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10 best things to do in Rome: a local’s guide

Rome resident Tripbod Judy reveals 10 of the best things to do and see in the Italian capital. Hop between the Roman ruins whilst eating the best pizza, pasta and gelato!

1. Find the best pizza in Rome

There is no one ‘perfect’ pizza in Rome: half the fun is trying to find it. Sforno is often regarded as the best pizzeria for their gloriously chewy, humble bases carrying melted mozzarella, courghette flowers and regional smoked hams. Dar Poeta is right in the centre, and is perfect for families looking for restaurants where they can sit outside enjoying pizza (whilst the waiting staff coo over the kids). La Boccaccia sell traditional pizza by the slice until 1am – just what you need when it’s been a few hours since your last margarita.

2. Visit the perfect Pantheon

Harmonious, mysterious and awe-inspiring, some call this sphere within a cube the world’s most perfect building. Once a temple to all the gods, thus ‘pantheon’, this engineering marvel was built in the first century BC and modified around 125 AD by Hadrian. For almost 2,000 years the Pantheon baffled even modern architects as to how its dome had been constructed. The open eye of the oculus still looks up toward the heavens, so when it rains, water droplets bounce off the precious marble pavement indoors.

Opening times: 08:30am – 7:30pm Entry: Free – but expect queues.

The Pantheon, Rome

3. See the Dying Gladiator in the Capitoline Museum

The Dying Gaul, or Gladiator, as he is now called, in Palazzo Nuovo (New Palace) is one of Rome’s most sublime statues. Although a foreigner (depicted by the short dreadlocks) and a captured slave (his necklace), he’s portrayed with solemn dignity by his enemy. The Romans, who were masters at waging war, ironically in this ancient sculpture offer a compelling anti-war statement. Recover from your melancholy by enjoying the spirit-lifting view from the museum’s terrace café.

Opening times: 9:30am–7:30pm Entry: €7.80

4. Get away from the city at Villa Medici

Set above the Spanish Steps on the Pincio is the majestic Villa Medici. Now home to the French Academy in Rome, it hosts many public events, such as international film screenings, concerts, exhibits, and tours. If you attend an event here, don’t miss the beautiful bar upstairs, popular with art students. The walled garden offers a panoramic view west to the Janiculum Hill, a green refuge from Rome’s noisy streets, perfect for viewing sunsets.

Address: Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1, 00187 Roma, Italy Opening times: 10am – 6pm Entry: Free, exhibits are paid.

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5. Gorge on gelato

Close to where Julius Caesar was assassinated stands one of Rome’s best ice cream shops, Gelateria Corona. Avoid the gelato that’s puffed up into hilly mounds with stabilisers and emulsifiers; good, dense gelato rests flat in the container, and skip ‘mint’ that’s bright green with artificial colouring. This father-and-daughter shop is the real thing. They have traditional flavours and get creative, too, with celery-mint or citrus-peperoncino, saffron-ricotta, nutty pistachio, mango, and Armagnac cream. The shop is tiny, so enjoy your gelato outside and ponder the ancient ruins, admire the majestic umbrella pines, and watch the trams rumble by.

Address: Largo Arenula, 27, 00186 Roma, Italy Opening hours: 12pm-2am

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6. Pay homage at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican

Situated in Vatican City, the scale of St. Peter’s Basilica is enormous. Rich in ornamentation and treasures that include Michelangelo’s famous Pietà, climb up the narrow crawl space between the two domes to experience the marvels of its architecture up close. Allow a couple of hours for this; climbing the steps one-by-one is slow, the elevator saves 320 steps, but 551 follow. Your reward occurs in three incredible stages to savour the views: the inside rim around the cupola with a view of the interior; the expansive outdoor terrace; and the lantern at the top for a 360˚ panorama. Looking for a luxurious crashpads? Check out these romantic hotels in Rome.

Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City Opening times: 9am – 6pm, not open on holidays. Entry: Included in the price for the Vatican Museum – €15.00 per person.

Click on the photo to find out about the 10 most luxurious hotels in Rome.

7. Catch a blockbuster at Cinema Farnese

In the evening, while revellers gather in Campo de’ Fiori, Cinema Farnese entertains Romans. One of the few cinemas that is still family-run and has balcony seating, this lovingly restored movie house is a favourite haunt for locals. The programming varies from arthouse to mainstream. Sometimes films are in their original language (Italians cling to dubbing) especially during the lively festivals, premiers, and special programs.

Address: Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, 56, 00186 Roma, Italy

8. Feast in Campo de’ Fiori Market

Food is central to Italian life, the topic of conversation on streets, buses, anywhere. From the grand chefs to Roman housewives, in many neighbourhoods the market is still the hub of morning activity. Market banter is full of jokes, insults, laments, and innuendos, adding even more colour to the picture. Survey the market produce and when ordering a meal you’ll sound less like a tourist: if you don’t see Roman artichokes here, the restaurants are likely to serve frozen or imported carciofi. Rejoice that Italians still prefer seasonal foods – check out their best regional dishes before you go.

Address: Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, 00186 Roma, Italy Opening times: early morning until 2pm Entry: Free

9. Unwind with an aperitivo

The aperitivo concludes the workday for Romans and launches the evening. Sparkling wines, like prosecco, produced in the Veneto area, or franciacorta from Lombardia, are especially popular, while champagne prices are lower than London, New York, or Tokyo. Sip bubbles in a grand piazza, on a rooftop, or along the Tiber River at Bistrot del Giu da Ballerino’s summer tavern on Tiber Island. Enjoy with some fritti (fried appetizers) all seems right with the world.

Address: Albergo Bernini Bristol, Piazza Barberini, 23, 00187 Roma, Italy Opening times: 12:30–3pm, 7–11pm Entry: Free

10. See where it all began at the Palatine

Don’t miss this legendary spot where Rome began in 753BC, later to become the posh ‘hood of emperors. Savour its expansive view of Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill. The museum displays models of Iron Age huts; colourful fragments of frescoes and marbles hint at the vivid colours of Ancient Rome. Glimpse the brilliant red wall frescoes in the House of Augustus. The Palatine gardens were newly restored in 2012, and in 2013 the Stadium area opened for the first time in decades.

Opening times: Enter between 8.30am, and an hour before sunset Entry: €12.00 per adult

Ah, Roma. Ready to break away for trip amongst the ruins? Book your flight to Rome with Skyscanner today – remember, we don’t charge a booking fee.

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About the Author: Tripbod Judy is an editor, writer, translator, and photographer living in Rome. A culture vulture from her museum career, Judy writes and photographs for major travel guides and other media.

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