There’s plenty of pizza, piazzas, and ancient history woven into our backpacker’s guide to Rome – promise!
Perhaps they call Rome the Eternal City because it’s eternally attractive to travelers? Of course, the moniker could be down to the fact that it’s more than 2,700 years old and once ruled over much of the known world. But, still, backpackers have been flocking to its eye-watering ruins, its gilded temples, soaring church domes, and priceless art for…well, ever. There’s no sign of that stopping, either. And why would it? Rome’s a doozy of a destination, touting slathers of culture, endless history, stacks of romance, and tempting food.
This backpacker’s guide to Rome picks out the things we at HostelPass think you simply have to have on the itinerary. It includes whopping great big UNESCO sites and local pizza joints alike…
Rome Travel Tips: The bucket list
Rome can be an overwhelming place. Vespa scooters purr this way, stone pines sway in the breezes, there are mighty mausoleums and columns on every corner – you might not know where to turn. Cue this list of the Eternal City’s must-see attractions…
The Colosseum – of course!
A trip to Rome without seeing the Colosseum would be like a Cape Cod road trip without any clam chowder – it’s simply not right! So, make for the legendary landmark on the eastern edge of the Tiber to be greeted with arguably the most enduring symbol of the ancient empire. It was built back in 70AD as a fighting pit for gladiators. Tours take around two hours, but also usually include entry to the Roman Forum that’s just next door (equally as awesome!).
The Vatican Museums
Note the plural – these are the Vatican MuseumS! That’s because there are loads of them. Art lovers eat your heart out. It’s endless. Seriously, you’ll need 10 Romana pizzas and then some to fuel you through the lot. We recommend picking out the highlights, which include Raphael’s Transfiguration and School of Athens, the Sistine Chapel, and the vast rooms of Roman antiquities.
Uber-romantic La Trastevere
Ramshackle and rough-around-the-edges, La Trastevere is Rome at its most romantic (see what we did there?). Pizzerias jut out of old alleys and bougainvillea spills over bookshops, all while the streets are a hubbub with sellers and wine drinkers and coffee sippers. It’s a lovely place to wallow away a sunny day.
Explore the Centro Storico
Rome’s Centro Storico (that’s Historic Center in English) is the Rome you’ve probably seen on the postcards. A twisting, maze-like area of serpentine streets and crooked old buildings, it’s filled with trattoria, wine cellars, osteria, and shadowy lanes that date back to the Middle Ages. Occasionally, you’ll happen upon something seriously awesome, like the fountain-topped Piazza Navona or the glorious Pantheon temple-come-church.
Things You Simply Have to Eat in Rome
Pasta, pizza, bolognese, herb-filled risottos – the kitchen of Italy hardly needs an introduction. 9/10 people say they’d eat only Italian food for the rest of their lives if they had to choose just one national cuisine. We made that statistic up…but Rome’s delights will surely make it seem like we didn’t…
Cacio e pepe
They say Italian cooking is at its very best when it’s simple and local. Check and check – this dish does both by the bucket load. It translates to ‘pepper and cheese’, so you should have a rough idea of what you’re getting. But there’s really nothing that can prep you for the subtle interplay of the roasted peppercorns and the Lazian Pecorino Romano that’s involved, especially when served on a side street in romantic La Trastevere.
It might not be Naples (the home of pizza), but you’re still in Italy. What’s more, Rome has nurtured its own version of the iconic dish over the centuries. It’s called, simply, Romana pizza. Expect charred, crispy edges, buffalo mozzarella, and local Tuscan or Lazian tomatoes on top. Pizzeria Da Remo is a famous spot to try it, located in a lived-in neighborhood south of the center.
Some Special Hostels in Rome Picked by HostelPass
Choose only the very best hostels in Rome to rest up between visits to the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums with our curated list… Join our Europe Pass waitlist to be the first to know when its on sale!
We’d love to hear any additions you may have to this backpacker’s guide to Rome in the comments below. Like great pizza toppings – it’s the more the merrier. Just no pineapple. Never pineapple.