Given my previous reaction to Roman architecture, to say I was excited about heading to the place where it all began is an understatement. Visiting Rome, a city which documents over 3,000 years of history, was incredible. From discovering the old to finding the new, it was a fantastic adventure and though there was an insane amount to see, I somehow managed to fit it all into a few days. To help you plan your trip, I created a 1-day guide to Rome so that you know what to prioritize during a short visit. The guide includes information on how to plan your visit to hit most of the major sites as well as where to eat and enjoy the city like a local. In the mean time here's a list of what I believe are the 5 best things about Rome:
Overlooking the Circus Maximum on one side and the Roman Forum on the other, mythology and geography place Palatine Hill at the center of Roman history. It is the location where Romulus and Remus were kept alive through infancy by the she-wolf and it is quite literally the centermost hill within Rome's legendary seven. A visitor could easily spend the greater part of a day taking in Palatine Hill and the Forum (a combined monument entrance) and within its walls visitors will be able to enjoy exploring the remains of former palaces, homes, frescos, churches, and more.
Things to know: The area is quite large, so make sure to pack water and snacks (or even a lunch). You can enjoy your refreshments throughout the monumental area, just make sure to clean up after yourself. There is so much history within Palatine Hill I strongly recommend at minimum getting the 6€ audio guide or, if you're willing to splurge, getting an official guide.
Pro-tip: Your Colosseum or Palatine Hill ticket is a combination ticket for the Colosseum as well as Palatine Hill and The Forum. It's valid for one entry to each monument and can be used over two days, so don't forget to visit both!
As I day dream about Italy my mind wanders to cappuccinos, gelatos, and pasta. My worry going into the trip was that these things might break the bank; luckily for me, they did not. There are loads of great spots for 1€ coffees, a few euro gelatos, and surprisingly even inexpensive pasta.
My first night in town I discovered La Famiglia where I got a great tortellini bolognese and quite a bit of wine for 13€. It was solid and crazy cheap for a sit down restaurant. I highly, highly recommend it. Just make sure you're actually at the La Famiglia on Via Gaeta (Via Gaeta, 66). If you're not careful, you could end up around the corner at the almost identical Ristorante Famiglia. I can't speak for it's food, but I grabbed the last table at La Famiglia and would have been the only patron at Ristorante Famiglia. This is one time it's good advice to follow the crowds.
One of the reasons I love my home-city of Barcelona is its endless number of squares, within which one can enjoy the sunshine, a meal, a coffee, or even just a good book. My favorite square in Rome and a top-5 place to visit is Piazza Navona.
The square itself is actually one large oval with the very famous Fountain of Four Rivers in its center and benches, restaurants, and a church on the surrounding edges. Head to Piazza Navona for a break from all of your walking and, if you're inclined, enjoy a coffee or a drink at one of the outdoor seats at a surrounding restaurant. To splurge on a beverage with a view, head up to the Terrace Bramante bar at the Hotel Raphael.
Before visiting Rome I'd heard about the Trevi Fountain and knew I had to toss a coin into it (with my right hand over my left shoulder) to ensure my future return to Rome. As I headed that way, I was expecting to see a regular old fountain. When I turned the corner I was floored by the 85 by 165 foot structure towering over the crowds!
Even though its age pales in comparison to most of the surrounding monuments (its construction began in 1732), the Trevi Fountain is absolutely stunning and a must visit location within Rome. Want to know a fun fact? An average of 3,000 Euros/day are thrown into Trevi. The coins are removed daily and the money is used to support local charity work (but there have also been a number of looters who have been caught over the last few decades).
Alright, this one actually encompasses a few of my favorite things about Rome. The fact that Rome is right smack dab in the middle of Italy, makes it the perfect home-base for Italian day trips. Just a walk away one can visit Vatican City (a must!) and cross off two countries in a day.
In an hour one can be on the coast visiting the 2,700 year old ruins town of Ostia Antica.
Or, the adventurer wishing to explore some of the larger cities within Italy could be in Milan, Venice, Napels, or Florence in just a few hour's train ride (or an hour by plane).
No matter how much time you have, at least a quick stop in Rome is an absolute must. The city is filled with rich history, delicious food, and pretty incredible architectural and engineering feats. Whether or not Rome was on the list, it should be now. I hope you enjoy all that there is to do and everything that there is to see!