Roma – Brett and I stayed here and loved this new boutique hotel! Located in the historic Hebrew quarter, this elegant hotel with a stone exterior has minimal and modern rooms! It’s an 8-minute walk from fine art exhibits at Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia and 10 minutes on foot from the iconic Pantheon. It’s a minute’s walk from the nearest light rail station.
- Hassler Villa Medici – This one is definitely a 5-star luxury stay. If you don’t end up staying here, it’s so worth grabbing a spritz or cocktail at their rooftop bar at sunset to soak in the incredible view!
- InTown Luxury House – After a VRBO snafu, we booked this boutique hotel last-minute it was a godsend. The hotel only has 6 suites and impeccable service from the concierge. It’s perfect for those who feel the classic hotel is too impersonal and a B&B too familiar – the perfect place to stay. We fell in love with this neighborhood, just a 3-minute walk from the Spanish Steps!
Have you ever been to the Eternal City? I’d love to hear of any hidden gems or gelato shops you came across while there you’ve gotta let me know! Or if you had a favorite tour that you’d recommend, I’d be so interested to hear! I can’t wait to get back. Ciao!
* This list was compiled before COVID-19. Not all restaurants or destinations might be open due to the pandemic, please make sure before you plan your trip.