AAA Travel Tips / Best Things to Do in Rome (Italy)

Best Things to Do in Rome (Italy)

By AAA Travel Editor Michelle Palmer
April 08, 2022
More than 2,500 years old, Rome is known as The Eternal City for good reason. Its history encompasses creation myths, an empire that spanned from the United Kingdom to Egypt, technological advancements and world-renowned art and architecture.
Beginning in the era Roman emperors reigned over the mighty empire throughout the Renaissance and beyond, temples and churches were constructed around the city; many of which continue to attract travelers from around the world.
Thinking of adding Rome to your bucket list? Check out our list of what to do when visiting Rome.
Note: Vatican City guards strictly enforce dress code. To enter, shorts and skirts must be below the knees; sleeveless shirts and low-cut tops are not permitted. Men are not permitted to wear hats indoors. Clothing, accessories and tattoos must be free of logos and imagery that would be considered out of compliance with Catholic morality. These rules also apply to many of the churches in Rome.
AAA Travel/Lauri Gaffert

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is located within the Apostolic Palace and is part of the Vatican museum complex. The chapel features exquisite details and religious icons.
The Sistine Chapel is especially famous for the Renaissance-era frescoes, most notably, the ceiling of the chapel painted by the famed artist Michelangelo. Also of note is Michelangelo’s "Last Judgement" on the altar wall.
Between 1979 and 1999, the chapel underwent extensive restorations that included cleaning the paintings, removing years of smoke residue and other grime. It’s a wonder of Renaissance art.

Vatican Museums

Among the many museums in Vatican City are the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Pio Clementino Museum and Raphael’s Rooms. Over centuries, various popes accumulated a rich trove of antiques, paintings, and sculptures; several are considered important works of art.
Expect to spend at least half a day at the Vatican museums and book your tour in advance to avoid waiting in a long line for tickets. Guests can purchase tickets for self-guided or guided tours for the Sistine Chapel and the museums. Some tour packages include breakfast in Vatican City. Consult a AAA Travel Agent for help navigating your options.

Villa Borghese Gardens

Part of the Villa Borghese complex, the gardens offer an incredible respite from busy Roman streets. The garden, open from dawn to dusk, covers nearly 200 acres and includes the Borghese and Pietro Canonica art museums, cafes and restaurants. Another point of interest within the Villa Borghese Gardens is the Casino della Meridiana (Meridiana Pavilion), recognizable from its marble and stucco adornments.

Galleria Borghese

Part of the Villa Borghese, the Galleria Borghese is an art museum that houses numerous exquisite paintings, sculptures and antiques. The structure was constructed in the 17th century and is in the north part of the inner city. It is an attractive building with a lovely façade decorated with stone statues.
Within the museum are 20 different rooms that feature works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens and Titian, among others. Give yourself ample time to see this impressive masterpiece and the magnificent Villa Borghese Gardens.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is an ancient site that once served as the center of Roman public and political life. There were several temples, squares, and archways, many of which still stand today, including the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Vesta, the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Arch of Titus.
The Roman Forum is situated close to the Colosseum and the Altar of the Fatherlands and is practically a required stop for first-time visitors to Rome. Tip: Plan to visit the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and Palatine Hill on the same day. They are close together, and tours typically include all three.


The Colosseum, one of the most recognizable landmarks in Rome, is a historically significant structure from ancient Rome. The amphitheater was constructed between A.D. 70 and 80 and could hold 50,000 spectators. Emperors staged gladiator competitions, chariot races, and, surprisingly, mock naval battles.
The Colosseum is easily accessible from the Colosseo metro stop, about a 5-minute walk. Beto

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill is the location where, according to Roman legend, twins Romulus and Remus were found as infants by a shepherd and are said to have later built the city of Rome. Today, the hill reaches about 130 feet above the city, and the ruins include Domus Flavia (Flavian Palace) and the Temple of Cybele.
Note: Be sure to put on your walking shoes before climbing to the top of this ancient landmark.

Vittoriano (Altar of the Fatherland)

Another monumental building, located in the center of Rome, is Vittoriano, named for Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. Unlike many of the notable landmarks in Rome, this one is comparatively modern. Construction began in the late 19th century, while the monument opened to the public in 1911.
The memorial features a massive bronze statue of Emmanuel and several other stone sculptures. The façade has an elegant columnar pattern, and the museum within the center of the monument focuses on Italy's unification and its historical beginnings.
Vittoriano is located between the Pantheon and the Colosseum, about a 15-minute walk to either.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, located on the piazza of the same name, is one of the largest churches in Rome. Stone columns and numerous statues dominate the façade, and an enormous bell tower reaches toward the sky over the top of the basilica.
While the outside of the church is spectacular, the interior beauty is simply breathtaking with gold decorations and frescoes on both walls and ceilings. The art and architecture of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore feature elements from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Quirinal Palace

The stately building and complex is an official residence of the Italian president and is located on Quirinal Hill. The 270-acre complex is a massive palace with 1,200 rooms. The rooms are richly furnished, and courtyards and staircases add to the opulence.
During a tour, you can see numerous exhibits detailing the palace’s history and uses. The Quirinal Gardens have several trees, hedges, flowers and fountains, and works of art seem to be tucked away in every spot of the garden.

Piazza Navona

Built on the ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, the Piazza Navona dates back to the 15th century and remains one of the more popular sights in Rome. Generally, artists and vendors fill the piazza, and the surrounding buildings frame the open space perfectly.
Notable parts of the square are The Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain), Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain), the Palazzo Braschi, Palazzo Pamphilj and the Church of Sant‘Agnese in Agone.


Once a walled city in the Middle Ages, Trastevere features narrow cobblestone streets, which wind between buildings of this neighborhood. Some consider Trastevere one of the few places to experience authentic Roman life, even though the neighborhood has been growing in popularity with tourists for the last several years.
While strolling through the neighborhood, you can see ivy growing on the buildings and feel enmeshed in the culture. Grab a drink or a bite to eat at any of the many of cafes and pubs. If you want to go barhopping while in Rome, Trastevere is a popular nightlife spot.


The Pantheon, one of the best-preserved historic Roman buildings, is an iconic attraction in Rome. Roman statesman and architect Marcus Agrippa ordered the construction of the building in 27 B.C., and the Pantheon was rebuilt under the rule of the emperor Hadrian between A.D. 118 and 128.
The entrance to the round building is a rectangular porch adorned with large columns and a triangular pediment, inscribed with Agrippa’s name. Besides the magnificent dome, statues and marble walls decorate the interior, and it appears much as it did in the time of Hadrian.
Note: The Pantheon is also the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Matyres. It is free to enter, but reservations are required on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

Trevi Fountain

Designed by Nicola Salvi and built in 1762, Trevi Fountain has a wealth of artistic and decorative elements. In the center of the fountain, stands an incredibly detailed statue of the Roman god Oceanus accompanied by tritons (mermen) and horses. Local superstition says that tossing a coin with your left hand over your right shoulder into the fountain ensures that you will return to Rome.

Ponte Sant‘Angelo (St. Angelo Bridge) and Castel Sant 'Angelo (St. Angelo Castle)

The Ponte Sant‘Angelo spans the Tiber River and is the path to the Castel Sant’Angelo. Emperor Hadrian had the bridge and castle built in the 2nd century A.D. The bridge was built using travertine marble.
Castel Sant’Angelo’s original purpose was to be the mausoleum for Hadrian and his family, but it was converted to a castle in the Middle Ages and served at one point as a papal residence.
On a tour of the bridge and castle, you can cross the Tiber River getting an up-close look at the many statues that line the bridge and see Renaissance-era frescoes in the castle. Head to the upper floor of Castel Sant’Angelo for excellent views of Rome.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City is a must-see landmark. Located in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, the square is actually circular and lined by two enormous colonnades on either side. There are also 140 statues, 2 fountains and 1 Egyptian obelisk.
When the pope is in Rome, he addresses the public in the square from his papal apartment, usually on Wednesday. If you want to attend, check the schedule ahead of time for start times, and plan to arrive early. Also, pack your hat and sunscreen if you are attending during the warmer months.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica sits at the edge of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. In addition to the many mosaics, paintings and carvings, the opulent church houses the great Renaissance artworks "Pieta" by Michelangelo and "St. Longinus" by Bernini.
Entry to the church is free, but be prepared for long lines. Reduce wait times by purchasing tickets that allow you to skip the line. Tickets to climb the steps up to the dome cost as well.
With such a rich history and so many well-preserved landmarks, it is no wonder Rome is a popular destination. With some planning of your own or with help from a AAA travel agent, you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime to Rome.

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