Greetings Internet Stranger, and welcome to the best things to do in Rome in one day. Rome is not the kind of city you visit once and forget about. Rome is the kind of city you go back to again and again, even if there is a garbage strike in the middle of July. (Yes, that actually happened to me.) This is just how freaking magical the city is.
So since this was not my first time in Rome, I wanted to find some of the best things to do in Rome in one day that were a little off the beaten track. We’re going to visit a real life castle, find some of the best hidden things to eat, and see one of the most exclusive and amazing views in the entire city. Let’s not waste any more time!
Best Things to Do in Rome in One Day
Where to Stay?
It’s going to be hard to find a hotel in Rome for your best things to do in Rome in one day itinerary. The poor little city is just starting to get tourists. What to do? But if you’re looking for a hotel that has air conditioning, affordable rooms, an excellent location, and breakfast on the roof, I suggest the Hotel Otivm. Rather stay in a creepy underground lair that will steal all your money and give you no coffee? I can’t help you there, Internet Stranger!
Best Things to Do in Rome in One Day
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Rome is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American or from the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Best Things to Do in Rome in One Day
Morning: Secret Food Tour
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a food tour is the best way to see any city. You get yummy food that you probably wouldn’t be able to find on your own, you get historical tips and fun facts about the city, you get to eat more than you would dining alone, and if you are a solo traveler, you get to make friends and influence people. I’ve taken several tours with Secret Food Tours, and they’ve all been fantastic. The Rome Secret Food Tour was no exception!
It is always my policy to never spoil an entire tour. Why take money out of a tour guide’s mouth? But I do want to let you know what to expect with…
Approximately Top 5: Secret Food Tour Rome
1) A Coffee “Plus”
Of course the perfect way to start any Italian food tour is with a coffee! You can get your coffee any way you like, but it was approximately a flobbityjillion degrees in Rome in August, I decided to be an Ugly American and get it iced. No one said anything, but I assume the Italian waiters were silently judging me.
You might be looking at my photo and thinking, “That’s not an iced coffee! That looks like the demon rum!” Well, Internet Stranger Granny, that’s actually an Aperol Spritz, which is a cocktail more associated with Venice. (And we will get another one when we arrive in Venice, believe you me.) But I got the upgraded drinks package for the tour, which meant tons of extra booze.
There was a German couple on the tour who also got the upgraded drinks package, and they chose the Prosecco instead. That might be a better choice if you are a drinking lightweight. In fact, starting the morning with a cocktail might have been a little too much, even for me. But if you can’t indulge in Rome, where can you indulge?
2) Roman Snack Break
One thing that makes Rome unique is that, even though it is the capital of Italy, it still has its own unique food traditions. That’s not the case with every capital city, even in Europe. And one of the most delicious and specifically Roman foods is the suppli, fried rice balls stuffed with delicious goodness like cheese. These are the perfect Roman street food. We ate them at a hole in the wall that didn’t really have seating, but it was worth standing just to nom on these.
And as you can see, because I had the upgraded drinking package I also got a lovely glass of Italian white wine to go with the suppli. I began to feel that maybe I should have had breakfast before the food tour because an Aperol Spritz + white wine + only one rice ball isn’t necessarily the best choice before noon.
3) Pizza! Pizza!
Of course, no Italian food tour can be complete without pizza! But on this food tour, you don’t just get to try one type of Roman pizza. There are three different kinds of pizza for your gustatory enjoyment. Up first we have the Margherita pizza. Our guide said it was made in honor of the former Queen of Italy because it has the colors of the Italian flag in it. (The white is the cheese, the red is the sauce, and the green is the basil. Of course if you’re making a Hipster Margherita, the basil is replaced with avocado.)
Then we have the red pizza, which is also tasty, but still feels incomplete to me. Like, unless you have a food allergy, if you have a choice between Something With Cheese and Something With No Cheese, how on earth could you possibly turn down cheese?
And finally we have the plain pizza, which is really like a focaccia. This was probably the least exciting of all the pizzas, but it did remind me just how important and overlooked a quality crust is to a pizza. And if the pizza crusts back home were of this quality, I would never toss it out.
At this point in the tour you get another drink, which can be a beer or a soft drink. I’m guessing this is because I am not the only person who has gotten boozed out at this point. The German lady and I both opted for the highly delicious Chinotto, a bittersweet, citrusy, non-alcoholic concoction. The German man played to type and ordered the beer.
4) The Main Course
Of course, after pizza, some of the most famous Italian foods include cheese and pasta. So we were able to revel in a cheese tasting followed by a pasta tasting. What more could you want? Our first cheese was burrata, which is made from mozzarella and cream. It is truly one of my favorite cheeses. Eating it is like being wrapped in a warm hug by Santa Claus, if Santa Claus were entirely made out of cheese.
This was followed by a hard cheese and a goat cheese, which is definitely the way to go with a cheese plate. You always want to mix textures, animal milks, flavors, etc.
And finally the main event–pasta! One was the crowd-pleasing pasta with the tomato sauce. The other is the very typically Roman dish cacio e pepe. This is pasta (spaghetti will do nicely) with a sauce made from Pecorino Romano and pepper. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so delicious. When I try to make a dish with three ingredients back home it’s usually just a box of Mint Milano cookies, a delivery pizza, and a bottle of wine, and it never tastes this gourmet.
6) La Dolce Vita!
Any self-respecting food tour will give you at least two desserts. That’s just science. Our first dessert was my all time favorite dessert: the majestic cannoli. I grew up in a neighborhood that used to be part of Little Italy, and there were always plenty of Sicilian bakeries around. Cannoli are Sicilian shells of fried pastry dough filled with a creamy filling of some sort–I prefer ricotta filling, maybe with some chocolate chips. My mother would always buy me one if I had been good, so they always taste exactly like a mother’s love to me.
And for second dessert in Italy, no choice is finer than a gelato. Sometimes it’s nice to have a favorite flavor that you can try at every ice cream parlor you visit. It makes comparison easier. I always choose nocciola (hazelnut) with strawberry. Someday I may try to visit every gelato shack in Italy and try this combination in order to find the best one. It would be a difficult job, but I would gladly eat all that gelato just for you, Dear Internet Stranger.
Best Things to Do in Rome in One Day
Afternoon: Castel Sant’Angelo
Since I’ve already shown the most popular attractions in Rome on my other itineraries for the best things to do in Rome in one day–scroll to the bottom of this page for the links to those–I decided to skip places like the Coliseum, the Vatican, and the Borghese Gallery. Instead, we are heading to the Castel Sant’Angelo, aka Hadrian’s Tomb. This stunning edifice just might be the best place in the Eternal City to learn about the complexity and majesty that is Rome.
I don’t want to bore you with an endless history lesson. So instead I will spice up your life with…
Three Fun Facts: Castel Sant’Angelo
1) Why is it called the Castel Sant’Angelo?
So the name Castel Sant’Angelo dates back to the Early Medieval Period. Apparently there was a plague in Italy and the Archangel Michael appeared to Pope Gregory on top of the building to announce the end of the plague. I really wish Archangel Michael would do that nowadays. It would make things much more convenient. In any case, the castle was named Sant’Angelo in honor of the good-news-bearing angel.
However, the castle is much older than the Middle Ages because it was actually constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to be his mausoleum. That’s why they say you can see every part of Roman history from this castle. Most landmarks in Rome are associated with either the ancient world or the Christian world, but not both at the same time.
2) What’s the Highlight of the Castel Sant’Angelo?
In this blogger’s humble opinion, it’s the amazing views of the Prati neighborhood, where the Vatican is located. You can see St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance in my photo above! The Castel Sant’Angelo has long been linked to the Vatican. There’s even a passageway that connects the castle to the Vatican, though you certainly won’t be able to use it on this visit, unless you are the ghost of a former Pope.
During the Renaissance, the popes had their own apartments here. While the rooms in the Castel Sant’Angelo aren’t as lavish as the rooms in the Vatican, they’re still pretty impressive. I do so love a good wall painting.
Although this might be a little much, even for people with as much of a taste for the lavish as Renaissance-era Popes tended to be. I certainly hope this wasn’t used as a dining room because how could anyone concentrate on their suppli or cacio e pepe with all this going on all over the walls?
3) Are There Any Special Events at the Castel Sant’Angelo?
Sure there are! Why, when I was there, there was a special exhibit on Bulgari jewelry. I’m not quite sure what Bulgari and Castel Sant’Angelo have in common except for both being very classy and Italian, but I’ll never say no to admiring gorgeous jewels that used to belong to Elizabeth Taylor. I’ve never owned anything by Bulgari aside from perfume…Clearly I need to make better life choices.
24 Hour Tip
If you’re visiting Rome in the summer, it’s going to be hotter than Liz Taylor in A Place in the Sun, so Castel Sant’Angelo is the perfect place to visit. I think only about 3 buildings in Rome have air conditioning, but the Castel is cool and damp because of its aged bricks. You can’t find a better spot to hide from the viciousness of the Roman sun!
Best Things to Do in Rome in One Day
Evening: Dinner at Aroma
I promised you one of the best views in Rome, did I not? Well, if you dine at Aroma, you can see this spectacular vision as you feast…
Yup! That’s the totally unphotoshopped view from my table! And on top of that, Aroma is a Michelin-starred restaurant, so this isn’t one of those places where the view eclipses the food. Allow me to walk you through the magnificent feast that awaits us!
Like most great tasting menus, this menu balances light and heavy dishes to perfection. Up first we have amberjack with Roman zucchini, pink grapefruit, and peppers. Just look at the fab colors on this baby! It practically belongs hanging up on the walls of the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Now we have a dish that’s also smaller in size, but much richer in flavor: the rabbit roasted in its own broth with celery and endive. (I have zero regrets about eating bunnies. Yes, they are cute, but they are even more delicious than they are adorable.) Two dishes in and between the celery and endive here and the zucchini and grapefruit in the first dish, I was already massively impressed at how Aroma uses produce.
You know this is a proper Italian tasting menu because we have not one, but two pasta courses! The first is a tagliolini with saffron, squid ragout, candied lemon, black olive powder, and parsley jelly. This was probably my favorite dish of the night because it combined familiar flavors but with highly unusual textures.
The second pasta course was a ravioli stuffed with lamb and served with a roasted pepper sauce and ricotta cheese. It was perfectly appropriate to have a simple and almost homey dish like this after the wild splendor of the pasta.
Now it was time for the fish dish: cod with another mad cornucopia of produce: purple carrot, Tropea onion sponge, and wild beets. I didn’t even know that such things as purple carrots and wild beets existed before this meal! Truly, ours is a world filled with wonders.
Tropea onions come from Calabria; they are sometimes called Italy’s red queen. I would have thought that would be Queen Margherita, who invented pizza, but maybe that’s why I’m not a professor of The History of Italian Food and Queens.
The final dish of a tasting menu before dessert is almost always meat, and it’s a treat to see how the chef will try to impress the customer with the choice of viand. Will it be offal? How about a nice ortolan? But here we have the powerful venison, which is always an impressive choice. This preparation was reminiscent of the forest because it used pine air and black salsify, as well as a coffee crumble that added the perfect touch of bittersweet to this flavorful meat.
I practically squealed when I arrived at the table. Souffles are so impressive because the timing is difficult to get right, and I can’t recall ever getting one on a tasting menu before. So light and yet decadent at the same time. And yes, even after all that food, I managed to eat every last bite.
After the main dessert, a testing menu offers little mignardises, which is French for “nummy treats for the road”. But my favorite was this adorable little miniature “ice cream cone” shaped pastry! The perfect end to a perfect meal with a perfect view!
That’s the Best Things to do in Rome in One Day!
What do you think are the best things to do in Rome in one day? Is this an insane amount of food for just one little person? And are any of my readers out there Ghost Popes? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY do an itinerary with the best things to do in Rome in one day. If you want to add Rome in a day with the Pantheon, try this one. And if you’d like to see Rome in a day with the Vatican, go here. Finally if you’re looking for Rome in a day with the Colosseum, I’ve got you covered here.