17 Fun Things to Do in Rome for First Time Visitors

17 Fun Things to Do in Rome for First Time Visitors

There are so many things to do in Rome that you could easily get overwhelmed. Don't sweat! Here are 17 fun things to do in Rome for first time visitors.

Contributed by copycarla

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” – Giotto di Bondone

rome things to do first timePassing by St. Peter’s Square

Nothing like a visit to Rome to make you feel insignificant amidst the massive structures left over from a mighty empire. Hail Caesar! The history is just amazing. Like getting roundhouse-kicked by Chuck Norris in the face. Everything makes your jaw drop. Massive stone structures and buildings and sculptures. It’s too much for someone to take in just a few days.

We arrived by train at the Roma Termini Station. From there we took a taxi to our hostel which was in a quiet neighbourhood outside Vatican City. You can easily take Bus 64 to and from Termini to and from Vatican City and it’s surrounding area. Well, you don’t really have a choice because that’s the only bus that goes there to our ‘hood.

A very early and blurry morning shot of Roma Termini Train Station

Also read: Travel by Style: 8 Europe Itineraries for 8 Types of Travellers

Given our experience with directions, we took a cab to make sure that we won’t be getting lost again. Our apartment was very accessible from St. Peter’s Square with an awesome view of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at night. We loved our quaint, quiet neighbourhood without the hoards of tourists. Also, there was a convenience store about a block away that fresh fruits, yogurt, cold cuts, cheese and Lucky Me Instant Noodles in Bulalo flavour. What?! A Filipino can only have so much pasta and bread before the cravings start. Anyhow, read more about our accommodations here: Where To Stay In Rome.

Rome is a massive city. With the heat, the cobblestones and the crazy drivers, I don’t recommend walking around. If you can take the bus to save energy, do it. The 24 hour pass that’s EUR 6 per person is totally worth it ‘cos most of the sights and attractions require a lot of walking up and down flights of stairs and long corridors. Take care of your feet, you’ll need them for the rest of the trip.

Case in point, steps upon steps upon steps under the heat of the sun

So this time, I had a checklist but even that was incomplete. It’s impossible to see everything in a week. Of course, I would never disrespect or belittle a place by spending only a few moments to bask in its glory. There’s just too much of everything.

1. See the Trevi Fountain

rome things to do first timeAin’t that a beauty? Totally awesome!

There is no possible way to get close to the Trevi Fountain unless you go at 6am in the morning. There were so many people. Like I can’t even begin to describe the mass of humanity in the area but it’s still worth the visit. It’s so horribly crowded so you better watch your bags because pickpockets are everywhere. Good thing that the Fontana di Trevi is so massive ( 85 ft. high and 65 ft. wide) that from any angle you can take a decent shot.

History Lesson: Under the Trevi flows one of Rome’s ancient aqueducts – Acqua Vergine. Completed in 1762, the fountain shows a figure called “Oceanus” riding a giant clam shell. He represents all kinds of water forms. To the right side is Triton, Poseidon’s son (Roman mythology people) blowing a conch shell. Why they’re riding winged horses escapes me.

Also read: Pont du Gard Aqueduct: Ancient Rome’s Engineering Ingenuity

2. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain

According to legend, if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder with your back to the Trevi, this will ensure your return to Rome. Since I would rather not elbow my way to the front, I did my own version of that legend by throwing a coin from the second level over the heads of hundreds of tourists. Thankfully, I did not hit anyone in the face.

3. Visit the Pantheon

Pantheon, RomeWeee so many tourists! Falling in line is awesome…

This hulking structure dates back to 126 AD and remains one of the best-preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. Before the current building was a structure commissioned by Marcus Agrippa (whose name is on the building now) at around 27 BC – 14 AD. Now that’s old.  Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. Today, it’s a Catholic church with regular masses and all.

4. Take a selfie under Pantheon Dome

Pantheon, RomeBut first, let me take a selfie or dome-fie…

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. So this thing is definitely a big deal.

5. Climb up and down the Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps, RomeSo, you wanna hang out up there?

This monumental flight of stairs was completed back in 1725, which is probably also the same number of tourists sitting on the steps at any given day. Since it’s located in Piazza di Spagna, one of the main shopping districts of Rome, it’s a stroke of luck if you can find a spot for yourself. Also, since it’s so hot during the day, it doesn’t make sense to hang out here. The steps are really steep so climb with care, you don’t want to fall face first in someone’s gelato.

6. Traipse around the Roman Forum

Roman Forum, RomeMy feet hurt, my back hurt, I was sweating buckets but hey, the view was worth it.

The Roman Forum is a large plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings. Since it’s at the centre of the city and was the heart of Ancient Rome, it used be the most happening place in the world back in the day. The Forum is also a mini-city in size. Wear comfortable shoes ‘cos the terrain goes from rocky to grassy to cobblestones in like no time.

7. Eat Grom Gelato

Grom Gelato, RomeSicilian Lemon and Crema de Grom

I probably ate worth my weight in gelato while going around Italy ‘cos it was hot and there was a gelato store in every corner. Who am I kidding, I just wanted to eat ice cream, lots of it. Everyone kept raving about Grom so off we went looking for this store in one of the side streets. The line was long. The staff friendly. The gelato real good but expensive. Everything in Rome is expensive, like seriously. Oh yeah, the Crema de From (made from egg cream, biscuits and dark chocolate) was hella good.

8. Walk across St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter's Square, Rome

The Forum Sancti Petri is the large plaza outside St. Peter’s Basilica where the Pope holds audience. Designed by Bernini, the space is surrounded by colonnades that according to him “embraces visitors in the maternal arms of Mother Church”. In the middle is a large Egyptian Obelisk that dates back to 2494 BC – 2345 BC. It’s humongous, like the size of about several football fields. Walk slowly and take in everything. Take pictures too.

9. Get a night Shot of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

St. Peter's Basilica Dome, Rome

Right outside our apartment, you’ll find a awesome sight. Zero tourists and the beautiful view of the Basilica Dome against the night sky.

10. Climb the steps of Il Vittoriano

Il Vittoriano, Rome

Il Vittoriano or the Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. So being a stranger to Italian history, I have no idea what this building was about. We just followed the crowd and ended up here.

11. Visit the Colosseum

Colosseum, Rome

Built in 72 AD, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built, and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. Back in the day it could hold an estimated audience of almost 80,000. Ancient Romans used to head down here to watch gladiator fights, executions and other public spectacles. Over time, earthquakes and stone robbers have broken down this iconic structure that symbolises Imperial Rome. After lining up and climbing up, the first glimpse leaves you open-mouthed and speechless.

Also read: 24 Gorgeous Architectural Wonders That You Simply Have to See in Your Lifetime

12. Do a Russel Crow Gladiator speech at the Colosseum “Are you not entertained?!?!?!”

Yeah well, as an extreme movie geek, I could not resist. Ehem,

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Still one of the best movies ever.

13. Have some pizza…a lot…

Rome

Like most pizza places in Italy, they bake it in large rectangular slabs, cut slices, weigh them and charge you by the gram. We stumbled upon this place accidentally and ended up clearing the joint. One small square slice is not enough. The cook and cashier loved us.

14. Eat even more gelato

Right around the corner from the pizza place was another Gelateria with a long line. What did we do? Lined up too. My god, ice cream in this part of the world is TO DIE FOR.

15. Order some Porchetta

Rome

Porchetta, or a huge slab of boneless pork belly, is considered by some department of the Italian government as “traditional agricultural-alimentary product”, one of a list of traditional Italian foods held to have cultural relevance. In other words, this piece of meat is a big freakin’ deal.

On the way back to the apartment, one of the restaurants had a huge display of this beautiful creation. After being away from home for almost a month, visions of Lechon Belly were dancing in my head. So I ordered a sandwich  from the Italian lady who loved it when I called her Mama. She liked me so much that she gave me a plate of skin to try. While very tender and crispy, it did not have any taste at all. I am so used to the juicy, salty, spicy and savoury Cebu Lechon flavour that this Porchetta could not live up to. Plus, they serve it in a crusty bun with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was definitely something new. I am so sorry to Italians all over but oh well, it is what it is. Still, it was super cool to have tried this dish.

16. Do as the Romans do

After all the eating and sightseeing, I could generally say that I did good on my first visit. They say when in Rome, so I did. Haha inside joke. I’ll tell you all about it next time.

17. Leave Rome

I came, I saw, I sort of conquered.

Also read: Insider Tips Every Traveller Going to Europe Should Know

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Carla Marie Adlawan

Carla Adlawan is a Wanderer, Copywriter, Teacher, Metalhead, Geek, Street rat and Cebuano. When not traipsing around the globe, she spends her time writing copy, doing consultancy work and teaching USC students about zombie survival tips. No, not really, she teaches advertising but that doesn't sound as exciting. Read about her adventures with food and travel over at Jeepney Stop Chillin'.

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