When In Rome: Where to Eat, Sightsee, Shop and How To Meet the Pope

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day-but what to do if you only have a little more than, say, a day or two to explore it?

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day—but what to do if you only have a little more than, say, a day or two to explore it? With so much to see and do and such a rich, overwhelming amount of culture, art, and history to soak in, that could definitely be a challenge. It helps to set your priorities so you can plan your itinerary accordingly. Would you rather shop? Eat? Sightsee? Here is a quick roundup of suggestions and recommendations, with tips from locals since, as another popular saying goes: When in Rome…


The good news about Rome is that it’s food heaven—virtually anywhere you go you will have a good meal. That said, if you only dine: have a limited number of them (with the requisite gelato breaks) to take in, it would serve your tastebuds well to try these.

Trattoria da Danilo (Via Petrarca, 13)

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to an authentic Italian trattoria. This one is a favorite among local food bloggers, and everybody knows that when it comes to food, you can never go wrong by listening to the locals. The carbonara is a must-try—a frame hanging on the wall proudly proclaims that Danilo’s made it to Italian food magazine Gambero Rosso’s top 10 list.

Regoli Pasticceria (Via dello Statuto, 60)

This pastry shop is just a couple years shy of celebrating its 100th anniversary, so you know it must be doing something right. Popular choices are crostatine alle fragoline, a concoction of tarts topped with wild, sugar-covered strawberries, and maritozzi, sweet buns filled with delicious whipped cream.


Pizzarium (Via della Meloria, 43)

Your first impression upon seeing the crusts covered with heaping toppings lined up against the counter window will most likely be: “Is there anything they can’t put on a pizza?” Whether it’s chunks of potatoes, slices of prosciutto, or huge scoops of cheese, everything is fair game for the man known as “the Michelangelo of Pizza,” founder Gabriele Bonci.

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffé (Piazza di Sant’Eustachio, 82)

The smell of coffee alone should already be enough to jolt you, but if a genuine caffeine fix is in order, a cappuccino or espresso should do the trick. If you’d rather get it on ice, go for a granita di caffé—with a topping of whipped cream if you’re feeling extra naughty.

Taverna Trilussa (Via del Politeama, 23/25)

It’s said that this place has the best pasta amatriciana in the city, served to you in the still-warm pan it was cooked in so there can be no doubt of its freshness (and so you can soak up the sauce down to the last bit). The ravioli mimosa comes highly recommended, too.


In the mood to swipe your credit card and burn some euros? Do it in the most time-efficient way possible by heading to these shopping strips.

If you’re looking for something in a more accessible price range, keep on walking until you get to Via del Corso. You’ll find a range of high street boutiques, but it would be a crime not to pop into some of the smaller stores so you can sample the local merchandise—keep an eye out especially for bags and shoes made out of genuine Italian leather.


Take a stroll down Via del Condotti, where you can easily get your designer fix. Armani, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and more are all within reach. You’ll also find the flagship store of Bulgari, along with just about every other major luxury name worth knowing.

Looking to shop for presents to take home? Go to Via Cola de Rienzo and head straight for department store Coin so you can get lost in its huge, well-stocked supermarket. Make it a point to grab boxes of chocolate and assorted sweets by the armful. Also check out the gourmet food stores located along this street, like Castroni and Franchi, for artisanal sauces, spices, and cheese.


Whether you want to bow your head in solemn prayer or marvel at structures that have been standing for centuries, there is simply no shortage of places to visit… the only difficulty will be in choosing which ones to go to, really.

Of course, the Vatican is a must-see. If you are looking to catch a glimpse of the Pope when he is in town (and don’t mind sharing him with a huge crowd), join the assembly in St. Peter’s Square at noon every Sunday so you can hear him recite the Angelus and wave to him from his perch at his apartment window.

Also pay a visit to the Vatican Museum. But if you’re pressed for time, no one will judge you if you zoom through everything else and go straight to the Sistine Chapel (bear in mind, though: they have a strict no photo-taking policy). From there, it’s a short walk to St. Peter’s Basilica, where you might also want to make a side trip below, to the papal crypts. The tomb of Pope John Paul II, however, has been moved above ground since his beatification—you will find it near the Pieta, the famous sculpture of Michelangelo.


Still not done with your visita iglesia? You can also do a pilgrimage to the three remaining major basilicas: St. Mary Major, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; St. John Lateran, the Pope’s official ecclesiastical seat; and St. Paul Outside the Walls, built over the location where St. Paul was buried. Each is worth going to for its own distinct beauty, but also because it is believed that completing all four will earn you an indulgence, or remission for your sins.

Don’t forget to set aside time to take in a little bit of Roman history. For that, you must head to the Colosseum, site of ancient gladiatorial fights and the world’s largest ampitheater.

Also include a visit to a piazza or two, such as Piazza del Popolo, where you will see an ancient Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Emperor Augustus way back in 10 B.C. If you would like to have your own Roman Holiday moment, the Spanish Steps always makes for a great photo opportunity. Although since Audrey Hepburn famously licked her gelato here in the 1953 movie, visitors sitting on it are supposedly no longer allowed to eat ice cream (but no one will fault you for trying!).

Before bidding the city goodbye, make a wish at the Fontana di Trevi. Tradition dictates that, with your back to the fountain, you throw in a coin using your right hand over your left shoulder… your wish, of course, being that you would like to return to Rome again one day. And after this day or two spent exploring, you will absolutely need to—in order to make room for still more things to see, eat, and do on your next trip.



The Pope gives teachings and readings in various languages, prays the Our Father in Latin, and issues an Apostolic Blessing. Tickets can be picked up from the Swiss Guard at the Bronze Door by the right colonnade of St. Peter’s Square the day before or on Wednesday morning (take note: tickets are always free), or you can pre-book tickets and make reservations in advance by downloading a form through www.

If your visit happens to fall on a Sunday, follow the crowd assembling at St. Peter’s Square by noon. The Pope appears at the window of his apartment before leading the Angelus prayer and issuing a blessing. It’s such a thrill to be able to wave at him from his perch that you won’t mind standing outdoors in the searing midday heat.

If you’re celebrating these special occasions in Rome, try booking tickets at least two to six months in advance—the less tickets you need, the greater your chances of getting a slot. You’ll need to fax the Vatican directly (download the form through and wait for a reply to your home address telling you where to pick up tickets, if available. Slots are limited so these can be quite difficult to secure, but go for it and have faith!

This article originally appeared in Our Pope magazine, published by Summit Media. 

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Nana Caragay
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