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A First-Timer’s Guide to Rome

Posted on September 5, 2019 by Lucy Hancock

Rome is a dream city-break destination for many.

The picturesque, bustling city, with architecture that dates back to 126 AD. The food that Italian restaurants back home can only dream of replicating.

When you look up ‘what to do in Rome’, the guides can be quite overwhelming. With so much to see, some may fear that there’s not enough time needed to see all of Italy’s capital. That, and navigating a capital city where you don’t speak the language can feel daunting.

This guide serves as a check-list of the must-see locations and experiences that Rome has to offer, which you can easily see within 2-3 days.

The Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

The Coliseum, or Colosseum, is a must-see location when visiting Italy’s capital. Built between 70-80 AD, the monument is a centrepiece of Roman history.

As expected, the attraction is extremely popular with tourists, meaning queues can be extensive. To skip the queues, pre-book your tickets online beforehand, to avoid standing around in the heat!

Your Coliseum ticket will also include entry to the archaeological sites, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The two sit side-by-side and are only a short walk from the Coliseum itself. Many choose to see the Coliseum first, as it takes less time to explore. The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill require a couple of hours minimum, to fully immerse yourself in the history of the Roman Empire.

Top Tips:

  • Be sure to wear comfortable footwear: The Palatine Hill is steep in places and the ground can be uneven.
  • Stay hydrated: During the summer, Rome’s average temperature is 31-32°C and the grounds of the Coliseum have little room for shade.
  • Beware of pick-pocketers: The Coliseum can get very busy (to avoid peak times, visit at 8:30am when it opens, or 1-2 hours before closing) and theft isn’t uncommon. Keep an eye on your belongings and opt for across-body bag with a zip.

The Vatican City

The Vatican City includes the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica which tell the story of the Catholic church. The stunning buildings are difficult to miss, covering over 100 acres of land and are often heaving with tourists.

I’d recommend spending at least 3 hours here, to fully appreciate the artwork that dates back centuries. That way, you can take in the mind-blowing architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica and gain an understanding of the religious impact on Rome, both historically and today.

If you’re spending a weekend in Rome, dedicate the Saturday to exploring the Vatican City, as its museums are closed on Sundays.

Top Tips:

  • It’s recommended that you arrive no later than 9am to avoid queues. Otherwise, you could end up in a 2-hour waiting line!
  • To save waiting in line, you can opt for a ‘skip the line’ ticket, which can be bought from local shops surrounding the Vatican. A tour guide will then take you straight to the entrance.
  • Dress ‘respectfully’ when entering St. Peter’s Basilica. Having your shoulders on show is frowned upon, so it’s best to bring a cover-up with you.

Squares and Fountains

Take a break from all the walking and have a drink in the Piazza Navona. Built in the 1 AD, the square is the ideal location for a traditional Italian meal. Enjoy people-watching, taking in the stunning architecture and the bustling atmosphere.

A 10 minute walk from the Piazza Navona sits the renowned Trevi Fountain. One of the most famous fountains in the world and the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, it’s known for coin throwing (using your right hand over the left shoulder.) Like all of the capital’s tourist attractions, beware of pick-pocketers!


A former Roman temple, now a church, the Pantheon is a must-see.

With its huge dimensions and dome ceiling, it’s considered the ancient Romans’ greatest architectural achievement and is still the largest concrete dome in the world today.

It’s best to plan your visit between 9-11am to avoid the crowds. It’s a popular attraction, not only for its stunning architecture but it’s also free entry – a big bonus!

Getting there

Flights to Rome from UK airports are frequent and take less than 3 hours. Remember your travel insurance for Italy, so you can enjoy your city break adventures with peace of mind.

Lucy Hancock

by Lucy Hancock

Lucy Hancock is Staysure's Content Executive. As a specialist travel insurance provider, we aim to keep up-to-date with travel trends, all while offering tips on how to make the most of your holiday. Lucy travelled across Europe with Interrail in 2017, and her favourite destination was Budapest. She likes big books, big words and the colour yellow.