Last updated on July 11, 2019
Everything you’ve heard about Rome is true – the ‘Eternal City’ is an agonisingly seductive, if not demanding, temptress that will rouse your senses and test your patience in equal measures.
Try as you might to resist, you will end up falling in love with Rome’s decadent dome-skewed skyline and glory fading ruins, with the dirty, potholed, scooter-humming streets.
You will end up admiring the arrogance and vanity of the locals, and you will find yourself lusting after the feeling you can only achieve while caressing a creamy gelato or intense caffè in a piazza at dusk.
Even in the rain and cold (and snow!), I was enchanted at every turn. This is, after all, la dolce vita, albeit a modern, slightly decaying version.
But with the best part of 3,000 years of historical and cultural heritage to discover, it’s normal to feel more than a little overwhelmed when planning your first (or even second) visit to Rome. And that’s why I’ve put together this beginner’s guide – to offer travel tips tailored specifically for first time visitors in Rome based on my various personal encounters and the things I’ve learned from locals along the way.
From advice on the best way to visit the Vatican City, Roman Forum and Colosseum to tips on where to eat & drink the best pizza, pasta, gelato, wine and coffee in Rome, these are what I believe to be the best things to see, do and eat in Rome. Andiamo!
Things to Do, See and Eat in Rome for First Time Visitors
Rome is a vast and imposing city, a living museum that’s home to a ridiculous array of UNECO World Heritage Sites. But the good news is that many of Rome’s famous attractions are squeezed into the Centro Storico (Historic Centre), which you can explore entirely on foot (with a decent pair of shoes on at least).
In fact, my advice in a nutshell would be: simply head to the Centro Storico as early as possible in the day, visit the sites with the shortest lines and stop off for as much pizza, pasta, coffee and ice cream as you can possibly manage in between.
1. First Things First – Cultivate a Rome State of Mind
You can’t really go wrong in Rome, but you need to approach it with the right mentality. It’s important to decide what you want from your time in Rome on a personal level – for me it was to avoid suffering from museum fatigue and to dedicate as much of my time to eating/drinking as possible.
Let go of the idea of ‘ticking boxes’ and accept that, no matter how determined you are or how much time you have, you aren’t going to be able to see and do all of Rome, not even if you move to the city for a year or two.
So relax, slow down, have that extra scoop of gelato, linger over your coffee a little while longer, steal another kiss. After all, when in Rome…
2. Start Your Day the Italian Way – With Caffè
Prendiamo un caffè?” (Shall we grab a coffee?) – you’ll hear this everywhere in Rome. The ritual of drinking coffee is so ingrained in Italian culture that it would be a sin to start a day without taking part. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, pre-lunch, post-lunch or mid-afternoon, Italians guzzle coffee all day, every day, and I recommend doing the same.
Survival Tips for Ordering Coffee in Rome
Observe Italy’s unwritten coffee drinking laws: The Italians will only drink milk with their coffee (think cappuccinos, lattes and machiatos) in the morning. For the rest of the day it’s strictly ‘caffè’ (espresso). Baristas will roll their eyes (and even laugh) if you order coffee with milk after lunch time (but no one really cares, so don’t worry too much).
Go for coffee, not breakfast: With lunch being the most important meal in Italy, breakfast is little more than a cappuccino or latte with a sweet little ‘cornetto’ pastry, a sort of miniature croissant, so be sure to eat a good breakfast at your hotel/apartment if you’re used to eating well in the mornings).
Drink your coffee quickly at the bar: Italians drink a ridiculous amount of coffee, but they drink it little and often. The idea is to stand at the bar to drink your coffee (quickly) without causing a fuss, and to do this as often as possible. Be warned that you will be charged a lot more (double or even triple) for sitting on a terrace or inside a café.
Order like the locals: In Italy you simply ask for ‘un caffè’, which is an espresso, a short and intense shot of coffee. Be aware that the Italians don’t really do ‘caffè doppio’ (double espressos), so you’ll be giving off tourist vibes just as soon as you order one. Not that it really matters.
Where to drink coffee in Rome
You’ll see bars (bars in Rome/Italy are coffee bars, not bar bars) on every street and you rarely need to walk far to get your fix. You’ll find that the coffee is almost always good (or at least better than you’re used to back home), so you don’t need to go to a “speciality coffee shop” to find skilled baristas in Rome. In short: don’t stress too much about where you go.
Saying that, if you want to treat yourself then I highly recommend paying a visit to Antico Caffè Greco. It’s the oldest cafe in Rome and has been an important meeting point for writers, artists and politicians since 1760. The waiters wear full tails and dickie bows, and the space itself is lavished with crimson fabrics and gleaming marble furnishings.
It’s bloody expensive at around €7/8 for a coffee (normally you’ll pay around €1 or €2) but it really is quite the experience – a true taste of living Roman history. Also, it’s conveniently located at the bottom of the famous Spanish Steps (more about these below), making it a good place to immerse yourself in the city on your first day.
Other legendary coffee shops in Rome include: Gelateria Giolitti near the Pantheon, and Caffè Sant’Eustachio (recommended to me by a local) which is located ideally between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.
3. Tour Vatican City: The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica
Vatican City is a nation-state, the smallest country in the world. There’s a lot to see.
Located within Rome, it covers about 100 acres and is governed entirely by the Pope. I’m not entirely sure why it exists, but the fact that it has its own mint to print its own money, and is exempt from paying tax, makes me think it has something to do with cold, hard cash – especially when you consider it receives around five million paying visitors a year. At €16 per person, the Vatican generates around €80/£70 million tax free a year (as well as what ever they make from souvenirs). Not a bad little earner.
Vatican City is important because it houses:
The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
These 1400 rooms and hallways contain 3,000 years’ worth of art (frescoes, sculptures, tapestries and more). The most famous are the Raphael Rooms and Michelangelo’s masterful frescoes in The Sistine Chapel, which depict nine stories from the Book of Genesis. Whether you’re religious or not, this really is a very special experience.
St. Peter’s Basilica
The finale of the show is the hulking church of St. Peter’s, which is one of the largest in the world. Not only is it home to St.Peter’s (one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles) crypt, but it also harbours Michelangelo’s iconic ‘Pietà’ sculpture, which depicts the body of Jesus being held by his mother Mary after his crucifixion.
It is the only piece of work that Michelangelo ever signed. Today it is housed behind bulletproof glass after a deranged geologist took a hammer to it while screaming that he was Jesus.
Survival Tips for Visiting Rome’s Vatican City
Take a tour and skip the line (essential!): Visiting the Vatican can be quite a tumultuous experience. Some 25,000 people visit every day and I found it to be total pandemonium (even in February!).
I strongly suggest making the most of your time by joining a tour so you can benefit from skip-the-line entry (the lines to get in were insane and I can’t imagine standing there for hours in the blistering sun (or rain as was the case on our visit) to get in.
Our guide Lindy was amazing and brought the place to life with colourful stories and fascinating information about the various spaces and art, especially related to Raphael and Michelangelo.
You can book the same 3-hour tour of the Vatican that we did here (I highly recommend it).
The Vatican museums are free on the last Sunday of each month: If you don’t have the time to enter then be sure to visit the iconic St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) to get a sense of the Vatican’s scale and cultural importance. From here you can also see the Pope’s Sunday Angelus and Wednesday morning prayers (when he’s in town at least).
Nearest Metro: Ottaviano
4. Steal a Kiss in Piazza Navona
When I think of Rome, the first thing that springs to mind is the piazzas (squares). They’re everywhere, filled with trickling water fountains and ornate churches.
By day you’ll find them filled with people either licking ice creams or sucking face. At night you’ll find the locals enjoying their passeggiata, a gentle stroll alone or with loved ones – typically dressed to the nines.
As night falls, students gather to share bottles of Peroni, and local lotharios don their finest, unleashing themselves on anything that moves – ciao bella!
Of all the piazzas in Rome, Piazza Navona is one of the most romantic, especially at night. The Fountain of the Four Rivers and Baroque buildings make it feel like something out of an old film.
Grab an Aperol spritz, Negroni or Prosecco on one of the café terraces and soak it all in. This is what Rome’s all about.
Other piazzas in Rome worth a visit include, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, Piazza Santa Maria and the emblematic Campo de’ Fiori.
Nearest Metro: Senato
5. Battle Your Way Through the Colosseum
One of the most recognisable landmarks in the world, Rome’s Colosseum was built between 72 A.D and 80 A.D and held crowds of up to 65,000 people. It was built by tens of thousands of slaves and is the largest amphitheatre ever erected. Of course, this is the most obvious tourist attraction in Rome, but it’s one you won’t want to miss.
The Colosseum was all about entertainment. Morning “shows” typically revolved around the executions of convicted criminals, army deserters, rebels, traitors, slaves and Christians. Most would be nailed to a cross and burned alive, but many were thrown to wild animals (Damnatio ad bestias – Latin for “condemnation by beasts”). In other words, they were fed to crocodiles, wolves, bears, lions and tigers. Oftentimes, if the condemned knew they were going to be, quite literally, fed to the wolves, they would commit suicide.
Midday shows saw gladiators and other trained “bestiarii” (beast slayers) would take to the stage to perform staged hunts. It was common for up to 10,000 animals to be slaughtered in a single day, which led to the near extinction of animals like rhinos and hippos, and the actual extinction of the North African Elephant. Sad but true.
Evening shows, as we all know, saw the grand finale – gladiator against gladiator. Gladiators were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals, but they were treated relatively well as their ‘owners’ would benefit greatly from their success. Apparently there were female gladiators as well and male.
Fun Fact: Experts believe that the Romans used to flood the Colosseum and stage ‘naumachia’ shows (navy ship battles). The condemned prisoners would fight each other from ships – to the death. In fact I’ve heard some crazy stories about the Romans back in the day. Apparently, in their constant bid to blend justice/punishment with entertainment, one ingenious group of gentlemen trained giraffes to rape female criminals.
Survival Tips for Visiting the Colosseum
Take a tour and skip the line: Again, the lines to get into the Colosseum are beyond ridiculous and you won’t want to waste half a day just standing around. Seriously, invest a few extra euros in a skip-the-line tour ticket and preserve your sanity.
You’ll also get a better feel for the fascinating and horrific stories that this gargantuan death gauntlet beholds. The ticket also includes your visit and tour of the Roman Forum. Talking of which…
Nearest Metro: Colosseo
6. Roam the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Located just next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, which I believe is the most fascinating ruin in Rome.
The Forum was an important market, the social and political hub of the Roman Empire. It’s filled with grandiose relics, including temples, churches and crumbling pillars. When you picture Roman ruins in your mind’s eye, this is more than likely the scene that you envisage.
We spent hours exploring it and I could have easily gone back for more the next day. I just couldn’t fathom that I was standing on a site dating back to the 7th century BC. If only the walls could speak.
Overlooking the Forum is Palatine Hill, which is where the rich and important Romans resided in their palaces. It’s often described as the ‘Beverly Hills of Rome’, but I think that evokes all sorts of unsuitable connotations.
It is said that it was here that Romulus killed his twin brother Remus and founded the city in 753 BC. The views over the Forum and Rome’s skyline blew my mind. This is not to be missed.
Fun Fact: The word “palace” comes from El Monte Palatino (Palatine Hill), where Augustus and his chums built their palaces.
Survival Tips for Visiting the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill after visiting the Colosseum – your skip-the-line tour tickets will include essential priority entry.
Nearest Metro: Colosseo
7. Eat Your Way Through Vibrant Trastevere
Stroll across the River Taber to the village-like rioni (neighbourhood) of Trastevere and take a break from the thronging Centro Storico. This historically working-class area was once home to the majority of the city’s immigrant population and, as so often happens, it quickly became one of the most interesting and diverse places to eat.
By day, its ochre and bottle-green streets hum along with the gentle rumble of locals popping in and out of delicatessens, cafés, market stalls and butchers.
By night its ivy-choked walls harbour some of the finest watering-holes in Rome, attracting students, revellers and carousers from all parts of the city.
Survival Tips for Exploring Trastevere
We didn’t have much time on our last visit to Rome (2.5 days) and we really wanted to see/eat the best of Trastevere, so we joined Eating Italy’s fantastic ‘Trastevere for Foodies‘ food tour.
With our fellow food-loving guide Sebastiana leading the way, our little group spent four glorious hours getting to know this workaday nook of the city, eating all the right things in all the right places.
We nibbled on Roman cheese at the Polica family’s ancient Antica Caciara delicatessen, we ate Rome’s famous ‘suppli’ street food (a sort of fried ball of risotto) and the most succulent porchetta I’ve ever had.
We met traders at the local market, stopped off for gelato, indulged in Italian wine and pasta at a trattoria and finished our feast with traditional biscotti at a backstreet bakery.
It was definitely one of the highlights from our trip and I highly recommend it. There are three tours starting at 10:45am, 11:30am and 12:15pm (Mon to Sat), so it’s easy to make it work nicely with your itinerary.
Make it Happen: Visit the Eating Italy Food Tours website for more info and to book your spot.
Nearest Metro: Trastevere (Mastai)
8. Ponder the Meaning of Life at the Pantheon
One of Rome’s most famous landmarks, the Pantheon (from the Greek for “honour all Gods”) is the best-preserved monument from Ancient Rome.
Its exact age is unknown, but it is known that this is the third incarnation of the building. The first was built in around 27 BC but burned down. The second was built in the 1st century AD and also burned down. The third (this one) was built in 125 AD and has survived five fires and being struck by lighting. Kind of puts your puny, short-lived little life into perspective really.
With a diameter of some 140 feet, the Pantheon’s dome is actually larger than St. Peter’s dome, and it remains the single largest unreinforced, concrete dome in the world.
Fun Fact: The 16 granite columns that guard the facade were quarried in Egypt, dragged 100km to the Nile, placed on barges and shipped up the river, then transferred to bigger boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Survival Tips for Visiting the Pantheon
It’s always been free to go inside the Pantheon, but the city plans to start charging an entry fee of €2. The dome really is quite impressive to see from the inside, so do stop by if you have time.
Nearest Metro: Barberini
9. Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!
From tawdry take-outs serving ‘pizza al taglio’ by the slice to fancy-pants pizzerias perfecting ‘gram-worthy pies, there are limitless options to get your dough on in Rome.
And what struck me was just how affordable good pizza is in Rome! Seriously, even at relatively upscale places, we rarely paid more than €10 per pizza.
Survival Tips for Eating Pizza in Rome
Eat it for dinner, not lunch! Proper pizza is cooked in wood-fired ovens, which take a long time to heat up to the required temperatures. And because lunch in Italy is traditionally about pasta, pizzaioli (pizza makers) generally don’t waste their time and energy firing up their ovens for lunch. But if you do crave pizza at lunchtime…
Eat pizza al taglio at lunchtime. Invented in Rome, this is the take-away-pizza-by-the-slice style pizza you’ll see across the city. It’s pre-baked in trays and cut into rectangular slices that are perfect for enjoying on-the-go. You choose the size of your slice and are charged by weight.
Don’t use your hands. If you’re sitting down to eat a pizza at a pizzeria (i.e. in a more formal joint), it’s polite to use a knife and fork. Keep an eye on what the locals are doing and follow their lead.
Don’t share your pizza! No, really – pizzas are meant for one person in Italy. I know, it really just gets better and better.
Don’t over-complicate things. This is not America. Do not ask for half of this and half of that. Do not hold x and have extra y. At a proper pizzeria, even a good old fashioned margherita will put a huge grin on your face, so just keep it simple. And no, you cannot have a doggy-bag to take home whatever you can’t finish.
Try Rome’s famous pizza bianca (white pizza)! Rome’s most popular street food is basically pizza dough without any kind of topping (apart from a little drizzle of olive oil). It’s more like bread, really, similar to foccacia. You can get it everywhere, but be sure to try it at Forno Campo de’ Fiori if you’re in the area.
Drink beer with your pizza. Watch any Romano working on a pizza and you’ll notice they almost always wash it down with beer, not wine. Me? I ordered beer and then a half litre of vino della casa. But then I’m no Romano.
Where to eat the best pizza in Rome
Again, you can’t go too wrong with pizza in Rome. Even the “bad” pizza we had was pretty darn good.
Pizzarium is said to serve the best pizza al taglio in Rome. Even better, it’s just a quick stroll from the Vatican, so you know where to refuel after your escapade through ‘popeland’.
Da Remo is located in Testaccio and is something of an institution. Expect classic Roman pizzas and vibes to match (chaotic and unhurried) at this rowdy little pizzeria.
Ai Marmi is a retro, no-fuss sort of pizzeria serving pizze alla Romana in Trastevere. The atmosphere, again, is typically Roman, with brisk service and plenty of hustle and bustle. A romantic meal out this is not. Warm up with suppli’ and filetti di baccala (battered salt cod fillets). Don’t miss the salsiccia e fior di zucca pizza, which is topped with Italian sausage and courgette blossoms.
La Gallina Bianca is a good option in the Termini (train/bus station) area. We waited an eternity for our pizzas here, but they were worth it. As was the tiramisu and free shots of amaretto and limoncello.
10. Eat Pasta for Lunch at a Trattoria
If for whatever reason I was going to the electric chair and had to choose my last meal, I think it would have to be a massive bowl of carbonara smothered in grated pecorino Romano and hunks of cracked pepper. Legend has it that this dish was popular with the carbonari (coal miners) – hence the name – and it was invented right here in the Eternal City.
Where to eat the best pasta (especially carbonara) in Rome
Again, you’ll find pasta everywhere in Rome, from backstreet trattorias to glitzy ristorantes, but here are a few recommendations.
Pompiere is an old school ristorante located in the Jewish Ghetto serving excellent pasta – from carbonara to ravioli – and artichokes.
Roscioli – This historic deli-cum-restaurant is probably one of the best and most famous places to eat carbonara in Rome. Be sure to book a table.
Da Sergio – A homely trattoria tucked away in a side street near Campo dei Fiori. Rustic in all the right ways, a proper Roman experience.
Da Danilo – A traditional Roman trattoria famed for their carbonara and artichokes. Booking essential.
Il Tavolinetto – An extremely rustic little trattoria I found near our hotel in the Termini area. Bolshy service (which I imagine is the cause of the awful reviews online) and little in the way of ambience (apart from a particularly surly group of men who appeared to have their own waitress for the evening), but by god this was the best (and cheapest) carbonara I’ve ever had. The real deal.
11. Devour Rome’s Famous Artichokes in the Jewish Ghetto
I know what you’re thinking: “But I thought Rome was famous for pizza and pasta?”. Well yes, it is, but artichokes are also a must for all serious foodies in Rome. You’ll find them throughout the year but remember that they’re seasonal – you’ll find the best in spring.
Survival Tips for Eating Artichokes in Rome
There are two main types of artichokes in Rome:
Carciofi Alla Giudea (Jewish artichokes) are deep fried until they’re crispy and golden, almost caramelised. These were my favourites.
Carciofi Alla Romana (Roman artichokes) are stewed until they’re soft and tender, and dressed with lemon, mint, parsley and garlic. Delicious.
Artichokes are typically eaten as an appetiser, so be sure to order one of each to enjoy while you’re waiting for your pasta/pizza.
Vignarola is a popular vegetable stew served in spring that combines artichokes with fava beans and peas. Vegetarians listen up – sometimes contains pancetta.
Where to eat artichokes in Rome
You’ll find artichokes all over Rome, but for the best you should head to the Jewish Ghetto, where the dish originates. The long and lively street of Via del Portico d’Ottavia (and surrounding areas) is lined with countless restaurants serving traditional cucina Giudaico-Romanesca and is an intensely romantic place to eat (even in the rain!).
Hosteria da Giggetto is one of the most famous restaurants for artichokes in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, but its popularity means it can be a little bit hit and miss in terms of quality. At peak times, the restaurants along this busy street seem to struggle. We ate at the equally popular Ba’Ghetto across the street. The artichokes were fantastic, but the poor service left us with a bit of a sour taste – I wouldn’t go back. I’d say this applies to most of the “famous” restaurants in Rome though.
Sora Margherita is also one of the oldest kosher restaurants in Rome’s Jewish quarter, a casual little trattoria.
Piperno is one of the oldest and most respected restaurants in Jewish Ghetto – snag a table on the ivy-shaded terrace if you can.
12. Get Stuck into Proper Italian Gelato
As Sebastiana so eloquently described Rome’s gelato scene, “it’s everywhere, all the time”. In fact, this densely flavourful and velvety artisanal treat is served at some 2,500 gelaterie (gelato parlours) across the city.
However, it’s worth noting that, apparently, around 80% of gelato served in Rome is fake – little more than powders mixed with water.
Fun Fact: Gelato has less sugar and butterfat than ice cream. As if you needed another reason to load up!
Survival Tips for Eating Authentic Gelato in Rome
Quality gelato is an artisanal product made with natural ingredients, so if you enter a gelateria with bright pink and neon green gelato and flavours like Orio and Ferrero Rocher, be sure to turn on your heels and make like the wind. Life’s too short.
If the colours of the gelato are too vivid/neon to be true, they probably are (straight out of a packet).
Look for places selling seasonal flavours, such as strawberry in summer and chestnut in autumn.
The best gelato is freshly made on-site, so keep an eye out for places with their own laboratories.
Try traditional Roman flavours like zabaglione, made from whisked egg yolks, cream, sugar and dry Marsala, and torta della nonna, which tastes similar to custard, and pinenuts (pinoli).
Order two scoops. It’s considered the norm to ask for two different flavours when you order and you will reveal yourself as a tourist the moment you order just one. I suggest choosing the first one yourself and asking for suggestions for the second.
Where to eat the best gelato in Rome
Gelateria Giolitti dates back to 1900 and is one of Rome’s most famous gelato (and coffee) stops. It’s also conveniently located near the Pantheon.
Il Gelato di San Crispino is another gelato stalwart, a tiny locale serving artisanal scoops not far from the Trevi Fountain. You may remember if from the Hollywood blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love, starring the one and only Julia Roberts.
Neve di Latte – Roma Flaminio is one of the modern breeds of gelaterie making gelato with seasonal organic fruit and byodanimc milk/cream. How does pistacchio and chocolate sound? Conveniently located near the MAXXI modern art museum and Parco della Musica auditorium.
Fatamorgana is one of the new breeds of gelaterie offering more playful flavour combinations. Ask for a few tasters or take my word for it and order the smoky ‘Kentucky Tobacco Chocolate’ with ‘Zabaione’. They have a few outlets across the city, but I can personally recommend the one in Piazza San Cosimato, Trastevere, which we visited on the food tour (more info above).
13. Climb the Spanish Steps… to a French Church… in Rome
If staircases are your thing (aren’t they everyone’s?) then the Scalina Spagna is guaranteed to float your boat. As one of Rome’s most famous symbols, these beautiful steps connect Piazza di Spagna (named after the Spanish Embassy which is located here) with the Trinità dei Monti French church, which dates back to the 1500s!
You may recognise it from one of the scenes in The Talented Mr. Ripley (one of my all time favourites), where Tom engineers a chance encounter between his and Dickie Greenleaf’s mutual friends as his scheme starts to come together.
It’s a place to simply be, a place to enjoy the sunshine and revel in the fact that you have arrived – in Roma! But whatever you do, don’t sit down with an ice cream or slice of pizza – strict rules are in place to keep the steps clean and you’ll get a rollocking for not observing them.
Fun Fact: As you climb the steps you’ll see a house to your right where English poet John Keats lived (and died in 1821). Today it’s a museum dedicated to his life and work.
This area also offers some of the best shopping in Rome. And more importantly, this is where you’ll find the Antico Caffè Greco (as mentioned above in the coffee section).
Nearest Metro: Spagna
14. Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain
Modern Rome has 280 fountains (and more than 900 churches), but the Trevi Fountain is undeniably the most famous and romantic. Legend has it that if you stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your left shoulder, you will guarantee your return to Rome.
Sneak up to the Trevi Rooftop Bar in the Hotel Trevi (a great place to stay if you want to be central too) for an aperitivo with views over the fountain and surrounding areas.
Fun Fact: Every night, the Trevi Fountain is closed off to the public for an hour or so while a charity called Caritas collects the money. Apparently the average haul is around €3k (a day!). The money is used to help local families in need.
Nearest Metro: Barberini
Where to Stay in Rome
Recommended: On our most recent visit to Rome, Rosana and I stayed at the 4* Welcome Piram Hotel in the Termini area (Centro Storico), which was fantastic for exploring the city on foot and also convenient for the trains/buses from Termini (Rome’s main transport hub). It’s classic in style and our room was positively huge. We also loved relaxing with a drink in the hotel’s beautiful Apoteke cocktail bar after a long day of sightseeing. A fantastic balance between comfort and value. See my full write up on the hotel here.
Hostels in Rome: Generator Rome is a boutique “poshtel” suitable for travellers of all ages. Hostella is a great female-only option, while The Blue Hostel also offers great value and has private rooms as well as dorms.