Just as a preface to this list, it’s really hard to pick only 10 places in Rome as my favorites – everything here is stunning and unique in its own way. Nevertheless, I compiled my list. I left out a lot of the big monuments that are obviously amazing and put in a few of my other favorite local places to go. These aren’t really in any particular order since they are all kind of tied for the number one spot anyway.
Giolitti Gelateria – one of the best and oldest gelaterias in Rome, and that’s saying something. I could eat their ananas and champagne gelato every day and never get sick of it. The level of deliciousness is beyond words. If you want to know how good it is, go there. A tip for Italian gelato in general: the price is pretty standard across the board, about 2 eu for a small cup/cone, but the quality is not the same. Not all gelato is “real” gelato, and you can definitely tell the difference. Look for the places that display their ingredients and that don’t focus too much on the presentation of the gelato – huge piles of gelato or gelato with unnaturally bright colors are warning signs!
The Pantheon – love this Piazza, the combination of ancient and modern in this piazza is just kind of surreal. One of my favorite things to do is get gelato at Giolitti (just a couple minute walk from the Pantheon) and eat it sitting in front of the Pantheon. A lot of times there are musicians performing and it’s just perfect.
Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere – “Our piazza” as my roommate and I call it. This is really close to my apartment and it’s a great place to hang out at any time of day. This piazza has one of my favorite churches, a beautiful fountain, the best gelato in Trastevere (Fior di Luna), street performers almost all the time, and just a great atmosphere.
Gianicolo Hill – my apartment sits right at the bottom of this hill. A short climb to the top gives you a stunning view of Rome and also has a beautiful park. And it’s completely free!
Café Settimana – a little café that is across from my school, there is nothing super special about it but it is one of my favorite places to get a coffee and chat with friends. It sits right in front of a part of the Aurelian walls that I walk through every day to get to class, which I enjoy for my own nerdy reasons. In general, the coffee in Italy is fantastic, although very different from American coffee. It takes a little getting used to, but being the addict that I am I adapted quickly. Honestly I think it’s going to be hard for me to go back to drinking American coffee after the richness of Italian espresso!
Palazzo Massimo – This is a fantastic museum near Termini rail station. It has a lot of really famous works of art from classical antiquity and is all presented very well. If you only have time to do a couple of museums in Rome, I highly recommend this one. It isn’t too much either, it has a lot of history in it but it’s nothing as huge as the Vatican museum, a few hours here and you’re free to go on with plans for the rest of the day.
The Vatican Museum – A must see. It’s insane, such a great museum, has something for everybody and then some. I really was not expecting this to be as vast as it was, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed. This took us a long time to get through and I still felt like we went way too fast, but it was well worth it. The museum ends with the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, which is just something you really need to see in your lifetime. Breath taking. Not attached to the museum and always free is St. Peter’s Basilica, which, again, is just something you have to see before you die. The Swiss guards are also pretty cool. They look ridiculous, but great at the same time.
Largo Argentina – aka “the cat sanctuary.” This place was once a site of Ancient Roman victory Temples (you can see the excavated remains of 4 of them) and is now a safe haven for the tom cats of Rome. Ancient ruins and cats… Need I say more?
Pizzeria Florida – a little pizzeria right next to Largo Argentina. Great Roman pizza, friendly staff, and a lively atmosphere. My Roman history professor (who is Italian) actually mentioned this place as one his favorite pizzerias. And if an Italian says they like it, you know it has to be good. I like to get pizza here and then sit in front of the cat sanctuary and watch the cats lounging around the ruins.
The Capitoline Hill – One of the 7 hills of Rome. From the top, standing next to the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, you get an aerial view of the Forum Romanum from one side and a view of modern Rome from the other. There is no better place to see the head on collision and seamless cohesion of ancient and modern Rome, which in my opinion is what makes Rome so exceptionally unique.
Amie is a student at Gustavus Adolphus studying at John Cabot University (JCU) in Rome, Italy during the Spring 2014 term.