Rome is one of those iconic cities that you can’t help but fantasise about visiting. No matter what age you are or what schooling you’ve had, I think it’s safe to say that we have all heard about the Ancient Roman period of history.
Seeing this incredible city first-hand is on many a traveller’s wishlist. From marvelling at the famous Trevi Fountain to eating gelato on the Spanish Steps, there are so many things to see and do in Rome. So much so that to see it all, you’d need at least a few days here.
However, if you only have one day to see Rome, like I did; then this is my overview post to recommend to you the best highlights of Rome that you absolutely must try to fit into your itinerary… trust me, it’s possible if you start early!
1. Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most famous fountain within Rome. With its impressive stonework, vast size and rippling green water, this fountain is set to amaze you and keep you wondering about the story behind it for the rest of your day.
Seeing the fountain itself won’t cost you a penny (or a cent), so feel free to take some time here and take as many photos as you like. You may find it a little busy here as it is a famous tourist spot, but this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time in admiring the fountain.
If you can spare a cent during your visit, wander to the water’s edge and make a wish before throwing your coin in. Although a little cliche, it would be rude not to whilst you’re here.
The Pantheon, the Roman “temple of all the gods” is an incredible site to see in Rome as it really helps remind you of just how ancient this city really is.
From the outside, this fantastic structure looks just how you would expect an Ancient Roman building to look – vast in size, ancient stonework and strong pillars.
Inside, the temple is now home to multiple tombs as the Pantheon was turned into a church back in the 7th Century. These tombs range from small monuments to Raphael to huge marble and porphyry sarcophagi holding the bodies of Italian monarchs. Expect to spend an hour or two wandering around inside and marvel at all you can.
3. Spanish Steps
Many a traveller, family and group have met at the Spanish Steps in Rome. It is such an iconic landmark here and because it’s so well known, it really is a great place to do some people watching in the sunshine.
Choose a step as your desired people watching spot and take a look around you. Can you spot a child dripping gelato down their clothes? Can you spot a young couple cuddling on their own step? Can you spot the Italian nun texting on her phone? … Wait, what? A nun? Texting? Yep, at the Spanish Steps, you will see it all so be sure to take it all in!
Also, when on the steps, looking down; head to the left hand side and you’ll spot a quaint little balcony. This is the balcony of the once-home of John Keats – interesting to see if you like literature!
Also, why not take a wander to the very top of the steps and into the church across the road? This church is free to enter and you are welcome to take a look around (providing a service isn’t happening at the time). It’s a beautiful little church and as it’s not a tourist spot, it’s an unspoiled and traditional looking building both inside and out.
4. Piazza Navona
Out of all of the ‘Piazzas’ in Rome, this has got to be by far the most beautiful. Three exquisitely intricate fountains adorn the square and the buildings hint at the Baroque architectural style that we all know I love.
For me, this was the perfect ‘rest spot’ to admire the fountains, enjoy some sunshine and eat gelato in whilst doing yet more people watching.
I just find the locals in Italy so fascinating! From the traditional older Italian ladies, to the fashionistas to the romantic teens – Italy is perfect for seeing so many different kinds of people intertwine. And where better than to see all of this but in Italy’s capital?
Meandering through this ancient part of Rome is absolutely incredible and a highlight I just couldn’t resist including in this list.
There are so many fascinating and historic structures within this area and you will see so many links to the mythological Romulus and Remus (supposed founders of Rome), to help make your visit to Palatine a memorable one.
Of course, how could any list of highlights for Rome not include the Colosseum? This impressive structure is so iconic of Rome, that it is simply a must see just to say you’ve been there.
Personally, I’d already seen a similar structure in Verona and so I was a little less in awe of the Colosseum in Rome, but it’s certainly still worth a visit during your first trip to the capital city.
Incredibly, this ancient amphitheatre was able to hold 50,000 spectators. The 80 arched entrances are said to have made it easier for this sheer amount of people to come to a gory Gladiator fight. Walking around it, you will certainly get an idea of its vast size and be amazed by the fact that the Ancient Romans were able to erect a structure of this incredible size.
On my way back to the train station from the Colosseum, I actually saw two ‘Gladiators’ fighting in a pit by the side of the road. They must have been filming for something, but I just found it quite surreal in seeing them so soon after visiting the place where Gladiators were founded! Maybe you’ll see something like this too? Keep an eye out!
Bonus Highlight: Vatican City
Although I didn’t have time to visit Vatican City myself, as you’d certainly need at least one day just for exploring this part of Rome by itself; I still wanted to include it as a bonus highlight. I hope to return to Rome again one day and make some time to come here, so this little section is some inspiration for both you and me!
As the site where St Peter was buried, the Vatican became the residence of the Popes who succeeded him and is still used for this purpose today. The basilica of St Peter attracts pilgrims from all over the Christian world and is a place of the utmost religious and political importance.
On my way to the Spanish Steps, I was able to see the domed basilica from across the river and it really did look like an incredible place to visit. Temptingly just out of my reach and calling me in to come back and see it…
Rome – you really are a captivating place!
Well, there you are – my recommended highlights when visiting Rome, which I hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings about. What did you think? Are there any other places in Rome that you’d recommend visiting? Write a little note in the comments section below…
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