The Most Overrated Things in Rome (And What to Do Instead)

what not to do in Rome

I took to Instagram stories to ask people about the most overrated things in Rome and I got some amazing answers. People were disappointed by places, restaurants, gelato, and experiences.

Hype can really ruin something. You are expecting life-changing, or at least something worth a trip around the world, and you get… ordinary. Or worse: you waste your time and money on something that actually sucks.

Make the most of your time here by skipping these overrated things in Rome – and consider the suggested alternatives.

[Note: These overrated places were suggested by others and I tallied them up. I have added my own comments about if I agree or if I have more information.]

What NOT to do Rome:

Overrated Places in Rome:

  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps
  • Mouth of Truth
  • Keyhole
  • Vatican

Over and over, I saw these same places pop up as totally overrated in Rome.

The Trevi Fountain made the list because it is so crazy crowded. If you are a morning person, try going right at sunrise. It is gorgeous and empty.

This would be a good trick for Rome’s keyhole as well. If you show up and the line is too long during the day, then I suggest going to the nearby Orange Garden instead. The view is still gorgeous.

At the end of the day, the Spanish Steps are just a very nice outdoor staircase. If you plan ahead, then book a visit to the nearby Giorgio de Chirico House Museum. You will get a great view of Piazza di Spagna and be able to see a beautiful art collection.

The Vatican also has some unbelievable crowds. Try booking to visit on a Friday night when there are fewer people.

The Mouth of Truth is so overrated. Skip it. You can, however, grab a drink on the terrace of Hotel fortyseven which is a two-minute walk away and has one of the best rooftop bars in Rome.

Overrated Things to Do in Rome:

  • Take a large group tour
  • Take a tour bus
  • Go inside the Colosseum

Yes. Yes. Yes. Those massive groups with headphones following someone with a flag? Not worth it. If you really want to take a tour, then I suggest paying a bit more for a small group.

Several people thought that going into the Colosseum was overrated. I still think this is something that you should do once in your lifetime but that is probably all you need. The Colosseum line can be very long, so find a way to skip it and you will have more time and less stress once you get inside.

Overrated Restaurants / Food in Rome:

  • Emma Pizzeria (I agree and removed it from my app)
  • Dar Poeta (Never been because it didn’t seem quite worth it)
  • Tonnarello in Trastevere (I have never been because it looks a bit tourist-y)
  • Osteria Fernanda (Sorry to hear because I WANT to go, but can’t comment because I haven’t been)
  • La Romana Gelato (Agree)
  • Giolitti gelato (Yep)
  • Pompi (Uh huh)
  • Sant’Eustachio il Caffe

Places to try instead, in corresponding order:

Is there anything else that you tried and then felt disappointed by? Or, instead, did you actually love some of these overrated places in Rome? Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder!

what to skip in Rome

19 thoughts on “The Most Overrated Things in Rome (And What to Do Instead)

  1. Smaragda says:

    The mouth of truth is the most overrated place in Rome. Visit the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin instead. Can’t say the same about the other attractions you mentioned (the Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain, the keyhole ecc). The inside of the colosseum is something you should see once in your lifetime, I agree with you.
    Now, about places to eat,I agree about Tonnarello in Trastevere (so overrated) and Sant’ Eustachio il caffè (probably my least favorite caffè in Roma since I hate sugar on my coffee and their non sugar version tastes like burned coffee)
    I don’t agree about Emma (although it used to be better), Dar Poeta (you should try it) La Romana Gelato (i love it), Giolitti gelato (I prefer their EUR location though), Pompi (my favorite tiramisù after the one my fidanzato makes)
    ZUM didn’t really amaze me and neither did Da Oio a casa mia (I prefer other places in Testaccio)

  2. Sm diego says:

    The Roman Forum. I felt “obligated” to walk through it because my kids were with me. I advise any adult to skip it. You can see it from the street.

    Agree 120% in Orange Park. My favorite spot in Rome to just linger and enjoy an hour of quiet.

    Also not mentioned much but a place I take people is the Protestant Cemetery. Fascinating.

  3. Derek says:

    We love Dar Poeta. It’s our favourite pizza in Rome. Maybe we’re just plain ignorant, but since you haven’t been, is it fair of you to dis it?

  4. Michael says:

    I would add an important caveat to the Colosseum and Forum. It’s very fair to call them overrated for the casual visitor who goes without advance tickets and no guide.

    Lines for the Colosseum can be several hours long, with little signage inside. And although the lines to the Forum are shorter, the ruins are largely an indecipherable jumble to those relying only on the scant signage.

    With a little advance planning, people can purchase inexpensive ($12) but excellent guided tours through Rome’s (official?) tour agency, Coopculture. The guides we had were all doctoral candidates in classics/ancient history, and had a far deeper knowledge and understanding of the history and archaeology than your average commercial guide, who typically charge 10x the amount.

    We booked the first Colosseum Underground tour of the day, so we arrived before the crush. And advance purchased tickets let you skip the line and enter directly (true for most sites/museums in Italy). We also had the entire hypogeum (basement) and top floor of the Colosseum all to ourselves (a group of about 20).

    Also, Coopculture guides can also get you into places that aren’t open to the public, e.g. the House of Augustus (first emperor of Rome) and Livia (his wife) on the Palatine hill, inside the Forum. They contain immense interiors and some of the best preserved Roman frescoes anywhere. On a day when the Forum was jam packed, the four of us had the guide and the entire interior of the palace to ourselves.

    I would also recommend the Coopculture tour of Nero’s Golden House (Domus Aureus), as one of the most impressive and least known sites in Rome (it’s just across the street from the Colosseum). Similarly, Trajan’s Forum is also surprisingly overlooked by the throngs, despite its excellent condition (better than than the Roman Forum) and convenient location (just across the street from the Roman Forum… although the entrance is unhelpfully located ~3 blocks away, up a hill).

  5. Lisa Barr says:

    I agree on the Mouth of Truth and the Colosseum, although (truth be told) my boys loved both as children. I can’t really call the Vatican overrated, although it can be very difficult and is probably worth springing for a small, guided tour. The Spanish steps are totally overrated, but a sunset walk along the Pincio is great.

    Places I have been over and over and never tire of visiting: Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. I also love doing a “Caravaggio crawl” all over the city. My favorite is Rest on the Flight into Egypt at the Doria Pamphilj, but I am also very fond of the Madonna di Loreto at Sant’Agostino.

  6. Abigail says:

    Such a great topic idea and I loved how you sourced a lot of it from Instagram! I think many of the places you shared are overrated, especially once you see/try them once. Would love to see a continuation of this series!

  7. Lucrezia Oddone says:

    Ciao Natalie,

    I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with your list when you mention the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps, and especially the Vatican Museums. My eyes hurt a little when I read it. The Vatican Museums are incredible, the history and art that you find in there is astonishing, just walking through the same corridors and apartments where popes used to live and amazing artists worked and actually shaped history and art. Here is where the Roman Renaissance started, with Raffaello, and had its full blooming. Saying that this place is overrated is like slapping history, art and culture right in the face.

    As for the restaurants, I would actually add Pianostrada to the list of the most overrated restaurants. I went there a couple of times, but I won’t go again. Prices are just over the top (22 euros for average pasta is too much), not to mention dirty napkins on the table. I don’t think it is worth the hype it gets on social media.

    • Natalie says:

      Ciao Lucrezia! The list is actually based on a survey of people who visited Rome that I put together. I also don’t agree with the Trevi Fountain, but I do think that the Spanish Steps might be slightly overrated. The Vatican is 100% one of the best museums in the world, but I can see why someone might have a disappointing experience if they took the wrong tour or missed some of the important rooms. And I do agree that Pianostrada is too expensive. I can’t believe they left a dirty napkin during your meal! That is BAD. I usually have a lovely but pricey experience there

  8. Frances says:

    I’m shocked at those results, although as you say, it depends on what your eyes see. I am in love with the architecture of Rome so I find it all beautiful. It does seem though that the people didn’t like the Trevi Fountain because it was surely that means they didn’t like the crowds, not that they didn’t like the fountain? I agree that large group tours are overrated. I did one once. And I agree about the Sant’ Eustachio coffee…no idea how it got so popular. And I agree with you about Hotel 47 – I’ve been up there a few times but I’d still go see the Mouth of Truth (especially if you’re a Hepburn fan). If you want to really get something out of visiting a new place private tours are great (if you can afford them) – plan ahead and lock your tours in before you arrive.

    • Joel says:

      Not really… I kind of wish I hadn’t spent the time visiting any of these places and instead had spent the time visiting another city that would have not been a miserable experience.

  9. Jan Bruick says:

    We at at Emma Restaurant yesterday. My husband loved it–I thought it was just average. I have not desire to return. However, our visit to Zum that afternoon was a highlight! I would say THE BEST tiramisu can be found there. Today, we visited Hedera for homemade gelato near Vatican City. This MUST be added to future lists that you create. It was fabulous and fresh. They were willing to give samples to ensure we were getting the flavors we wanted.

  10. Joel Edinberg says:

    I found the best and most underrated thing about Rome was leaving. First, I agree Emma sucks! Not fully cooked pizza, served us still frozen appetizers, and sat us between the coat rack and the bathroom while the place was empty. The pizza there is basically an insult to pizza – too much dough, no char, no properly cooked. It’s just masking a mediocre pizza with fancy topping. Meh! The Eater 38 guide to Rome made for a terrible trip, and the whole experience of trying to find any sort of culture, music, or even well made food was terrible and a constant disappointment. Nearly ruined our honeymoon, but sleeping in late and then leaving was definitely the best thing my wife and I did in your terrible city. The only decent thing I ate was a sandwich… that may have just only been good in comparison to all the other crap. I really don’t know why people visit it at all, it’s by far the worst city in Italy unless you’re really into Roman history.

  11. Rachael says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. I thought Rome sucked overall and is incredibly overrated as a city. The ruins (to me) seem to be a mess of rubble and nothing more, the Colosseum didn’t do a single thing for me, the steps are just steps, the Trevi fountain is just a crowded spot that could be beautiful if you could look at it long enough without getting a coin thrown at your head. I left the city not understanding what the big deal was and went to Florence. Much better.

    • Giovanna d'Arco says:

      This is the most ignorant comment I’ve ever read in 35 years.
      Either you never went to school or you were just sleeping all the day.

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