Rome vs Venice: a challenge of culture, nature, routes and atmosphere between two of the most symbolic cities of Italy. Which is worth visiting first?

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Rome vs Venice is a comparison between two of the most representative cities of our Country. Two very different cities for culture, atmosphere and traditions, both able to offer extraordinary itineraries through attractions that are unique in the world. For this reason, for art and history lovers, visiting both Rome and Venice is almost imperative. 

But, if we are about to embark on our first trip to Italy and we have limited time, perhaps because we plan to spend a few days traveling on the road to discover the magnificent Italian landscapes, we may be forced to make a choice.

In this case, which city between Rome and Venice should be the first stop of our tour in Italy? And on what parameters can we base our decision, having the certainty of living an experience worthy of our first holiday in Italy? Let’s find it out together!

Two unique and unmissable cities: Rome vs Venice

Rome vs Venice: monuments and atmosphere

Over 2000 years ago, the historian Tito Livio defined Rome as a "lucky, invincible and eternal city" ([B]eatam urbem Romanam et invictam et aeternam illa concordia dicere, Ab Urbe Condita).

Much more recently (late 19th century), the French poet Guy de Maupassant wondered about Venice: "is there a city more admired, more celebrated, more extolled by poets, more desired by lovers, more visited and more illustrious?"

Guided by the words of scholars and writers who, over the centuries, have admired the two cities and have been participants in their history, we begin our journey through culture, nature, paths, typical dishes and unique atmospheres.

Rome vs Venice: what to choose between the capital, with its thousand-year history, and the art city par excellence, with its canals and the unrivaled architecture?

Rome vs Venice: tourist attractions and culture

Rome vs Venice: cultural attractions

Attractions, monuments and places full of centuries-old history: which city in the world besides Rome can boast such a high number of tourist and cultural places? From the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain, from the Imperial Fora to the Vatican Museums, passing through Castel Sant'Angelo, the Pantheon, the magnificent piazzas, the hills and so on. 

Walking through the streets of the Eternal City we can go from one site to another experiencing the History, imagining the deeds of the characters that made it great, making a journey through the various epochs that have seen Rome rise to the role of beacon of civilization.

Venice is certainly not far behind, if we consider the extraordinary architecture of the Palazzo Ducale or if we observe the splendid Piazza San Marco from the bell tower of the Basilica. Not to mention the magical atmosphere of the typical alleys (calli) that from San Marco, through the Rialto Bridge, lead us to the small and picturesque Sestiere di San Polo (the Sestieri are the areas in which the city is divided).

However, Rome has larger dimensions and for the number of attractions and places to visit is certainly the most suitable place for visitors interested in history and culture. For them, therefore, in the challenge Rome vs Venice the capital is probably the city to visit first.

Discover Rome's attractions and the benefits of the Visit Rome Pass

Cities and nature, from the Roman parks to the Venice lagoon

Rome vs Venice, canals in Venice

The beautiful parks of Rome are perfect for walking, relaxing and enjoying beautiful views of the city. Among them, Villa Borghese is perhaps the best known, with its beautiful tree-lined avenues that lead us among the fountains and historic architecture. 

From the Belvedere of the Park of Gianicolo, instead, we can admire an extraordinary panorama and appreciate Rome in all its splendor. Into the park, we can also visit the Botanical Garden and walk along the lush green paths.

Finally, how can we not mention the Park of Villa Doria Pamphilj, where the homonymous historic residence dating back to the 17th century, and the Appia Antica Regional Park, which is the largest urban park in Europe, located only a short distance from the historic center? They provide evidence that the Eternal City is able to offer to its visitors not only monuments with a thousand-year history, but also wonderful natural views where you can live unique experiences.

Talking about nature, however, Venice offers even more, thanks to the beauty of the lagoon area. From the islands that surround the city to the north, such as Murano, Burano or Torcello, to the strip of land of Lido di Venezia, south of the historic center, which divides the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.

Let’s not forget the charm of a gondola ride along the characteristic Venetian canals, or the peacefulness evoked by walking away from the crowds immersed in the greenish Biennale Gardens.

Activities in Rome and Venice

Rome vs Venice: monuments and itineraries

Itineraries in Rome are of course more numerous than in Venice. For this reason, Rome requires a much longer visit just to scratch the surface of all its tourist attractions. Let’s not forget that we are talking about the city with the most cultural sites in the world, and it’s quite difficult to discover them all in just a couple of days. 

Moreover, if we are in Rome on an on-the-road trip through Italy, we’ll soon realize that driving is not the best option, and that we need to use public transport. That’s why it’s very convenient to use some kind of tool, such as the Visit Rome Pass, which allow us to move around using unlimited public transport throughout the city.

In this way we can explore the Colosseum in the morning, move comfortably to Villa Borghese or Vatican City in the afternoon, and finally dine in a typical Trastevere restaurant in the evening.

Venice, instead, is a more compact city: the historic center is easy to explore on foot, and indeed its beauty is given especially by the atmosphere. Walking without a precise destination among its picturesque streets is one of the most enchanting activities to practice when visiting the Serenissima.  

In this case, a card like the Venice Pass becomes very useful to enter with greater simplicity in the countless palaces and museums that adorn the city, obtaining also benefits for practicing various activities, like discovering the typical masks or the Venetian taverns (called cicchetterie).

Overall, we can say that the itineraries in Rome and Venice are equivalent in terms of quality, while obviously the capital offers more possibilities in terms of quantity.

Discover all the activities included in the Venice Pass

Shops and typical food

Rome vs Venice, shopping in Venice

Crossing the charming Spanish Steps, in the heart of Rome, halfway between Piazza del Popolo and the Gardens of the Quirinal Palace, we dive at first among the luxury boutiques of Via dei Condotti, and then among the shops of Via del Corso, a pivotal road where Roman shopping is concentrated.

The Eternal City is in fact one of the main Italian destinations for fashion lovers, and we can find something suitable for any occasion and for all budgets. 

Anyway, also in Venice shopping is really special and important. The lagoon city abounds with truly picturesque souvenirs, from Carnival masks to Murano glass objects, which can make special even those shops that, in other cities, would be considered as simple tourist traps.

And what about the food?

Venice is famous for dishes such as fegato alla veneziana, polenta e schie, risi e bisi. But also for street food, with the traditional cicchetti: typical and cheap appetizers including for example the Venetian scardasso (a paper cone containing fried fish); or meatballs made with meat, fish or vegetables; or even the tasty cicchetti con sarde in saor.

Rome, on the other hand, offers a poor but tasty culinary tradition, declined in dishes such as pasta cacio e pepe, amatriciana and the unmatched spaghetti alla carbonara; not forgetting to mention saltimbocca alla romana, supplì, or coda alla vaccinara (and we could continue with many other recipes). 

All great classics of Italian cuisine, a must for every visitor who is in the capital, to be enjoyed while sipping one of the fresh and elegant wines of the Castelli Romani.

Events and atmosphere between monuments and canals

Rome vs Venice, sporting events in Rome

Exhibitions, concerts, festivals, sports: in Rome you feel a bit like in the center of the world and, monuments apart, there are always events of all kinds to participate in order to fully enter the atmosphere of the city and really experience it as a local.

Among the events in Venice, it’s impossible not to mention at least the Venice Film Festival, held annually between late August and early September; and the famous Carnival, with its folklore and traditional masks, to be admired in the enchanting scenery of the canals of the historic center.

Rome vs Venice: and the winner is …

Rome vs Venice: and the winner is...

As we have seen, it’s very difficult to make a choice between Rome and Venice, as we are dealing with two extraordinary cities, loved and visited every year by millions and millions of tourists.

If we love history, itineraries, food and the world of fashion we can choose Rome as the city to visit first: we won’t be disappointed and we will experience an extraordinary journey in the sign of culture.

Instead, those who appreciate more the atmosphere, nature, shops and picturesque views should not miss the opportunity to fall in love with Venice at first glance.

For these reasons, Rome vs Venice ends without an undisputed winner. The final choice depends on what each person appreciates more about one city or the other: those travellers lucky enough to visit them both are the only real winners!

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