Some friends from home are visiting me in Rome for a few days, and they asked me to make a list of things to do in Rome over a weekend. With so much to do in Rome, it is so hard to make a short list! However, after spending almost two months in Rome now, there are definitely a few things that have stood out. Here is my list of the top 10 things you have to do while you are in Rome (in no particular order):
1. Go to an aperitivo. Restaurants usually do not open up for dinner until at least 7 pm, so if you get hungry before then, an aperitivo is a great option. Most restaurants will have a sign that says “happy hour” or “aperitivo” on the outside. It is usually around $10 per person and includes one drink and unlimited appetizers. My personal favorite aperitivo is at Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere, but there are many other places to go all over Rome.
2. Tour the Colosseum and Roman Forum. They are both very touristy, but you must do them while you are in Rome. One ticket gets you into both attractions for 48 hours. Basically, everyone who comes to Rome goes to the Colosseum, so it is best to buy your tickets ahead of time and go early in the day or right before closing time to miss the crowds. I would definitely suggest a tour because it is much more interesting to know what you are looking at than to simply walk around.
3. Spend an afternoon in Villa Borghese. This park is like paradise in the city. It is located just off of Piazza del Popolo and is the perfect escape from the craziness of the city. It has walking paths, trees, fountains, museums, restaurants, and ponds. It is huge and a great place to spend the afternoon. The best part of it is the Galleria Borghese, one of the best privately owned art museums in the world – and arguably the most beautiful.
4. Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain. This is another basic thing to do in Rome, but you have to do it. I would highly suggest going early in the morning because it is not that big and there are usually large crowds in the afternoon.
5. Eat gelato while walking around the city. When searching for the best gelato, it is important to look for a few things. The gelato should not look like big mounds, but rather be flat. It is even better if it is covered with a lid. It should also not be very colorful. Big, colorful mountains of gelato catch tourists’ eyes, but locals know to look for the authentic gelato.
6. Hang out on the Spanish Steps. Walk along Via del Corso from Piazza Venezia and turn right to get to the Spanish Steps. The shopping is great along the way, and it is so nice to grab a snack and people-watch while sitting on the steps. This is also a big tourist attraction, so it is best to go on weekdays or early in the morning.
7. Eat pasta alla carbonara for dinner. The trick to finding the best, authentic roman pasta is to find a restaurant that is off the main piazza or street. Stay away from restaurants with pictures of the food in the windows, sample plates outside, or people trying to convince you to come inside. Trastevere is a great area because there are so many authentic restaurants.
8. Take a tour of the Vatican Museums. The museums are huge and I would have had no idea where to go if I did not take a tour. Tickets sell out ahead of time, so it is important to get them in advance. The Sistine Chapel at the end of the tour definitely lives up to the hype.
9. Listen to the pope speak. Go back to Vatican City on Sunday or Wednesday and listen to the pope speak. If you go on Sunday, you do not need a ticket and it only lasts about 30 minutes. Even if you are not Catholic, it is really cool to watch people in the crowds cheer for Pope Francis and to see a major world figure.
10. Stop in any free churches you pass by. There are churches everywhere in Rome and almost all of them are free. They are basically free art museums. Whenever I go anywhere, I make a point to stop by any churches I pass by. I have stumbled across paintings and sculptures by famous artists in some of the churches.
– Hannah is a spring 2017 SAI Rome student from Baylor University.