Do you and your partner have a single day to explore the Eternal City while on a long layover or at the beginning or end of a cruise? You can do it — and get a great sense of this history-soaked city — if you plan ahead.
First, save long tours at Vatican City and waiting in long lines at the Coliseum for a trip where you have multiple days and time to be fully immersed in these settings. If you’ll be there overnight, book a centrally located room at the Art Deco masterpiece Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo on Via Cavour (across the street from the train station and main metro station), or the Hotel Hassler Roma, located at the Spanish Steps. A good location will definitely put you ahead.
Going early is good advice if you want a clear shot of the Trevi Fountain and its frolicking band of fabulous horses. The Baroque fountain is built of travertine stone, and is one of the most popular sites in the city. Crowds lining up to gaze over the water can be 30 rows deep, and who wants someone’s baseball cap in their Insta post?
Make the Climb
The iconic Spanish Steps connect Piazza di Spagna at the lower street level with Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top. They have the distinction of being Europe’s widest steps, and everyone visiting Rome who’s seen the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday will head there while in Rome — so go early. And while you’re up at the top, be sure to peek into the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church.
Recover from the crowds and restore your chill in the magnificent landscaped gardens at Villa Borghese, not far from the Spanish Steps. Designed in 1606, the gardens house a zoo, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Galleria Borghese (located within the villa). The enormous park is divided by beautiful lanes and has plenty of shady places to sit and rest.
Enjoy Tea, Coffee or a Cocktail at a Historic Café
My go-to is Antico Caffé Greco at the base of the Spanish Steps on Via Condotti.While waiters in white gloves glide by bearing trays laden with beautifully crafted cakes and pastries, you can watch for the ghosts of famous poets, composers and philosophers such as John Keats, Schopenhauer, Wagner and Lord Byron — all past patrons.
Do Some Gawking
A great place? The massive city gate adjacent to the Coliseum, known as the Arch of Constantine. This triumphal arch, with its fabulous reliefs and friezes, is positioned above the Via Triumphalis, allowing emperors victorious in battles to make a grand entrance when returning to Rome. It’s also a great place for a selfie.
Head for the Heart
The middle of the city is known as the ancient center, and is where to go to marvel at the Forum, once a legal and religious center and the site of a thriving, pulsing, colorful marketplace. A ticket is necessary to enter (buy ahead online), but you can get a sense of its glory by walking the streets above the buildings and foundations themselves, where the great views are free.
Have a Gelato
Use your spidey-sense and order your scoops (yes, that’s plural) from a location you like the looks of. You’ll have plenty of choices, we promise: It’s hard to walk more than a block or two before bumping into a gelateria.
Walk Along the River
Don’t call it quits till you’ve walked beside the Tiber. Numerous ornate bridges cross its breadth, with staircases beside each bridge leading up and down. It’s a relaxing space that will give you a totally different perspective of the city.