Being back in the States for almost five months now, I’m finding it difficult to keep my thoughts from Europe. The hardest to forget is Rome itself, my old home and my favorite city in the world. Although constantly brainstorming ways to get back oversees, at the moment the closest I can get to Rome is through my memories and pictures of my semester abroad.
Although I was technically there to “study,” I had class only twice a week, which gave me plenty of free time to explore the city. Over those four months, my friends and I compiled a long list of our favorite restaurants, bars, museums, attractions and experiences in Rome. Take a look at my Roman bucket list!
My bucket list wouldn’t be complete without including the basics! You can’t visit Rome without experiencing its most famous attractions.
The Colosseum & The Roman Forum
The Colosseum is the most famous monument in Rome and is always filled with tourists from all over the world. I would suggest buying tickets online for both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum so you don’t end up waiting in lines all day.
The Forum can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers and, if you’re really a history buff, I would suggest spending a little more on a guided tour. They’re offered in many different languages and it’s a great way to really connect with Rome’s history.
Vatican City, The Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica
Another one of Rome’s most famous attractions, Vatican City and all it’s museums are a must-see on any trip to Rome. Since the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica are located very close to one another in Vatican City, it’s best to just make a day out of it and see everything at once! Like the Colosseum, since these attractions are so popular it’s much easier to buy tickets ahead of time.
Located in Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon is another of Rome’s most famous structures. Built in 27 BC, the Pantheon is the best preserved building from ancient Rome. Walking inside, you’ll marvel at its gorgeous inner dome and centuries-old artwork.
Altare della Patria
The Altare della Patria, commonly known among American students as “The Wedding Cake Building,” is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. The monument contains a museum and an elevator that will take you all the way to the top, where you can find some of the most stunning views of Rome. Located in Piazza Venezia, it’s a 10 minute walk from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum begins directly behind it.
For only €7 and a short wait, you can take in the stunning view for yourself.
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
A monument that you may recognize from the film starring Kristin Bell, “When in Rome,” there are many superstitions around throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Located a short walk from Via del Corso and the Pantheon, throwing one coin in the fountain is said to ensure a return to Rome, two coins will supposedly ensure romance with a Roman and three coins means you will marry said Roman. I don’t know about any of that but my friends and I had a blast taking Boomerangs of ourselves throwing coins backwards into the fountain!
Tip: don’t stop to eat or shop anywhere around the Trevi Fountain. The area is so touristy that shops are able to charge even twice as much as they normally would. Also, make sure to keep an eye on your bag because this is a hotspot for pickpockets!
The Capuchin Crypt
The Capuchin Crypt was probably the creepiest museum I visited in Europe. The Crypt includes five underground chambers decorated completely with skulls and bones. It’s estimated that the rooms hold the corpses of around 3,700 Capuchin friars. Admittance is only €8, but if you’re creeped out by that many bodies it may not be the museum for you.
Warning: they are very strict about photography, so I wouldn’t suggest trying to sneak any pictures.
Campo de’ Fiori Market
Campo de’ Fiori is one of my favorite places in Rome! At night, the whole square is filled with delicious restaurants and music from surrounding bars. During the day, it’s filled with street vendors selling everything from Italian leather to funny T-shirts to fresh vegetables and homemade pasta. It’s a great place to spend a Saturday morning, but none of the vendors take cards so make sure you have cash!
Explore scenic Trastevere
John Cabot University (my school in Rome) was located in the middle of scenic Trastevere. The neighborhood is filled with delicious restaurants, cafes, bars and adorable shops selling art, books and clothing. Trastevere is a very up-and-coming area and a great place to hang out with the locals!
Shopping on Via del Corso
If you’re looking to do some serious shopping, look no further than Via del Corso. Via del Corso is actually an ancient road, one of the largest roads during the time of the Roman Empire. Today, it’s home to hundreds of Rome’s best shops.
Giardino degli Aranci
I visited the Giardino deli Aranci on my very last day in Rome. Named for its famous orange trees (translates to Orange Garden), the garden is situated high on a hill and is home to some spectacular views of the city.
Take the train to Anzio for a Beach Day
Being from landlocked Wisconsin, I always pounce on an opportunity to go to the beach. Anzio is a small beach town located south of Rome and only an hour away by train. On my days off from class, I would purchase a round-trip ticket for €7 from Roma Termini to Anzio. The beaches were gorgeous and, because I was going in late April/early May, I had them almost entirely to myself.
For a list of my favorite restaurants in Rome, check out my article When in Rome…EAT as the Romans do!
Bars & Nightclubs
Arguably our favorite club in Rome, it was a rare night out if it didn’t end with someone leading the pack to Shari. Although the club was ridiculously overpriced (€10 for a Heineken, really?), we made some great memories on that sweaty, overpacked dance floor. Usually starting somewhere else for a cheaper drunk, it was not uncommon for us to close down the Shari dance floor at 5:00 am.
Scholars Irish Pub
Another one on our list of favorite Roman bars, Scholars Irish Pub was the place to be every Tuesday night for Karaoke. Always completely packed with American college students, its not the place to go for an “authentic” Italian night out. However, the drinks are affordable (liters of Peroni for €4) and Scholars always ended up being a great time!
Although I didn’t frequent G Bar as much as the others, the staff was fun and friendly and they had great deals for JCU students. The interior was tiny and crowded but if it was a nice night it was a great place to hang out outside to chat and have a few drinks!
Another bar that was frequented by JCU students, Drunken Ship was a favorite among my friends. Located across the river in Campo di Fiori and the perfect spot for some pre-game drinks, it was often the first stop of the night.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Akab is where to go if you’re looking for a local Italian nightclub. Across the river from our apartment in lower Trastevere, Testaccio is a neighborhood filled with some of the city’s most popular clubs and bars . A stroll down Via di Monte Testaccio will give you all the options you could ever want for a wild night out!
Warning: expect most places in Testaccio to charge a cover fee.
It’s not easy for me to write about Rome, missing it as much as I do. Hopefully, I’ll be on my way back to Italy next summer, but for now I’ll have to be content with my memories and my Italian class.
Hopefully you’ll use some of these tips if you’re lucky enough to visit Rome. Comment below with your own Roman favorites!