First Time Traveler’s Guide to Rome

Of all of the places we have visited, Rome seems to have a special place in our hearts. Its rich history, culture, and food always draws us back. To date, we have been to Rome three times, and each time, there’s something new to explore. Since we love Rome so much, we’ve created a first time traveller’s guide to Rome!

Fun Facts

Throughout the city, you will likely see an image of a wolf with two children and the letters SPQR. These are symbols of Roman history. The she-wolf image represents the legend of how Rome came to be. Twins, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf until Romulus killed his brother and founded the city of Rome.  Checkout the full story here! SPQR means Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, or the Senate and People of Rome. This symbol is a reminder of the government of ancient Rome.

If you’re a first time visitor to Rome, our comprehensive guide you help you explore the riches of this beautiful city.

Roman Colosseum and Forum.

The Roman Colosseum and Forum are one of the most visited sites in Rome, so if you’re visiting for the first time, GO! Constructed in the first century by Flavian emperors, the Colosseum seated 50000-80000 spectators for animal hunts, executions, and battles. Over time, the structure was damaged, looted, and repurposed. Today, we can only see the supporting three-walled structures of the Colosseum. Thanks to restoration and preservation efforts, we can visit and enjoy Roman history in front of us! To visit the Colosseum and Forum, visit the official website.


First Time Traveler's Guide to Rome

Roman Colosseum

First Time Traveler's Guide to RomeFirst Time Traveler's Guide to Rome

The Forum was ancient Rome’s city center. This was hub for commerce, politics, and daily life in ancient Rome. When you visit, you can see the site where Julius Cesar was cremated, the Temple of Vestal Virgins, the Arch of Titus, Temple of Saturn, and the list goes on! Interestingly when you visit the Forum, you can tell that the modern city was built over the ancient structures in layers because it is lower than the rest of the city. When you visit, try to have a tour guide or audio guide to walk you through the Forum. There is so much to see and learn about!

First Time Traveler's Guide to Rome

The House of Vestal Virgins

If you want to see the view in the photos below, go to the top of the Palentine Hill, accessible from the Forum. You will see beautiful gardens and a panoramic view of the Forum.

First Time Traveler's Guide to Rome

The Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

Visiting Rome for the First Time

The Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

Visiting Rome for the First Time

If you want another great view of the Forum, like the one below, go to Via del Campidoglio right next to the Campidoglio square.

Visiting Rome for the First Time

The Best View of the Roman Forum

Trevi Fountain.

This baroque style fountain pours water from an ancient Roman aqueduct. During the 17th century there was artistic competition, which led to the Pope commissioning the construction of Trevi because the former fountain wasn’t dramatic enough. The fountain itself physically appears to be sit lower into the group compared to the surrounding buildings. This is because it was constructed to use the natural water pressure from the aqueducts for the fountain without the use of pumps. Traditionally, people throw a coin from their right hand over their left shoulder to ensure they will return to Rome one day.

To visit Trevi, you don’t need a tour or a tickets, simply walk there and look around! It’s a public space for everyone to enjoy. Beware though, pickpockets are very common in this area, in addition to people trying to sell photos in front of Trevi. Rome recently passed a law that you cannot sit on the edge of any fountain in the city, so don’t try and take a seat!

Visiting Rome for the First Time

Trevi Fountain


The Pantheon, constructed in the 2nd century AD, was a Roman temple. Over time, it came under Catholic rule becoming a church. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved Roman monuments. The dome in the Pantheon is an engineering masterpiece given it’s weight, age, and size.  Since this is a place of worship, it is free and open to the public to visit. It is very close to Trevi Fountain so you can easily see both in one day!

Visiting Rome for the First Time

The Pantheon

Spanish Steps.

The Spanish Steps get it’s name from their location in the Spanish Square of Rome. The steps were constructed in the 18th century by Francesco De Sanctis as a way to connect the church at the top of the hill to the Spanish square below. These steps are featured in movies and are an iconic sight in Rome.

Visiting Rome for the First Time

The Spanish Steps

The water flowing from the fountain at the base of the steps is fresh and safe to drink! Just like the rest of the public fountains throughout Rome.

Visiting Rome for the First Time

The Fountain Below the Spanish Steps

The Vatican and Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Whether you are religious or not, visiting the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Basilica is a must. Here, you will not only be in another country, but you see world renowned art and experience centuries of history. If you’re going to visit, definitely book ahead of time or with a tour group. Lines are very long, so give this visit a full day on your itinerary. If you want to get beautiful photos of the outside of  Saint Peter’s Basilica, visit early in the morning. There are almost no crowds and the lighting is beautiful.

If you want to see the Pope, checkout the Papal calendar for services.

Saint Peter’s Basilica

The Obelisk at Vatican City

Outside of Saint Peter’s Basilica is an obelisk and Bernini’s statues, as seen in the photo above. You will see obelisks throughout Rome because of ancient Rome’s fascination with Egypt. Both Roman and Egyptian obelisks can found throughout the city. The one in Saint Peter’s square is from Egypt.

Top Things to Do in Rome Top Things to Do in Rome

Inside the Basilica, you will be in awe. The size alone is breathtaking. You could spend all day looking around inside at the sculptures and artworks. Of all of the things to view, visit the statue of Saint Peter, Bernini’s baldachin altarpiece, and Michelangelo’s pieta.

Top Things to Do in RomeTop Things to Do in RomeTop Things to Do in Rome

When visiting the Vatican museum, you will see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Photos are not allowed in the Chapel, but take the time to take in the beautiful ceiling piece. In the museum you will see Raphael’s School of Athens featuring Socrates and Aristotle, pictured below.

School of Athens the Vatican museum

School of Athens by Raphael

If you’re on a tour simply going through at your leisure, ask about this exhibit featuring gold jewelry and pieces. It’s amazing artistry and unlike an other ancient gold work display you will see.

Top Things to Do in Rome

Top Things to Do in Rome

Who’s ready to go visit ROME?

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first time traveler's guide to rome

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