Rome is one of my favorite cities in the world and one I just keep returning to! We normally go back at least once a year and it was the first city we travelled to with our baby! Despite our perpetual visits, it is somewhere where my bucket list only ever gets bigger! In this guide we and some of our favorite travel bloggers have created are ultimate Rome Bucket List, including some of the best Rome hidden gems!
Rome Hidden Gems Bucket List
In this part of the guide we are looking at the best Rome hidden gems, the things that the first time tourist misses but shouldn’t!
Jewish ghetto and Theatre of Marcellus
One of Rome’s most important districts is the area known as the Jewish Ghetto on the banks of the Tiber. Dating back to 2 BC the settlement in Rome is Europe’s oldest Jewish enclave full of history. Iit is an atmospheric area of cobbled streets winding their way among ancient Roman ruins.
You can’t miss the Portico d’Ottavia, a huge structure was once the walkway entrance to the temples of Juno and Jupiter, boasting over 300 columns. In medieval times there was a fish market on the site, and later a church. Close by, the Theatre of Marcellus is a huge open air Roman theatre. Built in the final days of the Roman Empire, in its heyday the theatre held up to 20,000 spectators who came to watch plays and musical recitals.
You can walk around the outside of the impressive structure among the ruins and admire that the theatre is still standing and magnificent. Unfortunately it is not possible to go inside. The top floors of the theatre were converted into the Orsini family’s private apartments in the 18th century. You can only wonder what they are like as they remain private and a closely guarded secret.
Nominated by Untold Morsels!
Ostiense Street Art
“Alongside ancient history, in Rome you can also discover a fascinating world of contemporary art. There are a few neighbourhoods where you can see the local fantastic street art, but one of my favourites is by all means Ostiense. So much that I have included it in one of my suggested Rome itineraries.
This is the district of Rome’s industrial archaeology and its street art reflects that. All along Via Ostiense as well as its back streets, you can view several murals by artists like Blu, Axel Void and JB Rock. So, apart from Via Ostiense, take some of the side streets like Via dei Magazzini Generali for the Wall of Fame by JB Rock and Via del Porto Fluviale for the huge rainbow faces by Blu.
If you are in the area during lunchtime, there are many options. You can try the vegan Romeow Cat Bistrot, the more traditional Trattoria Pennestri or the casual cafe-style Doppiozeroo for some light pasta, savoury pies, pizza, salad and more.”
Nominated by Rome Actually
“If you’ve already exhausted Rome’s famous hotspots, why not take a gander over to the ever-so-charming neighbourhood of Trastevere for an alternative afternoon trip. Situated on the west bank of the Tiber River, south of Vatican City, Trastevere was once an unknown working-class district, but it has recently begun to turn tourist’s heads.
Best known for its winding maze of medieval cobblestone streets, this beautiful, bohemian area is by far my favourite part of Rome. Concentrated around the central Piazza di Santa Maria you will find an array of hidden treasures from medieval churches to quirky gift shops. If you are a lover of authentic Italian cuisine, Trastevere is also the perfect place to taste the ‘real’ Italy, so visit on an empty stomach and be ready to leave with amazing memories!”
Nominated by Faraway Lucy
If you are traveling with kids to Rome, or perhaps just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, especially the nearby Spanish steps then the Borghese Gardens are the place to go! The Gardens are Rome’s third largest public park and along with being a beautifully landscaped garden it also has a number of buildings and museums, the main attraction of these being Galleria Borghese, the Museum of Modern Art and the Globe Theatre. But don’t worry if you don’t have time to go inside the gallery there are plenty of sculptures in the park to keep any art fan amused. The park is almost a must for Olympic history buffs as the park was the home to the equestrian events for the Rome Olympics. The Gardens also offer some great viewing platforms to take in some great and interesting perspectives of Rome such as that at Piazza Napoleone.In the centre of the gardens is a beautiful lake overlooked by the stunning Temple of Aesculapius. The lake in front can be boated in good weather, but on our last trip we weren’t lucky enough to do this! For me the Gardens are must for any visitor to Rome!
I don’t generally recommend spending money on museums in Rome, because you can see so much top-notch art for free in the churches of Rome. But the one exception is the Borghese Gallery.
The Galleria Borghese not only contains a superb art collection, it is also blessedly free of the claustrophobic throngs of tourists that mob most museums in Italy. Entrance to the Borghese Gallery is strictly regulated to limited numbers in two-hour slots. You have to book your ticket well in advance. The result is a marvelous viewing experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
In terms of exhibits, the gallery features many stunning works by masters like Gian Lorenzo Bernini (including Apollo and Daphne and David), Caravaggio, and Titian. The villa in which the gallery is housed is stunning as well.
If you love art, the Galleria Borghese should be at the top of your list of things to do in Rome!
Top Tip: Tickets to the museum sell out early – we recommend booking your tickets early HERE
Nominated by It’s Not About the Miles
Mouth of Truth
Are you planning to visit Rome and dive into the spirit of your Italian dream vacation? Well, well dear reader, we will see about that. Yes, you got me right, because according to the legend, before you can fully experience your Roman vacation you should first dare the famous Mouth of Truth.What am I talking about? I am referring to a marble mask which depicts the face of the sea god Oceanus, whose mouth, eyes, and nostrils are wide open.How did it became such a famous tourist attraction? Well, the answer is easy, as in 1953 it was featured in Roman Vacations – a movie starred by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
According to the legend, the statue is used as a lie detector: it will bite off the hand of those who haven’t said the truth.Many copies have been made around the world, but the original Mouth of Truth is only in Rome. To get to the Mouth of Truth head to Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18 and you will find it.
Oh, don’t forget to tell always the truth if you don’t want to lose your hand!
Nominated by the Lazy Trotter
The Appian way is arguably part of the longest road of its time. Built in 312BC, it’s primary purpose was to transport military equipment over long distances in support of Roman conquests. Today the remaining section is still the longest straight road in Europe with a 39mile stretch. Although many miles of the road are used by cars, parts of Appian way are now a lovely walk. The walking stretch is closed to vehicle traffic but open to pedestrians and horses. The road is lined with beautiful trees and ruins of structures that the Roman military would have used back in the day.
To get to Appian way, we took a public transit bus from Rome. From the bus stop we walked to the stables, where we took a horseback ride up to Appian way. We rode alongside the few visitors that walked the path.
Like all of ancient Rome, Appian walk left me in awe of the Roman engineering excellence. As early 2,400 years ago, Romans had the engineering know how that surpassed those of kingdoms that followed for many centuries thereafter.
Today Appian way is a lovely walk, away from the crowds of the city. It’s a peaceful place to relax and reflect. It’s a place to image all the things this stretch of road has seen. It has withstood the test of time and has served the many that came here, for nearly 2.5 millenniums. Very little of what we see today will last that long.
Nominated by Story at Every Corner
Santa Sabina Church
There are hundreds of churches in Rome, so it’s easy to go into church overload pretty quickly. But the Santa Sabina church up on the Aventine hill is one that shouldn’t be missed.
Whereas most of Rome’s churches are decorated in the Baroque fashion of the 17th and 18th centuries, Santa Sabina is much, much older than that and still retains many of its original features. The building was first constructed in the 5th century, following a typical Roman basilica floor plan.It’s a remarkably intact example of very early Christian architecture. Even the church doors, made of cypress wood, are thought by historians to be the originals from 430 AD. Look for the hole in the floor that offers a peek at what’s left of the ancient Temple of Juno, which was probably torn down to make way for the church. The 24 columns flanking the nave of the church were originally part of the temple.
Even though Santa Sabina is hidden away in a corner of the city that not many tourists visit, it’s still very much in the center of Rome and is just a short walk away from well-known sites like the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum.
Nominated by the Nomadic Vegan
The Capitoline Museums
Italy is famous for its food and its museums. The Capitoline Museums, which sit on top of Capitoline Hill, are remarkable for several reasons. The first is the piazza in front of them. The Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo (though not finished until a couple of centuries after his death) and is considered the first modern square in Rome.
The museums are housed in two main former palaces off this square. The Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo have several remarkable pieces of art, including the original Capitoline she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus (the version in the piazza outside is a replica), an enormous statue of statue of Marcus Aurelius on a horse and fragments of colossal statues. There is a giant foot that is almost as big as I am!
My favorite things, though, are the views. Firstly, from a narrow corridor between the main buildings, there is a wonderful over the Forum below. Secondly, the rooftop restaurant is my favorite spot in all of Rome. Having pizza and wine while enjoying the views of the rooftops of Rome, with church domes poking above them, is the absolute best way to spend a relaxing Roman afternoon.
Nominated by Travel Collecting
Oldest Coffee Shop in Rome
When in Rome… travellers keen to do as the Romans do can expect to spend a whole lot of time at a whole lot of cafes drinking a whole lot of espresso. And if there’s one cafe you simply can’t miss, it’s Antico Caffè Greco. Located on the fashion-forward Via Condotti, just at the bottom of the iconic Spanish Steps, this cathedral of caffeine dates back to 1760 and is the oldest coffee bar in Rome. It has been an important meeting spot for artists, writers and philosophers for hundreds of years. And with its dickie-bow-tied waiters, plush crimson sofas and gold-framed oil paintings, it still looks and feels very much like it belongs to a bygone epoch.
But unlike most espresso bars in Rome, this is not exactly the sort of place you can pop in for a quick shot of the good stuff at the counter before dashing off for gelato in Piazza Campo dei Fiori. Why? Because a coffee and something sweet to dunk in it will cost you €10-€15 at very least. But think of it more of a donation to keep this living slice of culture and history alive, a fee for the privilege of travelling back in time to Rome’s glory days, to the Age of Enlightenment.
Nominated by Driftwood Journals
Tiber island is an anomaly on the Tiber river and an off the beaten path destination in Rome. Not as well known but still in the historic district of Rome, Tiber island contains many historic monuments and also has some wonderful views of the river and scenic monuments of the city. The island contains historic attractions like the Basilica of St. Bartholomew and the Fatebenefratelli Hospital. One of the back side you can hike to an open traverstine area (creating the effect of a ships prow) and has fantastic views of the river and historic attractions around Rome.
As you cross the brides of Tiber Island, on one side of the river, you can explore the lovely Trastevere neighborhood with cobbled streets, unique galleries, restaurants and a beautiful public square in Trastevere, Piazza Santa Maria. The other side of the island connects with the historic district with easy access to ancient monuments of the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona and Piazza Campo De Fiori. When you visit Trastevere, check out my post on tasting the specialty and local foods in Trastevere. It’s filled with tasty local purveyors of specialty food, cafes, bars and other fun places to hang out.
Nominated by Travel Photo Discovery
The city of Rome has the most obelisks in the world, 13 to be exact. These ancient stone pillars date back to Egyptian and Roman times, with the oldest, the Lateran Obelisk made for Egyptian Pharaohs over 3500 years ago.Eight of the obelisks you will find scattered throughout the city center were created in ancient Egypt and taken to Rome after the Roman conquest. One example is the imposing Flaminian Obelisk in Piazza del Popolo. It was made for Pharaoh Rameses II for his Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis and was brought to Rome by Augustus. Five obelisks were made in Eygpt during the Roman period at the request of wealthy Romans or made in Rome as copies of the Egyptian originals.There are also several modern Obelisks, including the Obelisk erected by Mussolini in 1932.
Nominated by Rayner En Route
Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo, or People’s Square, sits inside Rome’s north gate. Three major roads lead into the city from this center. Piazza del Popolo is large; you will find peddlers, street performers and many cafes nearby. The twin churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesan sit side by side facing the Egyptian obelisk with lion fountains surrounding the obelisk. There are two more fountains in the piazza, the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Goddess of Rome. The Santa Maria del Popolo is worth stopping in to see Rome’s oldest stained-glass windows and two famous paintings by Caravaggio. Pincio Park is up the stairs to the left of Piazza del Popolo and offers one of my favorite rooftop views of Rome. From here walk down Via del Corso to begin a DIY walking tour through the heart of the city.
Nominated by Out of Office Blog
Rome Bucket List – The Well Known Attractions
Now you have heard about some of Rome’s best hidden gems, in this section of the guide we highlight some of the most well known sites that every tourist of Rome has to see at least once!
The Trevi fountain
The Trevi fountain, officially called “Fontana di Trevi”, is one of Rome’s most well-known attractions among tourists. Located in the city centre, the Trevi fountain is only a short walk away from other historical monuments in Rome such as the Pantheon. The fountain was built in 1762 and you’ll certainly be mesmerized by its beautiful architecture.
However, the reason why the Trevi fountain gained so much popularity is the superstitious belief that a coin flip into the fountain will give you an extra dose of luck and it became a tradition among visitors to play with it. Therefore, every day about 3000€ are thrown into the fountain and donated for a good cause. Although the fountain can be very crowded at times, it’s certainly fun to see all the tourists throwing their coins into the water and you shouldn’t miss visiting Trevi when in Rome.
Nominated by the German Backpacker
A visit to the Roman Forum let us step back in time and get a glimpse of the cultural, governmental and spiritual center of ancient Rome. Even from the ruins, we could see how detailed these ancient structures really were. Our favorite parts of the Forum included the Arch of Titus, which dates back over 2,000 years and provided inspiration for the much larger Arch de Triomphe. We also loved the remaining pillars from the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Temple of Saturn. While there is a good view of the Roman Forum from the periphery, we were glad we had a chance to get the up close and personal view. As a bonus, our combined ticket allowed entry to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (which is connected to the Forum). Our visit to this area provided an amazing hands-on history lesson, and we recommend a stop at the Roman Forum to any family visiting Rome.
Nominated by We Go With Kids.
The Roman Forum gets very busy – book your fast track entry tickets in advance HERE
“Rome will exist as long as the Colosseum does. When the Colosseum falls, so will Rome.” Venerable Bede
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum is Rome’s most prominent attraction and one of the best-preserved monuments of ancient Rome. It was constructed around 70-80 AD, under the Emperor Vespasia. The huge circular structure was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Itwas the largest amphitheatre ever built, holding more than 50,000 spectators. Gladiator combats, wild animal fights and other combats were hosted here. Many were brutal. Under the Colosseum are underground passages and rooms, where the animals and gladiators were kept, while they waited to meet their fate in the arena. Two-thirds of the Colosseum has now been destroyed due to fires, earthquakes and vandalism but it still attracts thousands of people every year! I’ve been there twice and while standing there, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had been transported back in time.
Nominated by In Africa and Beyond!
The Colosseum gets very busy – book your fast track entry tickets in advance HERE
The Spanish Steps
The gift of the French to Italy, the elegant, butterfly-shaped open-air staircase is an attraction not to missed when in Rome. A wildly photogenic spot with the backdrop of the Trinità dei Monti and the Piazza di Spagna and the graceful arches of the Fontana della Barcaccia on the foreground, this is a picture you will forever look back to. Named the Spanish Steps due to the nearby Spanish Embassy, the area around it has loads of shopping and sightseeing spots to wander off to. Before you wander off, make sure to fill up your tumbler at the Fontana della Barcaccia as it is said to have the sweetest water in Rome.
Nominated by Karolina Patryk
Torre di Largo Argentina
Nestled into the heart of Rome sits a set of unobtrusive ruins in the middle of a piazza–and like so much of Rome, what is initially unassuming has an intense story to tell. More than 2,000 years ago, in meeting place within Pompey’s Theatre, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. Today, we call that space the Torre di Largo Argentina, and a quick stroll through the center of Rome will take you to that exact spot. The story of the Torre di Largo Argentina doesn’t end with Julius Caesar, though: today, the ruins are home to a cat sanctuary, and hundreds of cats call the place home. The cats are looked after by a nonprofit and many are available for adoption–but it’s hard to imagine anything cuter or more perfectly suited for Rome than the site of one of the world’s most famous assassinations being repurposed into a series of impromptu cat perches.
Nominated by Our Escape Clause
Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, commonly referred to as the “wedding cake monument,” is located in the heart of Rome between Capitaline Hill and the Piazza Venezia. With its central location, it’s a great place to stop before or after visiting the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. While the structure is viewed as a bit tacky by some with it’s bright white exterior and over-the-top architecture, it’s definitely something that shouldn’t be missed as you’re exploring Rome. (Literally, it sticks out so much that you really can’t miss it.) Inside the museum, there’s actually a museum dedicated to the Italian Reunification and the country’s military past, and Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is here as well. The museum is free and well worth taking some time to walk through, even if you’re short on time. The monument also houses what’s referred to as the “sky elevator,” which takes visitors up to the top of the building for €7 for amazing views of the city.
Nominated by Toddling Traveler
Vatican City bucket list
Although fully located inside Rome’s city limits, Vatican City is a sovereign state. There are number of exciting things to do inside the City wall. Two of the most popular ones being St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. But only a handful visitors know that there is much more to Vatican City than what’s on the surface. The ultimate Rome (well – Vatican City) bucket list item is the Scavi Tour – an underground guided tour beneath St. Peter’s Basilica to see the 4th century necropolis. The highlight of the Scavi Tour is to see bones that are believed to be none other than those of St. Peter’s himself. To experience this, you must arrange the Scavi Tour in advance, as they are very particular about vetting the visitors who’ll descend deep below the surface of Vatican City.
Nominated by The RTW Guys
One of the most popular places to visit in Rome is the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, which actually are located in the Vatican City. As this is basically in the heart of Rome, it makes sense to visit during a trip to the Italian capital. The Sistine Chapel currently is the site of the Papale Conclave, where Cardinals from all over the world meet to elect a new pope. It’s located in the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the Pople. The original name used to be Cappella Magna, but it then took after Pope Sixtus IV, under whose papacy the restoration works where initiated in 1477.
Inside, you can admire the works of famous artists such as Botticelli, Pinturicchio and Ghirlandaio. However, most visitors go there to admire The Last Judgment, Michelangelo’s most famous work, which he painted between 1535 and 1541 upon request of Pope Clement VII and Paul III.Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular places to visit in Rome, with endless lines that may take the best of a day. The only way to get around the lines is buying skip-the-line tickets to the Sistine Chapel online – though keep in mind that in any case you’ll have to join the (significanly shorter) line for the security checks.
Nominated by My Adventures Across the World
Best Rome Bucket List Tours
If you are looking for unique ways to check off your Rome bucket list then we have some uniquely Roman tours:
During my last trip to Italy, I only had one day in Rome and I knew I wanted to make the best of it! We decided to book a Vespa Tour and it was the best decision of my life! If you really want to feel like a local and see the most of the city in a short time, definitely book this tour!
If like me, you are too scared to actually drive your own scooter up and down the winding hills of Rome, this tour comes with your own personal Italian Vespa driver-historian-tour guide! We cruised by some of the most famous and most spectacular sites in Rome as well as visited some lesser known, but just as interesting sites and learned so much more history than I would have thought possible while on the back of a bike.
To top it all off the tour comes with a gelato stop! This tour should be on the top of your Rome bucket list!
Nominated by Wanderlust Crew
If you would like to book this tour CLICK HERE
Rome Food Tour
Experiencing food while traveling is how we connect to a place and Rome was where this began for us. We learned about the idea of a food tour here and have tried two of them in the Eternal city. The first started in a market square and we tried various olive oil and balsamic vinegar while learning about the seasonal nature of Italian produce. Then our small group was taken into the back room of both a salumeria and a cheese shop to explore the differences in Italian meats and cheese, all the while still hearing stories about the city and its relationship to food. Our first food tour culminated in a pizza making experience, rolling and topping our own pie. We were hooked. We have now taken food tours in many cities in Europe and even that one again. We did a second food tour in Rome in the Trastevere neighborhood that walked us through various small shops and restaurants, tasting our way across the area. It was different than the in-depth one we started with but equally fascinating. If you like food, especially Italian food, get to know Rome through her stomach on a food tour.
Nominated by Travel Made Simple
Looking for Rome food tours CLICK HERE
A Bonus for Your Bucket List
When you visit Rome don’t neglect to take an easy day trip on the train to the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana in Italian) in Tivoli. It is definitely worth a half day of your time and makes a great adjunct to the Roman ruins within the city.
Hadrian is perhaps most famous for his wall across Britain, but his other major project that’s still in evidence today is his villa about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Rome. Wealthy Romans often built retreats in the Tivoli area to escape the heat and smell of urban Rome. The elevation and the breezes make the area very pleasant.
The site of Hadrian’s villa was chosen also for the abundance of water. The site is blessed with natural streams and ponds. And it’s also near several ancient aqueducts which carried water from the mountains to Rome. The villa featured extensive landscaped gardens and multiple large pools. Some large plots were farmed, and some areas left as wilderness.There are more than 30 buildings on the site, many of them massive in scale. There are residences, dining halls, a theater, huge baths, and an outdoor recreation area called the Canopus, which was modeled after a garden Hadrian had seen in Alexandria, Egypt.
Nominated by Travel Past 50
What is on your Rome bucket list? Any Rome hidden gems?