Why visit Rome? When people ask me, I can’t help wonder if they are actually asking me the question, or if theirs is just a prank. Because honestly, why on earth would you not want to visit the Eternal City?
The Italian capital is an incredible place and if it is your first time in the country, it should definitely be the starting point of your trip to Italy. Rome is a fabulous mix of history, archeology, art, religion and religious culture and delicious food; and while it certainly is the most popular place to visit in Italy, it’s also a city that has remained true to itself – very much a place where locals live.
So the question rises, once again: is Rome worth visiting? Absolutely – you can take my word for it. But if you still need more reasons to visit Rome, continue reading as I will tell you, once again, why visit Rome!
Why Visit Rome?
There’s some incredible historic architecture
Rome is an ancient city. That means wherever you go in the city, you’re going to find some super old buildings to marvel at. Some of those historic buildings aren’t that ancient – there are plenty of Renaissance (and other ages) wonders to visit too. The palazzi and piazze spread throughout the city are all sorts of beautiful.
A lot of that is down to the power of the Popes. They and their noble families commissioned endless public and private works over many hundreds of years to create a cohesive architectural style in the city.
Architects along with painters and sculptors flocked to Rome and created many of the landmark pieces of architecture that make the city what it is today. Much of the Centro Storico is UNESCO-recognized.
That’s without even mentioning the Colosseum – that alone is one of the best reasons to visit Rome!
You can stand in the same spot gladiators once stood
The Colosseum is in fact the largest ancient amphitheater ever built, and it remains the largest amphitheater in the world. Built between 70 and 80 AD, the Colosseum in its heyday could hold around 80,000 spectators with an average audience of around 65,000.
Those audiences were there (free of charge!) to see all sorts of incredible public spectacles. Most famously, though, they would have been watching gladiators battle it out and not always to the death. Some of the more famous gladiators of the ancient world didn’t always kill their opponents and became celebrities in their own right.
Today there may not be any real-life gladiators, but you can stand in the place where these fearsome fighters once stood and battled in front of roaring crowds. A tour with a well-reviewed guide will really heighten the experience and open up history before your eyes!
Make sure to read my Complete Guide To Visiting The Colosseum.
The modern architecture is interesting too
Perhaps inspired by all the city’s architectural legacies, the impressive buildings in Rome didn’t stop in the 19th century. Today there are many more modern examples of architecture in the city, from the 20th century to contemporary structures.
Set inside the old Peroni beer factory, MACRO (Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art) is an example of industrial transformation, while MAXXI – designed by the late Zaha Hadid – is the city’s cutting-edge National Museum of Art.
Even the Fascist era brought architectural splendor to the ancient capital. For example, the Esposizione Universale Roma or EUR area of the city is awash with 1950s minimalism.
It’s a creative hub
Rome’s power, especially in terms of the Popes willing to splash out cash on huge works of art and architecture, attracted many creative individuals to the city over the years. Art was allowed to flourish under this wealthy patronage, and allowed both Baroque and Neoclassical to be born in the city.
It was home to a long list of illustrious painters, sculptors, architects and artists, including Michelangelo and Bernini, whose work can be admired across the city and especially at Borghese Gallery. The creativity continues to this day.
Read my post Where To Find The Works Of Bernini In Rome.
You can visit the Pope
Catholics will have the answer to the eternal question – why visit Rome?
We’ve mentioned him already, but yes, it’s in Rome that you’ll find the Pope. Well, not exactly – it’s in the Vatican City, the world’s smallest nation state, which is situated in the heart of the Italian capital itself.
Here, once you step over the border into the Vatican, you’ll be in the center of Catholicism. It’s home to magnificent landmarks like the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Of course, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Check out my Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.
The fountains are beautiful
They sure are – and there are a lot of them to be found across the city. From the famed waters of the Trevi Fountain, to lesser known masterpieces of marble and engineering, there’s no getting away from the fact that Rome has some of the world’s most beautiful fountains.
Built in all sorts of styles, including Baroque and medieval, Rome has been home to fountains for over 2,000 years. They played an important part in the city’s development, at one time providing clean drinking water to its citizens.
Historically, they were fed by one of the nine ancient aqueducts that once brought water to 39 sizeable fountains, and almost 600 public basins. Today some of those aqueducts are still in use, with the Acque Vergine aqueduct still supplying water to the Trevi Fountain.
Head over to my post The Most Beautiful Fountains In Rome.
Staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a must
Probably one of the most famous ceilings in the world, the one at the Sistine Chapel has to be seen to be believed. The chapel itself was built between 1473 and 1481 and is located inside the Vatican City.
The frescoes that adorn the ornate ceiling were daubed by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, and are a landmark of High Renaissance art. With its bright colors and many lifelike figures, the ceiling is a complex creation that really shows the artist’s full skill. Michelangelo also painted The Last Judgement, which decorates the sanctuary wall of the chapel.
Make sure to read my post A Guide To Visiting The Sistine Chapel.
Food in Rome is delicious
If you travel for food and are asking yourself “why visit Rome?” stop right here! Food alone is one of the best reasons to visit Rome.
Roman cuisine is not to be missed. With roots in ancient Greek culture, the city developed its own particular cuisine using local ingredients. Developing over hundreds of years into what it is today, it’s no surprise that dining is such an amazing experience in Rome.
And there’s a lot of choice – as of 2017, there were 13,721 restaurants scattered throughout the capital (that’s without mentioning the cafes or bars!). From the high-end to the down-to-earth, dining out is important.
Meals are long and start with an aperitif and then continue with multiple dishes. Pasta, pizza, gnocchi, vegetables grilled, stuffed, and fried, beautiful cuts of meat, pastries – you name it It’s definitely a dream for any foodie to spend their time eating their way around the city.
Discover what to eat in Rome in this post.
You can have gelato year round
If your kids ask you why visit Rome, use the magic word – gelato!
Alongside the best of Rome’s cuisine is gelato. There’s no better way to get a sugar rush and cool down all at the same time.
You can’t go far in this city without passing a gelateria – there are many to be found, often boasting a variety of flavors. It’s not just a summertime snack either – it’s ok to enjoy gelato all year round.
Usually made fresh and with natural ingredients, gelato is endlessly delicious. It’s easy to spend your time hopping from shop to shop enjoying all the different flavors there are on offer. From strawberry and pistachio, to something a little more out there (how about ricotta?), there’s something for first-timers and taste explorers alike.
There’s amazing wine
And to wash down all that tasty food, there’s the wine.
Ancient Rome left its mark on the wine world, having influenced generations of grape growers across the Italian Peninsula. In fact, it was Roman culture that made wine-drinking democratic – it was available for all manner of people within the empire, from slaves to aristocrats, men and women alike.
Today, Italy as a whole is blessed with a long list of good wines, and Rome in particular is a top place to sample some of the best as well as varieties from the surrounding region of Lazio.
Its most famous wine is Frascati. Hailing from the nearby town in the Castelli Romani of the same name, Frascati is a refreshing white wine nicknamed the “golden wine” because of its color and quality. It’s a perfect accompaniment to any summer meal.
You can pretend you’re Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is the star of the classic 1953 rom-com, Roman Holiday. Starring alongside Gregory Peck, Hepburn plays a princess vacationing in Rome who meets a reporter (Peck). The pair then explore the city together with many classic sights appearing in the flick.
Hepburn rides around Rome on a Vespa – she sees the Spanish steps; eats at a street cafe; and she tours the Colosseum. Most famously, Peck and Hepburn visit the Mouth of Truth, and throw coins into the Trevi Fountain. Amazingly, it was this film that made the act of throwing coins into the fountain a favorite of visitors to Rome ever since.
Read my post The Best Movies About Rome.
It’s easy to hit up the beach
Rome may seem like an endless warren of ancient architecture and historic sights, but the city’s public transport makes it very easy to hit up the nearby coast.
One favorite for Romans looking for some respite by the sea is Ostia. Once the ancient port that served Rome, today Ostia is more known for its beaches – though there’s an archaeological site here too.
Elsewhere, there’s Sperlonga – a Blue Flag beach just 90 minutes by train from Rome. This picturesque destination is an ideal place to enjoy a day at the beach. Santa Marinella is another option for sun, sea, and sand – it’s only a 45-minute train ride from the capital to reach its crescent-shaped beach lapped by clear waters. Here you’ll also find plenty of stabilimenti, where you can rent sun loungers, umbrellas and order snacks and drinks.
Head over to my post The Best Day Trips From Rome.
The city’s piazze are perfect for people watching
Rome has a whole ton of piazze (squares). Often hubs of activity in local neighborhoods and the city center alike, these are the ideal place to take a break if your feet are hurting after walking around the city.
They’re also great in the evenings as the sun starts to go down. You can see local life playing out in these historic spaces, with terraces coming alive with diners and families out strolling in the cooler weather.
You can stay at historic hotel
It’s possible to actually stay in a slice of the city’s history by choosing your accommodation wisely. Many of Rome’s hotels have their own stories, often stretching back hundreds of years.
Some have Roman ruins situated inside – others are set inside buildings that were once Renaissance-era convents. You can even find ones that were built as palaces for Rome’s nobility, and others that have had famous names stay there at one time or another.
There are also some purpose-built hotels that have been standing as luxurious structures since the 19th century to accommodate historic travelers to the Italian capital.
Not only that, but even some of the city’s Airbnbs are located inside heritage buildings and timeworn apartment blocks.
Looking for a place to stay in Rome? Check out this post.
Different neighborhoods have a different feel
Rome isn’t just about its Centro Storico, or historic center. There are many more neighborhoods to explore when you find yourself in the Eternal City, each with a different vibe and a history all of its own.
One of the most well-known of these is Trastevere. This traditionally working-class district has a boho atmosphere today and can be explored along its charming, cobbled lanes and local piazze.
Elsewhere there’s Monti – a fashionable weekend spot for boutiques, bars, and restaurants. There’s also the neighboring residential areas of Testaccio and Ostiense, known for their cool, creative atmosphere, with great restaurants, street art, and great food markets.
It’s a compact city
Unlike sprawling capital cities like London or Tokyo, Rome is mercifully compact for first-time visitors. Its historic center is especially walkable, with many of its top attractions and sights being easily accessed on foot within a day of exploration. That means you won’t be wasting your precious vacation time trying to get to far-flung hotspots on public transport.
This makes Rome ideal for a weekend break – it’s surprising how much of the city you can see in just 48 hours!
Looking for a 2-day Rome itinerary? Click here!
The shopping is great
Shopaholic beware! Shopping is one of the top reasons to visit Rome! The city is ideal for shopaholics and souvenir hunters alike. From fun gift ideas to designer goods, there’s just about something for everyone here.
Want to shop for leather and shoes? Then go to Via Frattina. If you’re into vintage threads, then you should make your way to Via Dei Coronari. But if you like your clothes more chic and up-to-date, then Castel Romano – a theme-park-esque outlet with neoclassical architecture – is where you should go for designer clothing.