Top 5 things to do in Rome

Planning a trip to Italy's capital city? From touring outdoor markets full-to-bursting with fresh produce to taking in sites like the iconic Colosseum, here are the best things to do on your trip to Rome
Piazza Navona at sunset, Rome, Italy, is a must for your trip itinerary
Piazza Navona at sunset, Rome, Italy

The stunning architecture, warm locals, rich history, to-die-for food... There are plenty of reasons to go to Rome. From bustling piazzas to top tourist destinations, my own Roman adventure brought me to some pretty amazing locales. Here are my top five things to do in Rome

1. Hang out at Piazza Navona

After travelling for over 10 hours before checking into our hotel, we were pretty punch-drunk when we finally arrived in Rome (not to mention totally starving). My now-husband, Mike, and I settled our disheveled selves into a nearby restaurant, tucking into a superb pasta dish infused with some sort of truffle magic. That did the trick.

Not long after, we were in better spirits when we stumbled upon an absolutely charming little pocket of Rome: Piazza Navona. In the nighttime glow of the streetlights, a group of musicians played accordions and sang in lovely Italian. People were slow dancing on the cobbled streets next to the beautiful, lit-up fountain at the centre of it all. We treated ourselves to a heavenly cup of creamy gelato, then strolled through the square with arms linked, positively giddy at the fact that we were actually here, in Rome. Piazza Navona, with its quaint charm, remains the most special part of my time in Italy.

2. Walk the Spanish Steps

Strutting up and down the Spanish Steps (Scalina Spagna) was another highlight of my Rome trip. Living in Manhattan at the time, it reminded me of the steps leading down to the city's beloved Bethesda Fountain: my favourite spot in Central Park. It's Roman counterpart also flows downward toward a stunning fountain of its own.

The famous monument, which recently underwent a year-long €1.5 million facelift, only recently reopened to the public. City officials went forward with the all-out restoration, totally revitalising the 18th-century landmark in the process. The Spanish Steps have long been a celebrated congregating point; it was an ideal place for us to rest our legs, people-watch, and breathe in the culture. Artsy types might also get a kick out of the fact that the much-loved poet Jack Keats lived near the base. Add a historical tour here to your trip itinerary with Insight Guides: our local experts can plan your city break from beginning to end. Submit a trip request today to get started

Old market van in the old cobbled streets of Rome.Old market van in the old cobbled streets of Rome. Photo: oliverrees / Shutterstock

3. Explore the outdoor markets

If there's one thing I love, it's a good farmers' market! Rome takes the concept to a whole new level, filling its streets with local goodies that are simply out of this world. We spent the better part of an afternoon at Campo de' Fiori market, a vibrant, bustling, wonderfully Italian marketplace located in the piazza by the same name. Here, we found fresh produce, like plump habanero peppers and tomatoes, alongside fish, flowers, spices and more. The best part was chatting with the merchants behind the stalls and hearing snippets of Italian all around; there were a lot of locals doing their shopping. You can easily while away several hours here. My only regret was that we didn't have time to explore more of Rome's fabulous markets.

4. Go to the Trevi Fountain

I've clearly got a thing for fountains... In all my travels, the Trevi Fountain is up there as one of the most awe-inspiring. The funny thing is that you might just miss it if you aren't paying attention. It's one of those landmarks that sort of sneaks up on you as you're wandering through the city's narrow streets. But that certainly doesn't make it any less extravagant. The iconic site is one of Rome's treasures; a flashy, Baroque masterpiece made famous by Fellini's La Dolce Vita, when Anita Ekberg went traipsing on in.

When our legs grew heavy from walking all day, we found ourselves next to the fountain; totally awe-struck, soaking in its atmosphere. Then we closed our eyes and tossed in a few coins before making a silent wish.

5. Take a tour of the Colosseum

Believe it or not, this was one thing I almost passed on. Touring the Colosseum just felt too touristy at first. Looking back, I'm so happy I went along for the ride. The haunting remains of ancient Rome, located at the end of the Roman Forum tower, stokes the imagination with images of what the Empire was like in its heyday. The epic amphitheatre traces its history back to 70 AD, and was once the site of heroic gladiator fights.

We opted for a guided tour, which brought us deep into the desolate remains. We were completely enveloped in the history, plus there was something truly spine-tingling about touching a place that's survived so many centuries. I highly recommend giving the Colosseum a go. Avoid the crowds with the help of Insight Guides' local experts. Include the Colosseum on your city break itinerary by taking a private guided tour as part of the experience. Talk to a local expert today to get your holiday plans in motion. 

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