Visit world-renowned landmarks and sites off the beaten track in this ancient city.
1 - Colosseum
Start your visit to Rome with one of the most famous monuments, the spellbinding Colosseum. Located on the Piazza del Colosseo, this is the world’s largest ancient amphitheatre and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The structure was constructed under the Flavian emperors of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE, hence its official name as the Flavian Amphitheatre, and is built from travertine, volcanic rock and concrete. While you can purchase tickets to walk around the arena and imagine the gladiator fights that once entertained 50,000 spectators, you can also simply enjoy the architectural prowess for free from the road. Just don’t carve your name into one of the walls, as one tourist did last year…
2 - Roman Forum
Combine your visit to the Colosseum with a trip to the Roman Forum, located nearby. This archaeological site was the scene of public life during Roman times. Here you’ll find the ruins and excavations of buildings for political, religious, judicial and commercial activities – including law courts, temples and basilicas. Excavations began in 1898, and most recently in 2020 Italian archaeologists discovered a stone sarcophagus and circular altar dating from the 6th century BC and believed to have belonged to the Italian founder Romulus. Tickets start from €16 for access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Open 9am-4.30pm (last entry 3.30pm). colosseo.it
3 - Imago Artis Travel
One of the downsides with a city as beautiful as Rome is the overcrowding at famous sites such as the Trevi Fountain or Pantheon. Thankfully the Eternal City has clandestine gems behind its facades. Tour operator Imago Artis gives private groups access to the hidden corners of Rome, with its expert art historians making use of their incredible connections in the industry to create bespoke itineraries. Fascinating guides act as art ambassadors, spreading the word and context of masterpieces while also contributing to the preservation of such oeuvres by donating part of the tour fee to exclusive attractions that are not usually open to the general public. One such site during our tour was the Oratorio del Gonfalone, a fresco-clad church located in a nondescript house down the Via del Gonfalone – described as the “Sistine Chapel of the Mannerism movement” by our knowledgeable guides. Visit iatravel.com to arrange a tour.
4 - Dining around Rome
Rome is possibly one of the best places to satisfy a hungry stomach, with pizza, pasta and gelato at every corner. If you only have time for a quick coffee and snack, head to quaint eatery Il Pane Di San Saba located on Piazza Gian Lorenzo Bernini. This café is a firm favourite among locals in the upmarket San Saba neighbourhood, with a deli-like counter brimming with cakes, antipasti and superb coffees. For those that have sacrificed seeing an attraction for a longer and more leisurely lunch, grab a table at Hostaria Da Pietro – a trattoria on Via di Gesu e Maria, close to the Spanish Steps. Founded in 1946, this old-school restaurant has green-clothed tables set across various rooms and is as close as you’ll get to an authentic trattoria experience, with a delightfully hectic atmosphere as staff dodge each other to serve wine, plates of pasta and fritti (fried Roman specialties) to guests. Order the fiori di zucca (fried courgette flowers stuffed with cheese) followed by fresh pasta – I devoured spaghetti alle vongole. ilpanedisansaba.it; hostariadapietro.it
5 - Gianicolo Hill
Locals and tourists alike flock here in the run-up to midday to get a prime spot for an age-old tradition, whereby a cannon fires a blank at noon and prompts the city’s churches and cathedrals to ring their bells in a synchronised fashion. First introduced by Pope Pius IX in 1847, the tradition has continued to the present day, aside from periods such as the Second World War. The hill also offers a stunning panoramic view of the city’s domes and bell towers. Once you’ve witnessed the blast up close, you’ll find yourself noticing the booming noise as you wander the streets in the days thereafter.