Almost any travel guide, book, or Hollywood film about Rome will tell you that it’s a city full of unthinkable beauty. Full of jaw-dropping architectural feats, incredible visual art, and unparalleled cuisine, Rome is truly a city that has everything a seasoned, cosmopolitan traveler seeks in a European getaway. The only problem is, how do you figure out where to start? Which churches and museums are non-negotiable, and which restaurants do you hit up first? How do even begin to make your way through the dizzying maze of historical sights, art, and cultural attractions? By the end of your trip, you’ll know why the phrase “when in Rome” exists. With so much richness to enjoy, how can you possibly say no to anything? However, if you’re looking for aspects of the eternal city that are more unmissable than others, look no further. When you’re next in Rome, here are some of the most quintessentially Italian experiences you simply can’t deprive yourself of.
Head to the Colosseum
It might seem like an obvious choice, but there’s nothing obvious about the Roman Colosseum, one of the most impressive examples of historical architecture in the world. The Flavian Amphitheater, site of thousands of terrifying and bloody gladiatorial matches, has been standing strong since 80 AD. It’s been through tons of different uses, from a traditional theater to a hunting ground to a type of makeshift housing for vagrant Romans. Whatever you think you know about the Colosseum, throw it all out the window. It’s worth it to see the structure in full scale at least once in your lifetime whether you’re a history buff or a casual traveler. Royal Holiday’s Palazzo del Velabro Apartments are located only eight minutes away, which means you absolutely have no excuse not to go.
Tour the Mercatos
Italy is known for its vibrant culture and out-of-this-world cuisine. Whether you want to try your hand at making a meal out of freshly-caught fish, flavorful cured meat, and an assortment of local wines and cheeses, head to the Mercato di Campagna Amica to taste and smell the local wares. It’s more than just food at the Mercato: Depending on where you’re shopping, you can find anything from handcrafted goods to pickled delicacies to freshly-picked flowers on the streets of Rome.
Check Out the Vatican
It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or even religious. The Vatican, home of the Pope himself and located in a special enclave of Rome known as “Vatican City,” isn’t just the home of Catholic worship. It’s one of the world’s best and most exclusive art museums. Even if you aren’t an art lover, it’s worth heading to Vatican City to catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s incredible, gigantic mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Once you see it, you’ll want to keep staring forever. If you’re a fan of completely awe-inspiring sights that have the power to change your life and the way you think about art, the Vatican is where it’s at. From the centrally located Palazzo del Velabro, you can get there in about nine minutes. Once you’re done, make your way over to the Galleria Borghese for some classic works by Titian, Bernini, and more.
Don’t Miss the Baths
After a long day of sightseeing, you might be thinking about taking a long, relaxing bath. But that’s not the kind of bath we’re talking about. The Baths of Carcella are ancient ruins located in the heart of Rome. Once used as a public bathing area, the baths are now gigantic, hulking ruins that tower above everything around them. Fans of architecture will notice the clear influence of the baths on modern structures like New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The baths are even used every so often as a living set by modern Roman theater groups and opera companies.
Do a Dining Tour
It wouldn’t be a Roman holiday without lots and lots of pasta, gelato, and wine. Luckily, when you’re in Rome you don’t have to travel far for an extraordinary sampling of any of these. Our advice? Start at Trattoria Monti and work your way down. Spanco is your spot for high-end pizza, and Santo Palato will give you the perfect pasta fix. Head to Litro for a glass of wine, Supplizio for breaded and fried delights, and to Pasticceria Regoli to end the night in style with a wild strawberry tart or a maritozzi, the Italian version of a cream puff. Remember: A day spent eating is never a waste.
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