With this guide you will see the first light of sunrise filter the sleepy Roman sky from an iconic vantage point, then soak in the earliest sounds of waking apartments and smells from the opening cafes. You will grab a quick Italian breakfast while strolling your way past gorgeous sights on your way to finding yourself alone with breathtaking history before the tourist throngs arrive. If you think you have just had the greatest experience of your time in Rome, think again because the next stop is coffee perfection, preparing you to greet the now alive city at the bustling marketplace to end an unforgettable morning.
Rome is a city of late dinners and later wine drinking, so one mistake it is easy to make is missing out on the city's early morning calm. Set aside one morning ahead of time to have the city all to yourself. Go online and find out that day's time of sunrise (around 6:00 am-6:45 am in summer). Your day will begin at the famous Spanish steps so leave your lodgings and aim to be there when the sun is just beginning to rise. It is important to keep in mind that you will have some ground to cover after the Steps before being in position for one of the highlights of your morning at 8:30 am.
Pick your seat on the 18th century Spanish steps as high up as you like and start taking in the now changing view. Once a popular spot for artists, poets, and aspiring models, and still a gathering place for travelers from all walks of life, the picturesque steps cascade towards the city center.
Taking your time as the sun now picks up steam, amble down the steps and head left on Via di Propoganda (staying to the right of the Statue). Make your way south to the Trevi Fountain where you can grab a pastry for breakfast across from this iconic fountain at Giovanni Riposati (Via Della Muratte, 8). If you are too hungry when leaving the Spanish Steps, stop at Contini Gianfranco (Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, 28) or one of the other little storefronts on your way to the Trevi. Afternoon and evening brings a crushing crowd around the fountain, but here in the early morning you can actually hear the fountain itself before you even see it. Maybe it is the practice of throwing coins over your shoulder into the wide pool, or maybe it is the feeling that you are the first person to find this stone and water jewel, but something tells you right there that you will return at any chance you get.
Facing the Trevi Fountain, turn to your left and proceed down Via delle Muratte, then turn left onto the large Via del Corso. Take your next right and soon you are standing in the unique Piazza di Sant’Ignazio. Notice the rococo stage set by Filippo Raguzzini’s interlocking buildings, where passersby going about their day appear to be performing in your own personal opera.
Pass through the Piazza and down Via del Seminario until it opens up on a building that more than any other has stood the test of time, the Pantheon. The Pantheon doors open at 8:30 am and to enter it without the usual crowd is truly jaw dropping. Built during Emperor Hadrian’s reign around 125 AD, in 609 AD the Pantheon became the first pagan temple converted into a Christian church. Here, the most fully preserved building of the ancient Romans immediately pulls your gaze to the oculus opening at the top of the perfect concrete dome. Imagine the countless travelers, dreamers, emperors and conquerors that must have stood staring at the columns of sunlight, rain, and even snow that bind this pinnacle of human engineering to the natural world.
To the southwest of the Pantheon (the back right side of the Pantheon when facing it) is the Via Della Palombella, which will lead you to Sant'Eustachio Il Caffe (Piazza Sant'Eustachio, 82) where you’ll enjoy what just about everyone regards as the best cappuccino and espresso in the city and probably the world. If you are not a coffee drinker, you still won't want to miss out on a Granita di Caffe con Panna, crushed ice with coffee and a heap of freshly whipped cream.
Keep heading west and you will run into Piazza Navona, the great medieval landmark of Rome, showing off Bernini’s masterful Fountain of Four Rivers, complete with obelisk. In most cities around the world, the fountain alone would be a crown jewel, but in Rome it us yet another focal point for socialization and vendors selling their wares.
Make your way south, crossing major road Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and you'll find Campo de Fiori, where the daily farmers market is by now full of tents selling fresh produce. Enjoy wandering the stalls and conversing with locals and vendors before continuing on with your travels.