Rome, the capital of Italy, was founded in April of 735 B.C. Today, the Eternal City is renowned for its unique character, cuisine based around fresh ingredients like olive oil, and experiences of all kinds to be had, from vibrant streets filled with art, entertainment and culture to centuries-old landmarks of the Roman Empire.
Also known as the City of Seven Hills, this popular destination is home to famous sites and historic, yet modern, streets that are lined with adventures. Think: the 1,900-year-old Colosseum, once an arena where gladiators competed; Trevi Fountain, where coins are tossed to guarantee a return trip to Rome; Vatican City, the seat of Roman Catholicism; and many romantic piazzas and parks to enjoy sunny days. We’ve rounded up several quintessential experiences that you can experience before or after your Royal Caribbean cruise from this iconic city.
Check out how you can spend your time exploring Rome:
If you want to try new food and drink …
Partake in a Pizza-making Class
Time it takes: It depends on the class.
Recommendation: Wear clothes that can withstand stray pizza sauce.
Roman-style pizza is known for its distinctive thin, crunchy crust. It’s served by the pie and the slice out of restaurants and cafes throughout Rome. If you’ve ever wished you could bring a taste of your vacation home with you, a pizza-making class hosted by Italian chefs in the heart of the Eternal City is your chance. You can even attend a class geared toward the whole family—several include wine (for the adults) and appetizers like arancini (also known as fried risotto balls)—and bring back a new recipe that will wow your friends at home.
Taste the Flavors of Testaccio Market
Time it takes: As long as you want.
Recommendation: Pace yourself.
If you want a glimpse of life as a local, stop by one of the most popular food markets in Rome. Testaccio Market has about 100 stalls, many of which have been passed down through the same families for generations. The bustling spot is known for gems like Da Artenio, well known for its baked goods like pizzette (small pizza) and panzerotti, turnovers stuffed with Nutella or sour cherry filling. Take a rest at Chicchi e Lettere, a counter where you can order a glass of wine—or buy gifts like tea, jam or chocolate to take home. Testaccio, the neighborhood where the market is located, is a popular destination for food, with spots like Giolitti, famous for their gelato, and many of the best bars and nightlife around.
Pro tip: On Royal Caribbean ships like Explorer and Odyssey of the Seas you can round out the day with hand-tossed pizza, fresh pasta and wine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen.
Italian Countryside and Olive Oil Tasting
Time it takes: 4 hours
Recommendation: Try to find the taste of the peppery flavor Tuscan olive oil is known for.
Take in the Tuscan countryside on a drive out of the city for an olive oil tasting. Like wine, olive oil is a staple of the local cuisine, and its origins are steeped in tradition and history. Every region in Italy—from Tuscany to Sicily and Puglia—has its own character and distinct flavors based on the species of trees, weather and soil. This shore excursion brings you to a family-owned farmhouse, where you’ll sample varieties of Tuscan olive oil paired with different types of bread, tomatoes, jams and local wines. What better way to learn about the history of this beloved Italian food and its production than one bite at a time?
If you want to experience the culture …
Enter Imperial Rome
Time it takes: 10.5 hours
Recommendation: Bring a coin or several to toss into Trevi Fountain.
If you love history, Rome is the destination for you. From the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, once the heart of day-to-day life in the Roman Empire, to the Colosseum, where gladiators battled before cheering crowds. To make the most of your time, take our Imperial Rome with Colosseum Exploration excursion, built for getting the highlights of the City of Seven Hills. It’s perfect for first-timers because it takes you from Trevi Fountain, the city’s most famous fountain due to its intricate Baroque artwork and the idea that tossing in a coin guarantees a return trip to Rome, to St. Peter’s Basilica—the heart of Vatican City.
Sightseeing with an Ape Calessino
Time it takes: 9 hours
Recommendation: Bring a camera.
Buckle up! One of our most popular adventures in Rome is a trip on an Ape Calessino, a unique three-wheeled vehicle that seats four people (a driver and three passengers) and an icon of Italian transportation. It was invented in 1948 and immediately became a stylish way to get around because of its charming look, versatility and efficiency. The Ape is also comfortable, with a shaded awning and padded seats. Take it across the city with the help of a knowledgeable guide. You’ll cover a lot of ground, from St. Peter’s Square to the Imperial Forum series, to the Arch of Constantine, Tiber Island and up to Gianicolo Hill (also known as Janiculum Hill) for panoramic views of Rome.
Visit Villa Borghese
Time it takes: It’s up to you.
Recommendation: Save time to explore the rest of the Borghese Gardens.
One of the largest parks in Rome, the Borghese Gardens area is immense (nearly 200 acres in fact) and filled with museums and other experiences, including its namesake, the 17th-century Villa Borghese. Today, the villa has been transformed into the Borghese Gallery and Museum, home to a well-known collection of works, including several Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculptures commissioned by the Borghese family (once a family of nobles that rose to prominence in the 13th century). One of the many Italian artists who made a stamp on the world, Bernini is credited as a leading artist of his age for developing the Baroque style of sculpture.
If you’re seeking adventure …
Climb the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
Time it takes: It depends on the day.
Recommendation: There’s also an elevator.
Vatican City—the seat of the Roman Catholic Church—may be the world’s smallest sovereign state, but it’s home to St. Peter’s Basilica—the largest church in the world. Inside, you’ll find marvels like Michelangelo’s Pieta, a massive, 6,700-pound marble sculpture; the baldachin, a 95-foot-tall bronze canopy; and a 448-foot-high dome. The dome’s first level, 231 steps up—or one elevator ride—is a balcony inside with colorful mosaics and access to a rooftop terrace that offers a great view of Vatican City. The terrace is a beautiful spot, and you can continue climbing up by way of 320 more steps to the top of the dome for an even more breathtaking view!
Time it takes: It’s up to you.
Recommendation: Improve your aerodynamics by wearing fitted, athletic clothing.
Sometimes the best way to see the sights is to take to the sky. Over the coast or even the countryside, parasailing is a unique chance to see the green hills, farms and wineries around Rome. With an experienced instructor, you could get high enough to see the Apennine mountains of central Italy and the Mediterranean coast—try even spotting your Royal Caribbean ship in the harbor—and archaeological sites like the ruins of a former Roman settlement, Norba, nestled in the hills about 30 miles away from Rome.
Pro tip: Feel like flying even while you’re at sea? Oasis Class ships like Symphony and Oasis of the Seas have zip lines, so you can zoom in style.
Be a Gladiator for the Day
Time it takes: 9.5 hours
Recommendation: While at this gladiator school, visit the attached museum to see ancient combat equipment.
Once celebrities of the Roman Empire, gladiators were professional fighters who battled in front of crowds at venues like the Colosseum. Whether you’re traveling with kids or simply young at heart, you’ll love taking a hands-on gladiator class as part of the Gladiator for a Day excursion that brings you to the Gladiator School in Rome, where you’ll don a traditional costume and get a fighting lesson. At the end, you’ll even earn an honorary certificate of Roman citizenship. Combined with a walk through several ruins of ancient Rome, there are few better, more interactive ways to learn about ancient Roman history.
Ready for adventures in Rome before, during or after a cruise vacation in Europe? Browse the lineup of Royal Caribbean cruises that visit Rome and multiple popular destinations in the Mediterranean and beyond here.