Rick Steves Pocket Rome


By Rick Steves

By Gene Openshaw

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 23, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves! This colorful, compact guidebook is perfect for spending a week or less in Rome:

  • City walks and tours: Six detailed tours and walks showcase Rome’s essential sights, including the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the lively Piazza Navona, plus handy neighborhood breakdowns
  • Rick’s strategic advice on what experiences are worth your time and money
  • What to eat and where to stay: Grab a quick lunch of pizza al taglio, people-watch as you sip wine on a sunny piazza, savor a multi-course meal at a neighborhood enoteca, and unwind in a room with a view
  • Day-by-day itineraries to help you prioritize your time
  • A detailed, detachable fold-out map, plus museum and city maps throughout
  • Full-color, portable, and slim for exploring on the go
  • Trip-planning practicalities like when to go, how to get around, and more

Lightweight yet packed with valuable insight into Rome’s history and culture, Rick Steves Pocket Rome truly is a tour guide in your pocket.

Spending more than a week in the city? Try Rick Steves Rome!



Map: Rome

About this Book

Rome by Neighborhood

Map: Rome’s Neighborhoods

Rome at a Glance

Planning Your Time

When to Go

Before You Go

Rome is magnificent and brutal at the same time. It’s a showcase of Western civilization, with astonishingly ancient sights and a modern vibrancy. But with the wrong attitude, you’ll be frustrated by the kind of chaos that only an Italian can understand. On my last visit, a cabbie struggling with the traffic said, “Roma chaos.” I responded, “Bella chaos.” He agreed.

Over two thousand years ago the word “Rome” meant civilization itself. Everything was either civilized (part of the Roman world) or barbarian. Today, Rome is Italy’s political capital, the heart of Catholicism, and the center of its ancient empire, littered with evocative remains. As you peel through the city’s fascinating layers, you’ll find Rome’s monuments, cats, laundry, cafés, churches, fountains, traffic, and 2.8 million people endlessly entertaining.

About This Book

Rick Steves Pocket Rome is a personal tour guide…in your pocket. The core of the book is six self-guided walks and tours that zero in on Rome’s greatest sights and experiences. Do the “Caesar shuffle” through ancient Rome’s Colosseum and Forum. Stroll from Campo de’ Fiori to the Spanish Steps, lacing together Rome’s Baroque and bubbly nightspots. Learn something about eternity by touring the huge Vatican Museums, and visit St. Peter’s, the greatest church on earth. Savor the sumptuous Borghese Gallery.

The rest of this book is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best advice on how to save money, plan your time, ride public transportation, and avoid lines at the busiest sights. You’ll also get recommendations on hotels, restaurants, and activities.

Rome by Neighborhood

Sprawling Rome actually feels manageable once you get to know it.

The historic core, with most of the tourist sights, sits inside a diamond formed by Termini train station (in the east), the Vatican (west), Villa Borghese Gardens (north), and the Colosseum (south). The Tiber River snakes through the diamond from north to south. At the center of the diamond is Piazza Venezia, a busy square and traffic hub. It takes about an hour to walk from Termini train station to Vatican City.

Think of Rome as a collection of neighborhoods, huddling around major landmarks.

Ancient Rome: In ancient times, this was home for the grandest buildings of a city of a million people. Today, the best of the classical sights stand in a line from the Colosseum to the Forum to the Pantheon.

Pantheon Neighborhood: The Pantheon anchors the neighborhood I like to call the “Heart of Rome.” It stretches eastward from the Tiber River through Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona, past the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain.

Vatican City: Located west of the Tiber, this a compact world of its own, with two great, massive sights: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.

North Rome: With the Spanish Steps, Borghese Gallery, Villa Borghese Gardens, and trendy shopping streets (Via Veneto and the “shopping triangle”), this is a more modern, classy area.

East Rome: This neighborhood around Termini Station boasts the stunning National Museum of Rome and many recommended hotels and public-transportation connections. To the south and east is the area I call “Pilgrim’s Rome,” with several prominent churches.

Rome at a Glance

▲▲▲Colosseum Huge stadium where gladiators fought. Hours: Daily 8:30 until one hour before sunset: April-Aug until 19:15, Sept until 19:00, Oct until 18:30, off-season closes as early as 16:30.

▲▲▲Roman Forum Ancient Rome’s main square, with ruins and grand arches. Hours: Same hours as Colosseum.

▲▲▲Capitoline Museums Ancient statues, mosaics, and expansive view of Forum. Hours: Daily 9:30-19:30.

▲▲▲Pantheon The defining domed temple. Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30-19:30, Sun 9:00-18:00, holidays 9:00-13:00, closed for Mass Sat at 17:00 and Sun at 10:30.

▲▲▲St. Peter’s Basilica Most impressive church on earth, with Michelangelo’s Pietà and dome. Hours: Church—daily April-Sept 7:00-19:00, Oct-March 7:00-18:30, often closed Wed mornings; dome—daily April-Sept 7:30-19:00, Oct-March 7:30-18:00.

▲▲▲Vatican Museums Four miles of the finest art of Western civilization, culminating in Michelangelo’s glorious Sistine Chapel. Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-18:00. Closed on religious holidays and Sun, except last Sun of the month (open 9:00-14:00). Open Fri night mid-April-Oct by online reservation only.

▲▲▲Borghese Gallery Bernini sculptures and paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian in a Baroque palazzo. Reservations mandatory. Hours: Tue-Sun 9:00-19:00, Thu until 21:00, closed Mon.

▲▲▲National Museum of Rome Greatest collection of Roman sculpture anywhere. Hours: Tue-Sun 9:00-19:45, closed Mon.

▲▲Palatine Hill Ruins of emperors’ palaces, Circus Maximus view, and museum. Hours: Same hours as Colosseum.

▲▲Trajan’s Column, Market, and Museum of the Imperial Forums Tall column with narrative relief, forum ruins, and museum with entry to Trajan’s Market. Hours: Forum and column always viewable; museum open daily 9:30-19:30.

▲▲Museo dell’Ara Pacis Shrine marking the beginning of Rome’s Golden Age. Hours: Daily 9:30-19:30.

▲▲Dolce Vita Stroll Evening passeggiata, where Romans strut their stuff. Hours: Roughly Mon-Sat 17:00-19:00 and Sun afternoons.

▲▲Catacombs Underground tombs, mainly Christian, some outside the city. Hours: Generally 10:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00.

▲▲Church of San Giovanni in Laterano Grandiose and historic “home church of the popes,” with one-of-a-kind Holy Stairs across the street. Hours: Daily 7:00-18:30.

Mamertine Prison Ancient prison where Saints Peter and Paul were held. Hours: Same hours as Colosseum.

Arch of Constantine Honors the emperor who legalized Christianity. Hours: Always viewable.

The Roman House at Palazzo Valentini Remains of an ancient house and bath. Hours: Wed-Mon 9:30-18:30, closed Tue.

St. Peter-in-Chains Church with Michelangelo’s Moses. Hours: Daily 8:00-12:30 & 15:00-19:00, Oct-March until 18:00.

Piazza del Campidoglio Square atop Capitoline Hill, designed by Michelangelo, with a museum, grand stairway, and Forum overlooks. Hours: Always open.

Victor Emmanuel Monument Gigantic edifice celebrating Italian unity, with Rome from the Sky elevator ride up to 360-degree city view. Hours: Monument open daily 9:30-18:45 (shorter in winter), elevator until 19:00.

Trevi Fountain Baroque hot spot into which tourists throw coins to ensure a return trip to Rome. Hours: Always flowing.

Castel Sant’Angelo Hadrian’s Tomb turned castle, prison, papal refuge, now museum. Hours: Daily 9:00-19:30.

Baths of Diocletian/Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli Once ancient Rome’s immense public baths, now a Michelangelo church. Hours: Daily 7:30-18:30, closes later May-Sept and Sun year-round.

Trastevere: This colorful, wrong-side-of-the-river neighborhood has a village feel. South of Vatican City and just west of the Pantheon neighborhood, it’s the city at its crustiest—and perhaps most “Roman.”

South Rome: Here are the postindustrial Testaccio neighborhood, the 1930s suburb of E.U.R., and the Appian Way, home of the catacombs.

Planning Your Time

The following day-plan gives an idea of how much an organized, motivated, and caffeinated person can see. You won’t be able to see everything, so don’t try. Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences and the friendliness of Romans. Budget time for Rome after dark. Dine well at least once.

Day 1: Do the “Caesar Shuffle” from the Colosseum (book ahead) to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and on to the Pantheon. After a siesta, add some sightseeing to suit your interest. In the evening enjoy a sound-and-light show at the Forum and/or a colorful stroll in Trastevere or the Monti district.

Day 2: See Vatican City (St. Peter’s, dome climb, Vatican Museums—book ahead). Have dinner near the atmospheric Campo de’ Fiori, and then walk to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps (following my “Heart of Rome Walk”).

Day 3: Visit the Borghese Gallery (reservations required) and the Capitoline Museums. In the evening, join the locals in the Dolce Vita Stroll passeggiata.

With More Time: Choose from other major sights: National Museum of Rome, the catacombs, Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Trajan’s Column, the churches of Pilgrim’s Rome—or peruse the Sights chapter for more options. Explore a local street market, stroll through the Villa Borghese Gardens, or take a side trip to Ostia Antica (closed Mon) or Tivoli.

When to Go

Rome’s best travel months (also its busiest and most expensive) are April, May, June, September, October, and early November. These months combine the convenience of peak season with pleasant weather.

The most grueling thing about travel in Rome is the summer heat in July and August, when temperatures can soar to the high 90s and pricier hotels discount their rooms. Fortunately, air-conditioning is the norm in all but the cheapest hotels (though it’s generally available only from June through September). Spring and fall can be cool, and many hotels do not turn on their heat.

Stick This Guidebook in Your Ear!

My free Rick Steves Audio Europe app makes it easy to download my audio tours of many of Europe’s top attractions. For Rome, this includes my Heart of Rome Walk and Trastevere Walk plus tours of the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and Ostia Antica. Sights covered by audio tours are marked in the book with this symbol: . It’s all free! For more info, see RickSteves.com/AudioEurope [URL inactive].

Rome is fine in winter—cool and crisp with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Street life stays in full swing all year, as restaurants set up heaters to warm outdoor tables, and nativity scenes grace churches through January. Off-season has none of the sweat and stress of the tourist season, but sights may have shorter hours, lunchtime breaks, and fewer activities. Confirm your sightseeing plans locally, especially when traveling off-season.

Before You Go

You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more information on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter (and www.ricksteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks).

Make sure your travel documents are valid. If your passport is due to expire within six months of your ticketed date of return, you need to renew it. Allow up to six weeks to renew or get a passport (www.travel.state.gov). Beginning in 2021, you may also need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

Arrange your transportation. Book your international flights. If you’re traveling beyond Rome, research rail passes, train reservations, and car rentals.

Book rooms well in advance, especially if your trip falls during peak season or any major holidays or festivals.

Reserve ahead for key sights. While Rome has plenty of crowds, only three sights merit booking in advance: the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, and Borghese Gallery. Only the Borghese Gallery actually requires advance booking, but reservations are absolutely essential for all three. It’s easy, and if you don’t do it, you’ll be frustrated by long and time-consuming lines any time of year. Clear instructions are in this guidebook. For all other sights (including the Roman Forum), you can simply show up, pay, and enjoy.

Consider travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the cost of your potential loss. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas.

Call your bank. Alert your bank that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards in Europe. Ask about transaction fees, and get the PIN number for your credit card. You don’t need to bring euros along; you can withdraw euros from cash machines in Europe.

Use your smartphone smartly. Sign up for an international service plan to reduce your costs, or rely on Wi-Fi in Europe instead. Download any apps you’ll want on the road, such as maps, translators, and Rick Steves Audio Europe (see sidebar).

Pack light. You’ll walk with your luggage more than you think. I travel for weeks with a single carry-on bag and a daypack. Use the packing checklist later in this book as a guide.

Heart of Rome Walk

From Campo de’ Fiori to the Spanish Steps

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.


1 Campo de’ Fiori

2 Piazza Navona

Map: Heart of Rome Walk

3 The Pantheon

4 From the Pantheon to Piazza Colonna

5 Trevi Fountain

6 The Spanish Steps

Rome’s most colorful neighborhood features narrow lanes, intimate piazzas, fanciful fountains, and some of Europe’s best people-watching. During the day, this walk shows off the colorful Campo de’ Fiori market and trendy fashion boutiques as it meanders past major monuments such as the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.

But the sunset brings unexpected magic. Sit so close to a bubbling fountain that traffic noise evaporates. Jostle with kids to see the gelato flavors. Watch lovers straddling more than the bench. And marvel at the ramshackle elegance that softens this brutal city. These are the flavors of Rome, best tasted after dark.

Start this mile-long walk at the Campo de’ Fiori. The transportation hub Largo Argentina (buses #40, #64, #492, tram #8, and taxis) is five blocks west. This walk is equally pleasant in reverse order: Start at Metro: Spanish Steps and finish at Campo de’ Fiori, my favorite outdoor dining room after dark (for recommendations, see the Eating chapter). My free Rick Steves audio tour covers this walk plus some additional stops.


Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

1 Campo de’ Fiori    MAP

One of Rome’s most colorful spots, this bohemian piazza hosts a fruit-and-vegetable market in the morning. In the evening, the cafés and restaurants that line the square predominate. On weekend nights, beer-drinking young people pack the medieval square, transforming it into a vast Roman street party.

This piazza has been the neighborhood’s living room for centuries. In ancient times, it was a pleasant meadow—a campo de’ fiori, or “field of flowers.” Then the Romans built a massive entertainment complex, the Theater of Pompey, right next to it, stretching from here to Largo Argentina (and including the spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death). In medieval times, Christian pilgrims passed through the campo on their way to the Vatican, and a thriving market developed.

Campo de’ Fiori’s raucous morning market, overseen by a statue of the rebel Giordano Bruno

Lording over the center of the square is the statue of Giordano Bruno, an intellectual who was burned here in 1600. The pedestal shows scenes from Bruno’s trial and execution, and an inscription translates, “And the flames rose up.” The statue, facing a Vatican administration building, was erected in 1889. Vatican officials protested the heretic in their midst, but they were overruled by angry neighborhood locals.

If Bruno did a hop, step, and jump forward, then turned right on Via dei Baullari and marched 200 yards, he’d cross the busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele and enter a square with a statue of Marco Minghetti, an early Italian prime minister. Continuing another 150 yards on Via di San Pantaleo, he’d find a beat-up old statue, where he’d turn right and head up Via di Pasquino, emerging at...

2 Piazza Navona    MAP

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

This long, oblong square is dotted with fountains, busy with outdoor cafés, lined with palazzos and churches, and thronged with happy visitors. By its shape you might guess that it started out as a racetrack, built around AD 80. But much of what we see today came in the 1600s, when the whole place got a major renovation.

Three Baroque fountains decorate the piazza. The most famous is in the center: the Four Rivers Fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the man who in the mid-1600s remade Rome in the Baroque style. Four burly river gods—representing the four quarters of the world—support an Egyptian-style obelisk. The good-looking figure of the Danube represents the continent of Europe. Next comes the Ganges (for Asia), a bearded old man with an oar between his legs. Next, the Nile (for Africa) has his head covered, since the river’s source was unknown back then. Uruguay’s Río de la Plata, representing the Americas, tumbles backward in shock, wondering how he ever made the top four.

Piazza Navona—fountains and nightlife

Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain

The Heart of Rome Walk Map Key

1 Campo de’Fiori

2 Piazza Navona

3 Pantheon

4 Pantheon to Piazza Colonna

5 Trevi Fountain

6 Spanish Steps

Now, follow the Plata river god’s gaze upward. He’s looking at the Church of Sant’Agnese. It was the work of Francesco Borromini, who was once Bernini’s student and became his great rival. But legend says that Bernini designed the river god Plata to look up at Borromini’s church...and tumble backward, in horror. It makes a great story—but in fact, the fountain was completed before Borromini even began the church.

Piazza Navona is Rome’s most interesting night scene, with street music, artists, fire-eaters, local Casanovas, ice cream, and outdoor cafés.

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Leave Piazza Navona directly across from Tre Scalini (famous for its chocolate gelato), and go east down Corsia Agonale, past rose peddlers and palm readers. Jog left around the guarded building (Palazzo Madama, where the Italian senate meets), and follow the brown Pantheon signs straight to Piazza della Rotunda and...

3 The Pantheon    MAP

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Stand for a while under the portico, which is romantically floodlit and moonlit at night. The 40-foot, single-piece granite columns of the Pantheon’s entrance show the scale the ancient Romans built on. The columns support a triangular Greek-style roof with an inscription that proclaims, “M. Agrippa built this.” In fact, the present structure was built (fecit) by Emperor Hadrian (AD 120), who gave credit to the builder of an earlier temple. This impressive entranceway gives no clue that the greatest wonder of the building is inside—a domed room that inspired later domes. If it’s open, pop in for a look around. For more about the Pantheon’s construction and interior, see here or download my free Pantheon audio tour.

With your back to the Pantheon, veer to the right, heading uphill toward the yellow sign on Via Orfani that reads Casa del Caffè at the Tazza d’Oro coffee shop.

The Pantheon—the temple to “all the gods”—is now the focus of all the tourists.

4 From the Pantheon to Piazza Colonna    MAP

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Caffè Tazza d’Oro: This is one of Rome’s top coffee shops, dating back to the days when this area was licensed to roast coffee beans. Locals come here for a shot of espresso or, when it’s hot, a refreshing granita di caffè con panna (coffee and crushed ice with whipped cream).

Continue up Via degli Orfani to...

Piazza Capranica: This square is home to the big, plain Florentine Renaissance-style Palazzo Capranica (directly opposite as you enter the square). Its stubby tower was once much taller, but when a stronger government arrived, the nobles were all ordered to shorten their towers.

Leave the piazza to the right of the palace, heading down Via in Aquirointo toward a square called...

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Piazza di Montecitorio: This square, home to Italy’s Parliament, is marked by an Egyptian obelisk from the sixth century BC. Emperor Augustus brought it to Rome as a trophy proclaiming his victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Follow the zodiac markings in the pavement to the square’s next big sight—the Italian Parliament. This impressive building is where the legislature’s lower chamber (the equivalent of the US House of Representatives) attempts to govern the nation.

To your right is Piazza Colonna, where we’re heading next—unless you like gelato (a one-block detour to the left brings you to a famous Roman gelateria, Giolitti).

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Please note: to hear these audio tours, your device must support embedded audio.

Piazza Colonna and Via del Corso: Piazza Colonna features a massive column that has stood here since the second century AD. The reliefs tell the story of Emperor Marcus Aurelius heroically battling barbarians around AD 170. The column is pure propaganda—in reality, the barbarians were winning, beginning Rome’s long, three-century fall. The big white building adjacent to the parliament houses the prime minister’s cabinet.


On Sale
Jun 23, 2020
Page Count
232 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Learn more about this author

Gene Openshaw

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually. He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves' Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy, daughter Jackie, and his new grandson…baby Atlas. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Connect with Rick:
twitter: @RickSteves
instagram: ricksteveseurope

Gene Openshaw has co-authored a dozen Rick Steves books, specializing in writing walks and tours of Europe's cities, museums, and cultural sites. He also contributes to Rick's public television series, produces tours for Rick Steves Audio Europe, and is a regular guest on Rick's public radio show. Outside of the travel world, Gene has co-authored The Seattle Joke Book. As a composer, Gene has written a full-length opera called Matter, a violin sonata, and dozens of songs. He lives near Seattle with his daughter, enjoys giving presentations on art and history, and roots for the Mariners in good times and bad.

Learn more about this author