The Best Books on Rome

woman reading a book about Rome

The Best Books About Rome

Looking to fall in love with Rome all over again? Maybe you’re visiting soon and want a taste of what to expect. Luckily for you, writers have been infatuated with the Eternal City for centuries.

We’ve picked out some of our favorite books about Rome to get you in the mood for the unique blend of history, romance, intrigue and vibrant culture that Rome has to offer.

Historical Novels About Rome

I, Claudius – Robert Graves

Going back to ancient Rome, this classic is widely considered one of the best novels of the 20th century. Graves writes as Roman Emperor Claudius. Covering Rome’s imperial history up until Claudius’ coronation in 41AD, I, Claudius paints a vivid picture of what ancient Rome was like under the rule of Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula.

Experience what ancient Rome was really like with our Ancient Rome Tour.

Lucrezia Borgia – Maria Bellonci

Published in 1939, this is an award-winning, factually-accurate novel about Lucrezia Borgia. Borgia certainly lives up to her family’s reputation for controversy and cruelty, but Bellonci also highlights Lucrezia’s more complex, human side in this riveting book.

The Woman of Rome – Alberto Moravia

Written by Rome native Moravia, The Woman of Rome was first published in 1947. This novel is centered on one of the most vivid female characters in Italian literature, Adriana, and her life under Mussolini’s dictatorship. Definitely not one for younger readers, the novel follows Adriana as she looks to use her beauty better her life and escape poverty. Chronicling the seedy side of pre-war of Rome, Adriana comes against complex issues involving a failed revolutionary student, a deceitful chauffeur, a violent criminal and a secret police officer

Books About Modern Life in Rome

Four Seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr

This short memoir by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Doerr chronicles his year-long stay in Rome for his fellowship at the American Academy. This is a great introduction to what modern life in Rome is actually like.

Rome Tales

There’s something for everyone in this collection of 20 short stories from Italy’s finest literary figures. Spanning hundreds of years, the Eternal City’s many faces are showcased in a combination of comic, tragic and dramatic tales.

With such a wide variety of genres and time periods covered, this lovely little book is surprisingly easy to read. A fantastic introduction to Rome, the locals and Roman culture.

That Awful Mess On The Via Merulana – Carlo Emilio Gadda

One of the masterpieces of modern Italian literature! The multiple layers of language, imagery and irony lead this author’s work to be compared with James Joyce. Gadda draws together different strands of Roman life in a detective story that focuses on the elusiveness of truth.

The plot revolves around Detective Ingravallo’s investigation into a robbery and murder in an apartment building on the Via Merulana. Set during the fascist regime, this novel transports you back to a dark period of Rome’s modern history.

Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio – Amara Lakhous

Set within an apartment building in Piazza Vittorio, Lakhous’ novel is created from the testimonies of the building’s inhabitants surrounding the death of a sinister character in the elevator. Despite the plot, this book is a delicately written comedy.

Lakhous paints an affectionate picture of modern Rome featuring modern Romans – ‘Romans’ from across the globe.

Explore the real, multi-cultural Rome on our Travestere and Jewish Ghetto Tour.

There’s truly something for everyone in Rome, no matter what age or interest! For more information on visiting Rome, feel free to get in touch by phone: +39 0645236956 or via email:


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The Top 10 Things to Do in Rome with Kids

The Top 10 Things to do in Rome with Kids

Wondering what to do in Rome with kids?

Traveling with kids in Rome can be daunting – how do you keep young children’s attention but still keep teenagers happy and enthusiastic?

It can be difficult finding age-appropriate sites to visit – there’s nothing worse than trying to keep a screaming two-year-old quiet in the usually-silent Vatican museums! But Rome has something for everyone, young and young-at-heart alike.

Here’s a list of our 10 favorite family-friendly things to do in Rome.

Ancient Rome for Kids

History comes alive on Rome’s cobbled streets and a visit to Rome is the perfect chance to get your little ones interested in the past.

Two great options to visit are he Roman Forum and the Colosseum. They’re next to each and right in the middle of the city – so no complex transport arrangements are needed – making your visit as stress-free as possible.

1. See Where the Lions Lived in the Colosseum

Kids of all ages love to go deep beneath the Colosseum’s arena floor and walk where the gladiators once walked. Underneath the Colosseum, there’s a maze of tunnels and the hypogeum (holding area). Animals held in this area included elephants, lions, leopards, bears and tigers!

2. Run Off Excess Energy at The Forum

Great for younger children, the forum is an open area full of ancient ruins and stunning scenery. Many families love to take some time out of their sightseeing schedule to simply sit and enjoy their beautiful surroundings here.

You can visit both the Forum and the Colosseum’s underground on our VIP Ancient Rome Colosseum Underground Tour.

3. Learn to Be a Gladiator

If they loved the Colosseum, this is a great follow up! There are a few companies in Rome that now offer gladiator classes and diplomas – complete with real-life gladiators to show them how it’s done. Run by historical re-enactors, kids get to dress up and learn authentic gladiator swordplay.

Running at two hours long, gladiator schools are suitable for kids six years and over. The class starts at Gruppo Storico Romano museum to see real gladiator artifacts and to try on realistic armor replicas.

Rome’s Family-Friendly Parks

The perfect place to unwind and relax, Rome’s parks are truly unique. Many were originally owned by wealthy and powerful Roman families and still have the splendor and grandeur to prove it. A lot of parks in Rome have restaurants, cafes, playgrounds and lakes to explore with your little ones – a perfect break from the sometimes-hectic inner city.

4. Row a Boat through the Borghese Gardens
Once owned by the famous Borghese family, this oasis in the city is now open to the public. Incredibly popular (without being overcrowded), there’s plenty for kids to enjoy: pony rides, a zoo (with it’s own little train!), a funfair and a number of playgrounds.

A favorite with locals, the Borghese gardens offer you the chance to explore the lake by rowboat, see the entire park on bike and even rent a Segway.

You can also visit the Gallery Borghese on-site, a wonderful collection of art and sculpture from the likes of Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Canova and others. Book in for our private tour of the gallery and learn about the fascinating (and sometimes scandalous!) lives of the artists.

5. Relax in The Orange Garden
A beautiful little gated garden on top of Aventine Hill, the Orange Garden has spectacular views of the entire city. Filled with orange trees (hence the name!), the Orange Garden was created in honor of St. Domenico who is said to have planted the first orange tree in the area in 1222.
Explore Authentic Rome


There are some things every visitor to Rome simply must do!

6. Eat Gelato on the Spanish Steps

Gelato is the most delicious ice cream you will ever taste. Combine everyone’s favorite food with a visit to one of the most iconic images of Rome – the Spanish Steps. The 138 historic steps are said to the widest in Europe and are an incredibly popular meeting place for tourists and locals alike.

7. Throw Money into the Trevi Fountain

Seen on the big screen in many Hollywood classics, the Trevi Fountain is another iconic image of Rome. The story goes that when you throw a coin into the fountain, you’re destined to return to Rome. Kids love this tradition and the fountain collects around €3,000 a day! Where does all that cash go? It’s divided up and donated to local charities – so feel free to keep throwing your pennies in.

Both the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are featured in our popular Heart Of Rome Tour

Children-Only Places to Visit in Rome

8. Explore The Children’s Museum
If you’re unlucky enough to get bad weather while you visit Rome, check out Explora – a museum dedicated to fun things for kids to do. Perfect for under-12s, there are a lot of interactive displays to enjoy including water features, role play areas and a life-sized model of Italy’s fastest train’s cab.

9. Go Toy Shopping
Well, if they’ve behaved through all the sightseeing, why not! A local favorite is Bartolucci near the Pantheon – a traditional toy shop stocked with old-fashioned colorful wooden toys. Al Sogno is also a popular choice (it’s on Piazza Navona) – it’s best known for its wonderful and extravagant window displays.

Only for the Older Kids!

10. Investigate the Catacombs
If your older children/teenagers are looking for something spooky, a visit to the Catacombs are a good choice – they’re dark, creepy and full of skeletons. The catacombs are hidden deep under modern Rome’s streets and are strictly by guided tour only.

Originally used to bury the dead by early Christian settlers, there are thousands of bodies displayed along 300km of catacombs – including some saints, popes and martyrs.


There’s truly something for everyone in Rome, no matter what age or interest! For more information on any of the above, feel free to get in touch by phone: +39 0645236956 or via email:


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Must-See Holy Places in Rome

apostles in rome

Must-See Holy Places in Rome

With over 600 churches, Rome is the perfect destination for lovers of holy art and architecture.

You don’t need to be a Catholic to appreciate the breathtaking beauty and centuries of fascinating history housed within Rome’s holy sites.

The tradition of visiting Rome’s stunning holy places dates back to 1552 and what can be argued to be the first package tour guide from Filippo Neri. The Italian priest’s circuit of the Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome attracted over 6,000 people each summer.

Whether you’re looking to see some awe-inspiring art, worship during Holy Week or study the masters of Italian art – there’s something for everyone within our top holy sites in Rome.

The good news? Many of the must-see holy places in Rome are easily accessible on foot. Many of them are within 10-20 blocks of each other!

Want to hear the full history and insider information? Check out this exclusive Basilicas of Rome tour.

st. peter's basilica, Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Well of course we have to include St Peter’s in this list!

St Peter’s is the world’s largest (and most visited) church and features a striking key-shaped courtyard designed by Bernini.

While you’re here, stand on one of the colored pave stones by the fountain and check out the optical illusion of many rows of columns disappearing into one single column.

The basilica is the result of years of hard work from Bernini, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante. Michelangelo’s masterpiece Pieta lives here too – complete with carved sash proclaiming “Michaela[n]gelus Bonarotus Florentin[us] Facieba[t]” or “Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence Made It”.

If you’re not convinced that this is the world’s largest church, lines on the floor mark where all the other major churches would fit inside St. Peter’s.

Reliquary of the Holy Crib

Basilica of St. Mary Major

Often over-looked, the basilica of St. Mary Major is home to a miracle-working Virgin Mary image. This Virgin Mary was canonized and crowned in 1838 by Pope Gregory XVI.

The basilica also has The Holy Crib, complete with it’s own gold reliquary.


Santa Croce in Gerusalemme – Basilica of The Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Built in 325 by Constantine’s mother St. Helena, this basilica was originally intended to house Christian relics.

The relic chapel is still the most popular feature, which includes: part of one of the Holy Nails; three fragments of the True Cross; two thorns from the Crown of Thorns and part of the Elogium, the panel hung on the cross above Jesus’ head.

The Elogium reads, in Latin, Hebrew and Greek: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” and is considered to be a medieval forgery.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran

To give the basilica its full name: The Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran, this basilica was built under pope Melchiade (311-314) and is the most ancient church in the world.

It’s also known as “Mother and head of all Churches on Earth” – which is much easier to remember.

This basilica is the seat of the bishop of Rome, who of course, is also the Pope.

For 11 centuries it was also the Popes’ residence, until they moved to Avignon, France. After they moved back to Rome, they lived in Vatican City.

Now, the basilica holds the entombed remains of a few saints: Saints Cyprian, Secunda, Giustina and Rufina. As well as two popes: Pope Innocent IIIand Pope Leo XIII; who had the vision of Lucifer claiming that he could destroy God’s church in 100 years. As a result of this vision, Leo XIII composed the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

This Basilica also contains wood from the table used at the Last Supper. It is high above the altar above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to the left of the main Papal altar.

Want to experience these intriguing, fascinating holy places in person? Check out this exclusive Basilicas of Rome tour to get a private tour of the must-see holy places in Rome.

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The Best Day Trips From Rome

Positano, Amalfi Coast

The Best Day Trips From Rome

As much as we love Rome, sometimes you just want to escape the noise and heat of the Eternal City and step into a more laid-back pace of life!

With something for everyone, here’s our pick of the top 5 day trips from Rome.

Ostia Antica Day Trip

With preserved ancient remains to rival Pompeii, Ostia Antica is a delightful excursion from Rome’s busy streets.

Ostia Antica was ancient Rome’s vibrant sea port and is now an awe-inspiring archaeological showcase.

Prepare to be immersed in the 2nd-century world of ancient Rome. You can visit the public baths – Terme di Nettuno – and admire the artistic effort put into the stunning floor mosaic onsite.

After this, stop off at the awe-inspiring amphitheatre. There’s also an ancient cafe – the Thermopolium – that still has traces of the frescoed menu on the walls.

Want to know the secrets hidden amongst the ruins of Ostia Antica? Book into a private tour today.

Visit the World Heritage Villas at Tivoli

You can take in not one, but TWO World Heritage Sites on this day trip to Tivoli!

Just 30km east of Rome, Tivoli is easily accessible by bus or car. Start your day out at Villa d’Este, a wonderful luxury villa and Renaissance gardens.

Look out for the Bernini-designed Fountain of the Organ, which uses a concealed organ powered by water pressure to play beautiful music. There’s also the 130m-long Avenue of the Hundred Fountains to check out.

After taking in all that splendor, head to Villa Adriana – the ruins of an expansive country estate once belonging to Emperor Hadrian.

You’ll need at least an afternoon to discover all the treasures hidden over the Villa’s 40 acres.

Hadrian’s personal refuge, Teatro Marittimo, was a mini-villa built on an island in an artificial pool, originally accessible only by swing bridges.

There’s also the canopo (a landscaped canal overlooked by a nymphaeum – a shrine to the water nymph) several bath complexes, temples and barracks.

Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Private Tour

Of course we couldn’t leave Pompeii off this list!

Witness 2000 years of perfectly preserved history at the site of one of the most significant natural disasters of all time.

This Unesco-listed site is huge and you’ll need at least three hours set aside just to see the essentials.

Popular attractions include the Forum, Lupanare (an ancient brothel) and amphitheatre.

Out of the town’s original 66 hectares, only 44 have been excavated, leaving plenty of new discoveries waiting to be uncovered.

Enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of an infamously picturesque part of Italy on our Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Private Tour.

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5 Rome Tips: Our Best Rome Travel Tips For A Great Vacation

5 Rome Tips: Our Best Rome Travel Tips For A Great Vacation

Planning a trip to Rome? Make the most out of your vacation and do your research before you leave. We’ve been living and working in Rome for over 10 years and all of tour guides are local too. Here are our 10 best tips about traveling in Rome to make your next trip the most exciting vacation of your life!

1) Wear Comfortable Shoes

OK, OK – we know this doesn’t sound exciting but it’s an absolute must. Rome is incredibly busy throughout the year and sometimes it’s quicker to walk somewhere than wait on public transport. A good pair of comfortable shoes will make it easier to spend most of the day walking – browsing the stylish boutiques, wandering from cafe to cafe or enjoying the amazing relics to Ancient Rome in person. You don’t want to waste a magical trip to the Eternal City being distracted by sore feet!

2) Carry a Water Bottle & Fill Up at Nasoni

The Ancient Romans were famous for (among other things) bringing clean water supplies to housing, public baths and fountains via intricate engineering feats and aqueducts. The nasoni keep this tradition alive and kicking throughout Rome – you’ll find these striking drinking fountains from the 1800s providing clean drinking water for modern citizens all over the city. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and keep hydrated through the sweltering Rome heat at no extra cost.

Fun Fact: Nasoni is a play on the Italian word for nose – so prepare to get your fresh water from these ‘Large Noses’!

3) The Best Season To Visit Rome is The Shoulder Season

OK, we’re bias, we think Rome is beautiful 365 days a year! For visitors, things can be a little overcrowded and overheated in the summer months. Well, Rome is absolutely packed with visitors from the end of May, June, July, August and the beginning of September. Add to this the exhausting heat that settles in the city for these months and you’ve got a potent combination. The best time to visit Rome is the end of March/beginning of April (avoid Easter while you’re booking this) or the last week of September/month of October. This way, you get to enjoy Rome’s undeniable charm without the hassle of thousands of other visitors or the excessive heat.

4) Use Public Transit The Right Way

Rome’s public transport situation isn’t too bad (but isn’t too great either!). If you’re traveling by bus, make sure to stock up on tickets before you get on the bus (at news stands, corner shops and bus stops) as you can’t actually buy them on the bus. Keep in mind that rush hour can bring the city to a standstill – including the buses. Sometimes it’s quicker to jump off the bus and walk to another bus stop or finish your journey on foot.

5) See The Best Parts Of The City With A Tour Guide

Visiting Rome can feel daunting – choosing what to see, what to skip and what to do can feel like a monumental task. By securing a place on a guided tour of Rome, you get a greater insight into the city, it’s history and it’s previous inhabitants. Real Rome Tours always includes skip-the-line tickets to the most popular attractions in all of our tours – meaning you can see the best of Rome without the wait.

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Five Things To Never Do In Rome

Five Things To Never Do In Rome

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Many visitors to Rome experience a bit of culture shock – Italy isn’t like their favorite TV show portrayed it to be! If you want to avoid nasty hand gestures or awkward sniggering, avoid doing these five things on your trip to Rome.

1. Don’t Take a Photo With a Fake Gladiator At The Colosseum

It might sound like a great opportunity to take a photo that will always remind you of your amazing stay in Italy’s capital, but beware the flashy fake gladiators at the front of the Colosseum! Despite their detailed costumes, they’re notorious for hassling tourists and being incredibly aggressive to get money out of visitors. Be wary of seemingly friendly ‘gladiators’ offering to take your photo for you – they have been known to demand money to return tourists’ cameras. Some even pose in unsuspecting tourists’ photos and demand payment afterwards. What they’re doing is illegal but it’s a difficult scam to stop, especially in the height of the summer season.

2. Don’t Wear Short Shorts and a Bikini Top To The Vatican

Summers can be absolutely sweltering in Rome – especially standing in line for hours under the hot sun. There’s nothing like wandering through the cobblestone streets in something lightweight and breezy. But beware – there’s a strict dress code at all religious sites in Rome (and there’s a lot of them!). Visitors to churches, crypts and the Vatican should choose respectful, modest clothing for their visit. Keep shoulders and knees covered (this is for both men and women) or risk being refused entry.

3. Don’t Go Selfie-Crazy In The Museums

Generally museums around the world don’t allow flash photography inside their premises, due to the flashes damaging the priceless works of art on display. This rule is enforced within the Sistine Chapel above the normal level. Due to extensive (and pricey!) restoration work undertaken in the 80s, the Vatican sold exclusive photography and videography rights to a TV network in Japan. Despite the deal expiring many years ago, they’ve kept the ban on amateur photography. As to be expected, there are plenty of photos, books and souvenirs to browse through in the gift shop – so you can always pay a little bit extra for professional photography of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

4. Don’t Order A Cappuccino After Breakfast and Don’t Even Think About A Vanilla Latte!

Italians are notoriously passionate about their coffee. Forget ordering a Triple Venti Half Sweet Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato. In Italy, it’s believed that milk will interfere with the digestion of your main meals if enjoyed after breakfast. You’ll get away with ordering a cappuccino with your breakfast but after 11am, you’re going to get some funny looks for ordering anything milky. As for those special orders from your local coffee chain – forget it. Vanilla/hazelnut/flavored lattes aren’t on the menu in Italian coffee bars.

Pro Tip: Most Italians drink coffee standing at the bar. If you want to sit down, it will cost 20-50% more to have waiter service. Don’t try to skip the fee by ordering at the bar and seating yourself – you’ll be met with an unhappy cafe owner!

5. Don’t Say “Ciao” To Everyone

The first word everyone learns in Italian is Ciao. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sweet. It’s also incredibly informal and usually only used by close friends, kids or family. It’s not like the English ‘hi’, it’s more like a ‘yo’ or a ‘hey’ – best used sparingly among those nearest and dearest to you! Want to be friendly (and appropriate) to those you meet everyday? Try a more respectable ‘buon giorno’ or ‘buona sera’

And there you have it! Avoid these common social faux pas on your visit to Rome and you should do well. To see Rome with a real local, book in with one of our professional tour guides and get a taste of the real Rome!

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How To Make The Most Out Of One Day In Rome

How To Make The Most Out Of One Day In Rome

Iconic, romantic and timeless, there’s so much to see in The Eternal City it’s hard to choose just one day’s worth of sights to see! Whether your visiting Rome for the history, the art, the food or the nightlife, you’ll be kept mesmerized and entertained.

One Day Itinerary for Rome

There’s a few absolute must-do things all visitors to Rome should experience! These include:

  • Visit the Vatican: You’ll need to start early to beat the crowds and it’s best to buy your tickets online in advance (queues are known to be in excess of two hours otherwise!). You can admire the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms and the Belvedere Courtyard.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica: Be stunned by Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s baldachin at the largest church in the world and the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture
  • Spanish Steps: The Spanish Steps (yes, there’s 135 steps!) are a great place to take a seat, sample some local gelato and watch the world go by.
  • Trevi Fountain: Throw a coin in the iconic Trevi and legend has it that one day you’ll return to Rome. Featured in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the fountain was built in 1732 and shows Oceanus and his seahorses.
  • The Pantheon: The Pantheon is the oldest-surviving temple from Imperial Rome, standing un-touched for over 18 centuries.
  • Villa Borghese: Absolutely gorgeous, this sixteenth century villa now houses the world-famous gallery Borghese. Featuring works from Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Canova and others.
  • Roman Forum and Colosseum: Simply iconic.

Fancy something a bit more unusual Try these off the beaten track sights to see:

  • Trastevere: A picturesque medieval area, Trastevere is the 13th, and one of the oldest, districts of Rome. The heart of Trastevere is Piazza di Santa Maria, a pedestrianized square piazza lined with restaurants, bars, faded palazzi and the church of Santa Maria. Despite being in the center of Rome, it has a beautiful small village feel to it.
  • The Jewish Ghetto: The ghetto of Rome was a Jewish ghetto established in 1555 in the Sant’Angelo district. It’s a hidden pearl between the Tiber river and Venice Square and is a vital cultural reference point for the entire Jewish community.
  • Basilica of The Holy Cross in Jerusalem (in the Esquilino quarter, not Jerusalem!): Consecrated in 325, the original chapel on the site was built to house the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ, which were brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Empress St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Originally, the chapel’s floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, hence the name!
  • Case Romane: These houses contain more than four centuries of history. The frescoed rooms were originally shops but were transformed during the 3rd century AD into an elegant upper class residence. Within the rooms, you can admire some of the most beautiful frescoes of Late Antiquity.

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you sure can see a lot of it in one!

If you’d like to pack as much in as possible and learn the fascinating history surrounding all these sights, consider booking in for our most popular tour: Rome In A Day Private Tour.

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