Rome’s historic center brazenly brims with ancient icons, foodie havens, and a shot of pop culture. Eager to relish in everything from its splashy A-list monuments to its quieter corners, we took off on the Lonely Planet Experiences Rome Highlights Tour powered by Urban Adventures

Our romp of the neighborhood began in sprawling Piazza del Popolo. Flanked by minor basilica Santa Maria del Popolo and a duo of baroque churches, this square unfolds around the Egyptian obelisk known by locals as the Flaminio Obelisk, brought to Rome in 10 BC.

A sign marks the home of Pablo Picasso, positioned on the building above and to the left of an alcove with a statue of a headless nude statue
A sign marks the home of Pablo Picasso © Alexandra Bruzzese / Lonely Planet

From here we made our way down to Via Margutta, a small street with a big pedigree: the serene strip of real estate has charmed artists and writers throughout the centuries.

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Our guide, Ruggiero, showed us where Italian director Federico Fellini resided and wrote his cinematic masterpiece La Dolce Vita; Pablo Picasso’s former apartment; and the spot where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn’s characters rendezvous in beloved film Roman Holiday. Margutta easily reigns as one of Rome’s most Instagrammable destinations, swathed in ivy and cobblestones.

A woman in a red jacket walks down a cobbled street in Rome.
Alexandra walks down Via Margutta © Alexandra Bruzzese / Lonely Planet

Next we traipsed down the luxury-boutique strewn Via dei Condotti (think Gucci and Bulgari) to Canova Tadolini. In its past life, this cafe was once the studio of neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova and his protégé Adamo Tadolini. Their works – heaving marble statues of soldiers on horseback and busts of patricians – flintily observe diners. At the bar, we each sampled a caffè macchiato, a rich and pleasantly bitter shot of espresso dabbed with milk. Ruggiero explained that coffee in Italy is often a quick affair, consumed standing at the counter, and that cappuccinos are never ordered after breakfast.

We went on to pay homage to Piazza di Spagna and the sophisticated sweep of the Spanish Steps. From there, our group took on the throngs of giddy tourists that fringe the Trevi Fountain, a majestic baroque masterpiece whose rollicking waters we all happily fed with coins.

Our following stops would include a cheeky bite to eat – local red wine and lush porchetta – at centuries-old Antica Salumeria and a visit to the invincible Pantheon. As Ruggiero shared, the Pantheon has been in continuous use since its conception in 126 AD, dutifully serving as Roman temple and now church and final resting place of artist Raphael. We joined fellow visitors to gawk at the oculus in the middle of its ceiling, still the largest supported solid concrete dome in the world.

Wearing a red jacket and smiling, Alexandra holds a cup of gelato in the shop
Alexandra tries some gelato on the tour © Alexandra Bruzzese / Lonely Planet

The jaunt capped off with an authentic gelato from Gunther Gelato Italiano (try the pine flavor  –  trust us!) and a twilight stroll of glorious Piazza Navona, punctuated by Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.

Tour highlight:

You may have seen the Trevi a thousand times on postcards and the silver screen, but nothing compares to meeting her face to face.

Perfect for:

Rome beginners who want a crash course to the capital.  

Don’t forget:

Sunscreen and a sunhat in the warmer months (Rome can really heat up), a reusable water bottle, and euros to tip your guide.

Final word:

While it’s impossible to see Rome in one go, our walk checked off an impressive slew of the city’s must-see sites layered with fun facts and anecdotes from our guide, and kept us well fed too.

Lonely Planet Experiences, in partnership with Intrepid Travel & Urban Adventures, are a new range of multi-day, day and half-day tours offering amazing experiences in the world’s best-loved destinations. 

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