3-Day Beginner's Guide to Rome
Arts & Culture
With its broad avenues and sprawling expanse, the Eternal City can be overwhelming to any visitor - especially if you don’t have much time to visit the endless number of archaeological sites, countless museums dedicated to every era of Roman history and a never-ending list of churches and chapels (not to mention the Vatican!). Below are a few ideas for making Rome a bit more “manageable” if you only have a few days in the capital city (or if you are traveling with children). As a former resident of Rome (and Florence), I continue to discover eateries to enjoy a casual lunch and fun places for an aperitif - either on my own or with family and friends.
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Where to stay
The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, Autograph Collection
Warm, upscale hotel with a rooftop terrace located just a few steps from the Pantheon.
Hotel Albergo del Senato
Set in a 19th-century palazzo, this elegant hotel boasts plush rooms and suites in the heart of Rome.
All-suite hotel with a baroque-meets-glamour design located just a short walk from Piazza Navona.
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Day 1: Welcome to Rome Experience
First stop: Welcome to Rome Experience. This interactive exhibit with holograms and projections may seem a little “theatrical” at first, but this multimedia experience allows you to time travel through 2700 years of Rome - viewing reconstructions of the Colosseum, the Imperial Forum and more. You’ll watch the city evolve from the legend of Romulus and Remus through emperors and monarchs. A one-hour visit to this educational and fascinating “show” will give a terrific starting point for your time in Rome - children of all ages love it too!
A short walk from the Welcome to Rome Experience is Antico Forno Roscioli, a hidden gem that is among every Roman’s top picks for outstanding pastries and pizza by the slice (as well as a small, but delicious menu of daily specials including eggplant lasagna and carbonara). With over 12 varieties of this thin-crust delight (including prosciutto, mushroom and Margherita), make sure to arrive around 12:30 before the lunchtime rush - you may even find a stool against a narrow counter. If not, take your slices outside and enjoy them at their makeshift street tables. If there was ever a Michelin-rated pizza, this would be it.
After lunch, take a golf cart tour (LivItaly) of the city and see the multimedia experience of the morning come to life! You and up to five friends can hop on and allow the driver (also a knowledgeable guide) to wind you through small side streets to pass the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and more. You can reserve a driver for yourself or join another small group. It’s a practical way to tour the city for a few hours or an entire day.
Day 2: Capitoline Museums & cooking class
Spend a few hours at the Capitoline Museums, either with a guided headset or a private guide. The museums hold some of the most revered statuary of ancient Rome (the Dying Gaul, Commodus as Hercules, the Capitoline She Wolf), as well as Bernini’s Head of Medusa. Side note: the view of the Roman Forum from the Tabularium is breathtaking.
You may want to take an afternoon “off” from sightseeing - why not try a fun cooking class in a Roman restaurant kitchen? In Piazza Navona, you can join a chef at Gusto and learn to roll fresh pasta, fill ravioli and build an exquisite tiramisu - and enjoy the fruits of your labor by enjoying the dishes with a glass of wine and limoncello. Classes are open to children as well!
Day 3: Sightseeing & rooftop drinks
The Vatican - A visit to the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica can be absolutely overwhelming. I highly recommend an early start and a private guide that will help fast-track your way through the crowds, especially if you are traveling with children. The masterpieces of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of Maps and St. Peter’s necessitate a guide - and many of the highlights can be seen in 3-4 hours (you can always condense or amplify your time with your guide).
Visit the Pantheon - One of the seven wonders of the world, it is a marvel of architectural engineering - with over 2,000 years of history, the Pantheon remains one of the best-preserved monuments of ancient Rome. Constructed of brick and poured concrete, it boosts the largest unsupported dome in the world. Standing under the oculus (‘eye’ of the dome) is a feeling you’ll never forget - it’s my #1 monument in all of Rome.
Drinks & Dinner on a rooftop
The Divinity Terrace (Pantheon Iconic Hotel) - The roof bar is lively and fun, grab a drink on your own if you’d like - you can even opt for dinner if you’re having too much fun to leave. Fabulous service, wonderful drinks - I could almost touch the Pantheon’s dome. I love this hotel and this rooftop bar is just delightful - if you stay at the hotel, you’ll enjoy long breakfasts on the roof terrace!
Finish your night off with a post-dinner treat. My favorite gelateria in Rome, Gelateria della Palma, is located just a short walk from the Pantheon. With over 150 flavors from Nutella to Torta al Limone to Oreo (and super gourmand specialties like Champagne and Basil), I always need a few minutes to peruse the long wraparound counter and make my selection. You cannot make a bad choice with this 100% handmade gelato - and you’ll likely be back for seconds the following day!
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out this guide to Rome by Fora Advisor Elena Federico: Romantic Weekend in Rome, Italy.
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