Got it in your head to give Rome a try soon? Don’t leave without reading this list of reasons why you should visit Rome! There are many things to see in Rome beyond the classic sightseeing spots such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Forum and Vatican, here we explore how to really enjoy the city. From the food to eat, the neighbourhoods to get lost in and the weird and wonderful things that make Rome one of the best cities in the world… This is our list of reasons why you’ll love a visit to Rome.
1. It’s the home of pasta Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e Pepe is a traditional staple in Roman cuisine which translates simply as ‘pasta with cheese and pepper’ but it’s so much more than the name suggests. It is the epitome of Italian cuisine – taking simple, fresh ingredients and making the flavours sing. In this case, pecorino cheese, black pepper and (usually) tonnarelli pasta. You’ll find this creamy, cheesy pasta in every Roman restaurant, and is a must for any visit to Rome. You’ll be forgiven for ordering it over and over again. It’s that good.
2. The people watching from the Spanish Steps
The 136 steps overlooking historic Piazza di Spagna and the luxurious retail street Via Condotti frame the city’s style, history, and tourist hustle and bustle like nothing else. The Spanish Steps are a meeting point in the city, where locals wait to meet up with their friends, travellers take in the view, and street vendors sell the merchandise of the day. If you visit Rome by night, climb to the top of the Spanish steps to the Trinità dei Monti church for a breathtaking view of the city at night. However, whereas once the steps were filled with people relaxing on them, it is now forbidden to sit on the steps. You’ll have to enjoy them by foot these days.
3. The pizza al taglio
A visit to Rome is not complete without pizza al taglio. Invented in Rome, pizza al taglio (literally ‘by the cut’) lets you order pieces of your favourite pizza by weight. When ordering a normal pizza in Rome, it’s difficult to decide which one to get, but with Pizza al taglio, you can get a taste of them all! You say how large or small you want the square of pizza to be, and how many different pizzas you want to try. Heaven.
While you’re there, you’ll also want to try some Supplì – Rome’s answer to the notorious arancini from Sicily. Deep fried balls of rice, tomato and basil with a melting mozzarella centre.
4.The mysterious Pantheon
The most well-preserved ancient Roman monument has the largest unsupported dome in the world. How exactly did the Romans manage that? No one is quite sure. The exact composition of its materials is still unknown. All we know is that it’s very similar to modern-day concrete. The Pantheon is the only structure of its size in the world to have survived the damage of time and gravity for so long.
The Pantheon is designed so that on the founding date of Rome, the 21st of April, the midday sunlight hits the metal grille above the door, flooding the entranceway with an ethereal light. In ancient times, the light would have illuminated the Roman Emperor of the time. The God-like light that would cast over him reflected his perceived status as a God on earth. Visiting the Pantheon is one of the most popular things to do on a visit to Rome, so be prepared for large crowds of tourists, especially in the summer months.
5. The always delicious pasta all’Amatriciana
It’s only right that another type of pasta should appear on this list of reasons to visit Rome. This hearty pasta sauce made of cured pork cheek (guanciale), pecorino romano cheese, and tomato is as comforting a cuisine as they come and is another Roman classic. Even if you don’t see it on the menu at a restaurant, you can always order an Amatriciana. It’s an unspoken rule in Rome, that an Amatriciana is always on the menu (even when it’s not).
6. The traditional post-dinner gelato walk
When you visit Rome, do as the Romans do. To really feel like a local, take part in the post-dinner gelato walk. Especially in the summer, when the evenings are long and bright, there’s nothing better than burning off all those pizza calories by going for a walk – with some ice cream! The Italians have been doing this for years, especially the kids. But if being a kid means having an ice-cream after dinner then sign us up. There is a huge debate amongst Romans about where the best gelato in Rome can be found. So there’s only one thing for it, you’ll have to taste them all and decide for yourself. Start by trying the ice cream at Neve di Latte, Gelateria dei Gracchi, and Gunther.
In Italy, often the simplest flavours are the best. Our advice is to avoid the peanut-butter-banana-split-with-sprinkles concoctions, and instead try a scoop of nocciola (hazlenut), cocco (coconut) or caffé (coffee).
7. The versatility of Campo dei Fiori
This two-faced square in the Perione District is another of Rome’s jewels – what was once the site of horse races and executions is now a bustling market by day and the beating heart of Rome’s nightlife scene by night. Campo dei Fiori translates as Field of Flowers, named in the Middle Ages when the square used to be a meadow! Osteria Orbitelli serves a delicious unassuming menu for dinner if you’re in the area.
8. The public drinking fountains
All around Rome you’ll find these fountains, called nasoni (big noses). OK, so the name might sound strange but the 2500+ nasoni found in the city have been giving Romans quality, ice cold drinking water for free since 1874. It might seem like an odd thing to do, but trust us, if you visit Rome in the summer, these fountains will be your saviour. To use them, you plug the bottom of the tap with your thumb so that the water shoots out of the top hole in a spout, making it easy to drink.
9. Waking up and smelling the coffee
Italians know how to do coffee. Especially the Romans. In Rome the coffee is short, black, and usually taken standing up at the bar. Cappuccino is only to be drunk before 11am, otherwise you scream tourist. But if you have to break that rule, at least make it a great cappuccino. Smack bang in the middle of the Prati District is the historic Sciascia Caffè with their famous cappuccino poured over a dollop of chocolate – worth breaking the 11am rule for, if you ask us.
10. Strolling along the Tiber in the evening
Rome is known as a chaotic city but a quick escape for a stroll along the banks of the Tiber river can recharge anyone’s batteries without having to leave the city. In the summer there are often concerts, stalls and even an open-air cinema on the banks of the Tiber, so there’s always something to do in this part of Rome. The views from the many bridges that cross the Tiber are magical, and showcase the city at it’s very best. Golden hour stretches out for most of the day, making the cobbled streets, the marble statues and the fascinating architecture look like a scene from a film.
For more things to do in Rome on a budget, have a look at our low cost guide to Rome.
The last surviving bit of medieval Rome charms with its crumbling buildings scattered among trendy bars, cobbled lanes, the Basilica of Santa Maria, and even a foreign language cinema – but the €1.50 Peronis beers at Bar San Calisto might be the main thing calling Romans to this side of the river! If you’re visiting Rome for the first time, Trastevere is one of the best places to stay in Rome. Close to the centre, but with its own characteristics and away from the crowds of tourists (unless it’s August, in which case you won’t be able to escape them wherever you are in the city!).
Whilst you’re here, you might also like to drool over these 20 Roman desserts, to prepare you for your trip to Rome. All in the name of research, of course.
Let’s get the next flight out shall we?