My Favorite Photo Spots In Rome (& When To Catch The Best Light)
Rome, like Italy as a whole, occupies a special place in my heart. And as someone who loves photography, it offers some of the most magical, best photo spots around.
It had been several years since I’d had a chance to spend any time there, and I’d already done the tourist must-do’s a couple times. So when I managed to snag a few days last fall, I had a blast re-treading old favorites and was able to be super efficient in bopping around to different sites and planning my times carefully to get some new (read: not on a crappy camera) shots.
So I’m sharing some of my favorite photo spots in Rome, including specific angles I love. This is a mixture of classic sites (Trevi Fountain, duh) and a few that don’t immediately come to mind. And one of the things I’m focusing on is WHEN I think these places result in the best photos. Morning, sunset, and nighttime are my favorites.
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In my experience, generally I feel a lot of Rome’s main sites don’t photograph as well in the midday and mid/late afternoon, as the sun is harsher than I prefer (it washes the buildings out in a weird way. If this is the only time you really have, I suggest ducking into the smaller alleyways and doing some up-close photography during the mid/late afternoon for better results.
I’m not going into the history of each spot, since I’ll have a separate post on actually *visiting* Rome…this is specifically on photography considerations. Make sure you check the sunrise and sunset times before making your plans—it makes a huge difference!
Starting with a classic…it would be crazy for this not to be on *any* list of the best photo spots in Rome. Against a bright blue sky and at a certain time of day this is also one of my favorite views in the city—but also one of the most crowded at almost any point in the day.
The lighting at Trevi makes for a bit of a crapshoot depending on time of year, but overall my favorite time for perfect light is late afternoon (and just work around the crowds with unique angles like I’ve done below) or just after sunrise without crowds (though you’ll fight some shadows).
Just a couple minutes’ walk away from Trevi, you’ll find the crowds around the Pantheon. UNLESS YOU GO AT SUNRISE.
On my last morning I was able to get some photos just after sunrise at both the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It was so cool having these all to myself, able to get any shot and angle I wanted without worry about people in my way…and I loved the little streaks of pink in the sky behind it.
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This is what it looks like during the late afternoon…still cool, but lots of people and by mid-afternoon the lighting gets tricky.
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If you visit during the day (and you still should!) make sure to pop inside the Pantheon and get some cool photos of the domed roof and oculus (hole). This is one of the best photo spots in Rome that gets overlooked because it’s inside.
I’m always mesmerized by the patterns and symmetry. It’s free to enter, though they do somewhat control how many people can be in at a time.
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Again, just a few minutes away from the Parthenon and Trevi Fountain you’ll find the famous Piazza Navona. In general this isn’t one of my favorite spots in Rome…just crazy crowded and honestly other than the cool fountain there isn’t anything that is terribly unique versus dozens of other piazzas in the city.
But I am quite fond of that fountain from a photography standpoint, and prefer to capture it in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening.
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This is what it looks like in the early in the morning without the crowds.
One of my all-time faves!! I love the Castel at many different times of day, but mid-morning (like the first few pics below), sunset, and nighttime are my favorites. To be fair, I’ve never been there at sunrise, so it could also be amazing then…
Part of what I love about it is how many different angles you have to play with:
- If you’re on the other side of the river, take photos from both the left and right (first below is to the left)
- The Ponte Sant’Angelo (the small footbridge that crosses the river) is beautiful and lined with statues…I love photos directly facing the castel
- Late afternoon sun and sunset can be really dreamy here (more on that below)
- The building’s reflection at night on the river is lovely
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I knew I wanted to catch sunset here, so arrived about half an hour beforehand to make sure I could find my favorite viewpoints and get in position.
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The bridge from the other angle is beautiful too. You can buy a drink from one of the vendors nearby (I grabbed some champagne) and sit and watch the sunset and snap pictures. In just a second we’ll walk down toward St. Peter’s for the end of the sunset, but right here on the bridge is where you want to be right now.
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As the sunset deepens, I recommend turning your gaze (and your feet) towards St. Peter’s, which is just past the Castel. To me, St. Peter’s at sunset is truly one of the best photo spots in Rome. Talk about right place, right time!!
St. Peter’s at sunset (in the fall at least)
This was one of my favorite moments and photos from my last trip…St. Peter’s Basilica is totally dreamy at sunset. We’ll get to daytime in a sec, but let’s just luxuriate in this beautiful scene.
THERE IT IS.
When I visited, they were preparing for a saint-ing (not a real word, but fun to say anyway…naming four new saints) so the photo options out front were a little more limited. But it is great earlier in the day as well.
Before we leave this area, don’t forget about nighttime…Rome is gorgeous at night! This view of the Castel Sant’Angelo reflecting on the Tiber River is magical. The river provides a lot of great nighttime photo options.
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There are a lot of times that I’m not as keen on photographing Vittorio Emanuele (sometimes disparagingly called the “wedding cake” by locals). But it’s pretty good in the late afternoon, and can be absolutely sparkling and gorgeous early in the morning if you have a clear day.
But really only early in the morning. Or, to be fair, possibly okay when you’re actually inside, but then you’re surrounded by people. The Roman Forum is kind of tough to get good angles on with a strong focus…just too much going on. But early on a Sunday morning with no one else out and about, I loved the lighting and pops of color here.
The crowds here don’t matter as much, because the best angles on the Colosseum are UP.
I will say this further-away view (in the first photo) are great at night if you know how to make a longer exposure…the lights of cars can be super cool.
Otherwise I recommend getting up close and personal, and then pointing your camera upwards. Move over to the part of the building that has kind of jaggedy-edged slant (it makes for a more interesting shot). I will say that having some blue skies and/or interesting clouds makes this much better, rather than just gray skies.
(I loved this shot even back in college on real film…)
Okay, now we’re branching out a bit. I explored the actual river banks of the Tiber a ton on this trip, and saw Tiber Island in very different ways and different angles than I had previously.
First, you can take photos from the Ponte Palatino to get more of the scope far away. Then take the stairs down to the walking path along the river. You can get some interesting angles of the Basilica di san Bartolomeo all’Isola (say that five times fast!). Then climb the stairs back up and get a couple more shots from the bridge that actually leads onto the island.
Along the river
In general there are tons of fun views and interesting shots along the Tiber River. This trip I was especially obsessed with these fancy lightposts with SPQR (the initials of the ancient Roman Republic), rams, and…Viking ships??? I will actually look up all the deep meanings here, but these were so much fun.
Bonus points if you caught the fake ladybug someone planted on the ram’s nose…
Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo (one of the famous settings of Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”) is very cool but can be tough to photograph. It’s just so spread out that nothing really feels cohesive.
But this time I took a climb up a staircase that was a tad tough to find due to some construction, leading up toward the Villa Borghese. The stairs are on the opposite side of the plaza from that church-like building you see in the first photo below.
Campo dei Fiori
There is no shortage of beautiful scenes to choose from during the flower market. Browse and see which colors jump out at you. For me, I loved the umbrellas against the blue sky.
Largo di Argentina
I mean, was there any way I *wasn’t* going to include a cat sanctuary on here???
Yeah, not a chance. This is one of the few places I found that actually was pretty solid lighting-wise in the mid/late afternoon, which was a rarity. I love this majestic fella posing for me. It doesn’t make every list, but to me cats + ruins will always be one of the best photo spots in Rome. And I want to snuggle all those babies!!!
Wander the streets and alleys
You can find individual sites all day long, but Rome’s smaller streets and alleys are so packed with charm that you have to at least spend SOME time wandering here.
One good place to start is Via Giulia, a lovely respite from the hustle of Rome that’s lined with churches, fancy houses, and delightful little details. The neighborhoods of Monti and Trastevere are great for this type of aimless walking as well. It’s hard to go wrong in Rome, but stick to residential areas versus the more business-type areas (which don’t tend to have the same photogenic feel).
So there are 14 of my favorite places to capture Rome…what I think are the best photo spots in Rome. I could take photos of this city all day for a month and never run out of amazing options! I’m already planning a trip back in a few months, so would love to know if there are any of your own fave spots that I missed…me up in the comments!
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