What Is Rome Famous For? 31 Things Rome Is Known For

With almost three millennia under its collective belt, Rome is one of the most exciting European capitals and my favorite city in the world. But what is Rome famous for?

Rome is known all over the world for its ancient history and remarkable archaeological sites, for its delicious dishes, its wonderful parks, villas of local noble families, and important landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona.

What is so special about Rome?

There is no other city in the world like Rome. Its rich culture, long history, and incredible artistic heritage make a special place that offers a huge variety of experiences. Foodies, cultural travelers, fans of street art, and history buffs will all find something to see and do in Rome.

Image: Where is Rome? Fori Imperiali among the most important buildings of ancient Rome.

What was Rome most remembered for?

When you say Rome, the first thing that comes to mind is its powerful empire and elaborate society organized with military, political, and social institutions. This sophisticated organization is what allowed them to expand and conquer lands in Europe, northern Africa and Asia.

Some of the aspects Ancient Rome is most remembered for is the high engineering and architectural skills of its people that led to advanced constructions such as aqueducts, thermal baths, and long roads.

The culture and political system of Ancient Rome is still taken as an example and influences the modern governments.

Why do tourists visit Rome?

There are many reasons why travelers decide to visit Rome. The huge archaeological sites, the important artistic heritage, the great food, breathtaking views, rich culture and traditions, beautiful parks and stunning piazzas, churches, and palaces.

What is Rome known for

The capital of Italy

After a stormy past of the capital of the Roman Empire, the target of lootings and invasions, and the capital of the Papal States, since 1870, Rome has been the capital of the Kingdom of Italy under the rule of the Savoy royal family.

From the end of WWII and the establishment of the Republic, Rome has been the wonderful, noisy, chaotic, and spectacular capital of Italy.

Image: Altar of the Fatherland in Piazza Venezia in Rome

The capital of one of the largest empires in history

One of the things Rome is famous for is for being the capital of the Roman Empire, one of the largest and longer-lasting empires in history. Apart from the Italian peninsula, the Roman provinces included also the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, and Corsica.

But that’s not all. The Roman Empire reached as far as modern-day countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Lybia, Tunisia, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, France, Spain, the UK, Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania, Morocco, Algeria, Russia, Cyprus, spanning over three Continents.

The fame and reputation of Rome as a world capital, a majestic city, and the center of a rich civilization has started a long time ago.

The founding twin brothers were nursed by a wolf

Its legendary foundation that saw the twins Romulus and Remus first being fed by a she-wolf and fighting against each other is one of the most famous things about Rome. Descending directly from the god Mars, who fell head over heels for Rhea Silva, the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa.

Image: She-wolf nursing Rome's founding twins one of the things Rome is famous for.

Forced to chastity by her uncle after overthrowing her father, Rhea Silva was made pregnant by Mars and gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus. Unwanted by their evil uncle, the twins were supposed to be killed at birth, but since the servant couldn’t do it, they were left to float on the Tiber river until they reached the shores near Capitoline Hill. Here, the she-wolf nursed them saving them and the divine origins of the city of Rome.

Today, you can see a large statue of the she-wolf in the Capitoline Museums.

Don’t miss our article on the foundation and birthday of Rome.

It’s the eternal city

Rome is known for being the eternal city. Officially founded in 753 BC, Rome is almost 3000 years old and shows no sign of aging. In the span of thousands of years, Rome has fulfilled different positions in history and performed as capital on several occasions.

Today, visiting Rome is a true time-travel experience where you can go from the BCs to the Renaissance to 20th-century buildings in a few hours.

It’s gorgeous

One of the things Rome is famous for is certainly its beauty. From the wonderful palaces, domes, and historical buildings shaping Rome’s skyline to the magical views along the Tiber river, Rome is gorgeous from every corner.

Whether you are wandering the narrow cobbled alleys of the Centro Storico or walking the larger shopping streets, the eternal city never fails to deliver. Sip a cocktail from one of Rome’s rooftop bars or enjoy a lavish dinner at a rooftop restaurant and take in the stunning view and perfect blend of modern and new.

Image: Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome

It’s a giant UNESCO-listed site

In 1980, UNESCO has enlisted the whole of Rome’s Centro Storico, the Holy See, including its extraterritorial possessions of San Paolo Fuori le Mura Basilica, and the archaeological sites of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill as huge World Heritage Site.

Important landmarks such as Castel Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and of Santa Maria Maggiore, and Quirinale Palace are included in the UNESCO site.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum is possibly the most iconic, photographed, and famous landmark in Rome. The world’s largest amphitheater, it’s been standing there in all its majesty for almost 2000 years despite natural disasters and historical decline.

Image: Colosseum one of the things Rome is known for.

Infamously known for being the theater of some of the most brutal shows in Rome, the Colosseum is now a popular tourist site that attracts thousands of visitors every day.

Don’t miss our full guide to visiting the Colosseum in Rome.

Ancient Rome’s vestiges

Sprawling from Piazza Venezia southward, there is yet another reason Rome is famous. The original pulsing heart of ancient trade, religion, and political life is the Roman Forum, the imperial fora where emperors would organize their political life and speeches, and the Colosseum are some of the most popular archaeological sites in Rome.

But that’s not all.

Important vestiges of imperial times include also the wonderful Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, Hadrian’s Temple in Piazza di Pietra and Mausoleum in Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Mausoleum of Augustus.

Image: Ancient sites in Rome, the Roman Forum

It’s an open-air museum

Starting from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill, carrying on to Via dei Fori Imperiali to admire the vestiges of the imperial fora and passing onto the wonderful palaces, squares, and fountains that have been decorating Rome since Renaissance and the Baroque times, Rome is truly an open-air museum.

This is why, even if you are staying only one day in Rome, there is plenty you can see without entering any landmarks or only strictly picking those that attract you more. If you are really short on time and need to optimize every minute, check out our tips for a day in Rome’s city center.

A walk from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum will show you the huge archaeological area of the Fori Imperiali. With a short walk from Via del Corso, you can admire Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, three of the most famous landmarks in Rome that don’t even require standing in line.

Many world-famous landmarks

What makes Rome famous is also the huge number of world-famous landmarks all concentrated in a relatively small area. In fact, if you are not afraid of walking, you can see most of the world-famous landmarks on foot in a single afternoon.

Starting from Piazza del Popolo, you can walk across the Tridente roads and their backstreets to see famous piazzas and landmarks such as the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona.

Or you can decide to start your tour from Piazza Venezia and see the archaeological ruins of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Imperial Fora from outside before carrying on to the gorgeous Trevi Fountain and the Centro Storico.

Image: pantheon to include in a 4-day Rome itinerary

The Pantheon

If you are still wondering what is Rome famous for, the Pantheon is one of the most interesting ancient buildings. For centuries the world’s largest dome and the largest ever built in non-reinforced concrete.

The internal diameter of the dome measures 43,44 meters (nearly 14252 feet) and features a hole, called oculus, that served as the connection with the divine.

Sophisticated engineering

One of the aspects that have made Rome famous for centuries is its highly sophisticated engineering feats. Some of the most well-known works from the BC times and still admired today are the ancient aqueducts that would channel water to Rome through an elaborate system of pipelines, cisterns, and levels.

Image: Ancient aqueducts in Rome's Appian Way

Among the other important engineering work from Ancient Rome are the large roads connecting the city with the rest of Italy and the Roman Empire, such as the Appian Way, Via Ostiense, Via Flaminia, Via Cassia, and Via Aurelia. The vast network of some 100.000 km (over 62.000 miles) of roads shows the extraordinary engineering skills reached by the ancient Romans making the expansion of the Roman Empire and the development of Roman society possible.

Pliny the Elder was right when he stated that “Romans especially look after three things: opening the roads, building aqueducts, and developing the sewers underground.” Sewers like the famous Cloaca Maxima are another incredible work of hydraulic engineering dating back to BC times.

The Spanish Steps

Probably one of the most iconic staircases in the world, the Spanish Steps (known as Trinità dei Monti in Italian) is another landmark that makes Rome famous and recognizable around the world.

Often used for fashion shows and for people to hang out, these monumental steps were built between 1723 and 1726 to overcome the gap between the Pincio Mount and Piazza di Spagna below. Today, Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps are among the most photographed sights in Rome and the most common postcard subjects.

Don’t miss our tips on the best hotels near the Spanish Steps.

Image: View of Ponte Sant'Angelo bridge and St. Peter's square in Rome

Beautiful bridges

The bridges of Rome are truly some of the most beautiful places to take pictures, enjoy the view of the palaces and domes reflecting on the Tiber’s waters, and plan a romantic walk for Valentine’s Day or a date.

The Roman bridges are also an important work of engineering. While they were built for specific functional needs, they are also beautiful architectural masterpieces. Bridges like Ponte Sant’Angelo designed by Bernini and connecting Castel Sant’Angelo to the Centro Storico, the scenic Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, and the ancient Pons Fabricius are landmarks themselves.

Important museums

Rome is also home to the most important museums about the Roman Empire, ancient history, and rich civilization and society.

The Capitoline Museums are an important gallery to travel through Roman history from before its foundation and all throughout the centuries of the Roman Empire. Their separate venue at the Centrale Montemartini in the Ostiense neighborhood is a fascinating interplay of classic Roman sculptures and contemporary vestiges of local industrial archaeology.

Museo Nazionale Romano in its venue of the Diocletian Baths hosts the world’s largest collection of classic Roman art and crafts with some pieces from the Greek civilization.

Stunning piazzas

Whether it’s the huge and spectacular Piazza del Popolo, the small Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon, or Campo de’ Fiori dominated by the tall statue of Giordano Bruno, Rome is famous for its gorgeous squares.

Romans love to sit and enjoy their piazzas, chatting their evening away. Some of the favorite Roman squares where students, groups of friends, and young people like to hang out are Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere around the fountain and Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Rome for many reasons. Its elliptical shape is given by the Stadium of Domitian Piazza Navona was built on, its wonderful fountains were built by great artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Giacomo della Porta, the beautiful Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone designed by Francesco Borromini.

Image: Piazza Navona is one of the things that make Rome famous for.

Piazza Navona is a lively square that attracts thousands every day among locals and tourists on the lookout for street artists and portrait painters, beautiful subjects for photography, and fantastic architecture and artwork. If you are spending Christmas in Rome, visit Piazza Navona for one of the most famous Christmas markets in the city.

Gorgeous fountains

Public and celebratory fountains, aqueducts, and thermal baths show how much Romans considered water an essential aspect of their society and culture. In Rome, there are some 2000 fountains scattered around the city.

Whether they are the last exhibition of an ancient aqueduct like the Trevi Fountain, built to pay tribute to a powerful clan, commissioned by a pope, or made for the people to use the public water, most of Rome’s fountains are true art masterpieces. In fact, they often bear prominent names such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Giacomo della Porta, and Carlo Maderno.

Fontana di Trevi

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous landmarks in Rome. If it’s your first trip, there is no way you can miss it. If it’s not your first time in Rome and you have already seen it, there is a big chance you are going to spend an evening enjoying the vibe of the neighborhood.

Any time is a good time to visit Fontana di Trevi, but if you want to carve out a special experience, try going when it’s quiet so either early morning or late in the evening after the crowds faded away. Having a hotel near the Trevi Fountain would make this easier.

Image: Trevi Fountain to see in Rome in 4 days

For a complete experience, instead of limiting your visit only to the fountain, you can also visit the ruins of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct that supplies the water. La Rinascente shopping mall in Via del Tritone showcases parts of the aqueduct on its underground floor, while in the fantastic Vicus Caprarius archaeological site you will see the cistern of the Aqua Virgo and parts of the neighborhood built in Nero’s times.

Don’t miss our suggestions of where to eat near the Trevi Fountain.

Gardens and villas

Rome is very well-known for its wonderful gardens and parks. These are always villas that belonged to wealthy Roman families. The most famous is Villa Borghese, a former residence of the powerful Borghese family, but other parks such as Villa Pamphilj, Villa Ada, and the lovely Villa Torlonia are also great places to visit in Rome.

Image: Villa Pamphilj and other parks are what is Rome famous for

Rome’s parks are very interesting because they are home to museums, palaces, statues, wildlife, and fountains. They offer relaxing breaks from the hustle of the city’s traffic and historical landmarks to discover.

The Vatican

The world’s smallest country, Vatican City lies on the western banks of the Tiber river and it’s surrounded by Rome. Centuries of history and immortal masterpieces make the Vatican one of the reasons Rome is famous.

Image: Vatican is one of the things Rome is known for.

In fact, the Vatican is one of the most visited landmarks in Rome, also because it’s packed with things to see and do. From the Vatican Museums to Saint Peter’s Basilica and the gorgeous square to the Vatican Gardens, you can easily devote a full day to exploring the art and history of the Holy See. To make your experience more complete, book your tour of the necropolis under the Vatican basilica to see Peter’s tomb and an ancient Roman cemetery.

Check out our guide to the best hotels near the Vatican.

There are almost 1000 churches

Being the epicenter of the Catholic Church and hosting the Holy See, Rome couldn’t miss the record of being one of the cities with the highest number of churches in the world. Between dazzling basilicas, Baroque churches, early-Christian worship places, and private chapels, Rome counts over 900 Christian worship places, the highest in Italy.

Image: Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome. Churches are one of the things Rome is famous for.

Some of the most famous churches in Rome are also popular tourist landmarks. While other Roman churches are lesser-known and for sure lesser-visited, they are totally worth a stop for their incredible art and long history.

Bucatini amatriciana

Not just churches and palaces, but also the bucatini amatriciana pasta dish contributes to making Rome famous among foodies and anyone who enjoys a hearty meal. One of the favorite recipes from the cucina povera tradition (poor man’s cuisine), to make amatriciana you only need three ingredients: guanciale (cured pork cheek), tomato sauce, and pecorino romano cheese.

Image: Fettuccine amatriciana one of the best pasta in Rome. Photo by Rome Actually

The small number of ingredients makes this recipe an easy one, but this is also why it’s essential that they are very high-quality. If you are planning a trip to Rome, make sure you include a visit to a deli shop for regional excellence.

On the other hand, if you are looking for great restaurants to eat amatriciana, give restaurants like Santo Palato (Piazza Tarquinia 4a/b), Da Enzo al 29 (Via dei Vascellari 29), and L’Arcangelo (Via Giuseppe Gioachino Belli 59).

Read all about the pasta-making class we took in Rome where we learned how to make pasta and amatriciana from scratch!

Spaghetti carbonara

Rome is famous also for its spaghetti carbonara, probably one of its better-known dishes. Just like most Roman dishes, spaghetti carbonara requires few simple ingredients. And just like most Roman dishes, even though simple to make, the process needs to be followed carefully and the ingredients high quality.

Image: Rigatoni carbonara during Rome Testaccio food and market tour

Made of eggs and guanciale (cured pork cheek), the carbonara sauce doesn’t require onion and for sure all types of creams are absolutely banned. In Rome, you are going to find this famous dishes in most restaurants, all serving their own version.

Some places where to eat a great carbonara in Rome include Armando al Pantheon (Salita de’ Crescenzi 31), L’Arcangelo (Via Giuseppe Gioachino Belli 59), Da Enzo al 29 (Via dei Vascellari 29), and Trattoria Pennestri (Via Giovanni da Empoli 5).

Don’t miss our guide to the best pasta in Rome.

Tonnarelli cacio e pepe

The third star of the holy pasta trinity in the landscape of Roman cuisine is the cacio e pepe which, just like the name, requires pretty much only two ingredients: cacio (pecorino romano cheese) and black pepper.

Image: tonnarelli cacio e pepe one of the best pasta in Rome from Felice a Testaccio

When made according to tradition, the result is creamy and enveloping. Butter and oil are not part of the original recipe, the cream of which comes from blending the cacio cheese with the starchy water where the pasta cooked. Often served with fresh tonnarelli, you can find the cacio e pepe also with other types of pasta such as rigatoni.

Some of the best restaurants to eat cacio e pepe in Rome are Felice a Testaccio (Via Mastro Giorgio 29), Da Cesare al Casaletto (Via del Casaletto 45), and Armando al Pantheon (Salita de’ Crescenzi 31).

Hearty traditional foods

Not only pasta. Rome’s traditional foods include everything from the appetizers to the first courses to hearty mains up to delicious side dishes. Many tourists can’t wait to make their way to Rome to try local dishes such as coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), Roman tripes, saltimbocca alla romana (veal cutlets served with bacon and sage on top), and the delicious carciofi alla romana and carciofi alla giudia artichokes.

Image: carciofi alla giudia roman jewish fried artichokes

Rome is famous also for the local style pizza, thin and crunchy, that is served both round as a meal or by the slice as street food. Another type of Roman pizza is what’s known as pinsa, an oval-shaped focaccia topped with the most diverse range of ingredients.

Street food is also a strong specialty of the local culinary landscape. From supplì, deep-fried rice balls, to the Trapizzino pizza pocket stuffed with Roman classics, Rome’s street food places serve something for every taste and preference.

Read our guide to find out where to eat the best pizza in Rome.

Delicious artisan gelato

Rome is packed with great gelato places where you can have the sweet treat all year round, regardless of the weather conditions and the winter chill. All-natural and with a huge variety of flavors, Rome’s gelaterias play a crucial role into making the eternal city a famous travel destination for foodies and travelers.

Image: gelato in Rome

Whether you are a fan of creams or fruit sorbets, in Rome you are going to find plenty of options that will tickle of senses and tasting buds.

The dolce vita lifestyle

This is probably one of the most well-known qualities of Rome. Tourists and visitors from all over the world always expect to share some of the dolce vita lifestyle with locals. Even if only for the length of a holiday, travelers from all over the world enjoy immersing in an epicurean way of life. This doesn’t mean partying every night.

The dolce vita you are going to experience in Rome is a lifestyle where you appreciate beauty in all its aspects, from food to artwork to theater plays. All in all, it’s not difficult to find beauty in Rome. Whether it’s a monumental fountain or a stunning piazza, the city is an open-air museum.

It’s been the set of many movies

Rome’s beauty doesn’t attract only tourists but also movie directors and countless celebrities. From the famous Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck to Roma Città Aperta by Italian director Roberto Rossellini starring a wonderful Anna Magnani, the more recent The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Jude Law, and Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, they all scenes shot in the eternal city.

Landmarks like the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the same Tiber river always convey unforgettable scenery and moments.

Crazy traffic

All that glitters is not gold. This is especially true in Rome when it comes to traffic. Being in the city center or in the suburbs doesn’t really make much of a difference, you are always going to find hectic traffic. Buses, cars, motorbikes, and bikes were already making Rome’s traffic bad enough, so the recent addition of kick scooters darting around day and night didn’t really help make things tidier.

Image: If you are wondering what is Rome known for, traffic is one of those things.

Even though the city center has a large ZTL (limited traffic zone), the traffic doesn’t get any better. In fact, often it still manages to be worse than other areas. Even the narrow alleys of the Centro Storico are hardly car-free and sometimes taking nice pictures can be challenging.

Reckless driving

Directly linked to the point above, in Rome you will witness some pretty crazy driving. First of all, Romans drive fast. It’s probably because they are familiar with their streets, but really they drive fast.

They also lack patience. As soon as the traffic light becomes green, you have to jerk immediately otherwise all hell breaks loose and the drivers behind you will start honking and cursing. This, in fact, is another distinctive trait of Roman drivers, they curse a lot.

This is why I suggest driving in Rome only if you are very confident. Every time, I try to guess when there is less traffic but I’m hardly successful. The truth is, in Rome there is always traffic, so the best you can do is to avoid peak hour in the morning and in the evening.

Don’t miss our complete guide to driving in Rome.

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About The Author: Angela Corrias

Hi, my name is Angela Corrias! I am an Italian journalist, photographer, and blogger living in Rome. After over ten years of living abroad, I finally came to the conclusion that in order to better organize my future adventures, I needed a base. Since I know and love Rome so much, I moved back to the Eternal City. This is how Rome Actually was born. Here, I cover everything about Rome, from the local food to the culture to Roman history.

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