A huge open air museum, in my opinion, Rome is the most breathtaking city in the world. Two thousand years ago Rome ruled over one-third of the world, and the wealth and power resulted in arguably the best city in the world for history enthusiasts to visit. Here are my favourite historic sites to visit if you have a couple of days to explore Rome.
Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
An obvious one, but there’s a reason that this is at the top of most people’s list! There is so much to see here. Even if you have weeks to explore you probably won’t see it all, but there are a few ways to maximise your time here. I recommend arriving early, the doors open at 9am so I would aim to be there from about 7.30am. This way you’ll get in quickly and won’t spend time trying to negotiate around other visitors. Plan what you want to see in advance. You will receive a map and guide when you enter, and can also opt for a handy audio guide, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the incredible works of art. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately; legs and shoulders must be covered, and hats are not permitted in certain areas. Check on the website here to make sure that the museums are definitely open on the day you plan to visit. There’s nothing worse than setting a day aside and arriving to find it closed!
And, of course, leave plenty of time towards the end of your visit to spend in the Sistine Chapel! It is the most incredible work of art; I could honestly look at it for hours.
Antico Caffé Greco
As the saying goes ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Italians love their coffee, so combine your morning coffee and sightseeing with a visit to the Antico Caffé Greco on Via dei Condotti. Opened in 1760, it is Rome’s oldest bar & café. Many historic figures have had a coffee here, including Hans Christian Anderson, Keats and Casanova. You’ll be in good company if you visit; today it is still popular with artists, writers, politicians and Roman public figures.
Most travel guides that you read will tell you to head away from the main squares and tourist attractions when looking for somewhere to eat. I would agree but make an exception if you’re visiting Piazza Navona. I like to stop here for a coffee or a snack; you will pay a bit more but will enjoy it more due to the incredible setting. Located in Rome’s historic centre, the square is known for its trio of fountains and its buzzing atmosphere.
The Capuchin Crypt
A series of tiny chapels under the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church hold the remains of almost 4,000 Capuchin monks. The bones have been assembled like works of art to create intricate wall patterns and even light fittings in the small spaces. The display is not intended to be macabre and the decoration is eerily beautiful.
Bocca della Verita
This face, carved into a large slab of marble, is one Rome’s most peculiar attractions. Something of a mystery, the original purpose of the Bocca della Verita is unknown. Today it is located in the portico of the Basilica of Santa Maria and superstition says that if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie it will snap shut biting your hand off.
I recommend visiting Rome outside of peak season. Being a city and such a beautiful destination, Rome is busy all year around, but you will notice a definite decrease in queues and have more luck with finding a table at the best restaurants if you visit in spring or autumn.