Rome is so overwhelming! There’s so much to do, way too many places to eat, and definitely not enough time. I tried to organize our travel days in Rome into two categories: Ancient Rome and Christian Rome. We devoted our first day in Rome to exploring the ancient Roman buildings and ruins. Here’s what not to miss:
Before our tour through Rome, I had no idea what the Pantheon was. I was surprised to find out that it’s a church and the most well preserved building of ancient Rome. It’s free to go inside, so make sure you take a moment to appreciate the architecture and admire the oculus in the center. The oculus is open to the sky so drains are built into the Pantheon floor for when it rains.
The Trevi Fountain is gorgeous! When you’re walking towards the fountain, you’ll actually probably hear it before you see it. Hundreds of people visit here every day to throw their coins in. It’s believed that if you throw a coin into the fountain, using your right hand over your left shoulder, then one day you’ll return to Rome again. We threw our coins in so we’ll see if the legend comes true! Approximately 3000 Euros are thrown into the fountain every day. A Catholic non-profit organization collects all of the coins each week and uses the money to care for the poor and sick in Rome.
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Be aware that the Trevi Fountain is so crowded. It’s hard to fight your way to the front, and it’s almost impossible to get a good picture.
Palatine Hill/Roman Forum
The Palatine Hill and Roman Forum were the most underwhelming part of our day. I’m not sure what I expected, but it’s just a lot of ruins. This is the most ancient part of the city, and was considered to be the center of Rome at that time. The Palatine Hill was dedicated to emperors and temples while the Roman Forum was full of government buildings. There’s no shade here so bring some water with you.
If you’re running out of time, then this is the place I recommend skipping because it’s literally just a lot of steps. An Audrey Hepburn film in the 1950s made the Spanish Steps famous, but other than taking a few pictures, there’s not much to do here. Many people gather here to eat lunch or relax in the sun, and there is a beautiful fountain in the piazza.
No trip to Rome is complete without visiting the Colosseum. I remember rounding the corner and seeing it for the first time. It’s way bigger in person, and so intimidating! To think of all the history in this building is incredible. We had a guided tour through the Colosseum, and we learned so much. Our guide explained the architecture, the events that used to take place there, and the culture surrounding the gladiator games. Try to watch the film Gladiator before your trip. Our guide referenced the movie a lot, and it had been about ten years since I had seen it!
It’s possible to do all of these things in one day, but you’ll be exhausted. To fully appreciate everything, it’s probably best to spread it out over two days. Of course, that also depends on what time of year you visit. We visited in May right before the really busy season, so we didn’t experience very many crowds. Again, I have to stress the benefit of taking a guided tour or hiring a guide. Most of the time, passes to skip to the front of the line are included in guided tours. This saved us so much time at the Colosseum! But no matter how you choose to tour Rome, include as many of these stops as you can!