What are the five best things to see and do in Rome?

Answers from Our Experts (2)

From major monuments to quiet back streets, Rome is filled with can’t-miss sites and activities. The number of things to see and do can be overwhelming. We love to challenge our Forbes Travel Guide editors to pick five things. Here’s their list of the five best things to see and do in the Eternal City:  

1. Wander through the Roman forum. For more than a millennium, Rome was the capital of one of the grandest and most influential empires — and the Roman forum was the center of it all. This is where the senators debated bills, and the Vestal Virgins guarded their sacred flame; where Julius Caesar’s body was burned in a funeral pyre, and where Romans met to shop, worship and gossip. Our advice: buy a ticket to view the Colosseum’s tunnels and enter the forum through there, then take a tour or pick up an audio guide to see everything. There’s lots of information you don’t want to miss.
 
2. Visit the Sistine Chapel. No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Sistine Chapel, the famous landmark inside Vatican City. Look up to see Michelangelo’s frescoes — considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art — but be sure to look around you, too. The gorgeous frescoes on the sidewalls were done by Renaissance greats like Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was Michelangelo’s mentor.
 
3. You must see Rome’s most famous monuments, and we suggest doing so at night. Many of Rome’s most famous sites, including the Trevi Fountain and the Victor Emmanuel II monument, are lit up at night — making them even more dramatic and inspiring than they are in the daytime when the sun is beating down.
 
4. See some of the best art in Europe at the Borghese Gallery. Located in a beautiful villa on the edge of the city, the Borghese Gallery houses the fine art collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V. It’s about 350 years later, but it’s still a pleasure to explore. Among its masterpieces are lifelike statues by Bernini, some of the most famous paintings by Caravaggio, and works by Raphael, Perugino and Canova.
 
5. Explore Rome’s back streets. Rome’s major tourist sites can get crowded, particularly in the high season (from April to October). Avoid the masses by walking on one of Rome’s many cobblestoned streets, where you’ll see grandmothers poring over produce at market stalls and artisans working in their shops. We especially like the back streets around Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese, and across the river in Trastevere.

Erica Firpo
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Rome is capricious, she loves you one day and doesn’t care a fig the very next. This mercurial personality makes people either fall in love with the Eternal City or lose interest easily.  To add more weight on the side of love, here are my five best things to do in Rome:

Go up.  Rome has a beautiful panorama of domes, bell towers and rooftops in umbers and sienas.  My favorite place to catch Rome at her best is the Terrazza delle Quadrighe, the terrace atop the Victor Emanuel monument in the center of the city. From here you can see all eras of Rome, from ancient to contemporary.  For historic highs, book a special visit to the Colosseum and imagine what life was like in the ancient arena by hiking up to the third tier of seating.

Go underground. The Colosseum special visit also includes entrance to the hypogeum, the first level underneath the arena’s floor. If you aren’t able to do so, go to church—several of Rome’s churches have underground sites with 2000 year old architecture and cooler temperatures in the hot summer. My favorite is the Basilica of San Crisogono in Trastevere.

Get cultured.  Rome has a myriad of art collections, museums and beautifully decorated churches.  You cannot go wrong by stepping foot into any one of them.  However, if you want to maximize history, go the Vatican Museums. In addition to the Sistine Chapel, the museums include a series of rooms painted by Raphael and his school, a modern collection (Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse) and amazing antiquities.

Stay out late.  Rome’s piazzas are beautiful when lit only by amber street lights and a dark inky sky.  Make sure to walk around the historic center’s piazzas after dinner, especially Piazza Navona and the Trevi area. There is no doubt that you have to throw a coin in to the Trevi fountain-- evening is best for avoiding the crowds and enjoying the romantic atmosphere.  From Tuesday to Sunday, the fortress-tomb-national monument Castel Sant'Angelo stays open until 1 am with music, panoramic restaurant and the very special  walk through the Passetto del Borgo  - the infamous above ground passage way that connects the fortress to the Pope's chambers at the Vatican. For those looking for something more romantic, an evening walk through any piazza (aside form Campo de’ Fiori) and over any bridge will be perfect.

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  • Chad West,
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