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10 Things to Do in Rome (That Aren’t the Colosseum)  

Easily one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever see, Rome is one of the great cultural centers of the universe. Its rich history, incredible eats, and romantic streets will take your breath away at every turn.

When it comes to things to do in Rome, you are endlessly spoiled for choice.

Whether you’re bathing in the glow of iconic art and rich history or watching the world go by as you sip Chianti in one of the many buzzing piazzas, this is easily one of the top ten greatest cities in the world.

While deciding on the very things to do in Rome is nearly impossible, I’ve narrowed it down to the top things that come to my mind every time of my Roman adventures.

Ready for your greatest Italian escape? Here are ten things about Rome that you absolutely can’t miss.

Take a Food Tour or Cooking Class

When I think about Italy, I think about food. Sure, there are countless wonders to explore… but even at the Colosseum, I’m thinking about my next meal!

To say the local food is world-class doesn’t even begin to describe it. Italy set the standard for international cuisine.

Even if you’re only spending 24 hours in Rome, sample the best local Italian foods and hop on a food tour (I had an amazing time on my Rome food tour and pizza-making adventure).

If you can swing it, steal a few secrets from Noni’s recipe book before you go! Learning how to cook in Rome is the gift that keeps on giving.

Planning Tip: When it comes to solo trips for women, I especially love food tours and cooking classes. It’s a great way to connect with other travelers and is perfect for anyone a bit shy to eat solo.

Visit the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are one of the most iconic sites in Rome. Constructed in 1723, these steps were built in the Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Embassy.

Old but new again, the iconic steps were remodeled a few years back by luxury retailer Bulgari a few years back. Since then, they’ve been trying to keep these designer steps looking chic.

Sadly for hangry and tired tourists, that means no more sitting, eating, or drinking on the steps. Break the rules and pay the price — which is about $450!

Toss a Coin into the Trevi Fountain

Dating all the way back to the year 19 BC, this was the first fountain built during the Renaissance period. Ever since then, the Trevi Fountain has been a symbol of the city.

Of course, you’ve got to have your Lizzie McGuire moment at this famous fountain!

It is an essential experience in Rome and, according to legend, it’ll change your future. If you throw one coin in the fountain, you’ll be back to Rome. Throw in two coins, and you’ll fall in love with a gorgeous Italian. Throw in three and you’ll marry ‘em.

Planning Tip: Short on time? Bookmark my page for What to Do in Rome in Three Days so you can see the best of the best on the fly.

See the Capuchin Crypt

Under Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, you’ll find one of the most unique things in Rome: the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars.

Also known as the Bone Church of Rome, this unique space is a catacomb housing the skeletons of about 4,000 friars.

The monks, rather than burying the remains of their passed brethren, decided to decorate the walls of the crypts with their bones as a way to remind them that death would eventually come to all.

While some may view this as creepy or morbid, it’s said that they did this to remind them that each day could be their last and to focus on the beauty in the present moment.

There’s a plaque in the crypt with the following inscribed: What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.

Note that photography is prohibited in the crypt.

You can book a guided tour in advance or just wander around taking in the sights, with or without an audio guide.

Experience Vatican City

For anyone who hasn’t been to Vatican City before, there are a few questions that might come to mind: Where is Vatican City? How big is Vatican City? Is Vatican City a country?

Some of the terminology can be quite confusing!

I think a lot of confusion comes from “City” being part of the name; Vatican City is the world’s smallest fully independent nation-state.

Encircled by a 2-mile border of Rome, it’s technically the smallest country in the world at roughly 100 acres (it’s about 1/8th the size of New York’s Central Park — imagine that!).

Okay, okay, so you have a general idea of where Vatican City is…but what exactly do you do there?

First up: Wake up bright and early so that you beat the tour buses to the spectacular, St. Peter’s Basilica, which opens at 7 am.

If you’re up for it — climb the “cupola” for a workout and breathtaking panoramic views of the city across the river.

Once you’re finished, spend some time in St. Peter’s Square out front, and visit the world-famous Vatican Museums, which open at 9 am, if you want to check out history at its finest.

You can expect to spend most of the day at the Vatican, especially if you’re a history lover! The stunning Renaissance and Baroque architecture will absolutely take your breath away.

Plan plenty of time to take in the world-famous Sistine chapel.

Pro Tip: Do be aware of the dress code at Vatican City; as a religious institution, they as for modest attire and covering of skin (no exposed shoulders, stomachs, or thighs).

Lines can get quite long here — don’t be disheartened as they move pretty quickly, but if you can book your tickets in advance you’ll have better luck!

Take a Vespa Tour

As soon as you arrive in Rome, you’ll see people zipping around Vespas. For locals and tourists alike, it is one of the best ways to get around. From full-day tours with a local to whirlwind nights on the town, the array of Vespa tours will take you around the city in style.

Whether you opt to self-drive or hop on back with a pro, flying through Rome on a Vespa with the wind in your hair is a memory that you’ll never forget.

Pro Tip: If you’ve never driven a Vespa before, I would HIGHLY recommend hopping on one with a professional. The traffic in Rome and the way people zip through the streets is not for the faint of heart.

Wander Around the Trastevere Neighborhood

Cross over the Tiber River to explore Trastevere, which means beyond the Tiber in Italian. This one-time working-class neighborhood is home to some of the most stunning streets in Rome.

Walk the narrow cobblestone streets and take in the beauty of the terracotta homes with their lush balcony gardens and endlessly winding vines.

Less than a 30-minute walk from the core attractions of Rome, this is a perfect place to base yourself or just explore on an afternoon trip.

Visit the Campo de’ Fiori Market

Every morning since 1869, this market has transformed into a vibrant epicenter of the city. From fresh fruits and vegetables brought in from the Roman countryside to artisanal cheese and meat, this is the perfect place to stock up for a picnic.

When you are there, be sure to grab freshly baked wonders at Forno, one of Rome’s oldest bakeries. Their pizza bianca with sea salt is the stuff of legends!

Piazza Navona

Since the first century, Romans have come together to eat, drink, and be merry in this central plaza. One of the most beautiful places in the city, this central space is an essential stop.

Soak in the history as you imagine the ancient Romans who came before you to watch agonies (games) here. Lounge in the sun while you sip an Aperol spritz or sample the local gelato — or why not both!

Search for the Best Gelato

And, last but certainly not least, one of my greatest lifetime ambitions has been to find the greatest gelato in Italy. It’s not an easy job, but somebody’s gotta do it and you might as well join me.

Search high and search low. From iconic spots like Fassi Gelateria and Günther Gelato Italiano to the tucked-away little hole-in-the-wall cafes, you can’t go wrong.

And Rome is just the beginning of what Italy has to offer!  Grab my guide to two weeks in Italy for the adventure of a lifetime.

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