If you love history, you certainly will never be bored in Rome. In fact, if you love color, just walking around the city will be entertaining enough! We had no idea that the city would have so much color and tropical plants, so it really took us by surprise, especially after spending time in Florence. You can see my Florence travel guide here in case you missed it.
We arrived by train and spent four nights in the city. This was our first time in Rome, so we spent a lot of time crossing off those must-see places from our bucket list. We definitely didn’t get to everything we wanted to see and will just have to go back.
Here’s what we did during our first time in Rome including what we loved and a few things we would never do again:
What to See in Rome
Rome has several fountains you can explore and the Trevi was one of my favorites. While you can toss a penny in and snap a photo in front, you can also explore the archeological aqueduct right around the corner.
My suggestion for visiting with a smaller crowd is to go first thing in the morning. We went in the afternoon and we might as well have been in Times Square. I would not go back in the afternoon if we didn’t have to!
It really is hard to comprehend the age and magnitude of the Pantheon, even when you’re looking directly at it. Completed in the year 125 (!), you won’t want to skip out on this while you’re visiting Rome! We made our appointments online in advance and had no wait.
3. San Luigi dei Francesi Church
Right next to the Pantheon is this incredible church. Inside you’ll find works from Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio. It’s free to enter but they do have specific hours so check those before you head over.
If you’re looking for a colorful and unique neighborhood, the Trastevere is the one! This was one of my favorite places we explored and I would most likely look for a hotel in this area on our next trip to Rome. Walk around, color hunt, even pop into a cute pub or shop along the way.
We watched the movie Roman Holiday before taking our trip, so stopping by the Spanish Steps was a must. This again was another site swarming with people, so if you want to experience this space without a crowd, be sure to get here first thing in the morning.
There’s a reason it’s considered a wonder of the world and you should definitely cross it off your list! The Colosseum is even older than the Pantheon, and is the largest standing amphitheater in the world today.
You’ll need to book your tickets in advance if you want to go inside. This is a lesson we learned the hard way. We planned to buy tickets in person same day and were unable and unfortunately had to miss out. Absolutely book everything + make reservations in advance if you’re able!
If you want to get that perfect photo that’s not full of people, but don’t want to get there super early, head to the walls near Colosseo Metro. You’ll be at a higher vantage point and will be able to get better and cleaner photos, free of crowds!
Or I guess a better title for this section would be where NOT to stay in Rome. Because despite it being beautifully designed, and the fact we stayed here FOR FREE with our credit card points, we hated staying at The Hoxton. Hate is a strong word, but I stand by the fact that staying here made our time in Rome not as enjoyable.
Strike One: Location wise it is far away from anything you’d want to do or eat on your first time in Rome. We either had to take a cab everywhere or factor in an additional 40 minute walk just to get to the start of our day. That’s my fault for not researching more, but the cost really did add up. The neighborhood was lacking in any decent food. We had about 3 different bad meals before realizing we would have to leave the hotel area anytime we wanted to eat.
Strike Two: They didn’t have any basic amenities, like an iron or steamer. We called down to the desk to see if they had one and ended up waiting 45 minutes only for it to never show up. It made us miss a time window we had for sightseeing. For a hotel that is focused on aesthetics, they don’t really care about guest experience.
Strike Three: Our first night the fire alarm went off at 11:30pm. We rushed out of bed, got our documents and went to exit the building. Upon getting to the lobby, the staff was all standing around while others were having drinks in the lobby. Nobody communicated anything to us or the other hotel guests, not even in Italian. We just stood in our pajamas in the lobby like idiots without any direction. If it had been an actual fire, my confidence that they would’ve been able to handle it, so pretty low.
Where to Eat in Rome
1. Emma– make sure to make a reservation ahead of time
2. Giolitti for gelato- this worked for what we wanted/where we were in the city. Florence gelato still is #1 in my book!
3. Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina
I definitely want a food re-do, so if you have any favorite places to eat in Rome, let me know in the comments!
We also took a private 6 hour pasta making class during one of our days in Rome and it was so lovely! We made two types of stuffed pasta and a dessert and ate with our instructors. I’m so excited to make handmade tortellini as part of our holiday traditions now!
You can find the class we took here! It’s located in the Trastevere neighborhood, so you can walk around and explore after you fill up on homemade pasta.
Shopping in Rome
Lela– I really could’ve spent a lot of money in Lela. From dried flowers to candles, textiles to homewares and more, I loved this shop. Everything felt so romantic and the price point was affordable. I picked up a few cloth napkins, a table runner, and a candle and would absolutely go back tomorrow!
Thrifting in Rome was a trip highlight! I’m only kicking myself for not packing a second suitcase to bring things home with me. I ended up getting a painting for 11 Euro that was a journey and a half to get home (more on this later). Such a great stop if you love thrifting and are looking for that unique souvenir!
So that’s it for our first time in Rome! Let me know if you have any questions about anything. The last stop on our honeymoon was the Amalfi coast and I can’t wait to share those travel guides with you soon!