Heading to Rome, Italy for a day or two? This post contains must-see things to do in Rome Italy, especially for book lovers (since this is a book blog!), including restaurants, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum and other attractions.
Rome is arguably the most quintessential city in Europe — from its ancient history to its home of the Catholic church, to its modern functionality as a major city.
Our honeymoon in 2019 was my first time traveling outside of the United States, and it was not cheap. Based on this, as well as my Type A personality, I dove DEEP into my travel research to make it the best possible experience. We found that it was worth every minute of my time, and now I am sharing only the best of Rome with you.
We had one partial day in Rome and one full day in Rome before we flew home to the U.S.A., so we couldn’t plan too much, but we did fit in some of the most popular attractions, and definitely some of the best restaurants! Many people reading this may be in the same circumstance as us since Rome is a travel hub in light of its large airport and train stations.
Without further ado, below are must-see things to do in Rome, Italy, especially for book lovers.
Best Books Set in Rome
As a book lover and book blogger, I always read books set in the place I am traveling to ahead of time. It really sets the mood for meaningful travel! Below are three books set in Rome that you may enjoy:
Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr: the award-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See spends a year in Rome with newborn twins. Highlights of his trip include snow in the Pantheon and witnessing the Pope’s funeral.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert: Before the popular movie of the same name, there was the book about a woman finding herself through travel after a breakup, with the “eat” portion taking place in Rome.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown: Bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code brings us this Roman prequel, which is a quest to save the Vatican from a bombing involving crypts, cathedrals and catacombs.
You may also enjoy my list of best books set in Italy, including my favorite book of all time.
Best Rome Travel Guide Book
My sister-in-law gifted me this specific Rick Steves Italy travel guide upon learning we were traveling abroad for the first time in Italy, and it (as well as Rick Steves himself) became our most trusted travel resource. He is simply the best, and his Italy travel guide is a must purchase, a must-read and a must re-read, highlight and underline before traveling to Italy.
What to Do in Rome, Italy
First, I should note that we simply did not have time to visit the Vatican in Rome, so this list of what to do in Rome, Italy, does not include this historic place. Below are descriptions of what we did do in Rome, which I would recommend to others. Rome is a large city with even more for you to do and see there, beyond what I have recommended below. I consider this post to be one part of a larger travel plan.
We took a full morning, skip-the-line tour of the famous Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon on our one full day in Rome, in order to visit the most historic sites during our short trip. It’s hard to imagine a trip to Rome without visiting the ancient amphitheater that held gladiator contests, and we found it to be worth the visit to see it in person.
It was also fun to explore the nearby Roman Forum to learn how ancient Romans lived on a day-to-day basis, including Julius Caesar. It works perfectly to pair visits to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum at the same time.
The Pantheon was my favorite stop on our tour of historic Rome. It’s a former Roman temple, now a Catholic church, which was rebuilt around 126 AD, and it is known for its large granite Corinthian columns and the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.
There’s something about the central opening and the way it lights up at night that made it unforgettable — a highlight of our trip.
The Spanish Steps are the famed set of 135 steep steps from the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, which is dominated by the looming Trinità dei Monti church at the top. They get crowded, but it’s free fun to climb them and then explore the neighborhood atop the steps in this iconic location, featured in film throughout the years.
The architectural marvel of the popular Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, took me back in person. It’s massive and breathtaking, albeit crowded, in a very small street. We stopped by in the early evening, and it was still very crowded, but that didn’t take anything away from our visit. It’s free, and it’s a must!
Other Things to Do in Rome
Walk around! Despite being a large city, it’s fun to walk around Rome, from the bustling economic areas to tree-lined streets, ancient architecture, local hangout areas, night markets, and so much more.
Drink spring water from one of the many city fountains. It’s free, and it is refreshingly delicious.
Visit Torre Argentina, the Roman cat sanctuary located at the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated. As cat lovers, we stopped by several times and peered into this ancient architectural “playground” for the many local cats there.
Where to Eat in Rome
Roma Sparita: Anthony Bourdain’s favorite cacio e pepe pasta in Rome
Upon researching Rome, I recalled that Anthony Bourdain had once eaten cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) so good that he refused to name the restaurant on his show. I did some internet scouring and found the spot — Roma Sparita, in the popular Trastevere neighborhood! We got there right when they opened, and it filled up fast. In the small dining area, I counted over twenty cacio e pepe dishes coming out of the kitchen. It was delightful and extremely filling. What’s more is that the entire experience came with loads of Italian charm.
Osteria Barberini is a black truffle mushroom restaurant in Rome, near the Spanish Steps, that I heard rave reviews about in my research. As big fans of the decadent and rare black truffles, we knew we had to go.
Upon entering the restaurant you are completely overwhelmed with the delectable scent of black truffles. The food was melt-in-your-mouth good, and we had high-quality wine at a reasonable price as well. I suggest booking a reservation a few days in advance.
The Roman Ghetto
We stayed near the Jewish ghetto in Rome, the oldest Jewish community in Europe, which was virtually obliterated in World War II. (Source) We were drawn into the small stretch of Jewish-Italian restaurants in this neighborhood for a unique mix of food.
Our experience solidified a very important lesson we learned in Italy — sometimes the most simple foods are the best foods. One of my absolute favorite dishes there (and in Italy in general) was the uniquely Jewish fried artichoke, over which I salivated for weeks after returning home.
Pick whichever restaurant in the Jewish ghetto Roman Ghetto speaks most to you, and enjoy!
Food Tour in Trastevere
We took a food tour in the popular Trastevere neighborhood, filled with bohemian locals and spots for hanging out. We tasted things like Roman pizza, gelato, cheese and charcuterie. It was very filling, and we learned a lot about the neighborhood, particularly the churches.
Whether you take this food tour or another that suits your preferences, taking a food tour is a great way to sample the best of a city without doing the leg work, as well as learning some interesting historical facts.
Giulia Cocktail Bar
I’m a wine drinker, but my husband is a very proficient cocktail maker and drinker. He is extremely picky about the detailed creation of high-quality cocktails. He found Giulia by researching the best cocktail bars in Rome, and he still raves about the Negroni he had there, which was a bottle-aged mix of Bombay Sapphire, Campari, vermouth mix, amaro and orange smoke.
I hope you enjoyed learning about what to do in Rome, Italy, as well as what to read before your travels! I wish you a wonderful trip to this unique ancient city.
Related Italy Travel Guide Posts
If you’re traveling across Italy, you may also be interested in my Italy travel guides for: