Good food in Rome is everywhere, and you are bound to find something that will satisfy your taste buds.
Food is a huge part of Italian culture, and people who visit Italy surely enjoy trying its most famous staples. If you are traveling to Rome, you should make sure to try the local staples. But beware! There’s so much more to Italian food than just pasta and pizza – each region has its own local specialties, and food is so local that villages that are a mere 5 km apart cook the same dish differently.
Food in Rome is unique and there is little doubt that eating is one of the best things to do in Rome. You are bound to heave heard about some of its more famous dishes such as “spaghetti alla carbonara”; but others will sound completely new to you. Yet, you should try them.
Roman cuisine is earthy, simple and yet full of flavor. Mouthwatering dishes are created using only a handful of ingredients which are paired so well that they will send your tastebuds to heaven. These dishes are the proof that the key to good food is using just the right amount of very high quality local ingredients.
In this post, I highlight all the staples of food in Rome that you should try, and share some tips to make sure that you can select the best places to eat you don’t fall for the tourist traps.
Nothing beats a good carbonara when in Rome
The Best Food In Rome: All The Dishes You Should Try
Think of Italian food, and the first thing that comes to mind is pasta – and rightly so. Pasta is a serious business here. Mind you: there is no such thing as “fettuccine Alfredo” (ask Italians, and they’d tell you they have no idea who Alfredo is) and chicken on pasta is pretty much illegal.
We are pretty much pasta Nazis. We believe (no, wait: we demand) that each sauce is meant to be paired with a specific shape of pasta.
Roman cuisine has some excellent pasta dishes that you should try. Here they are.
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe
Tonnarelli are egg noodles similar in shape to spaghetti. They are usually paired with cacio e pepe, to make one of the most famous dishes of Roman food – tonnarelli cacio e pepe. I must admit that of all the food in Rome, this is my absolute favorite.
The dish literally has just 3 ingredients – pasta noodles, grated pecorino cheese and black pepper. Yet, making it isn’t exactly easy.
Different people prepare cacio e pepe differently, but the original recipe suggests to mix and stir grated pecorino cheese and a bit of black pepper with a bit of the water you boil the pasta in, until it becomes creamy. Then, toss the pasta in, stir a bit more and enjoy.
For the best restaurants to each cacio e pepe, click here.
Spaghetti or Rigatoni alla Carbonara
Here’s a secret: carbonara sauce is creamy though it doesn’t have any cream in it. It just calls for guanciale (cured pork jowl), grated pecorino romano cheese, egg yolk and black pepper. For some reason, many even in Italy don’t get it right and still use pancetta (which comes from the belly of the pig, rather than the cheek) – to the horror of the most famous chefs.
The perfect spaghetti alla carbonara are prepared by quickly frying guanciale in a pan, while egg yolks are whisked with grated pecorino cheese. Once the spaghetti are cooked – as always, al dente – they are thrown in a bowl with a bit of the water they’ve been cooking in, the mixture of egg yolk and pecorino, and guanciale. The heat of the pasta and of the water cooks the eggs just enough for a perfect creamy texture.
Bucatini are a sort of thick, long, hollow spaghetti that are actually complicated to eat without making a dirty mess – but they are so tasty when paired with amatriciana sauce, that they are totally worth it. Amatriciana sauce – which actually originates from the small town of Amatrice, in Lazio – is a thick tomato sauce prepared with olive oil, guanciale, extra dry white wine and chillies. Once the bucatini are cooked, they are tossed in the sauce. Add grated pecorino cheese for perfection.
Bucatini or Spaghetti alla Gricia
Once again, pecorino cheese and guanciale are the main features of a staple food in Rome. If possible, gricia is even simpler than carbonara and amatriciana, as it only calls for two ingredients: pecorino and guanciale. These two really stand on their own in this delicious pasta dish, so you can taste their earthy, mouth filling flavor.
Rigatoni con la Pajata
Pajata – unweaned veal intestines isn’t exactly for anyone, but if you want to try local food, few things get as traditional as rigatoni con la pajata. Intestines are cooked in a tomato sauce for a very long time and served with rigatoni. Nothing screams Roman food more than this.
Gnocchi alla Romana
Completely different from the potatoes and flour gnocchi you may have heard of, gnocchi alla romana are made with semolina cooked in milk, mixed with eggs and finally grilled with abundant butter and parmesan cheese until they become crispy. They aren’t often found in restaurants, but when they are make sure to go for it!
Italians call meat and fish dishes “secondi” because they are usually served as a second course, right after pasta. The following are a few great secondi that you will encounter among Roman food.
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Saltimbocca translates as “jumps in your mouth” – and you’d honestly wish they did. These lovely veal cutlets layered with prosciutto and topped with fresh sage are pan fried and must be eaten hot. Bread is the perfect accompaniment to dip in the delicious juice.
Coda alla Vaccinara
One of the tastiest meat dishes of Roman cuisine is coda alla vaccinara. This is a stew made by slowly braising ox-tail with lots of vegetables, tomatoes, red wine and spices. It’s messy and delicious. It calls for a good portion of bread to scoop up all the sauce.
Abbacchio alla Scottadito
Scottadito literally means “burning your fingers” – that’s because this dish of lamb cutlets that are pan seared are meant to be eaten with your hands only. It’s a seasonal dish: Italians wouldn’t dream of eating lamb in the summer.
One of the staples of Roman food is offal. Back in the day when Europe’s largest slaughterhouse was functioning just on the banks of the Tiber River, workers were often paid in left over cuts (known as quinto quarto) of meat and ended up creating some of the most famous local dishes.
Trippa (tripe) is the honey-combed upper stomach of the cow, slowly simmered in tomato sauced and served with grated pecorino cheese. When it comes to food in Rome, few dishes are so full of flavor – that is, if you can stand the texture.
Filetti di Baccalà
Another staple of Roman Jewish cuisine, cod (or baccalà, in Italian) is dipped in a light batter and fried, then served piping hot. You’ll find the best one at dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara, near Campo de’ Fuori.
Pollo con i Peperoni
Chicken is not very common among traditional Roman food, so this quick chicken stew is a welcome change. It’s made with diced chicken that is pan seared in olive oil with salt and pepper. Wine and ripe, diced tomatoes are added. Bell peppers are cooked in a different pan with oil, diced onion and tomatoes. Once they are ready, they are added to the chicken. Everything is stewed for five more minutes. The dish is served piping hot and it’s meant to be eaten with bread.
Fagioli con le cotiche
Pork grind is cooked in water until soft, then beans and tomatoes are added. The end result is delicious. It’s one of the most famous dishes of Roman cuisine.
Coratella coi Carciofi
As many other traditional dishes of Roman cuisine, this one is made using the “quinto quarto” – which refers to those parts of the animal that were left once the good cuts were all sold to the most affluent people. Coratella is made using the heart, lungs, and other insides. These are cooked with artichokes. It’s usually served as an appetizer or as a side to meat dishes. I know it sounds weird and not exactly appetizing, but locals swear by it.
Carciofi (artichokes) are a staple of Roman cuisine
A lot of food in Rome is made with vegetables. Some dishes are vegan or vegetarian. Others, however, aren’t. In some cases, you may ask to have a vegetarian version.
Carciofi alla Giudìa
The Jewish Ghetto of Rome has developed its own kosher recipes and carciofi alla giudìa certainly are one of the most famous dishes of Roman kosher cuisine. Artichokes are beaten till mostly flat, then deep fried.
Carciofi alla Romana
Not to be confused with carciofi alla giudìa, in this case artichokes are stuffed with garlic, parsley, mint and pepper, then braised until they literally melt in your mouth.
This mouthwatering salad dish is made with the sprouts of chicory that are served raw and seasoned with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic and anchovies.
Usually found in trattorie, this Roman food is made by lightly frying chicory in olive oil with garlic and chillies. It’s a fantastic side dish and it’s perfect for vegans.
Fiori di Zucca
Nothing beats good fiori di zucca in the summer. Zucchini flowers are stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, dipped in a batter made with flour and very cold sparkling water or beer, and then deep fried. They are absolutely delicious and one of the best food in Rome. If you want the vegetarian version just ask to keep out the anchovies.
Pizza al taglio is the perfect street food
Street food and sweets
Supplì al telefono are one of the most famous dishes of Roman cuisine. They are earthy balls of rice cooked in a thick tomato and meat sauce, stuffed with mozzarella and then fried. Other than the classic version, you can opt for the most innovative ones ie those with pumpkin risotto and bechamel sauce. You can find supplì at any takeaway or pizzeria in town, though the best are supposed to be those at Supplizio. Pair them with a beer for the perfect aperitivo.
The best sandwiches in Rome are those with porchetta, a dish of pork that is deboned, season with salt and plenty of herbs and then slowly roasted on the spit until the meat becomes soft yet remains moist.
Pizza al taglio
One of the best street food in Rome is pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice). The best is the very plain one, with just olive oil and salt on top. You can pair it with mortadella for a fabulous sandwich. If you want something more elaborate, you will have ample choice: from the classic tomato sauce and mozzarella; to the one with fresh cut ham and artichoke hearts. It’s usually served folded and it’s perfect to eat on the go.
Trapizzino is a pocket of fluffy pizza dough filled with a variety of ingredients. The best place to eat it is Testaccio, where Trapizzino – the place that invented it – opened it. But it’s becoming increasingly popular so I can foresee more places opening in other parts of Rome.
I have never actually seen maritozzi outside of Rome, so make sure you try them while there. These are buns that are baked till golden, then sliced in two and filled with a large amount of whipped cream. Originally a food that was served during Easter, most bakeries and “pasticcerie” in Rome realized they were so popular that they started baking them every day. Definitely a no for the lactose intolerants like me – unfortunately, if I may add.
Fair enough, gelato isn’t a Roman food proper. But when in Rome… You will be able to find it anywhere, but make sure to opt for the quality “gelato artigianale”, which is actually harder to get. The real gelato artigianale usually melts much faster than the industrial one, and most of the time it’s preserved in large refrigerated bins that you won’t even be able to see.
Good gelaterie usually have very few flavors to serve, so stay away from places that sell more than 15 flavors. I appreciate most of us are attracted by the colorful flavors on display – but that’s not the best quality gelato, really.
Don’t drink cappuccino with your meal!
7 Additional Tips To Find The Best Food In Rome
Believe it or not, it is possible to get bad food in Rome – in fact, it’s possible to get bad food in Italy. I know I’ve had my fair share of terrible eats, like that dish of cacio e pepe which was no more than boiled pasta with low quality grated cheese and a ton of pepper on it. I want to make sure you don’t go through the same experience – hence I thought I’d give you some tips on how to find the best food in Rome.
For the best restaurants in Rome, make sure to read this article.
Join a food tour
One of the best ways to discover food in Rome is by joining a food tour. Considering that you’ll get a local guide that knows where to go for the best food, you’re bound to try some local specialties and to learn a lot about picking the right food and places to eat. There are many kinds of food tours: some include cooking classes; others go to the market; some are strictly street food.
I have selected the best food tours in Rome for you:
Nobody knows Roman food better than actual Romans. Ask for their tips and you are bound to discover some real gems. The hotel receptionist will most likely be able to point out the best places to eat near your hotel.
I discovered Trattoria Vecchia Roma, near Vittorio Emanuele, thanks to a local tip. It’s the kind of place where tourists really are rare. The food is absolutely delicious.
Eat when the locals eat
I know people outside of Italy eat much earlier than we do. But honestly – when in Rome, do as the Romans. Mind you, meal times vary greatly between different regions of Italy, but in Rome people never dream of having lunch before 1:00 pm, and if you have dinner before 8:00 or 8:30 pm locals may think there’s something wrong with you – literally. If you see a place where dinner is being served at 6:00 pm, continue walking – that’s probably a restaurants where only tourists would eat.
Eat what the locals eat
I once overheard a conversation on the train from Termini station to Fiumicino airport where a young man complained about the bad food he’d been having during his trip and stated he really wanted to eat a good McDonalds as soon as he got back to the US. Provided that I don’t think the words “good” and “McDonalds” should go in the same sentence, the key to having good food in Rome is sticking to what the locals eat.
I appreciate you may fancy lasagne but Rome isn’t the place to look for them. Just eat what the locals eat: look at their plates and ask the waiter for the same dish, and you won’t be disappointed.
Stay away from restaurants close to tourist attractions
The worst and most expensive restaurants in Rome are those around the most popular tourist attractions. You may be tempted to eat there because it is quick and easy, and I can understand the appeal of having a meal while staring at the beautiful Pantheon. But trust a local: those aren’t places where you’ll get good quality Roman food. And I wouldn’t mind so much if low quality food also meant spending very little money – but these places are much more expensive than local ones! Look for restaurants or trattorie in side alleys and you’re bound to spend less and eat way better food.
Don’t drink cappuccino with your meal
If there is something that we Italians consider gross, that’s drinking coffee (or even tea, for that matter) with a meal – unless that is not breakfast, obviously. In general, cappuccino is considered a morning drink. I admit I occasionally drink it in the afternoon, but never after a meal, and never – absolutely never – with a meal. I can’t even explain why this is bad, so just take my word for it.
Further readings about Rome
Make sure to read my Rome itineraries – you will find plenty of tips to make the most of the city:
5 days in Rome is just about the perfect amount of time to explore the city and to even push yourself beyond the city limits if you wish. Mind you: this doesn’t mean you can improvise. Rome is the kind of place that requires careful planning, because it gets such a large influx of tourists that, if you don’t want to get stuck in lines at every single ticket office, you have to buy your tickets in advance.
You can really see and do a lot in Rome in 5 days: visit the most famous attractions and even the ones that people often skip – because they don’t have time, or because they don’t even know about them. But you need to know where to go. This is why I am here!
I know Rome very well. I have been there many many times, and I have even lived there for a while. Mind you – the city is so big that one is never done exploring. But you get the point: I am here to take the worry of having to plan your 5 days in Rome. All you have to do, after reading this post, is booking your flights, your room, and tickets for those attractions that require advanced reservations (I’ll be sure to point them out each time).
Continue reading this post to discover what you can see and do if you have 5 days in Rome, and get plenty of insights on how to skip the lines at the most popular tourist spots, save a buck or two if possible, and overall make the most of your time in the Italian capital.
Continue reading for a great itinerary to discover Rome in 5 days.
A Day By Day Itinerary To Spend 5 Days In Rome
Before I go on to draft a great day by day itinerary for you to see Rome in 5 days, let me stress that even if you feel you have plenty of time to explore the city, you still have to book entries to the most popular tourist attractions. There really is no other way around it. Some cap the number of visitors they let in for well determined time shifts, and they get sold out even weeks in advance. If you don’t book, you may end up being stuck in line at the ticket counter looking for last minute tickets, and you may even risk not getting a ticket in the end.
Good news though: I am here to suggest whenever you have to make reservations for the attractions included in this itinerary to see Rome in 5 days. Rest assured that if youfollow my tips and this itinerary, you’ll have a fantastic time.
The assumption behind this itinerary is that you have a minimum of 5 full days in Rome – which means you’re planning on sleeping there a total of 6 nights – or 5 if you get there very early in the morning, or fly out late in the evening.
Keep in mind that even as an expert traveler I know that after a long haul flight you may not have much energy to go exploring, so let’s just assume that even if your flight lands in the morning, you will use that day to freshen up, rest and explore your whereabouts, and prepare for a big day of exploration the day after. In any case, keep in mind that if you are coming from outside of the EU, it may take you up to 2 hours between having to clear customs, picking up your luggage, finding your way to the city and finally making it to your hotel.
TIP: Take it easy the day you land in Rome. Explore the immediate surroundings, and at most do a guided food tour in the evening, after having slept a bit. This food tour is an excellent one and the good news is that it starts at 5:15 pm. You can book it here.
If you are interested in street food in Rome, make sure to read this article.
TIP: On any given day, I suggest to start exploring very early. This way you will manage to avoid the large crowds and in the summer you may be able to avoid having to walk around during the peak heat hours.
This itinerary is packed, but it is logic. You will visit attractions that are close to each other all on the same day, so that you don’t have to rely on public transportation.
TIP: Comfortable shoes and clothing are a must when exploring Rome!
TIP: Having lunch on the go allows you to have more time to explore the various sites. Rome is packed with places where you can get a quick bite. Local specialties include pizza al taglio, supplì al telefono, tramezzini or some amazing gelato..
Continue reading to discover my wonderful itinerary for 5 days in Rome.
You can’t skip St. Peter’s Basilica if you have 5 days in Rome
Day 1: Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo and Galleria Borghese
Day 1 of your 5 days in Rome itinerary is quite packed – so make sure to have a good night’s sleep. You will visit the Vatican, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Spanish Steps and finish off at Galleria Borghese.
Map of day one Rome itinerary
You can download a map of your day 1 itinerary here. It’s easy to follow, and you won’t have to rely on public transportation other than to get to your starting point and, once you are done exploring, get back to your hotel if you staying far from that.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
My tip for this day is to have a very early start. Head out no later than 7:00 am for an early morning tour of the Vatican, which will leave you plenty of time to explore the other places for the rest of the day.
The official opening time of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is 9:00 AM, while St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 AM and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at 7:30. I have noticed that lines to get into the Vatican Museums start forming as early as 7:30 AM.
My take is that you should opt to do an early access Vatican tour which also includes a visit with a dedicated entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Otherwise, you can opt to visit St. Peter’s Basilica as soon as it opens. But then, you will have to get out and walk for around 1 km to reach the Vatican Museums.
As I have already said, I advise you to go on an early guided tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. This will save you a lot of time, and you will also enjoy having a guide that takes you around sharing interesting information about the Sistine Chapel, as well as facts about the best pieces of the Vatican Museums collection. An early has the additional benefit of having the place to yourself when it is still virtually empty. At the end of the tour, you will be showed to a dedicated entrance and enjoy a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you go on an early access tour of the Vatican, you will be done roughly by 11:00 AM.
A few facts about the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican Museums are one of the largest museums in the world: they count 54 chambers and a huge collection of art. If you ask me, however, The Last Judgement, Michelangelo’s masterpiece painted on the Sistine Chapel, steals the show. It’s one of Renaissance’s greatest works of art.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church for Catholics. Built by Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante over a site where the tomb of St. Peter was placed, it’s a huge church with 11 chapels, 45 altars and more mosaics than you can imagine. That’s where you’ll find Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino, and Chair of St. Peter.
TIP: Remember that modest clothing is a requirement to get inside the Vatican, and cover your shoulders and knees!
TIP: Photos inside the Basilica are allowed. Photos inside the Sistine Chapel are not.
Castel Sant’Angelo is another impressive sight
With 5 days in Rome, you probably have enough time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. This castle was once a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian which then became a prison. It is now a museum with a good collection, though to me the most interesting thing about visiting is discovering more about the building itself, and getting the marvelous views of St. Peters. You will walk by it on your way towards the Tiber River and the Spanish Steps.
If you are keen to go in, skip the line tickets bought beforehand will save you some time. These are some good options:
Piazza di Spagna (the Italian name of the Spanish Steps), is one of the unmissable places to visit in Rome and has to be included in an itinerary to see Rome in 5 days. The famous 185 steps lead to the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church and face Via Condotti, a famous luxury shopping street. Walk up the steps to enjoy the views.
The square is often crowded with tourists but still a pleasant place. The metro station Spagna is nearby.
TIP: Do not even think of putting your feet in the fountain at the center of Piazza di Spagna, or in any other fountain in town. It is strictly forbidden and if you get caught a fine will follow.
Piazza Del Popolo
At the bottom of the Pincian Hill, as you walk from Piazza di Spagna, you will find Piazza del Popolo, one of the largest and prettiest squares in Rome home of the obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – the second tallest in the city. The square, which is used for events such as the concerts of May 1st and other public gatherings, leads to the Pincian Hill and terrace via a flight of stairs. The view of the square from the terrace is beautiful.
Borghese Gallery has a fine art collection
Once you get to the Pincian Hill you will find a trail that leads to Galleria Borghese, a museum that you absolutely must see if you have 5 days in Rome. The Gallery has one of the finest art collections in the world, with pieces of artists such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Canova and Titian. And the gardens surrounding the villa where the gallery is located are beautiful.
Galleria Borghese has timed entrances and only 360 visitors at once are allowed. It never gets really crowded, but booking in advance is a must – especially if you are on a schedule. The museum often gets sold out in the peak season.
Try to be at the gallery 30 minutes before your visit – consider that it takes around 30 minutes to walk there from Piazza del Popolo.
Today is a crescendo of emotions and sights. You will start in Testaccio, one of the prettiest parts of Rome, and walk your way through Piramide, the Orange Garden, the Mouth of Truth, the Baths of Caracalla, the Roman Forum and then, finally, to the Colosseum, which is the cherry on the cake. I thought I’d leave the Colosseum last because you can opt for a night tour, which – despite being more expensive than a regular ticket – leaves you plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day, as the visit starts at 9:30 pm.
If you feel the urge to visit the Colosseum first thing, you can simply start this itinerary the other way around.
Map of day two Rome itinerary
For a better idea of the walking itinerary for day two, I have created a map so that you know the exact route to follow and how far each place is from the other. If you enlarge the map you find names of places where you can stop for a quick meal or a drink. The map is here. You can modify it according to your interests and needs.
You will start your day in Testaccio. This is one of the most up and coming areas of Rome, where you can still enjoy a great local atmosphere. In Testaccio, make sure to visit the market and the main square (Piazza Testaccio).
TIP: If you are keen on eating in Testaccio during your stay in Rome, try to book a table at Flavio Al Velavevodetto – one of the best restaurants in town.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome
Close to Testaccio, on the way to Caius Cestius Pyramid, you’ll find the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome. THis is the resting place of some notable non-catholics and now home to a large cat sanctuary. From there, you can get incredible views of the pyramid.
Pyramid of Caius Cestius
Piramide, or Caius Cestius Pyramid, was built around 12 BC as the tomb of a prominent public figure. Though the tomb has been ransacked a long time ago, the building remains fascinating to see. Besides it’s kind of random to find a pyramid in the center of Rome.
At around 15 minutes from Caius Cestius Pyramid, you will find the Orange Garden. You’re probably wondering why I am sending you to a park on your second day in Rome, but you will quickly get it once you are there. Giardino degli Aranci, as we call it in Italian, was designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and is one of the nicest parks in Rome. More importantly, it offers spectacular views of the city and especially of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Mouth of Truth
La Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth in English, is right by the entrance of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, not far from the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum. This large marble mask used to be a manhole, and dates back to the 1st century, but in 1632 it was placed by the side of the church.
According to a Medieval legend, the mouth bites off the hand of liars. It’s a fun place to spend a few minutes, and the lines to put the hand in the mouth of the mask are never too long.
INTERESTING FACT: The Mouth of Truth became world famous after the movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn was released.
Baths of Caracalla
Between the Mouth of Truth and the Colosseum you will find the Baths of Caracalla. These were an enormous bathing complex. They are an interesting site to explore, and since they aren’t nearly as famous as the Roman Forum or the Colosseum, you will be enjoying the place without the crowds and I find it a nice addition to this Rome in 5 days itinerary.
Practical information: Tickets to the Baths of Caracalla are €11. You can buy them here. For an audio-guide tour the price is €17. The tour lasts around 1.5 hours. You can get it here.
The Roman Forum is a must see site
The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus
The Roman Forum is a very big site, so I suggest doing a guided tour to make the most of your time there. Usually, tours that go to the Colosseum also include a visit of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – keep in mind that tickets to the Colosseum also include a visit to the Roman Forum.
These are some of the best guided tours that combine a visit of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum:
A few facts about the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
At the time of the Republic was the heart of the city. It was a market, a place of worship (there were several temples), home to the House of the Senate and it had several brothels. At the time of the Roman Empire, it became a ceremonial center.
According to legend, the Palatine Hill (which is located nearby) is where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and where Romolo founded the city after having killed his brother. It used to be the area where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome lived.
The Colosseum is the iconic attraction in Rome
The Colosseum is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. You just can’t go to Rome and skip the Colosseum. A beautiful sight during the day, it really is stunning at night, and I would love you to experience it then.
The bad news is that there typically are very long lines to get tickets to enter the Colosseum.
Anyways, let me save you some time here: the only way to skip the line at the Colosseum is by getting skip the line tickets online. This won’t spare you from having to go through security, but that is a much quicker line.
TIP: The Colosseum often gets sold out. If you are planning to visit Rome during the peak months, buy your tickets well in advance.
TIP: I recommend investing in a guided tour of the Colosseum via a third party site. This way, you don’t have to bother going to a separate site and making the time and date reservations yourself.
These are some good group tour that include skip the line tickets to the Colosseum:
TIP: Be sure to read the full description of the tour to find out what it includes and what it is not included before purchasing. Some tours are very basic and only include the main floor, others go to the underground and the second ring as well.
Visiting the Colosseum at night
The Colosseum at night is amazing. As only very few people are allowed, you are bound to have a more intimate experience. Night tours start at 9:30 pm and last around 2 and a half hours.
TIP: Make sure to have dinner before your night tour of the Colosseum.
Night tours of the Colosseum include access to the underground, the first and second ring, and the arena floor. They cost around €87 per person – much more than a regular tour. But they are generally more comprehensive than other tours. If you ask me, they are totally worth it.
If you have 5 days in Rome, you may as well enjoy a day out of the city – but go to a place that is within easy reach. The reason I decided to insert this on day 3 of your itinerary is that if you end up buying a Roma Pass (more about it below) this is the last day you can use it to access public transportation to get out of the city.
Otherwise, you can go on your last day and just buy a train ticket. I am suggesting two options for a day trip nearby – Ostia Antica and Tivoli. Pick whichever one resonates the most with you.
Ostia Antica may well be the best addition to your itinerary for 5 days in Rome. The medieval quarter of Ostia is a nice place to go for a walk, but it’s the archeological site of Ostia Antica that you should head straight to.
Ostia is located at only 30 km from Rome. It used to be a commercial port where goods were stored and then shipped to Rome via the Tiber river. Ostia reached a whopping 100000 inhabitants – it was twice bigger than Pompeii. It was a very wealthy city – hence the many villas and residential areas of which you can see the remnants. There were shops, taverns and temples, a political forum, an amphitheater and thermal baths.
You can visit Ostia Antica independently, or go on a guided tour that departs from Rome.
If you prefer going by yourself, use your Roma Pass to hop on the train Roma Porta San Paolo Station towards Roma-Lido. The trip to Ostia Antica takes around 40 minutes.
Tivoli is home to two of the best preserved Roman villas – Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este. The first was built in the 2nd century by Emperor Hadrian, who made it his official residence in his final years. It was so large that it looked more like a village. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s been kept in incredibly good conditions. You’ll be able to see the remains of temples, palaces, libraries and barracks. There’s also a beautiful park.
Villa d’Este, where the son of Lucrezia Borgia used to live, is a 16th century villa. There is a stunning garden with some of the prettiest fountains and waterfalls you’ll ever see.
You can go to Tivoli by yourself, or on a guided tour. If you go by yourself, take the train that leaves from Rome Tiburtina station. It takes less than one hour to get to Tivoli. You can buy tickets to Villa Adriana here or here.
If you’d rather go on a guided tour, these are some good ones:
The Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome
Day 4: The Historic Center of Rome
After taking a break from the chaos of the city, you will enjoy jumping right back into it. On your fourth day in Rome, you will be walking quite a bit – but won’t have to make reservations as there are no attractions that require you to do so. You can just go at your own pace and enjoy the day.
Map of day four Rome itinerary
You can download a map here. As you will be right in the historic center of Rome, you’ll find plenty of places where you can have a bite or a drink.
Trevi Fountain is one of the most beautiful ones in Rome, and you absolutely have to visit it if you are spending 5 days in Rome. It was recently renovated and after being covered for a long time, you can now enjoy it in all its beauty.
TIP: Go to Trevi Fountain as early as possible to avoid the large crowds.
Continue walking towards Piazza di Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. The building was designed by Bernini for Ludovico Ludovisi, a young cardinal nephew of Pope Gregory XV. Carlo Fontana who completed the construction.
Located between Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona, the Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome and a total must. It was a temple commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and built in the 126 AD, which then became a church in Christian time. Its Dome is thought to be the best preserved building from antiquity. Inside you will find the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
There is no admission fee to get inside the Pantheon but you may want to invest in an audioguide to make the most of it (the guided tour lasts around 35 minutes). It costs €5.5 and you can get yours here.
Piazza Navona is one of the nicest in Rome. It’s at a few minutes from the Pantheon and there are bus stops nearby if you want to use it as your starting point. Now, it is used as a market but the area used to be a stadium at the time of Domitian. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and the Baroque Sant’Agnese church, built in the 17th century, are the main attraction points.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori, south of Piazza Navona, may well be my favorite square in Rome. The name refers to the meadows over which it was built in Medieval times. Since the late 19th century it’s been home to a popular market that sells fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Did you know that the cats of Rome are famous?
Largo di Torre Argentina
Feel free to skip this place if you aren’t into cats. If you do like cats, however, you will be in for a treat. Located between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia, Largo di Torre Argentina is a nice addition to a 5 days in Rome itinerary. It is a decently kept archeological site mistakenly thought to be the place where Julius Cesar died – who in fact died a couple of blocks away, at the Theater of Pompey.
Upon passing by, you will immediately notice that cats steal the show there. This is where the oldest cat sanctuary in Rome is located. You can visit it, spend some time with the cats, and even make a donation of buy a souvenir if you want – all profits are used to support the colony and its cats.
The Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto of Rome is where you should stop for lunch. The area was created five centuries ago by Pope Paul IV, who forced all the Jews of Rome to move in, and built a wall and gates that were locked at night. It’s where the famous Roman Kosher cuisine was born and developed. You will find some excellent restaurant to try local kosher specialties such as carciofi alla giudia – fried artichokes with mint and garlic.
The gorgeous Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia
After exploring the Jewish Ghetto, go to Piazza Venezia to admire Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, which was built in 1911 to celebrate the first king of unified Italy. This is where the parade of the Festa della Repubblica takes place on 2 June.
Tiber Island is the only island inside the Tiber River in Rome. It is connected to the city by Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio. Once home of the Temple of Aesculapius – the Greek God of medicine and healing, in 1584 it saw the construction of the Fatebenefratelli hospital. It’s a tiny island and it won’t take you long to explore.
On the other side of the Tiber River you’ll find Trastevere, one of the most charming and lively areas of Rome, which is especially popular for its nightlife. There are lots of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants. As it is your last stop for the day, go for a drink or, if you are hungry, opt for a food tour – I recommend this one or this one. If you want a food and wine tour, book this one.
A detail of St. John in Lateran church
Day 5: Lesser known Rome
For your last day in Rome, you can visit places that aren’t perhaps as famous but which are just as interesting. After exploring a couple of churches you will go to the Catacombs and the Appian Way. If you aren’t a fan of churches, just skip them. You can even head straight to Garbatella to just walk around, or take another day trip out of the city.
Map of day five Rome itinerary
Today’s map can be found here. Distances are a bit wider today, so I recommend taking a bus or taxi to go from one place to the other. If you open the map and click on the train icon, you’ll see the various options for public transportation.
San Clemente Basilica
This church was built over a site where Christians used to pray when it was still forbidden to profess themselves Christians. Excavations brought out various levels of the church – one dating to the 1st century and one to the 4th. Apparently there even is an older level, where there was a building that went destroyed by Nero’s fire in 64 AD.
San Clemente is easy to explore as there are panels with explanations everywhere, but you may opt for a tour. Most also go to the Catacombs:
St. John in Lateran is located in Esquilino and is a must see if you have 5 days in Rome. This church is the seat of the Pope in the city, not to mention the oldest basilica in town – though not nearly as crowded as St. Peter’s. Outside the church there’s the Lateran Obelisk, which is the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. The church is known for its Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps famous for being those that Jesus walked up while heading to his trial in Jerusalem. Visitors have to walk them on their knees as well!
Here’s a selection of the best tour that go to St. John in the Lateran:
The Appian Way is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Rome
The Catacombs and the Appian Way
The Appian Way was built in 312 BC and is one of the oldest surviving roads in the world. During the Roman Empire it connected Rome to other important cities such as Naples and Brindisi. It served for military and commercial purposes.
Along the Appian Way, you can visit the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (where 16 popes were buried) and St. Sebastian.
These are some good guided tour sof the Appian Way and the Catacombs:
Garbatella retains all the flavor or a local neighborhood. It became famous after a show that was filmed there was aired in Italy a few years ago. It was first built in 1918 and while in the past it was thought to be dangerous, it now is one of the nicest areas to live in Rome. In Garbatella, you can visit a couple of museums, art galleries and the church of St. Paul’s Outside The Walls. You’ll also find some good, more local restaurants.
Trevi Fountain is a must see, but go early to avoid the crowds
Practical Tips For Your 5 Days In Rome
Where to stay in Rome
There are many good hotels in Rome. Staying in the historic center is the best option for easy access to all the attractions, and to minimize use of public transportation. Areas such as Ottaviano offer easy access to the Vatican, while Esquilino and Monti are closer to the Colosseum.
You may consider getting a 72 hours Roma Pass if you have 5 days in Rome, and use for the first 3 days to access the sites and public transportation. Some even include transportation to the airport.
These are some good 72 hours Roma Pass options:
Omnia Card for Rome and Vatican City: it has skip the line tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, preferred access with an audio-guide for St. Peter’s Basilica, access to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Mamertine Prison. But it doesn’t include tickets to the Colosseum.
Visit Pass Rome Gold – it offers fast track access to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums; St. Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo; the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hills. It even includes an audio guide for the Forum and the Palatine and a pass for public transportation.
Omnia Vatican and Rome card – the most expensive option, but also the most inclusive pass, as well as a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket valid for 72 hours.
Best of Rome all access pass – you get fast track entrances to the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills, and an audio-guide. I am not sure if it includes public transportation.
Whichever pass you pick, read the terms and conditions and the inclusions very carefully.
The Roma Pass requires you to book your entry to sites such as the Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery separately and via a third site.
When to visit Rome
Any time is a good time to go to Rome, but I love it in October: the days are still nice and longer than they’d be in the fall, temperatures are not as hot as in the summer, and sites aren’t as crowded. On the other hand, sites stay open longer in the late spring and summer months. Try not to visit Rome in August: Italians leave for their holidays and the city will empty of locals and get crowded with just tourists.
Getting to the center of Rome from the airport is very easy
How to get to Rome
Rome has two airports – Fiumicino, for intercontinental flights and all major airlines; and Ciampino, for budget airlines and flights to Italy and Europe. Both are well connected to the city by taxi and cabs, buses and even trains.
You can get from Ciampino Airport to Rome city center by taxi or bus. Terravision is the most reliable bus company. You can book Terravision bus tickets here.
Uber isn’t really a thing in Italy, so if you feel you may need a taxi at some point download MyTaxi.
Unless your hotel is far from the center, the best way to get around Rome is on foot, and this itinerary is meant to minimize the time spent on the bus or the metro. In any case, public transportation does work in Rome (despite locals thinking differently, but I have seen much worst in my travels). Always remember to validate your ticket before getting on the metro or bus.
You can get a Rome public transportation pass valid for 72 hours here. It may seem pricey but keep in mind it includes transfer from Ciampino airport.
TIP:Don’t ride horse pulled carriages. For your enjoyment, these animals are suffering in the traffic and noise of the city. Don’t contribute to that.
If your flight is in the evening but you need to check out of your hotel in the morning, it’s probably better that you leave your luggage somewhere central, ie Termini Station where you will surely pass by on your way to the airport or when picking the train to another city. There are a couple of storage places there. Check out this one or this one.
Other useful tips
Mind the dress code
Dress appropriately if you are planning to visit churches: no shorts, no tank tops. Cover your knees and shoulders. Carry a shirt or a shawl to cover up in your bag if you can’t phantom the idea of wearing sleeves throughout the day.
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure you have enough data to surf the web while in Italy, and download maps and itineraries that can be used offline.
Get a guide book
A good guide book may be a nice addition with lots of info on what to see and do in Rome in 5 days. Some also have very good maps.
Water in Rome is safe to drink and there are fountains everywhere. Drink plenty and stay hydrated, especially in the summer.
Mind the scams
Tourist scams happen everywhere. In Rome, the typical spots are those around major tourist attractions or the train stations. Beware of people who are overly friendly and offer unwanted help ie to carry your bags or get you a train ticket. Never touch anything a stranger may offer you – whether a rose or a bracelet. A plain but firm no works wonders. Alternatively, do as I do: ignore!
Finding where to stay in Rome, the gorgeous capital of Italy, can be easier said than done. But with the tips shared in this post, you won’t have to worry a bit.
Rome is the most visited city in Italy and one of the most visited cities in the world – and for a good reason. The Eternal City is packed with many incredible sights, and its atmosphere is truly magical. Whatever your travel tastes and your budget needs, you are bound to find something to keep yourself entertained.
This is a city with an incredible historic and cultural heritage. Events happen round the clock. You will find incredible archeological sites, beautiful churches, and fantastic examples of modern and even street art. You can spend years exploring Rome and never quite get done.
Rome is lively and chaotic; it is colorful, artsy and sophisticated. It is dirty – there’s no denying that. But you can’t help falling in love with it. What I love about Rome is that for as touristy as it is, the city has retained its character. This is a place where you will find an incredible mix of locals who’ve lived there for generations; expats who now call the city home; and tourists who are there for a short period of time.
I should also add that the Italian capital is expensive (one of the most expensive cities in Europe). While you can find an excellent selection of places to stay in Rome, you are going to have to dig carefully to find a good deal, and grab it as soon as it comes, before someone else does.
In this post, I will help you find where to stay in Rome, selecting the best areas to stay and pointing out to the best places to stay in each of them.
The historic center is perfect to explore the city
Finding Where To Stay In Rome
I lost count of how many times I have been to Rome. In fact, at some point I have even lived there as I attended a course on travel design. I lived in Esquilino back then, between Vittorio Emanuele and San Giovanni in Laterano. I loved the area. It felt local, despite being very international, and it was lively yet quiet.
In case you haven’t realized yet, I love Rome through and through. I honestly think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world (if not the most beautiful!), with so much to offer, so much history and culture. Every time I visit, I marvel at the magnificent archeological sites; I visit the cat sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina and I indulge in the best street food and gelato you can find in Italy (in my humble opinion, obviously).
Since I have vowed to get to know the city better, every time I go to Rome I stay in a different area.
Finding good hostels or excellent hotels in Rome is not hard. The good news is that there are many good places to stay. The bad news is that the city is literally packed with tourists in high season – between April and October. That’s why I recommend making advanced reservations.
What you should know when looking for where to stay in Rome is that some areas are significantly more chaotic than others; you may encounter a lot of traffic or noise coming from bars and restaurants. On the other hand, quieter areas with fewer hang out places may have less options for eating out.
Sure enough, you have to consider the area where to stay in Rome if you are a light sleeper – I spent most of my time in Esquilino using ear plugs to sleep as the noise was a bit too much for me!
If you feel stuck in your search for the best place to stay in Rome, stop worrying! I am here to help.
Continue reading to discover the best places to stay in Rome.
There are many excellent areas to stay in Rome
Where To Stay In Rome – The Best Options
Before I get into a detailed description of each best area to stay in Rome, let me get straight to the point and mention my favorite hotels and hostels in town.
Absolutely plush rooms and an excellent location in the heart of the historic center of Rome make this small hotel one of the best places to stay in Rome. Guests can easily reach the Vatican, Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo. Rooms are insulated so you won’t have to worry about the noise coming from the street. It’s excellent value for money. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
If you want to have easy access to the Vatican Museums and to Saint Peter’s Basilica, this is the place for you: it’s located right on the other side of the street. The spacious rooms are decorated in classic design, and there even is a common kitchen for guests. Breakfast is included in the price. You can’t beat it in terms of value for money, especially when it comes to its location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Another excellent property close to the Vatican. In this case, rooms are very modern, if only a bit small. Guests can require an airport shuttle and, depending on their booking, breakfast is included in the price. Clickhere for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This excellent hostel is very conveniently located in the heart of the historic center of Rome, very close to the Spanish Steps. It’s very budget friendly and offers a selection of dorms as well as private rooms. The common areas are modern, comfortable and perfect for socializing. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This hostel is in a perfect location, close to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano and to Basilica di San Clemente, in the heart of Esquilino. It features comfortable private rooms and very modern and perfectly equipped dorms. There is a well equipped kitchen and a fabulous terrace to hang out on sunny days. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
In the heart of Rione Monti and close to Santa Maria Maggiore church, this hostel is at a mere 10 minutes walk from the Colosseum. It features private rooms as well as dorms. It’s not the most budget friendly hostel in town, but it’s worth the price to stay in a comfortable, well located place. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This modern studio apartment in the area of Prati is perfectly equipped for a comfortable stay. It fits up to 4 guests so it is a great budget friendly option for a family with kids. Click here for the latest rates.
This apartment is very close to Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’Angelo and comfortably fits up to 4 persons but it is especially good for couples looking for a romantic getaway. It’s very well equipped, with a modern finish. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
A great one bedroom apartment nicely located between Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori. It comfortably fits a couple. The bigger apartment with two bedrooms is perfect for a family or for a small group of friends. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Continue reading for my tips on where to stay in Rome.
The historic center is probably the best area to stay in Rome
Where To Stay In Rome – The Best Neighborhoods And Places To Stay
Historic Center – Where to stay in Rome for: First Timers
If it is your first time in Rome, there is no question: the Historic Center – or Centro Storico, as we say in Italian – is the best area to stay in Rome for you. This is a busy area, probably a bit noisy, but you’ll have easy access to most of the attractions in town – places such as Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the like.
Another advantage is that you’ll have no shortage of places to eat, cafés, and small interesting shops. The two main downsides is that it’s not cheap to stay there and that there is no real metro station other than at Piazza di Spagna – which opened again in May 2019 after months of being shut down for restoration works.
TIP: Make sure to book a guided walking tour of Centro Storico to get a proper introduction to the area. There even is a free walking tour you can book here.
Esquilino (including Termini and San Giovanni) – Where to stay in Rome for: A more local feel / Budget friendly options
All people visiting Rome end up in Esquilino at some point during their trip. This is where Termini Train Station is located and it is likely you’ll take the train or bus from the airport that leaves you right at the station.
While the immediate surroundings of Termini aren’t exactly the best place to stay in Rome (it’s chaotic, noisy and it can be dodgy), if you go deep into the heart of Esquilino, in the area of Vittorio Emanuele or near San Giovanni, you will find a neighborhood that is full of character. It’s international for a lot of immigrants live there; but these have become an integral part of the Roman community and just as much local as everyone else who’s lived in Rome for generations.
Esquilino is also where attractions such as San Giovanni in Laterano are located, as well as Basilica di Santa Maria Degli Angeli e Dei Martiri. It’s also where my absolute favorite restaurant in Rome – Trattoria Vecchia Roma – is located (make sure to book it in advance as it is always packed). To top things off, it’s way more budget friendly than the historic center.
TIP: Book a guided tour of the Basilicas and the Catacombs to make the most of this fantastic area. You can reserve it here.
Monti is among the areas to stay in Rome for easy access to the Colosseum
Monti – Where to stay in Rome for: History lovers
Between via Nazionale and the Colosseum, Monti easily wins as one of the best places to stay in Rome. Historically a red light district of Rome, and the place where gladiators used to base themselves, it now is an area packed with hipster bars, coffee shops and nice boutiques. If there is one thing missing that’s a selection of excellent restaurants (there are some, but they aren’t my favorite).
The main reason you should pick Monti as your area where to stay in Rome is that in terms of location it can hardly be topped. You will be walking distance from the Colosseum, and at a one metro stop distance from Termini, where you can catch transportation to anywhere else in the city (or out of the city).
TIP: Remember that you need to book your visit of the Colosseum well in advance. You can make reservations here.
If you want to stay close to the Vatican, you should stay in Prati
Prati and Vatican – Where to stay in Rome for: Easy access to the Vatican
If you want to be the first getting in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning, then Prati is where to stay in Rome. This area is very safe, affluent and green – lots of trees lining the streets. There are some good restaurants, a nice daily market, and it’s an overall very pleasant area of town.
LOCAL TIP: The area around Piazza Cavour is where you’ll find some of the best restaurants in this “Rione” of Rome.
TIP: It is absolutely necessary that you get a skip the line ticket to visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, or else your risk being stuck in the line. Get yours here.
Ostiense, Garbatella and Testaccio – Where to stay in Rome for: An affordable area that is still very local
Ostiense, Testaccio and Garbatella are one next to the other and are among the nicest places to stay in Rome. Here you will find nice restaurants and trattorie that don’t cost an arm and a leg; cool bars to hang out at night; plenty of shopping opportunities; as well as beautiful squares and a lot of interesting sights. This part of town is where the Mouth of Truth is located, and it’s home to Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the non-Catholic cemetery.
Testaccio is home of one of the most famous second hand markets in Rome – Porta Portese. Garbatella, built as a social experiment in the 1930s, is one of the most pleasant and peaceful areas of Rome. Ostiense is where some parts of Roma Tre university are located, so it is a young area thriving with life.
If you decide to base yourself in this part of town, you will be able to count on very good public transportation to explore the rest of the city.
TIP: Make sure to go on a guided street art tour of Testaccio, Ostiense and Garbatella. It’s a great way to get to know the area. Book it here.
Best places to stay in Ostiense, Garbatella and Testaccio:
Keep in mind that the choice of places to stay in this part of town is a bit more limited so booking in advance is truly necessary! You may want to look into the nearby Aventine for more hotel options.
Trastevere is one of the nicest areas to stay in Rome
Trastevere – Where to stay in Rome for: A fantastic night scene
Trastevere is located on the other side of Testaccio, once you cross the Tiber River. It’s one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Rome. It’s a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys that has become the hotspot of Rome in terms of nightlife, as it is packed with good small restaurants and bars.
There are two downsides to Trastevere. As it is very lively, it’s also very noisy – so don’t opt to stay there if you are a light sleeper. Also, there is no metro stopping there, which means you’ll either have to walk everywhere, or have to familiarize yourself with the – at times complicated – bus system.
TIP: Make sure to try the amazing street food that you can find in Trastevere. You can book a street food tour here.
LOCAL TIP: If you get a chance, go eat at Cencio La Parolaccia. It’s a famous trattoria where you will literally get insulted by the staff. It’s surreal, but funny.
Thought to be the most romantic neighborhood in Rome, the Aventine is where to stay in Rome if you are a couple on a honeymoon looking for a place where they can admire the city from above. The Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) is a fantastic spot to catch sunset and views of San Pietro. Other than that, it’s actually a bit off the tourist path – which may be a welcome thing if you don’t want to be surrounded by crowds of other tourists.
TIP: There aren’t that many places to stay in Aventino, so make sure to book yours in advance.
I hope this post is of great help in deciding where to stay in Rome. This is an incredible city, and every neighborhood mentioned here has something to offer. The great news is that for as large as the city it, it’s not too difficult to navigate – the public transportation system is more than decent, despite the complaints or locals and some occasional mishaps.
I have always found Rome to be safe; however you should be aware that areas that are crowded with tourists such as the train station – especially Termini Station – are often the target of pickpockets. Keep a low profile and mind the scams – ie people offering to help you with your tickets, or with your luggage.
The only areas that I recommend avoiding are those that are very far from the center – ie Tor Bella Monaca, Torre Maura and Rebibbia. But why would you go there anyways? They are just residential, really.
Further Readings About Rome
If you are only spending a short time in Rome, you may find my itineraries helpful:
Getting tickets to the Colosseum in Rome is easier than you can imagine. Continue reading to find a way that suits you!
You have finally arrived in Rome, the Eternal City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ve had a great time till the moment you’ve laid foot there. The Colosseum from a distance looks mighty, and you can’t wait to get in and explore it. But the minute you approach the entrance, you’re in for a bad surprise: the line to get tickets to the Colosseum is almost as mighty as the site itself. You are ready to give up and settle for just a photo from the outside.
Don’t give up just yet! There are ways to get into the Colosseum without waiting in line for hours, and some excellent Colosseum tours that you are guaranteed to enjoy.
In this post, I will explain how to get tickets to the Colosseum so that you don’t have to wait in line for hours. But first, let me provide some information on what you can expect when visiting the Colosseum.
Why You Must Visit The Colosseum When In Rome
Rome is a gorgeous city, one I enjoy visiting any time I have a chance. Apparently I am not the only one, as tourists crowd it any time of year. I don’t think a week would be enough to visit all the main attractions in Rome (read more about the various things to do and see in Rome in this post). Anyways – whether you have just a day there, or a month, you simply can’t skip visiting the Colosseum.
This is one of the symbols of Rome, heritage of the Roman Empire and usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the city, and first in the line of places people want to visit when there. Known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was where the battles between gladiators and wild animals used to take place.
Needless to say, a good traveler wouldn’t dream of going to Rome without visiting the Colosseum – save for those who make it a point to stay out of the tourist track. Don’t get me started on what I think of those obsessed with off the beaten path travel (I have often claimed I am an unsuccessful backpacker, because I am more than happy to go to all the most touristy places). Let me just say this: no sane traveler would dream of going to Rome and skip a visit to the Colosseum. It is – quite simply – a must; no matter how hard it is to get tickets to the Colosseum.
Tickets to the Colosseum include also a visit to the Roman Forum
Why is the Colosseum always packed?
The Colosseum is – by far – the most iconic attraction in Rome, if not in Italy. I’d dare say that it is obvious that such a place attracts large numbers of visitors. In 2018, a whopping 7.4 million people visited the Colosseum – which means that it received on average more than 20000 people per day, with some days seeing up to 30000 visitors.
Only 3000 people are allowed to get inside the Colosseum at once, and with increased security measures (which all visitors have to go through) this means that – unless you have a skip-the-line ticket, you can expect to stay in line for up to two hours.
If you have limited time in Rome, or if you are visiting in the summer when it’s terribly hot, you’re probably going to hate yourself for not having found other solutions to get tickets to the Colosseum.
But worry not! I am here for you. Indeed, I am a massive fan of getting online skip the line tickets for famous tourist attractions. They usually include a guide, which in the case of the Colosseum is particularly handy as this way you may also have access to the underground, the arena floor and the third ring.
IN SHORT: These are the most popular tours and tickets to the Colosseum what will allow you to skip the lines:
PLEASE NOTE: All visitors, including those that have skip-the-line tickets, have to go through security checks and have their bags scanned when visiting the Colosseum, so expect to wait in line for that – though that is a much shorter and faster line than that to the ticket counter.
TIP: Avoid carrying large bags when going to the Colosseum. Only small bags and backpacks are allowed. There is no cloak room at the Colosseum but you can leave your bags in a luggage storage nearby (I will point out where at the end of this post). Otherwise so make sure to leave any bulky stuff in your room.
TIP: As of 30 September 2018 all tickets to the Colosseum have to indicate a specific entry time and they will be for individuals or group. You will have to indicate a specific date and time slot for your visit when you buy your tickets.
Continue reading for more tips on how to make the most of your time when visiting the Colosseum and, most importantly, to avoid the lines to get in!
The Colosseum is a must see attraction in Rome
Visiting the Colosseum more in depth
The basic tickets to the Colosseum include visits of the main floor and the second tier. The basic visit will take you at least one hour. If you want to visit the arena, the underground and the third ring you will have to get special tickets which are inevitably more expensive, and you will have to calculate a bit more time. Keep in mind you need to add waiting time at the security line as well.
Having said so, I wholeheartedly recommend getting tickets to the Colosseum that include the underground and the third ring, as they are the best preserved parts and the most interesting ones.
The underground has pretty much remained buried from the end of the Roman Empire until around 100 years ago. There are gorgeous marble coatings; some of the structures built on orders of Domitian and even traces and parts of the elevator that lifted wild animals and gladiators to the arena floor.
Even the channels that used to carry water all the way inside the Colosseum are still visible – apparently water was used to flood the arena to recreate the perfect environment for naval battles! – as well as the sewage system thanks to which various objects testifying to the way of life of the spectators have been found.
To me, this is enough to make me want to invest in tickets to the Colosseum that include a guided tour of the underground! Indeed, while the rest of the Colosseum is certainly nice to visit, it’s a bit bare as throughout the centuries it’s been plundered of its marble and all the other decorations (did you know that in medieval times it was used as a sort of quarry?).
Some very steep steps take to the third ring. Getting there isn’t the easiest thing, but that’s where you’ll get the best view of the Colosseum, as well as that of the Roman Forum and the nearby Constantin Arch. This part of the site can’t be visited with just the standard ticket: you’ll need to get tickets to the Colosseum that include a guide and access to underground, arena floor and third ring. It’s surely more pricey but trust an expert: it’s worth it!
TIP: Keep in mind that the only way to get to the Colosseum underground (as well as the arena floor and the third ring) is on a guided tour. Regular tickets to the Colosseum don’t allow visits to these parts of the site.
These are the best tours of the Colosseum that also go to the underground:
Continue reading to discover the best ways to get tickets to the Colosseum and skip the lines.
When visiting the Colosseum, make sure to also go to the arena floor
Seven Absolutely Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines
There are several ways to get tickets to the Colosseum and skip the lines. Below, I will highlight all the possible solutions you have, pointing out which one is more suitable for any kind of traveler and budget.
In general, skip-the-line tickets to the Colosseum bought online via a third party are the best way to avoid standing in line for hours. There are different kinds of skip the line tickets, depending on the kind of tour you want to opt for – group tours, private tours, night tours etc.
Of all the ways to get tickets to the Colosseum, my favorite is the night tour one. It is the most expensive one – because it also is the most exclusive one, with only limited numbers allowed each night. Yet, I find that there is something special about visiting the Colosseum at night, when it glows in the darkness.
I will share more details on how to do night tours of the Colosseum in a bit. Meantime, here are all the best ways to get Colosseum tickets.
Way N. 1: Buy your tickets to the Colosseum at the ticket office of the Roman Forum
Perfect for: off season and last minute travelers.
Advantages: It is very budget friendly.
Disadvantages: Entrance to the Colosseum is timed, and certain time slots are often unavailable, especially in the high season. This way to get tickets to the Colosseum requires some flexibility, as you may not necessarily get your preferred time slot to enter the Colosseum. There may be no tickets – yes, at times tickets to the Colosseum are sold out!
Whenever you buy tickets to the Colosseum, regardless of which one you get, you’ll get a pass for the Roman Forum. A tour of the Colosseum usually includes a visit to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. The vice-versa is also true: in other words, if you buy tickets to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, you can also visit the Colosseum.
My advice is to go see the Roman Forum first, and then the Colosseum. The line to the Roman Forum is much much less, and once you are done with your visit you can proceed directly to the Colosseum with your tickets in your hands already. And since the ticket has a 48 hours validity, you don’t even have to visit both on the same day.
Tickets to the Colosseum (including access to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill) cost €12.
In case you decide to visit the Colosseum before the Roman Forum, make sure to get there nice and early – I’d say at least 30 minutes before opening time (more about the opening times later).
Some background information about the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum is one of the most incredible places to visit in Rome, and it is right next to the Colosseum – so most people visit it on the same day. Tickets to the Colosseum often include also a guided tour of the Roman Forum.
When Rome used to be a Republic, the Roman Forum was a thriving place, with food stalls, temples, brothels and the House of the Senate. The stalls were later substituted with a proper mall and tribunals, and the Forum became a ceremonial center during the empire.
The Palatine Hill is one of the nicest places to visit in Rome. According to legend, this is where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and Romolo, having killed his twin brother, founded the village that later on became Rome. Historically, the Palatine used to be the place where the emperors and the aristocrats lived. Many online tickets to the Colosseum include a visit to the Palatine – it’s a great way to complete a tour of Imperial Rome.
Way N. 2: Buy the official Colosseum tickets online
Perfect for: no frills travelers.
Advantages: It is very budget friendly; it includes an audio guide.
Disadvantages: You have to reserve a specific time entrance separately.
This is the official website to get tickets to the Colosseum. Online tickets for adult visitors cost €14 – that’s €12 for the actual ticket, and €2 for the online handling fee. Visiting the Colosseum is free for children up to 18 years of age. The price of this ticket also includes an audio-guide.
Remember to print your ticket and take it with you!
Skip the line tickets to the Colosseum are the best way to fully enjoy your time there
Way N. 3: Take a guided group tour
Perfect for: Learning more about the Colosseum
Advantages: You have a guide or audio-guide that explains you loads about the Colosseum; you don’t have to worry about booking a time slot for your visit (the company running the tour will do that for you).
Disadvantages: You will be in a group of up to 20 visitors, meaning you won’t really be going at your own pace.
I am a big fan of guided tours when it comes to archaeological sites. A place like the Colosseum deserves an expert guide that is able to give you detailed information about its history and architecture.
More than that, with a guided group tour you don’t have to worry about standing in line to get your tickets to the Colosseum. Indeed, you will enter the site through a gate reserved to groups, and security checks will be more lax and thus faster.
All you have to do is picking a guided tour that best suits your interests and needs. I am a fan of in depth visits, so I recommend one that gives you access to areas that are normally closed to the visitors who have the basic tickets to the Colosseum – ie the underground, the arena floor and the third ring.
Guided group Colosseum tours cost an average of €45 per person depending on the tour, and last around 3 hours.
These are the best guided group tours with skip the line tickets to the Colosseum:
Perfect for: Anybody who doesn’t enjoy large group tours.
Advantages: You are the one dictating the pace of the visit; the tour company will take care of all the arrangements.
Disadvantages: It’s more expensive than the guided group tour option.
Guided group tours often imply a slow moving group: there always is someone who takes forever in taking photos; or who asks questions you may not find interesting. It often means seeing less, because someone moves to slowly and ends up holding down the rest of the group. If this is something you’d rather avoid, then you may want to invest in a private guided tour of the Colosseum.
Private Colosseum tours prices depend on the number of persons in the group. The starting price is usually €70.
Private guided tours of the Colosseum have the same advantages of the group ones – not having to wait in line, being able to access areas normally close to the public, etc. But in this case, you will have a guide all to yourself and won’t have to wait for the group.
These are the best guided private tours with skip the line tickets to the Colosseum:
Get night tickets to the Colosseum for an incredible experience
Way N. 5: Buy night-time tickets to the Colosseum with access to the underground
Perfect for: A unique, exclusive experience.
Advantages: You really get to see everything; it is a very intimate experience.
Disadvantages: It’s the most expensive option.
If you think that the sight of the Colosseum during the day is amazing, try picturing it at night. I once saw it from the plane as I was landing in Rome and let me tell you, it was splendid! As I have anticipated before, this is my favorite way to visit the Colosseum, and of all the various options I have given to get tickets to the Colosseum and skip the lines, this is the one I recommend the most!
But there’s more: as only a few people are allowed at night, visiting the Colosseum this way means having a special, private and truly unique experiences.
Night tours of the Colosseum start at 9:30 pm, so you have time to have dinner before your visit. Tours last around 2 and a half hours.
The guided night tours give you access to the main areas, the first and second ring, and the arena floor. And you’ll also have access to the undergrounds.
TIP: If this is an experience you want to do, you have to act fast and book well in advance – as I have said, only a few people are allowed inside the Colosseum at night, so tickets sell out fast.
Night-time tickets to the Colosseum cost around €87 per person.
A guided tour of Rome may be an excellent idea to skip the line at the Colosseum
Way N. 6: Take a guided tour of Rome
Perfect for: Those who have very little time to visit Rome.
Advantages: A good guided tour that takes you to all the most famous attractions; you don’t have to worry about making separate reservations as the company running the tour will do that for you.
Disadvantages: Tours can be a bit rushed and they can be quite expensive.
If you have very little time in Rome but still want to make the most of it, you may want to opt for a guided tour of the city that takes you to all the most famous attractions. Most tours include a guide; some budget friendly options will only have an audio-guide; all of them provide skip-the-line entrances to the various attractions.
These are a few good guided tours of Rome that go to all the most famous attractions:
Rome: the Eternal City in a day – the best of all the guided tours to see the highlight of Rome, as it goes to all the main attractions with a live guide and with skip-the-line tickets. The tour costs a lot – €1200 euro. But if there are a few of you willing to split, it may be well worth the price to see the best of the city.
Perfect for: Those planning to see more attractions in Rome.
Advantages: You get skip the line entrances to a bunch of other attractions in the city.
Disadvantages: It hardly is a money saver; you have to reserve a time slot for your visit on a site different from the one you use to buy the pass, so it may be confusing.
The Rome City Pass is a good option if you are planning to visit many attractions in Rome as it normally includes tickets to various attractions, including the Colosseum. There are several Roma Pass options on sale – you can have a better idea of what the advantages and the inclusions of the Roma Pass are in my post “The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.”
For the purpose of this post, I have selected 3 different city passes that will allow you to skip the line at the Colosseum:
72 hours Roma pass: the least advantageous option of all, it includes tickets to the Colosseum and it’s valid for 72 hours.
Vatican and Rome card: perfect if you also want to visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. You only really save €10 on the total price of the attractions visited, but at least you’ll be able to skip the lines.
Rome tourist card: this pass includes skip-the-line tickets to many attractions including the Colosseum, and discounts on a bunch of them. It is the best option, if you make good use of it. It costs €67.50.
The mighty sight of the Colosseum at night
Other Useful Information For Visiting The Colosseum
Book in advance
I can’t stress this enough, really. Depending on when you intend to visit Rome, you have to buy your tickets to the Colosseum up to four months in advance – that’s how popular a site it is. Even if you are a last minute traveler, make sure to check out availability online before going all the way to the Colosseum to discover that you won’t be able to visit.
What to do if tickets to the Colosseum are sold out
If you visit Rome during the busy summer months or if for some reason you don’t book well in advance (once again, let me stress you really have to book in advance, but I appreciate yours may be a last minute trip), you may find that you can’t find a suitable time slot for the basic entry tickets to the Colosseum are sold out – I am referring to the tickets that don’t include a guided visit or an audioguide.
If this is the case, there are still a few things you can do to get in, but they will obviously involve investing a bit more money (a small price to pay, in my opinion!).
Firstly, take a can look at this siteto see if anything is available – they are just regular fast track tickets with no guide options, but the site is very user friendly – tickets cost €18, so it is a bit more expensive than buying them at the official site.
Alternatively, opt for a proper guided tour with access to the various exclusive places – it’s going to be significantly more expensive than the basic €12 ticket, but you will enjoy the service of a guide sharing plenty of details about the Colosseum. You can pick from the many options I have outlined above.
How to get to the Colosseum
The Colosseum is in (errr) Colosseum Square. The best way to get there is to either get subway B getting off at Colosseo, or the cablecar n. 3.
These are the opening times of the Colosseum:
From the last Sunday of October until 15 February – 8:30 am until 4:30 pm;
From 16 February to 15 March – 8:30 am to 5:00 pm;
From 16 March to the last Saturday of March – 8:30 am to 5:30 pm;
From the last Sunday of March to 31 August – 8:30 am to 7:15 pm;
From 1 September to 20 September – 8:30 am to 7:00 pm;
From 1 October to the last Saturday in October – 8:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Keep in mind that the Colosseum is closed on the main Italian national holidays – 1 January, 25 December, and the morning of 2 June (it opens at 1:30 pm). It also closes early on the Friday before Easter, to allow the Via Crucis.
Good to know
As of March 2019 all skip-the-line ticket holders will have to indicate a specific date and time for their visit, which means you will have to pay that extra €2 for the reservation fee. If you buy your tickets directly on the Colosseum official site, don’t forget to do this or you’ll risk having to wait in line as precedence will be given to those visitors that have reserved a specific time slot.
Remember to be punctual and respect the time slot you have been allocated. Make sure to get to the Colosseum in advance, as the personnel actually does check the time on your ticket and won’t let you in if you are late!
The best time of year to avoid the crowds at the Colosseum
The Colosseum tends to be crowded year round, but certain times are worst than others. In general, if you are flexible with your travel dates I’d suggest visiting in the winter months, between November and February, which is low season in Italy.
If you visit in the low season and during a weekday, you’ll have better chances to avoid the crowds.
If, on the other hand, you visit Rome in the peak summer months (from May to September) you’ll find there won’t be much of a difference between weekdays and weekends in terms of crowds.
Prices for tickets to the Colosseum and free visits
Tickets to the Colosseum cost €12 and include a visit to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Tickets are valid for 48 hours after purchase, with one entry per site.
Like in all museums in Rome, in theory the Colosseum is free to enter each first Sunday of the month. However, keep in mind that as of 2019 the rules have changed and there are no free Sunday entrances between April and the first Sunday of September.
In any case, I hardly recommend trying to enter the Colosseum on a free Sunday, as the line is humongous and the site terribly crowded.
Please beware that as of April 2016 new security policies have been adopted, which means that anybody wishing to visit the Colosseum, including those who have skip-the-line Colosseum tickets, have to go through the metal detector. Security checks can take up to one hour, so keep this in mind when you plan to visit. Also remember that backpacks and large bags aren’t allowed.
Toilets and other facilities at the Colosseum
There are toilets at the Colosseum, but I honestly recommend using toilets before getting in, so that you really make full use of your time at the site.
There are no other facilities such as a kiosk or even a cloak room inside – but there are plenty of places right outside where you can get a drink if you need it.
Accessibility of the Colosseum
When getting your tickets to the Colosseum, you should double check whether the ticket is suitable for people with limited mobility. In general, despite being such an ancient building, the Colosseum is quite accessible. There are no steps to get through the main entrance, and there is an elevator for visitors with limited mobility so that they can access the arena floor. There are signs that point to the accessible route.
Much like the rest of the historical center of Rome, the area right outside the Colosseum is cobblestone – so not exactly easy for people on a wheelchair.
Luggage storage facilities near the Colosseum
As I have said before, there is no cloakroom at the Colosseum and you aren’t allowed to bring bulky items inside. You should leave any large bags in your hotel room. However, if you are in Rome just for a day, in transit while you head somewhere else, you may need to leave your luggage in a storage facility. If you are passing by Roma Termini station, you may be better off leaving your stuff there. Otherwise, you can opt for a luggage storage which is located in Via dei Chiavari, at about 2 km and 20 minutes walk from the Colosseum. You can check it out here.
Other attractions near the Colosseum
Don’t forget that right by the Colosseum you will find two among some of the most famous attractions in Rome – the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. In fact, your tickets to the Colosseum will also give you access to them. Within easy walking distance there also are the Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla and the Capitoline Museums.
Other than those, not far from the Colosseum you will find the beautiful Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia, and the archeological site of Largo di Torre Argentina, now one of the most famous cat colonies in the Italian capital.
Further readings about Rome
For more information on how to make the most of Rome, great itineraries and tips to skip the lines, make sure to read the following posts:
Have you ever been to the Colosseum? What are your best tips to make the most of it and how did you get tickets to the Colosseum?
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