Rome is a special city! It’s a city brimming with history, Roman culture, gorgeous buildings around ever corner and enough pasta and gelato to satisfy even the hungriest of appetites!
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second or zillionth time to Rome. One thing I quickly realised is that there’s always something I seemed to miss on a previous visit, which is expected but also terrifying if you’re anything like me and want to experience every inch of a place.
Without hankering on about my deep-seated love for Italy, I wanted to share our complete weekend guide to visiting Rome that we experienced with the amazing Withlocals who helped us find some amazing spots that every traveller has to experience and prioritise over a weekend visit.
What is Withlocals?
Imagine what Airbnb does for accommodation; this is what Withlocals does for experiences via their free app (or website). You can peruse the best tours, all arranged by locals, to do something you genuinely want and to see places you’re itching to experience.
What I loved most about Withlocals is that it gives you the option to personalise your tour with the host themselves, meaning nothing is too set in stone and can be adapted to exactly what you want. No need for strict agendas or inflexible schedules, it’s all up to you.
Once you’ve decided on where you’re visiting, you can search for some of the most unique, fun tours that range from the exciting to the hidden nooks you might not normally think of seeing in the city. After all, who knows the city better than a local, am I right?
We particularly chose to explore Rome (again, back to that hankering love of Italy I have) with Withlocals due to how ginormous and somewhat overwhelming the city can be (there’s so much to see and do here) and so a local guide would help us prioritise better and make the most of our limited time in the city. Withlocals does, however, have much more locals all across the world so it’s not just limited to Italy. I’m already eyeing this up our return to Bali in a few months.
Authentic Tours To Do In Rome?
As we had a few days in Rome, we knew we wanted to experience some of the best places and things to see in the city as efficiently as possible. Of course, I had it to include mountains of pasta and gelato, too. It sounds like a running joke but I swear I eat my weight in pasta whenever I visit Italy! #NoRegrets
After a little back and forth between myself and Yaya, we pinpointed two hosts that had some amazing feedback from other travellers and cool things we wanted to try.
Driving the city in a retro Fiat 500
One thing I’d always wanted to do is to explore an Italian city in a totally retro Fiat 500. I’ve been obsessed with that car for the longest time so that tour pretty much stood out to me straight away. What Minis are to Britain, the Fiat 500’s are to Italy… it’s so dinky and such a cute car that we just had to book this tour (which you can see, here). 🚙
Then, of course, there was the fact that our local guide, Emanuele, knew all the top and sometimes hidden spots to see in Rome.
Eating like a Roman
Our second tour was with Giulio, who promised to show us some of the best Roman spots for a scrumptious bite to eat – how could I resist. After his amazing tour (which you can see, here), I think I piled on an extra 5kg that I swear I won’t be shifting for a good few months. 🍕
Anyway, before I ramble on anymore, take a look at some of the best we saw during our Withlocals tour and time in Rome. It really is a special city.
What you need to see and do when visiting Rome
1.) Scale the heights of St. Peter’s Basilica
Technically not in Rome itself but the Vatican City, no visit is complete without a trip to St. Peter’s Basilica. Due to heightened security, you’ll notice lots of queues to go through security (which can be quite tough during the midday heat of a Roman summer). ⛪
Entry Basilicascilica is free but if you want to scale to the top of the Duomo, you’ll need to pay around 6 Euro.
Don’t forget: Make sure to take cash with you, they don’t accept any type of card payment.
2.) See the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is the home to some of Rome’s most important historic ruins and the beating heart of the Roman Empire. Make sure you see the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Saturn. Tickets to enter the Roman Forum are included in the price when you buy tickets to the Colosseum (which is opposite).
If you’re not visiting the Colosseum, you can still see the majority of the Roman Forum from Via Dei Fori Imperiali where you can get some pretty beautiful views for free.
3.) Visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum
The Sistine Chapel needs little introduction but it’s only one tiny part of the much larger Vatican Museum site. Spend a few hours wandering the grounds, see the world-famous The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo and discover the ornate sculptures that embellish every inch of this place.
Be warned, queues are HUGE, which, can be tough on a really hot summers day. We booked our ticket online (with an allocated time slot given) and we didn’t have to queue at all. Not only did it save hours queuing, I didn’t have to risk getting sunstroke in that glaring Roman sun!
4.) Wander around the Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of Italy’s most iconic sites! Take a wander around this stunning Amphitheatre – you’ll be able to explore the inside grounds, climb to the upper levels and see the ground below the main arena floor itself.
Colosseum security and ticket queues are notorious in Rome. We tried to avoid some of these by arriving in the late afternoon and only queued around 10 minutes. You can buy tickets online before you go but if the Colosseum is at capacity (around 3,000 people), you’ll still need to wait.
5.) Climb the Spanish Steps
You can’t go to Rome without seeing the Spanish Step, can you?
If I’m honest, it wasn’t one of my favourite sites to experience in Rome (controversial, I know) but it’s so easy to visit if you’re already in the centre and well worth passing by when climbing to enjoy the beauty of Rome!
6.) Grab an Aperol Spritz in Piazza Navona
There’s nothing better than a chilled out afternoon, sipping an Aperol Spritz and enjoying one of Rome’s prettiest piazzas. Prices for food can be a little higher here, so you might want to hold your appetite for something a little less off the travellers’ trail. 🍹
Don’t forget to also see the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and the Egyptian obelisk which are stunning.
7.) See the views from Altare della Patria
Altare Della Patria is one of the grandest monuments built in Rome. Constructed to honour Victor Emmanuel, this incredible site is well worth a gander at.
Right next to the Roman Forum and about 10 minutes stroll from the Trevi Fountain, plus you can now head to the top of the building (via a lift) to see some lovely views.
8.) Find the best Ice-cream in Rome
Now I pride myself on being able to devour mountains of delicious gelato so you can imagine my delight when our Withlocals tour taught us some of the best tips to spot good, authentic, Italian gelato, which I intend to spread as a gospel of gelato!
For good quality gelato, always look out for Pistachio ice-cream. The natural colour of Pistachio ice-cream should be a light brown rather than a bright or overly vibrant colour. Apparently, as pistachio nuts are quite expensive, some low-quality places will add additional colours to make up for a lack of pistachio… Which is never good and usually reflects badly on the quality of the rest of the ice cream.
Secondly, those mounds of ice cream that you see in glass cabinets aren’t always a great sign, either. Ice-cream shouldn’t naturally set thick enough to be ‘mounded’ high in containers. If the ice cream is presented in mounded trays, it’s likely that thickening additives have been included to stabilise it. The best, authentic, gelato will be kept in cylinders rather than overflowing tubs.
Make sure to visit Verde Pistacchio on Via Nazionale for some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s so good I ended up here for a breakfast of gelato on our last day in Rome… no judgement, please. Ha! 🍦
9.) Grab a wine, cheese and prosciutto at La Prosciutteria Trevi
One of the best things to do after a day exploring is to visit La Prosciutteria Trevi for a tasty treat.
This authentic little deli is one of the coolest places that our Withlocals tour took us to. Grab yourself a glass of wine and one of their cold cut meat, prosciutto and cheese boards that come with mountains of Olives. It’s a great grazing dish that’s perfect to have after a gallivant around the city. 🍷
10.) Peek through the Knights of Malta keyhole
You might know that the Vatican City is a different country that’s surrounded by the city of Rome but have you heard about the Knights of Malta on Aventine Hill? This gorgeous place is still a sovereign entity that technically isn’t a part of Italy at all.
Although you might not be able to enter, take a peek through the keyhole to the building itself, your eyes will be immediately drawn to one of the best views of St. Peters Basilica! It really is a special spot.
11.) Explore the Pantheon
This historic Roman Temple is one of Rome’s most iconic converted sites. Now standing as a church, the Pantheon has been on this site for over 2,000 years. Don’t forget to head inside to see the incredible domed ceilings. 🏛
12.) Enjoy the best views of Rome
Parco Savello or the Orange Garden is one pretty amazing viewpoint to see the city of Rome. We headed here with our Withlocals host where we got to see the sunset over the city itself. It’s a great vantage point to enjoy – I just wished we’d brought some olives and a cheeky wine!
13.) Visit the oldest food market in the city
One of the best things about the historic Campo Dei Fiori is its food market. I swear this place is a foody paradise. Filled to the brim with Italian products like truffle oil, fresh pasta and sauces, it’s a great place to fill up when those hunger pains kick in.
Make sure to grab some of the city’s famous cured hams from the family owned, Antica Norcineria Viola. It’s the perfect place to stock up on some picnic supplies for Parco Savello at sunset.
14.) See the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi fountain is easily the cities most famous fountain, which was built almost 250 years ago. It’s hard to find a ‘sociable’ time when the Trevi Fountain is quiet from visitors but it’s still worth seeing. ⛲️
Just make sure you don’t sit on the fountain edge… you WILL get a stern whistle blown at you!
15.) Eat up one of Rome’s oldest bakery
Baking in the centre of Rome for around 500 years, Forno di Campo de’ Fiori is the perfect stop for a yummy Pizza Bianca with sea salt – which is arguably one of Rome’s most common street foods.
If Pizza Bianco isn’t your thing, try a slice of the surprisingly yummy potato pizza dusted with fresh herbs. I was totally unsure at first. I mean, potato on pizza sounds overkill on the carbs but it really is so yummy. 🥖