What to Do In Rome Alone: A Solo Traveler's Guide to the Eternal City
Updated: Sep 14
The first reference to Rome as the Eternal City goes back over two thousand years - to the era of Julius Caesar and the transformation of the city from a Republic, ruled by senators, to an Empire ruled by an Emperor - Caesar's nephew Augustus. However, the 1st Century poet Tibullus, whom most scholars credit with the first reference, did not wax poetic about Rome's political elite, he wrote about the city itself - its people.
His use of the Latin phrase “Urbs Aeterna,” which translates to Eternal City, became a source of pride for the people of Rome. They believed in the idea that even should the empire fall, the city would last forever. A theory which has certainly grown stronger over time.
The history of Rome and its enduring nature is almost palpable as you wander its ancient streets, see its historic sites, taste its amazing food, and meet its warm and friendly people. Embark on an unforgettable solo adventure in Rome, Italy. Discover the best tips, must-visit attractions, and insider insights for a remarkable experience.
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Solo Travel to Rome, Italy
I have been fortunate enough to spend time in Rome on a half-dozen occasions - as a couple, as a family and alone. It has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience each and every time. But there is something special about traveling alone - something that allows you to experience a place in a deeper way - perhaps because instead of being focused on planning itineraries to suit all your travel companions & making certain everyone is properly fed, rested and entertained - you can simply take in the world around you.
Rome is a must visit city and is ideal for solo travelers. It is walkable; has a fantastic tourist infrastructure; a great metro system, English is widely spoken throughout the city; and it has an incredible number of things to do, places to see, and delicious food to eat.
Is Rome Safe for Solo Travelers?
Rome is like any big city - there are inherent dangers. But as long as you follow safe practices, it's a great city for solo travelers. While particular areas can be a little dicey, the majority of the city is safe and the risk of violent crime is very low. The majority of crime in Rome is pickpocketing, scams or theft.
It's always wise to have safety on your mind when travelling solo - particularly if you are a woman. The usual recommendations, of course, still apply. Generally speaking, just use common sense - as you would in any big city and everything will be fine. Here are some reminders and suggestions:
Stay close to the touristy areas.
Learn how to speak a few Italian phrases or have a translator app on your phone (although most people working in the touristy areas speak English as well).
Don’t go into isolated or non-touristy areas at night. Even ask your hotel concierge to mark dicey areas on a map.
Watch your personal belongings.
Listen to your gut. If something feels off - get to a safe location with a lot of people.
If you take a bus, stay near the driver.
Share your phone location with friend(s) at home through an app like Life 360.
THINGS TO BEWARE OF:
PICKPOCKETS. Crowds attract pickpockets, particularly near the largest tourist destinations, crowded trains and the metro.
SCAMS. If a stranger approaches you to offer help with your luggage, directions, or ask you for help, you should be wary of them. They may even be trying to distract so that an accomplice can steal your things. And avoid the jewelry sellers who want to put an item on you - like a ring on a finger - forcing you to pay for it when you are unable to get it off your finger.
**Rome has safe, clean and drinkable water. There are thousands of drinking water fountains throughout the city called Nasone (Stamped with S.P.Q.R.). The first was built in 1874. The water's purity is constantly monitored by the city so you can feel comfortable filling up and quenching your thirst.
National Emergency Number: 112
Fire Department: 115
Medical Emergency: 118
WHEN TO GO
Rome is worth a visit in every season. But keep in mind - the Eternal City attracts millions of visitors every year. As a general rule, the better the weather - the more crowded the city gets and the more expensive everything becomes.
PEAK SEASON: (busiest, most expensive, best weather) April, May, June, September, & October.
COOL SEASON: (least crowded, cooler temps) November through March.
HOT SUMMER: (very hot, still crowded, but a little less expensive) July & August.
***Don't forget to check your passport expiration dates. The European Union requires that the expiration date be at least six months post your travels.
The easiest path to Rome is via Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino International Airport (FCO). It is the largest airport in Italy and 10th largest in Europe - seeing 40 million passengers annually. It will almost always offer the most direct flights and cheapest ticket prices.
However....Italy's high-speed train system is efficient, reasonably priced, and makes any Italian city only hours away. So, if you find a bargain price into one of Italy's other major airports - it's worth taking the time to weigh time spent on a train getting to Rome versus the cost savings. For example, the high-speed train from Naples to Rome is an hour and twenty minutes; from Pisa - 2 hours and 10 minutes; and even Milan is just three and a half hours away.
**The "Leonardo Express" train connects Fiumicino International Airport directly to Termini Station (the largest train station in Rome) in just 30 minutes. Just follow the signs at the airport and buy your tickets at a machine.
** Currency Exchange Tip - Use an ATM at the airport or train station when you arrive. Currency exchange stores and kiosks at the airports mark up the exchange rate for profit. Check with your bank on international ATM surcharges - even if they do have higher charges, they will often offer suggestions to reduce or remove the fee.
WHERE TO STAY
Rome is a city of almost 3 million people. And it boasts over 1,600 hotels. It can seem sprawling and maybe even a little intimidating - until you break it down by area.
These are Rome's six main areas:
1. ANCIENT ROME (Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Trajan's Market, Circus Maximus, Capitoline Museum)
2. EAST ROME (Termini Train Station, National Museum). Generally the most affordable area, but there are also some 5-star hotels here.
3. NORTH ROME (The Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, Borghese Gallery, Piazza del Popolo)
4. PANTHEON - THE CENTER OF ROME (Pantheon, Campo de' Fiori, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain)
5. SOUTH ROME - TRASTEVERE (Catacombs; true local life, has also become a prestigious place to be)
6. VATICAN CITY (Vatican Museum, St. Peter's, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel)
**We generally do not recommend Vacation Rental By Owner Sites for female solo travelers in a foreign country - too many unknowns.
Rome has a great metro system. There are 3 lines: A, B and C. And it is very likely you will only need concern yourself with A and B. (C generally connects only to residential neighborhoods.) Tickets are available for a single trip (100 minutes), for 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, or 7 days. There are machines at every metro station.
***Keep in mind PICKPOCKETS when traveling on the train or metro.
There are taxis readily available throughout the city. Uber is also a great option. Personally, I have had far better experiences with Uber in Rome. Unfortunately, there were multiple occasions where taxi drivers tried to over charge me.
Rome is entirely walkable as well. You can even walk from the Spanish Steps in North Rome down to Trastevere in South Rome in 40 minutes - with a lot of wonderful sites (& sights) in between.
WHERE TO EAT
One of the best things I have ever done in Rome was an evening enjoying a traditional Roman Family Feast in a private home in Trastevere neighborhood. The experience is absolutely ideal for the solo traveler and 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 was fortunate to enjoy 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.
Here are a few of my other favorite places to grab a drink or a bite to eat:
COFFEE: Tazza D’Oro (Via Degli Orfani 84) near the Pantheon.
DRINKS AND APPETIZERS IN HISTORICAL SETTING: Antico Caffè Greco opened in 1760 and is the oldest bar in Rome and second oldest in Italy. Right near the Spanish Steps, it's a great spot to soak up some history as you are served by tuxedo clad waiters. *It is pricey!!!
LUNCH WITH AN ANCIENT VIEW: Angelino "ai Fori" has been serving delicious Roman food since 1947. They offer a lovely outdoor patio with views of the Forum and Colosseum.
***During high season reservations for dinner are a must - even for the solo traveler!
TIPS FOR DINING SOLO: This can cause the most anxiety for solo travelers. Here are some suggestions to make it easier:
Practice at home
Start with Lunch
Eat at the Bar
Bring a book or magazine
CAPTURING YOUR MEMORIES
Check out some suggestions from a professional for taking great Travel Selfies with your phone.
The Best Things to do Alone in Rome
A great first thing to do when arriving in a new city solo is to take a hop on/hop off Bus Tour. It allows you to get your bearings even if you don't hop-off.
Here are some suggested itineraries allowing you to hit the must-see sites for THREE DAYS ALONE IN ROME:
A Walk Through the Center/Heart of Rome - you can start at either end and walk to the other. Take your time, sit at an outdoor café and people watch along the way - have a cappuccino, a panini, Cacio e pepe pasta, some gelato...it's all delicious. Or bring a long a small sketchbook and memorialize your view.
Campo de' Fiori: Today this historic square is filled with shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, churches, and monuments. It is also considered the oldest market in Rome - every Sunday (since 1869), visitors can find colorful stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fresh fish.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the square was the site for public executions. On the 17th of February 1600, the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt alive here. His crime was heresy and all of his works deemed to be forbidden books by the Holy Office. Today, a monument stands on the exact spot of his death.
Piazza Navona: This square - or rather rectangle - was originally the Stadium of Domitian where athletic contests were held. The stadium fell into ruin following the fall of the Roman Empire, but was re-established in the late 15th century as a significant Roman market. Today, the square has beautiful sculptured fountains, buskers, cafes, shops and restaurants.
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 now requires a ticket that can be purchased ahead of time online or in front of the Pantheon itself.
Recommended experience - grab a coffee at Tazza D’Oro and/or a panini at Antica Salumeria and old-fashioned deli. Find a seat on the side of the fountain and enjoy the buskers and the juxtaposing ancient and modern ambiance.
The Trevi Fountain is probably the world's most famous fountain. It is cool to see - but it get's so crowded and there are so many scammers trying to take your photo for a fee (yes, with your own phone). I suggest early morning if you want to linger and toss in a coin in the hope it means you will one day return to the Eternal City.
The Spanish Steps descend from the French church ‘Trinita dei Monti’ and to the Piazza di Spagna, It's a tourist hot spot and you are no longer allowed to sit and relax on the steps, but it is a beautiful quintessential spot in Rome. This is also where all the high end shops are located - so do a little window shopping for top designers - or splurge on a very expensive souvenir.
Rome's Ancient World - The Archaeological Park. BARDEUM has you covered for these four must-see historical sites. Step inside the stories of true events as you are guided through the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Roman Forum and/or Palatine Hill. Enjoy an immersive experience with quality educational storytelling for you to learn about how the sites existed - full of life - 2000 years ago. All four self-guided audiovisual tours include digital reconstructions.
Colosseum: The Roman Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built. It stands as the most iconic symbol of Ancient Rome and is indelibly linked to the celebrated gladiator shows that took place within its walls. Imagine traveling back in time to the year 85 AD and seeing this architectural wonder - newly built - hosting Emperor Domitian's' Great Games.
Our audiovisual self-guided tour allows you to be immersed in Domitian's Great Games and learn of the seedy underworld of gladiator fighting as you wander through the site. Blood and Sand is written by Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author Simon Scarrow (Eagles of the Empire Series) and narrated by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Oz, Lost, Games of Thornes). The experience includes digital reconstructions of the colosseum.
**Highly recommend buying tickets ahead of time so you can skip the line. Morning is least crowded.
Circus Maximus: The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus") dates back to the 8th century BC - the earliest days of Rome. It was built as the site for the public games during Roman religious festivals - including hosting the beloved gladiator fights, prior to the construction of the Colosseum.
Travel back in time to 64 AD and find a seat as you become immersed in chariot racing and the real life plot to assassinate Emperor Nero. Our audio / visual self-guided tour of the Circus Maximus - The Charioteer is written by six-time New York Times bestselling author Margaret George (Splendor in the Dark, Confessions of a Young Nero) and narrated by George Blagden (Versailles, Vikings). The experience includes digital reconstructions of the Circus Maximus.
Lunch Break: Take a break for some delicious Roman cuisine at Angelino "ai Fori" just outside the entrance to the Forum.
Roman Forum: The Forum was the focus of Roman political and religious activity. The rituals and traditions performed here were considered critical to keeping advantageous connections with the Gods. One of the oldest and most important priesthoods of Rome was the Vestals - the female representatives of the Goddess Vesta. Their purity was a central tenet to appeasing the Gods. Step back in time to the 844th year since the founding of Rome (91 AD) and nine years into the reign of the Emperor Domitian where rumors swirled as to his cruelty and instability. He has ordered the execution of the Vestal Maximus Cornelia, the highest female priest in Rome.
Our audiovisual tour The Death of Cornelia allows visitors to step inside these true events and follow the Vestal Ravinia whose secrets may reveal the reasons behind Cornelia’s horrifying execution. Let us help you imagine this site as it was two-thousand years ago – not merely as cold marble and stone, but as a place teeming with life. Learn about the history of Rome as well as the Monuments and Memorials within the Forum. Includes digital reconstructions.
Palatine Hill: The Palatine Hill is at the center of the seven hills of Rome. It is the legendary site of the cave where the twins Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa and is the mythological location where Hercules' defeated the fire-breathing monster Cacus. Between 81 and 92 AD, Emperor Domitian built a massive palace on the eastern side of the hill which housed the Emperors of Rome for 225 years.
At nightfall on the 27th of October in the year 312 A.D. 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. The Sibylline Prophecy by international bestseller Simon Turney.
* A trip to the National Museum - Palazzo Massimo to see the actual buried treasure referred to in The Sibylline Prophecy is icing on the cake.
St. Peter's Basilica, The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel. I highly recommend joining a tour that encompasses all three. The Vatican Museum is vast (54 rooms filled with art treasures) and can feel overwhelming. A tour will also get you special (skip the long line) access to the St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel. If you can plan enough ahead - the tours that begin before the Vatican opens to the general public is definitely worth it for avoiding the crowds.
Castel Sant’Angelo is a short walk from St. Peter's Basilica. You don't need a tour here. But I recommend seeing it at night. It offers amazing views of the city and a better chance of feeling ghostly presences.
Trastevere Neighborhood is on the south side of the river Tiber and offers a flavor of a typical Roman neighborhood. Wonderful winding narrow cobblestone streets with old medieval houses lead to restaurants, bars, and artisan shops.
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.
Galleria & Villa Borghese is a gorgeous estate (now a museum) with the largest public park in Rome.
HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR SOLO TRIP TO ROME!
Let us know what you enjoyed best!
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