11 Magical Things to Do in Rome
Updated: 6 days ago
“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
- Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter
Founded over 2800 years ago, Rome has a rich, magical history that endures today. It is unlike any other city in the world. Awe and wonder fill its ancient streets, architectural marvels, churches, museums, and ancient ruins.
Here is our listicle highlighting the magical, captivating, and wonderous things to do in Rome. Uncover unique attractions, events, and experiences that cater to those looking for memorable moments in the Eternal City. Use this guide to explore Rome’s hidden gems.
ATTEND A CONCERT WITHIN ANCIENT RUINS
1. The Baths of Caracalla
By day, the Baths of Caracalla are open for visitors to stroll among the ruins of a 3rd-century public bathing house. By night, it becomes the dramatic backdrop for celebrated operas, orchestral concerts, and ballets. Every summer Teatro dell’Opera di Roma di Roma uses the stunning juxtapositions of ancient and modern to create magical performances. It is wonderous to behold. The schedule can be found on the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma website.
EXTRA MAGIC - TAKE AN OPERA LESSON BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE. The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma offers classes in how to listen to an opera. These lessons focus on the pieces scheduled in the program of the Opera Theatre offering context and illustrations of the dramatic content to optimize enjoyment. It's for the newbie and veteran opera-goer alike.
WALK AMONG THE GHOSTS OF ROME
2. Ghost Tours
With 2800 years of history, there are bound to be some good ghost tales in the Eternal City, right? From the sister-in-law of a pope who rides her ghostly carriage packed with gold across the Sisto bridge to Rome's official executioner, who put more than 514 people to death, wandering near the Castel Sant'Angelo in the early morning hours - a walking guided ghost tour is not to be missed.
DARK ROME offers a magically disturbing "Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends of Rome Night Walking Tour" (personal favorite)
MORE OF ROME offers their highly reviewed "Haunted Rome Ghost Tour"
PICNIC WITH LOCAL FARE IN RENAISSANCE GARDENS
3. The Magical Borghese Gardens
In 1605, the nephew of Pope Paul V, Cardinal Borghese, began his quest to convert the vineyards adjacent to his estate into the most opulent and extensive gardens since Roman antiquity. Thankfully, we can all enjoy them today - for free. Here is the plan:
Step One: Get to a local market near your hotel or the Villa Borghese (near the Spanish Steps).
Step Two: Purchase an assortment of cheeses, meats, fresh bread, and a bottle of Cannellino di Frascati (a favorite of Romans).
Step Three: Lay down a blanket (borrow some towels from your hotel - Shhh!)
Step Four: Enjoy the magical visual, edible, and drinkable delights of Rome!
PONDER MORALITY AMONG DECORATIVE BONES
4. Capuchin Crypt
The Capuchin Crypt is located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini near Piazza Barberini. It contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars - not just buried, but many of their bones are put on display in intricate designs. The church asserts that the display is not meant to be macabre, but a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.
TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
5. Palatine Hill on the night of 27 October 312 AD
In 2007, a treasure was unearthed on the Palatine Hill (near Domitian's Palace) - believed to have been buried during the reign of Emperor Maxentius. Travel back in time to the nightfall on the 27th of October in the year 312 A.D. and uncover the story behind the burial.
Maxentius, who has been named Emperor by an ineffectual Senate faces the usurper Constantine who has claimed himself Emperor and now sits with his army on the far side of the Tiber river, just beyond the Milvian Bridge. A battle is coming.
Step Inside the Story of this true event and learn about Emperor Maxentius, this critical turning point in Rome’s history and its reliance on prophecy & sacrifice. Walk through the Palace grounds with Maxentius as he prepares for the dawn. Envision the palace through his eyes and watch as he hides a secret that lays buried for almost 1700 years (includes digital reconstructions). The Sibylline Prophecy is written by international bestseller Simon Turney.
EXTRA MAGIC - Take a trip to the National Museum - Palazzo Massimo and see the actual buried treasure referred to in The Sibylline Prophecy. is icing on the cake.
DINE FAMILY-STYLE WITH LOCALS
6. Dine With a Local
There is nothing quite like enjoying a traditional Roman Family Feast in a private home in Rome with a gathering of new friends. The experience is bookable through the website EatWith.com. The company promotes savoring joy wherever you go and offers "culinary experiences to celebrate with passionate hosts and new friends."
Eat With offers a number of culinary experiences in the Eternal City - both learning to cook traditional Roman foods and to just partake. I highly recommend an evening of traditional Roman cuisine in Trastevere - hosted by Barbara & Federica. They created an atmosphere of comfort and ease - getting to know each guest (8-20) to help create the optimal seating arrangements. For three hours, there was course after course of delicious food, great conversations, and free-flowing wine.
RELAX BY BOAT AT A RENAISSANCE VILLA
7. The Laghetto at the Villa Borghese
A little boathouse along the small lake at the center of the gorgeous Borghese Estate rents row boats for personal enjoyment. You'll find it along the Viale del Lago footpath which encircles the Laghetto. It's inexpensive, romantic, and offers a unique perspective of the beautiful Temple of Asclepius.
TOUR THE VATICAN LIKE A VIP
8. Early Morning or After-Hours Vatican & Sistine Chapel Tours
The Vatican Museum is a must-see site in Rome. However, due to its popularity, it can be crushingly crowded. There is a way around it! And it makes you feel just like a VIP - seeing the Vatican treasures by private tour in a mostly empty museum is pretty magical.
CITY WONDERS offers a tour called the "Sistine Chapel First Entry Experience with Vatican Museums"
St. Peter's Basilica offers an "Early Morning or After-Hours Skip-the-Line Tour of Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel"
SIP ITALIAN COFFEE BENEATH AN ANCIENT TEMPLE
9. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, mainly because it has been in continuous use since it was built in the 1st century AD. Just seeing the exterior is pretty wonderful. But going inside and seeing the dome is well worth it. Entrance does now require a ticket which can be purchased ahead of time online or in front of the Pantheon itself.
While the Pantheon inspires awe - there are add-ons that can make your experience there magical. Grab a coffee at Tazza D’Oro and/or a panini at Antica Salumeria an old-fashioned deli. Find a seat on the side of the fountain and enjoy the buskers and the juxtaposing ancient and modern ambiance.
BIKE OR RIDE HORSEBACK ON AN ANCIENT ROAD
10. The Appian Way
The Appian Way was originally built in 312 BC to connect Rome and Naples. It is arguably the oldest road in the world. Eventually, it stretched 400 miles south to Brindisi where Roman ships could then travel to the far reaches of the world and ultimately expand the Roman Empire.
Today, you can travel along the Appian way on the same spot of ground as the ancient Centurions. You can certainly walk it, but you can see far more of it via bike or horseback riding.
ON HORSEBACK: Riding Ancient Rome
ON A BICYCLE: The Appian Way Catacombs and Roman Aqueducts Cannondale EBike Tour gets great reviews!
WATCH A MOVIE BENEATH THE STARS
11. Il Cinema in Piazza
Every summer “Il Cinema in Piazza” offers free cinema evenings under the stars. They offer three locations: the squares of Trastevere, Tor Sapienza and Monte Ciocci. With magical backdrops and moderated debates with famous directors, actors, and screenwriters - it shouldn't be missed.
BARDEUM offers self-guided audio / visual tours via mobile app. These immersive experiences are written by award-winning & bestselling authors, journalists, and historians.