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What to See in Rome, from North to South

Updated June 25, 2020

What to see in Rome? So much. With some local advice, we created this guide to Rome’s important attractions. Starting in the north of the city at Galleria Borghese, this guide trails south all the way to Palatine Hill. 

For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. Locals will introduce you to a side of Rome that most tourists miss. Learn more

North: Galleria Borghese, Piazza del Popolo, Scalina Spagna

Start your day in the north of the city, for a combination of incredible Italian art and architecture. 

Galleria Borghese and Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese | xlizziexx/Pixabay

The opulent Galleria Borghese (Borghese Gallery) offers an impressive collection of 15th-18th century art. Locals note that this is a popular attraction, so you should definitely book your tickets in advance. 

Speaking of tickets—they’re expensive, about 20 euros per person. If you’re traveling to Italy on a budget, fear not. The grounds surrounding the Galleria (called Villa Borghese) are among the most beautiful places to see in Italy. Locals tell us you’ll find temples, gardens, fountains and more. 

Local Tip:

You can visit all Rome museums for free on the first Sunday of the month. (A two euro donation is suggested at Galleria Borghese). 

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Piazza del Popolo

After enjoying Villa Borghese, see a unique side of Rome. Locals suggest stopping at the Terraza del Pincio (Pincio Terrace) for one of Rome’s stunning city views. Then, navigate down the nearby stairs to the Piazza del Popolo. 

Locals say this fantastic public square is a great place to people watch. Grab a coffee or a gelato nearby, enjoy the beautiful Italian architecture, and snap a few pics of the square’s grand obelisk. 

Scalina Spagna (Spanish steps)

From here, locals say you can walk an easy ten minutes to Rome’s famous Scalina Spagna, or Spanish Steps. Take a photo at this classic Roman spot! One of our locals in Italy wrote: 

“From the upper church you'll admire a high view of the city, while following the stairs downward, you'll reach the heart of the busy narrow streets.”

Locals note that you need to know about some new rules, like that you can no longer sit on the steps.

Local Tip:

Take your time between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza de Spagna. It’s a lovely, quiet walk with lots of interesting small shops. 

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West: Ponte Sant’Angelo, Vatican City

Two words: Vatican City

Ponte Sant’Angelo and Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo | Anajim/Pixabay

For a stellar photo, locals suggest walking across Ponte Sant‘ Angelo, toward the Castel Sant’ Angelo on the other side. This iconic view is not to be missed. 

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Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

Vatican City

And that leads you to Vatican City! Locals note that lots of people visit the Vatican—approximately five million per year, and sometimes up to 20,000 per day. So you should visit in the morning if you want to avoid the biggest crowds. 

Still, locals tell us this Italian tourist attraction is worth a stop. Vatican City is a highly significant religious site, a place of profound history, and home to many important works of art.

Locals tick off St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, and the fantastic Vatican Museums as places to see.

Local Tip:

South of Vatican City, along the western edge of the River Tiber, is the Trastevere neighborhood. The vibe here is totally different—it’s a popular neighborhood for young locals. 

Southeast: Piazza Navone, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Altare della Patria

Wind your way through some of Rome’s most famous attractions. 

Piazza Navone 

Before hitting some of Italy’s top places to visit, relax a moment at beautiful Piazza Navona. Locals tell it’s one of Rome’s loveliest public squares—certainly enhanced by the gorgeous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers). 

Local Tip:

Around Navona, there are a lot of the classic tourist trap restaurants. If you want to have a good dinner, walk along the narrow side streets. Here you'll find some authentic places, usually not fancy, but with great food.


Pantheon | Christopher Czermak/Unsplash

Onto the Pantheon! Built way back in 113 AD, this former Roman temple is a stark example of Rome’s deeply fascinating and well-preserved history. 

Trevi Fountain

From the Pantheon, locals say it’s only about a ten-minute walk to one of the most popular places to visit in Italy—the beautiful Trevi Fountain. 

Locals note that this site is popular. So try to visit in the early morning (or later at night) to avoid the crowds. Once there, toss in a coin. Not only is this a fun thing to do in Italy, but locals tell us that tossing the coin over your left shoulder with your right hand ensures you’ll return to Rome.

Local Tip:

The coins from Trevi fountain go to charity! 

Altar of the Fatherland 

Altar of the Fatherland | serghei_topor/Pixabay

One of our locals wrote that the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) dominates the skyline. Absolutely. This mammoth monument to Italy’s fallen soldiers immediately captures attention. 

Locals note that you can climb the monument for free. So take a photo from the street, then scale the steps for an impressive view over the surrounding Piazza Venezia. (They note you can also pay to take an elevator to the roof.)

South: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill

Finish strong with a trip through Roman history.


Can you still hear echoes of battles past? At the Colosseum, one of the most famous places to visit in Italy, it’s easy to imagine the stands packed with thousands of cheering spectators. 

Roman Forum

Roman Forum | Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash

After touring the ancient arena, zip next door to the Roman Forum—once the center of ancient Rome. Wander through the well-preserved ruins. Like the Colosseum, it doesn’t take much imagination to fill in the gaps that history has created. 

Palatine Hill 

Finally, end your tour of Rome’s great sites at Palatine Hill. One of the seven hills of Rome, locals say that Palatine offers a stunning view of the Roman Forum, which stretches out below. They suggest taking your time to explore the site, where you’ll find traces of old mosaics, columns, and whispers of Rome’s famous might. 

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