This post will provide information about all of the major bus tours offered in Rome. While we think you should first consider walking tours, we understand that finding your way around this ancient city can be very difficult, but there are several hop-on, hop-off bus tour companies that can help. This is a great way to see all of the major landmarks while becoming more acclimated with the area. With that said, tourists should know that there are some notable differences between each service. Taking this into account, we’ll compare and contrast each of the bus tours in Rome.
If you’re new to Rome, you may want to consider taking a Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour. These services will take you to all of the most popular sites and landmarks in the city. As you’re traveling around town, tour guides and audio commentary will provide plenty of information about Roman history. Most of these bus tours provide free wi-fi and English speaking drivers to accommodate visitors from around the world. Tickets range from €20-€30 per person. Some operations are also included for free as a part of a tourist discount pass or offer discounts to cardholders, and we mention this when this applies.
Below is our analysis of the best 4 hop-on, hop-off companies. There are actually two more hop-on, hop-off bus companies, Open Tour and Green Line, but their reviews are so poor, we left them off the list completely, so as not to waste you your time or money. The 4 that are listed below are ordered by how well reviewed they are. Since most of the companies offer very similar routes, we detail the first company, Big Bus, and use it as the reference for the other companies offerings.
This post covers tours of Ancient Rome, namely tours of the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. Of course, there are many more ancient Roman sights in the city, but most tour companies organize their tours around these 3 prime locations. Below, we list the various ways you can enter and explore these 3 main sights and we review several of the operators and provide a self-guided version.
Of course, there are many more ancient Roman sights in the city, but most tour companies organize their tours around these 3 prime locations, as the 3 together comprise much of the ancient city, are all adjacent to each other, and are all included on one general admission ticket. Everyone needs the general admission ticket to enter any of the 3 sights. Tickets are good for 2 days, but you can only enter an attraction once. Palatine Hill and the Forum are considered one attraction as is the Colosseum. Audio tours of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum are available but cost extra.
BEFORE YOU BUY: Entry to the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill are included at no extra cost with the purchase of any of Rome’s tourist discount passes.Also, tickets are included in the guided tour packages listed below.
General Admission Tickets
€12 – adults
€7.50 – EU citizens 18-25
Free – under 18
There is a €2 online booking fee through the official site for reserved tickets. We recommend printing out your ticket before you arrive, then you will have what is called skip-the-line tickets. Otherwise, you will need to stand on a will-call line to pick up your tickets. This could take 30-60 minutes in the busy season. If you choose to buy tickets on site, this wait can be 1-2 hours or more during the busy season.
The official website isn’t the easiest to use and they often sell out. You can also get skip-the-line tickets for all 3 attractions here for an extra €5.
In addition to the general entry ticket costs, there are additional add-on touring options for the Colosseum, including a tour with a live tour guide, an audio tour, as well as a video iPod tour. All 3 can be booked on the official website, but if you get frustrated, there are other easier places to make the purchases for a small convenience fee.
General Guided Tour + €5.00
This is for the official Colosseum guided tour with an official live tour guide and does not include access to the Underground, Arena, nor the Belvedere (click here for more details on these tours). The tour is optional and the fee applies to all attendees. Tours are conducted in English, Italian, or Spanish and it lasts 45 minutes. There is an additional €2 fee for an advanced reservation.
Audio Tour + €5.50
You can also enhance your experience with an audio tour. The audio tour comes in many languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Latin, LIS + ASL and lasts 70 min. There are a limited number of audio tour units per session and they can be reserved in advance on the official website. There is an additional €2 fee for an advanced reservation.
The visual guide is a rented iPhone unit in the following languages:Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese. It lasts 50 min. There is an additional €2 fee for an advanced reservation.
Guided Tours of Underground and Arena Floor
+€9 – adults
+€7 – concession
Guided Tours of the Belvedere
+€9 – adults
+€7 – concession
Both of these tours are special tours that are limited in availability. Both tours last 60 minutes each. If you book this tour, you would not need to book the general tour or audio/visual guides, as much of the information will be repeated. There is an additional €2 fee for an advanced reservation per tour. The official website is often sold out of these tour tickets because many tour companies buy them before you can, so do check out our section on tours that include the underground.
There is no shortage of quality tour operators that offer their own tours of the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill. We have listed the companies that get consistently great reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and other platforms. There are less expensive options available, but they are not as well-reviewed and we have left them off of our list. We also favor companies that have the most availability, both in days of the week and times of the day. Lastly, we also list a way that you can take free, self-guided tours.
Tickets are organized by what type of access you have to the Colosseum. In this section, we cover tickets that only include general admission to the Colosseum. (Read the following sections for access to the Underground and the Belvedere). All tickets include skip-the-line priveledges. Expect to pay between €42 to €67 per adult depending on what you choose. In general, prices are determined by the number of participants per guide, with some groups capping off at 24 and others that limit their sizes to 12 or smaller. Some tours include Google virtual reality goggles. Prices include all fees to enter all 3 attractions.
City Wonders (formerly Dark Rome Tours)
City Wonders is one of the larger walking tour companies in Rome and they also offer tours of the Vatican and of other parts of Rome. They also offer tours in other Italian cities as well as Paris and London. They are not the cheapest, but they are extremely well-reviewed, averaging 5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor with over 13,000 total reviews. On their tour, you will be provided with headphones to ensure that you hear your live guide. They also offer 100% money back if you cancel 72 hours or more in advance.
€51 adult | €46 child 4-14 | 0-3 are free
Maximum 25 participants
daily tours in English 08:30, 09:30, 10:00, 14:00 & 15:00
This is another well-reviewed tour company, and while they are more expensive, the group size is capped at just 12. With such a small group size, headsets are not necessary. They only offer this tour once each day in the morning. They also offer a virtual reality version of this tour.
This option is for those who prefer to explore at their own pace and/or do not want to pay the cost of a fully guided tour. You will still need to pay the entrance fee and we suggest paying to skip-the-line by ordering your tickets in advance. A big advantage of this option is that you can linger around inside the Colosseum for as long as you like, to soak of the views, or to visit the exhibit.
You could use a guidebook and you could also pay for the official audio guides, though we recommend the well-produced, free audio guides from Rick Steves. You could download his app or you can listen to the audio in Itunes or any mp3 player. He offers a free tour of the Forum and one of the Colosseum, as well as other locations throughout Rome. The only missing tour is for Palentine Hill, but there you could use the official audio guide.
Access to the Colosseum’s underground is only possible on a guided tour. Spaces are limited and there is an additional cost for ticket holders. The underground consists of the tunnels, cages, and jail cells where gladiators, prisoners, and exotic animals were kept hidden from the roaring crowd above. Most also include a walk out onto the arena floor, which is also a privilege. This is a must-see for history buffs. Below, we list some of the options available to you. Most of these tours are identical to the general tours mentioned above with the addition of the underground access.
The Colosseum has an official tour of the underground. Tickets for these tours are not easy to come by because many tour companies and 3rd ticket agencies buy up many of the slots. However, it may be worth a try to book the tickets online. One of the advantages of going with the official tour is that you can stay and linger around the Colosseum after your tour is over, something that isn’t possible with outside tours, as they will head to the Forum and Palatine Hill afterward. You will still need to buy the general access ticket, which is €14 with reservation. The additional prices below are for the underground tour. There is an additional €2 fee for preordered tickets (which we highly recommend).
+€9 – adults
+€7 – concession
City Wonders (formerly Dark Rome Tours)
As mention above, City Wonders is a well-reviewed Rome tour company. On their tour, you will be provided with headphones to ensure that you hear your live guide. They also offer 100% money back if you cancel 72 hours or more in advance.
€99 adult | €94 child 4-14 | 0-3 are free
Maximum 25 participants
Daily tours in English 08:20, 09:00, 13:00, and other times by season.
This is another well-reviewed tour company. They offer two underground tours, one capped at 12 participants and another capped at 24. The latter tour comes with headsets so that you can hear your tour guide. They only offer this tour once each day in the morning. They also offer a virtual reality version of this tour.
This post covers the top-rated Bike Tour companies in Rome including review analysis, types of tours offered and prices. You may not have thought of a bike tour of Rome but in such a big city, a bike tour is a fun way to discover the city. Unlike bus tours, you don’t have to deal with traffic! You can get you closer to some of the major sites than with buses. You can experience the smells, sights, and feelings of the city without barriers while seeing more of the city than if you were using the metro system. Walking tours are awesome too, but if you like a little speed and a nice breeze, try a bike tour.
To manage your expectations, make sure you do a little research. Many bike companies offer tours at varying levels of difficulty. For example, if you are a novice rider, don’t sign up for an all-day tour. Or, if you are a cycling expert, don’t sign up for a tour for novices that offers tons of rest stops and basic cycling info. If you are traveling with children or teens, make sure that the tours are appropriate for them. There are so many types of bike tours offered, you will surely found one that is perfect or you!
TIP: Biking around Rome is a great way to burn off calories of all the magnificent Roman cuisine! If you need some tips on where to eat, try our Self-Guided Food Tour. We also recommend that if are thinking of buying a Tourist Discount pass, check out our post comparing the three best Rome discount tourist passes.
This post includes information on the four best Rome tourist passes. We list prices, what’s included, and if they are worth buying. Trying to see all the sights in Rome can feel overwhelming. Between the city museums, archaeological sites, the Vatican, tours, and hop-on, hop-off buses, it’s hard to find the time and money to check off all your must-dos. Fortunately, discount tourist passes can help you save both time and money.
This post compares several Segway tours of Rome, with prices, schedules and, most importantly, an analysis of hundreds of reviews to help you choose the best tour for you. Why a Segway tour? Well, Rome is a big city and using a Segway to see the city, you cover twice as much ground as you would by foot. You catch a nice breeze as you zip along and it’s kind of a neat way to get around! They are affordable to rent, they are safe and fairly easy to use, and a big hit with kids.
Segway Tour companies typically offer History tours, Night Tours and a few niche art tours. All the companies we chose to include in this post have great reviews, and have a high rating for safety and ease of use of the equipment. To help you choose, we’ve analyzed hundreds of reviews from TripAdvisor to quickly get you to the Segway Tour companies that are highly rated and popular. We looked at key factors such as: customer service, safety, guide knowledge, guide enthusiasm, tour value, and group size. (Note: Prices and ratings are as of June 2017.)
The video above is from Italy Segway Tours, one of the largest Segway companies in Rome. The offer a day and a night tour and get stellar reviews on TripAdvisor. Reviewers loved that they didn’t need prior Segway experience to enjoy this tour. They also loved that they were able to cover twice as much ground on a Segway as they did on foot. Most of all, they appreciated the guides’ attention to guest safety. This company only received a few negative reviews, mostly related to weather—something not within their control.
Rome Day Tour € 75 at 9:30 a.m. Daily
Rome Night Tour € 65 at 4:30 p.m. Daily (except Friday and Saturday)
Guests really enjoyed the guides’ knowledge and sense of humor on these tours. A few guests mentioned the appreciated the 30-minute safety demonstration prior to the start of the tour. Guests also mentioned that they felt one-on-one attention from the guides—especially when they didn’t feel completely balanced on their Segways. Everyone also appreciated the helpful tips at the end that included restaurant recommendations.
Rome by Segway only received one negative review on TripAdvisor- quite impressive!
Rome in One Day Tour € 150 at 9:30 a.m. Daily
Rome by Night Tour € 80 at 7:30 p.m. Daily
Vatican + Ancient Tour Combo € 159 at 9:30 a.m. Daily
Ancient Tour € 80 at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Daily
Best of Rome Tour € 80 at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Daily
English-speaking guests loved that the guides were fluent in English. They found all guides to be funny, charming and informative. Reviewers appreciated that the guides did a great job of catering to the needs of everyone in the group. Guests also appreciated seeing the greatest hits in Rome as well as some of the little-known local favorites. Families and couples reviewed this company the highest, while solo travelers trailed behind at a close third. Segway Fun Rome has only received four negative reviews, and none of the reviews had a common theme; all seemed to be one-off issues.
Reviewers appreciated that the guides understood as much about the safety procedures of Segways as they did about the history of Rome. Guides added personal touches to tours with bits of humor and small anecdotes. Many guests commented on the “secret” places they never would have found without their guides. The nighttime Rome tour in particular received great reviews. Guests loved that the city was completely transformed at night. First-time riders and old pros equally enjoyed the tour and felt the 15-minute tutorial at the beginning was just enough time to learn about the equipment. Rolling Rome has never received a negative review!
Ancient Rome € 75 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Daily
Customers reviewed the customer service staff at Segway Rome Tours by stating that they’d never received such amazing customer service before. Reviewers were happy that the guide was flexible enough to wait for late comers. Many customers also commented that the guide was happy to customize the tour to fit the interests of the group. Couples rated this company highest, but families and groups of friends also loved the special attention each guide paid to individual members. Segway Rome Tours has never received a negative rating!
Historic Tour € 75 at 10:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Daily
Lovely Tour € 50 at 10:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Daily
Classic Tour € 50 at 10:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Daily
Bici & Baci specializes in bike, Segway, e-bike, and Vespa tours. Guests loved the variety of the content of tours. Reviewers mentioned specifically that the guides were extremely patient answer questions about the history of Rome and regarding how to use the Segways. One guest even noted that the guide was able to make Rome interesting—even in unseasonably cold weather. This company has only received one negative review for its Segway tours—not enough to make a concise critique.
Imperial Tour € 65 at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. Daily
Borghese Tour € 65 at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. Daily
Baroque Rome € 75 at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. Daily
Trastevere Tour € 75 at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. Daily
Couples reviewed Rex Tours the highest; families were a close second. Guests loved that they could make stops for gelato and wine on this tour and that tours were catered to their individual needs. Guests also mentioned that they were happy to realize they could go virtually anywhere by Segway that they could go on foot. Reviewers specifically mentioned that they loved that the company capped off the groups at a semi-private size. Rex Tours has never received a bad review!
Rome in a Day € 149 (including lunch) 9:30 a.m. Daily
Ancient Rome € 79 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Daily
Rome City € 79 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Daily
Rome by Night € 79 7:30 pm Daily
Trastevere Tour € 79 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Daily
This is a self-guided tour of Vatican City, which is the world’s smallest nation-state. Situated on a large graveyard and featuring a maze of secret tunnels, Vatican City spans 106 acres and is surrounded by a two-mile border. Its building began back in the 4th Century, AD, and it became its own sovereign nation in 1929.
Find out what you should see, what you should skip, and what to expect on this self-guided tour of the Vatican, Rome.
FAQs – VISITING THE VATICAN
When should I visit?
The Vatican Museums are open Monday through Saturday year round. Check the Vatican’s website for special closure information.
Peak season is pretty much year round, except January, February, early December, and late November. Crowds can be especially large in the summer months.
Most times of the day can be extremely crowded. The busiest times are opening until about 3 pm.
What time do the Vatican Museums open/close?
Generally speaking, the museums open at 9 am and close at 6 pm. Check out the Vatican’s website for specific hours.
What should I expect during my visit?
Everyone must go through a security check before entering the Vatican.
The main prohibited items are weapons, knives, umbrellas, and luggage.
There is a coat check available free of charge for coats and large items.
Flash Photography is prohibited.
Drawing or replicating artworks is prohibited; contact the Vatican for special permissions.
Can I/should I bring my kids?
Yes! The staff can assist you in finding elevators and child-friendly routes. Please note that there are quite a few nude sculptures.
What can I wear?
Bare legs and shoulders are forbidden, so don’t wear shorts, tank tops, halter tops, or strapless attire. Bring a shawl if you’re concerned about being turned away.
How long should I plan to stay?
Plan to stay at least four hours in Vatican City, longer during peak seasons.
What are the must-sees for first-time visitors?
Most first-time visitors should plan on checking out the major rooms in the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Can I eat or drink at the Vatican?
You cannot bring food into the Vatican Museums; there are designated places for eating and drinking on the premises. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on site. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants in and around Vatican City, so you won’t need to travel far to eat.
How do I see the Pope?
Attend a private audience with the Pope on Sundays or Wednesdays.
Can I get an audio guide?
Yes! Audio guides are available for €7. Check out audio guide info here.
Can I do a tour of the Vatican?
Yes! A tour is one of the easiest ways to see Vatican highlights. Check out some of our favorite Vatican tours here.
Before entering the Vatican Museums, you’ll arrive in St. Peter’s Square. This massive square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1656 to allow for the massive weekly papal audience. Pope Alexander VII oversaw the project.
One of the main focal points of the square is a large obelisk that stands 25.5 meters tall. It was designed by an Egyptian pharaoh and originally stood in Heliopolis. It was moved to Rome by Caligula in 37 AD. It was moved to its current location in 1586.
This is where you can see the Swiss Guard, the Swiss soldiers who protect Vatican City. You can also pick up Papal tickets here. The Papal Apartments pope’sso be seen from here.
This area was once used by Roman emperor, Nero, for chariot races and Christian persecution—including Peter in 65 AD. It was here that Peter was crucified, and he asked to be crucified upside down because being crucified in the same manner as Jesus felt wrong.
Peter was buried on Vatican Hill—the current site of St. Peter’s Basilica dome.
From here, make your way to the Vatican Museums, which are about a 15 minute walk away.
The Vatican Museums were founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th Century. They are located in Belvedere Palace, the former summer retreat to the Pope. Start your journey in front of the giant pine cone.
Pine Cone Courtyard
This courtyard is appropriately named Pine Cone Courtyard, thanks to the giant larger-than-life pine cone statue that stands in front of Belvedere Palace. The courtyard was constructed by Donato Bramante, though the pine cone was constructed much earlier—nearly 2,000 years ago. It originally stood near the Pantheon and represents, Isis, the god of fertility.
Behind you is a giant sphere that was constructed in 1990 by Arnaldo Pomodoro. Though its meaning is unknown, many speculate that the sphere represents the cosmos.
The two sculptures are very different and represent the old and the new in Vatican City.
The next courtyard is called the Octagonal Courtyard. The most impressive piece of art in this courtyard is the Apollo Bevedere. Apollo was the Greek god of the hunt. Many scholars consider this sculpture to be the most perfect and symmetrical sculpture in the world. It was found during the Renaissance and is thought to have been created around 120 AD. Michelangelo used this sculptor to paint Jesus in “The Last Judgment”.
Also in this room are a statue of the River God, Arno; Laocoon, the man who tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the Greek’s gift of the wooden horse; and several sarcophagi. The River God sarcophagus dates back to 140-150 AD. Laocoon was sculpted by Michelangelo.
Hall of Animals
The next room holds “The Belvedere Torso”. This is the torso Michelangelo modeled his Jesus’s torso after in “The Last Judgment”.
The Round Room
The next room back is also appropriately named. The mosaic floor is 1700 years old and depicts scenes from battle. The giant bath supposedly once belonged to Nero, emperor of Rome. It’s made of imperial porphyry, a purple stone only found in the mountains of Egypt. The room actually had to be built around the bath.
Gallery of the Candelabra
The long gallery behind the Round Room is full of pale marble statues. These statues were once colorful, but their paint has long-since worn away. Many of the statues were adorned with fig leaves from the mid 16th Century to the early 19th Century to give the statues a little modesty.
Two of the most prominent statues are of the Greek goddesses Diana and Artemis. Artemis is the goddess of fertility, and Diana is the goddess of the hunt. Both hunters and farmers used to pray to these statues in hopes of a prosperous year ahead.
Gallery of Tapestries
The next long gallery holds many tapestries that were woven by students of Raphael. These students would sketch their designs on paper before attempting to fashion large-scale tapestries. All the tapestries depict scenes from Christ’s life.
Gallery of Maps
The final long gallery holds 40 maps. These are topographical maps based on Ignazio Dante’s drawings from 1580 to 1583. The ceiling is covered in paintings by Cesare Nebbia and Girolamo Muziano.
To the left are the Raphael Rooms. These rooms include paintings by Raphael and his students. They are broken down into four rooms: Room of the Segnatura, Room of Heliodorus, Room of the Fire in the Borgo, and Room of Constantine.
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most popular sites in Vatican City. This room can get extremely crowded during high seasons. We strongly recommend taking a guided tour of the Vatican Museums that includes early entry to the Sistine Chapel to avoid crowds.
This chapel is the home to the papal conclaves, the group that choses the next Pope. The chapel was finished in 1481 and was designed by Baccio Pontelli. It is named for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it was named. The chapel is most famous for the frescoes that adorn the ceilings and walls, painted by Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, and of course—Michelangelo.
The frescoes on the walls depict scenes from the life of Moses, scenes from the life of Jesus, narratives from Genesis, and the ancestors of Christ.
The ceiling was painted by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. He also painted “The Last Judgment” from 1535 to 1541.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Like St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Bramante. It was also designed by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Maderno.
The church was built on the grave of St. Peter, the first Pope and replaced Old St. Peter’s Basilica that was built in the 4th Century, AD. Old St. Peter’s, which was in dire need of repair, was demolished in the 1500s to allow for the new church to be built in its place. Many of the stones from Old St. Peter’s were used to build the new basilica.
It took over 120 years to build St. Peter’s.
Walk into the atrium. The five bronze doors in front of you were the first works of Roman Renaissance art. They depict several Catholic saints. They are only opened on holy years—every 25 years.
Start to make your way into the nave of the church.
Everything is larger than life in St. Peter’s Basilica. It is almost 114 meters wide. The ornate Baroque interiors were designed as a way to woo churchgoers back to Catholicism during the Counter Reformation.
To the right is Michelangelo’s “Pieta”. It depicts Mary holding the body of Jesus. It sits behind bulletproof glass. He sculpted it in 1499, and it was one of his first major works.
The plaques on the nave floor are etched with the names of famous churches from around the world. They show where the church would end in comparison to St. Peter’s.
Continue walking toward the altar. Stop once you are under the dome. This dome was built by Michelangelo. The dome is one of the largest and most impressive of its kind. It stands almost 450 feet. St. Peter’s tomb is nearby, though it is not visible.
You can visit the top of the dome—accessible by elevator or more than 300 stairs.
The Vatican Gardens are only accessible by guided tour. Check out tours of the Vatican here.
This is a self-guided tour of Rome, which can be completed in 1 or 2 days. The city of Rome has 496-square miles of history, art, architecture, culture, food—and of course, wine. Visiting Rome is a must-do for any world traveler. In this self-guided tour, you’ll hit all the major sites in the city and even get a few breaks for food.
Discover everything the Eternal City has to offer in a Self-Guided Rome tour.
DAY 1 – SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF ROME
Start: Campo de’ Fiori
End: Villa Borghese
DAY 2 – SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF ROME
Start: Circus Maximus
End: Roman Forum
Stop 1: Campo de’ Fiori Market
The Campo de Fiori Market is the perfect place to start your tour—and your day. You can grab a coffee at Obica and maybe even a little snack while you sit outside and watch people coming and going from the market.
This is one of Rome’s most famous markets and a great example of the eclectic and community atmosphere in the city. As you can see, a popular fruit and vegetable market has sprung up in this spot, but this area is full of history.
Originally, it was a meadow. The name literally translates into “field of flowers”. Can you imagine this square as a field of flowers?
These days, this is where Romans might stop at a café or restaurant, as you are doing right now. They can also be seen parading through the market late at night after a few too many glasses of wine. This type of gathering place is very typical in Rome, and you’re experiencing authentic Roman life at this spot.
Yet the square’s origin story is a bit darker that what you might see in modern-day times. The centerpiece of the square is a statue of a monk, Giordano Bruno.
Bruno was a Dominican Priest who had some pretty strange ideas. He believed that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe long before Copernicus did. Can you imagine!
As you might guess, his fellow Romans did not like these ideas, and Bruno ended up fleeing the city. He quickly made friends all over Europe, including a group of Calvinists and Queen Elizabeth. Yet the good times never lasted for long. Bruno’s ideas were just way too ahead of their time.
He was eventually arrested by the inquisition in 1593 and sentenced to death. He was burned to death on the very spot where his statue stands today. The statue was erected by the newly secular government in the 1980s and shows the Roman’s love for resistance, quirky stories, and history.
This wasn’t the only famous historic figured who was murdered in this square. Julius Caesar was stabbed right near the columns in the square.
Okay, maybe it’s a little early in the morning for all this death and mayhem, but these stories really show the diverse layers of Roman history. You’re going to discover all about ancient Rome and modern day times today.
Stop 2: The Pantheon
The Pantheon dates back to 120 AD and is the best preserved structure in Rome. What was the Pantheon made of to ensure such great strength? The crazy thing is that no one knows for sure. Many people believe that material is very similar to the concrete we use today for foundations. The Romans must have been pretty savvy to create concrete over 2,000 years ago.
This amazing structure was erected by Emperor Hadrian. Many scholars believe that this was the exact spot from which Rome’s founder, Romulus, rose into heaven.
The Pantheon’s dome is one of the largest domes in the entire world. Like the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica (check out a free self-guided tour of the Vatican here), this dome also has an oculus at the top. The biggest difference between the Pantheon’s dome and the one at St. Peters? This dome is larger than the one created by Rome’s great artistic and architectural minds in 1506.
The Pantheon has survived wars, raids, and weather. Back in 609 it served as a pagan temple but was saved from demolition because it was transformed into a church. Today, it still serves as a church.
Stop 3: The Trevi Fountain
This fountain is probably one of the most recognizable sites in Rome. If you’ve ever seen a movie that takes place in Rome—including Fellini’s Dolce Vita—you might feel as though you’ve been here before.
The main statue in the fountain depicts the god, Ocean. It was designed by Nicola Salvi and opened in 1762. The plans for the statue started over 300 years earlier. The original fountain was commissioned by Pope Nicholas V in 1453 and later abandoned.
They were resurrected by Pope Urban VIII in the 1600s and was supposed to be designed by famous architect Bernini. Yet when the pope died, the plans were scrapped.
The word Tevi comes from the Latin word, Trivium. This translates into, “The crossing of three streets.” It marks the final point of the Aqua Virgo, a manmade canal that brought water into the city.
As you can imagine, the fountain uses a lot of water–2,824,800 cubic feet per day to be exact. Yet we don’t recommend dancing through the fountain as if you were a character in a Fellini movie. The fountain’s water is recycled every day and isn’t safe for drinking—or dancing for that matter.
All this walking and history has probably worked up an appetite. When in Rome, eat pizza. Head to Antica Pizzeria Fratelli RICCI EST! EST!! EST!!! The restaurant claims to be one of the oldest pizza places in the city.
Originally opened as a bottiglieria (wine shop and bar) in 1888, it began serving Naples-style pizzas in the 1900s. Tear into a pie with fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and tomato sauce. If you want to be authentic, order one with anchovies. Manga!
Stop 6: Spanish Steps
Now it’s time to work off some of that pizza. The Spanish Steps are a well-known meeting place in Rome. They’re also a great place to sit and chat with friends. You can also hike up the 135 steps to the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, a Roman Catholic church consecrated in 1585.
Francesco de Sanctis won the competition to design the steps.
At the bottom of the steps sits the Piazza di Spagna and the Fontana della Barcaccia that translates to “Fountain of the Old Boat”. The fountain was designed by Pietro Bernini. It depicts a sinking boat that supposedly washed ashore here in a flood in the 16th Century.
Despite their name the Spanish Steps were not built by the Spanish; they were built by the French. Many tourists use them to access the Villa Medici at the top.
Near the bottom of the steps is the Keats Museum, where famous poet John Keats lived and died.
Stop 7: Villa Medici
Completed in 1544, the Villa Medici was once home to the Messalina family, who was murdered in the structure. The building was renamed for Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici when he purchased the property in 1576.
When the last of the Medici heirs died in 1737, the building was bequeathed to Françoise-Stéphane Duke of Lorraine and then to Pierre-Leopold, who turned the building a gallery.
Finally, the building became an academ for French artists in 1803.
Stop 8: Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese is home to the third-largest public park in Rome. It is home to the Galleria Borghese and several other museums and galleries.
Built in 1605 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, most of the grounds were reimagined in the 19th Century as an English garden. In addition to the museums, there is a zoo and a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater on the grounds.
Stop 9: Vatican City
Vatican City and its museums can get very crowded in the morning, so afternoon might be the best time to visit, depending on the time of year. If you want to do a self-guided tour of the Vatican, check out our tour here.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can’t really be toured in a day either. If you want to see more of Rome in less time, consider taking a bike or bus tour instead. The hop-on, hop-off buses get you close to most of these sites, so you can cover more ground in less time.
Stop 10: Circo Maximus
If you’ve ever seen the movie Roman Holiday, you’re familiar with the Mouth of Truth. This is the mask that Gregory Peck claims has mystical powers. If you tell a lie while placing your hand inside the mouth, it will be bitten. Off. He and Audrey Hepburn give it a try and end up surprising each other with their stellar senses of humor.
Historically speaking, there’s not a lot that’s known about the Mouth of Truth. Historians believe this 660-pound disc may represent Oceanus, the sea god. Some believe that the disc was used as a drain cover in the Temple of Hercules Invictus.
We happen to like the Roman Holiday origin story, ourselves. Yet be careful trying to test out the Mouth of Truth’s supernatural powers yourself. Touching ancient artifacts is generally frowned upon in Rome.
Stop 11: Colosseum
One of the most recognizable ancient sites in Rome, the Colosseum is famous for attracting tourists—and creating traffic jams. Built in 70 AD, this giant donut-shaped structure was once where gladiators battled animals—and often each other—to entertain the upper echelons of Roman society.
As you walk through this structure, think about how half a million people lost their lives in these battles here. The Colosseum is truly sacred ground.
It was built by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty that ruled Rome from 69 to 96 AD. It only took 10 years for enslaved Jews to build the Colosseum.
50,000 people could watch these “festivities” from the stands above. As you walk through the ground level, imagine 80 trapdoors forcing animals and gladiators out into the arena.
The “games” ended around 435 AD. The Colosseum has been used as an arena for animal hunts, a castle, and a religious headquarters.
In 1349 a massive earthquake destroyed much of the Colosseum, and the stone was salvaged to be used in other major buildings around the city, including St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Colosseum is very large and gets extremely crowded. Check out some of the walking tours that can get you through this structure in good timing. Consider taking a Colosseum night tour; there are fewer crowds and a beautiful but earie atmosphere when the Colosseum is lit up at night.
Stop 12: The Roman Forum
Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. Tickets to both the Colosseum and the Forum are often sold together, so this is a good activity to do right after your Colosseum visit.
The Roman Forum—or the Forum as it was called by locals—was a gathering place in ancient Rome. Much of Roman life took place in this 250-meter-by-170-meter space. People gathered here for the market, government business, legal issues, religious services and social gatherings.
The structures were built over the course of centuries, and one of the oldest structures was built in 29 BC. But the area wasn’t used as a Forum until about 800 BC. It stopped being used as such in around 600 CE.
Many of the structures stood until 847 CE, when the remaining buildings and arches came tumbling down in an earthquake. Much of what was left was taken by Medieval architects and builders to repurpose in other structures around Rome.
The ruins were excavated by archaeologist Carlo Fea in 1803. The Forum wasn’t totally excavated until 100 years after Fea began the project.
The Forum takes quite a long time to explore, so we recommend checking out our self-guided Roman Forum walking tour here or taking a tour of the forum. Check out our post on walking tours in Rome to find which Roman Forum tours are the best.
Rome has hundreds of square miles of sites to see and thousands of years of history to explore. Combining this self-guided Rome tour with a Rome bus, bike, walking or food tour can help you get the most out of your trip.
This is a self-guided food tour of Rome. Pasta, pizza, gelato…. oh my! There’s plenty to ingest in the Eternal City, and sometimes it’s hard to decide where to spend each precious mealtime. Discover some of Rome’s best eats, Rome’s best gelato, and Rome’s best wine. The walk itself takes a little over an hour—perfect time to walk off some of those carbs. The longest leg of the tour takes you to the last stop, gelato.
If you find yourself too stuffed to go on, try checking out a food tour of Rome. Tour guides will offer you manageable plenty of good advice for where to eat after your tour.
Volpetti – Best Cheese in Rome
In Rome, Cheese is everywhere. You can’t walk two feet without stumbling over some great pecorino, parmesan or burrata—soft mozzarella. One of the best places in Rome to sample cheeses is Volpetti. This salumeria has been open for over 40 years and has been run by the Volpetti family, starting with brothers Emilio and Claudio before being passed down to Alessandro.
You could lose hours in this shop, so ask the staff what’s good that day. They also have a large selection of meats and balsamic vinegars—the perfect accompaniment to any Italian cheese.
Da Felice a Testaccio – Best Cacio e Pepe in Rome
One of Rome’s most famous dishes, cacio e pepe, is also one of its most simple ones. Simply translated into cheese and pepper, long strands of bucatini or spaghetti are doused in piles of shaved cheese and generously sprinkled with pepper.
Opened in 1936, Da Felice a Testaccio has an old-world feel. The floors are covered in black-and-white tiles, and the walls are made of exposed brick.
The restaurant has gotten some press over the past decade, so prices have increased due to popular demand. The quality and intimate space have mostly stayed the same.
One of the must-eats in Rome includes pizza, which is good because there’s plenty of it. You’ll find a large array of pizza in the city, from old-world style to grandma style to hyped-up fancy pies. Da Remo is one of the best old-world pizzerias in Rome.
The crust is thin and chewy with a little char around the edges. The dough is topped with a thin layer of sauce and rustic slices of mozzarella. You can get thin slices of salami on top or shaved mushrooms and sausage.
Head across the Tiber to the Trastevere, a trendy neighborhood that’s famous for its restaurants, art, and fashion.
I Supplì – Best Suppli in Rome
When in Sicily, eat arancini; when in Rome, devour as many suppli as you can get your paws on. Suppli is the cousin to arancini, little balls of fried risotto and cheese. Suppli gets its name because it’s a suped-up version of arancini. Just kidding. But no, really. They usually add yumminess like tomato sauce to these little fried treats. Gooey mozzarella oozes out of the center.
This place was opened by former stock brokers, who left their high-powered jobs in search of a more humble existence—and never looked back.
La Norcineria Lacozzilli – Best Porchetta in Rome
Three generations of Romans work side-by-side at this popular spot to grab a porchetta sandwich. This crumbly, tender, juicy pork can be eaten atop a soft bun or devoured on a white pizza. If you’re a purist, order a few slices to nosh on your way to your next slice of pizza.
Ai Marmi – Best Roman-Style Pizza in Rome
Okay, okay, so you can’t just have one best pizza in Rome. Ai Marmi offers rustic pizzas with traditional ingredients. Here, try the sausage and zucchini blossom pizza that will set you back a whopping €8. If you’re feeling a need for a veggie, you can get a cheese pizza topped with greens here, too.
Eat out on the street, so you can people watch as you devour your second pizza of the day.
Cross back over the Tiber to the Jewish Quarter.
Giggetto al Portico D’Ottavia – Best Fried Artichoke in Rome
Italians are lauded for a variety of foods; pasta, seafood, and desserts especially to come to mind. Two foods the Romans know best are artichokes and fried foods. Why not have the best of both worlds?
The Jewish quarter churns out some of the best food in the city, and they’ve perfected the fried artichoke at Giggetto al Portico D’Ottavia. Not a lot of travellers know the origins of their favorite Roman foods and that a lot of it comes from Jewish cuisine.
This Jewish eatery has been open since 1923 and is famous for more than its artichoke. Their carbonara (another Roman favorite!) is favored by both tourists and locals.
Yet it is the fried artichoke that shines here. Both smooth and crunchy at the same time, fried artichokes go great with a Peroni or glass of Pinot grigio.
ZUM Roma – Best Tiramisu in Rome
In Rome, do don’t eat just one dessert. That’s why we’re encouraging you to eat a few on this tour. If you want to try some of Rome’s best tiramisu (layered cream, Gentilini biscuits, and chocolate), head 10 minutes northwest.
Tiramisu comes in an array of flavors here, including berry, pistachio, and rum. The Gentilini biscuits are a little bit of a detour from the traditional lady fingers, but the results are magical.
Four minutes north of ZUM is our first wine stop. It probably goes without saying that you can’t take a trip to Rome without enjoying some wine.
This place makes our list because you can taste some really fantastic Italian wines here—and it has an old-world, of-the-beaten-path feel to it.
One lone café table sits outside if you’re the people-watching type. Inside, the tasting room is covered in wine bottles and is dotted with a few simple wooden tables. The wines by the glass menu is small, but you can buy any of the bottles on the wall to share with a friend (or keep all to yourself).
Canova Tadolini – Best Coffee in Rome
If you’re in a carb coma by now, you can duck out. But if you’ve been saving room for (more) dessert, head north to the Spanish Steps. There’s some great coffee and people watching up there.
Café Canova is the quintessential Italian café. Umbrellaed tables line the streets. The inside is a menagerie of statues, busts, and paintings. Gold velour couches offer the perfect place to visit with friends or nurse an espresso alone.
For Rome’s best gelato, you’ll need to head across the Tiber.
Gelateria dei Gracchi – Best Gelato in Rome
This intimate shop serves up some of Rome’s best gelato. All flavors are made with fresh ingredients, which means there’s plenty of seasonal flavors. We recommend trying the ricotta and the pistachio. Even Anthony Bourdain found this place to be one of the best in Rome and featured it on his show, “The Layover”.
Smooth and creamy, this gelato is so good, you’ll want to order two: One for now and another for the road.
Tracking down some of the best food in Rome isn’t easy. You can find even more good eats on a Rome food tour. Most guides can give you the scoop on these stops and recommend a few of their own. Check out our favorite Rome food tours here.