Italy is one of the most incredible countries in the world. Known for the foundational role played by the Roman Empire, impressive ancient cities to match, a cuisine so tasty it has been adopted by pretty much the entire globe, and incredible natural landscapes. You might even say that Italy has it all.

Two of the country’s most famous cities, Rome and Venice, have been standing since the dawn of modern mankind. Blending a mixture of cultures from across the globe. Rome is one of the most iconic and most-traveled cities in Europe. The city is a cultural haven known for its world-class cuisine, incredible museums, and ancient architecture.

Venice is a much smaller city known for its incredible island setting inland of the Adriatic Sea. Waterways twisting and turning through historic buildings make this one of the most romantic cities in the world.

While both cities had a significant influence on Europe and are bucket list cities in their own rights, each offers a unique atmosphere and holds different historical importance. Choosing between the two cities can be a real dilemma. So, to make your decision easier, I’ve put together an unbiased comparison of Rome vs Venice looking at factors that might interest a global traveler.

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    Rome vs Venice

    Roman Forum

    There are endless travel guides for both cities, but choosing which one to dedicate your time and money to can be tough. While there is no sure way to compare two entirely different cities, I’ll try my best to offer you a good idea of what both Rome and Venice offer.

    Rome Summary

    • Rome is the capital city of Italy and the ancient world. With over 2.8 million residents living across 496 square miles, it’s the country’s most populous city and third in the European Union.
    • Famous for its incredible ancient architecture and historical importance, as seen through the still-standing Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, and Pantheon. It’s also known for its pizza, pasta, gelato, and high-end coffee culture.
    • Rome can be accessed via two international Airports, Fiumicino / Leonardo da Vinci Airport, and Ciampino Airport. If you’re traveling from within Italy, trains are abundant at Roma Termini.
    • Rome’s cultural center is small and easy to explore on foot, and you can easily walk between most cultural sites without breaking a sweat. Some places, like the Vatican, are further away and can be accessed via public transport, which includes three metro lines and an extensive bus system.
    • Urban accommodation is most prevalent in Rome. While there are few high-rise buildings, the city has many high-end hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, and Airbnb’s that can be rented out.

    Venice Summary

    Veneto Venice
    • Located in northeastern Italy, Venice is built on a group of 118 small islands connected by canals and bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. The small city covers around 160 square miles worth of total land.
    • Famous for its intricate canal system built over 1000 years ago, the incredible artwork and architecture in the city, Murano glassmaking and masks, gondola rides, and the iconic Venice Carnival.
    • The best way to visit Venice is by train, arriving at the Santa Lucia Train Station on the city’s eastern border. There is also a bus terminal and a small airport called the Marco Polo Venice Airport which you can then take a bus or boat into the city from.
    • The inner city is best explored on foot, with many bridges and narrow alleyways without cars or transport. Water taxis, water buses, and gondola rides are great ways to get around the city, and some parts can be accessed by tram and bus.
    • Venice has everything from opulent five-star hotels to budget hostels and charming guesthouses. And Airbnb’s are also available.

    Is Rome or Venice Better

    There is no easy way to directly compare Rome vs Venice when visiting Italy, which are totally unique cities. However, I’ll give it my best shot to provide an unbiased and independent account comparing Rome and Venice. Let’s dive right in!

    For Things to Do

    There is a lot more to do and see in Rome compared with Venice. Not only because Venice is less than a third of the size of Rome, but also because Rome was the world’s largest city for over 550 years, spanning centuries of history before Venice was even established. That said, Venice has more than enough to keep visitors busy for a vacation.

    When it comes to sights and attractions, Rome has more man-made historical attractions than any other city I can think of. Within the cultural center, you could walk from the Pantheon to the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain to the Roman Forum and the Spanish Steps. In fact, it’s hard to explore this part of the city without passing by these incredible architectural feats, which are still standing centuries after they were built.

    saint angelos castle in rome italy

    Architecture fans will be in awe of both Rome and Venice. While Rome has the bulk of historical attractions and ancient ruins, Venice offers an incredible city layout built across a series of islands. The astonishing architecture used to create the bridges and buildings on the water is astounding, especially considering the city has been standing for over 1200 years.

    Museums are abundant in both cities. Rome has the iconic Vatican Museums, Capitolini Museums, and the National Gallery of Modern Art. At the same time, Venice excels in art and culture museums, boasting the Galerie dell’Accademia and Doge’s Palace.

    For outdoor activities, Rome beats Venice, hands down. With its massive Villa Borghese Park, tourists can spend days lapping up the sun in this lush area, riding bikes, or paddling across the pond. Those with kids will also prefer Rome since the city has a lot more open space for children to run free and enjoy the outdoors.

    Winner: Rome

    For Budget Travelers

    Typically speaking, a vacation in Rome will cost significantly less than one in Venice. This is mainly because of the size of the city, which offers a range of different types of hotels for lower budgets. On the other hand, Venice is targeted toward luxury travelers who can splurge on accommodation and food.

    Expect to spend around $150 per day in Rome and about $200 per day in Venice for an average holiday.

    • Accommodation in both cities is semi-urban. The price for one person to stay in an average hotel per night in Rome is around $75, or $105 in Venice. For double occupancy, you can expect to pay $140 or $190, respectively. Hostels are more common in Rome than in Venice and can cost as little as $30 per person sharing a dorm room.
    • Public transport is affordable in Rome. Venice is harder to get around and requires catching private water taxis. Transport for a day in Rome could cost about $25 or $30 in Venice.
    • Food is cheaper in Rome vs Venice. A meal at an average restaurant might cost around $20 per person in Rome or $25 in Venice. Each day, expect to spend about $45 on food in Rome and $60 in Venice.
    • You might spend $5 on a domestic beer at a restaurant in Rome or Venice or as low as $1.20 if you purchase from a grocer or liquor store.

    Winner: Rome

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    Where to Stay in Rome: Ostello Bello Roma Colosseo

    Ostello Bello Roma Colosseo

    Ideally located in the heart of the cultural center, Ostello Bello Roma Colosseo is a quirky hostel featuring a garden and a shared lounge. The rooms are air-conditioned and offer female-only dorm rooms, mixed dorms, and private suites. For extra savings, your booking even includes a daily buffet breakfast.

    For Couples

    Italy is easily one of the most romantic countries to visit with a partner. It’s lively but not overwhelming, has gorgeous architecture everywhere you look, offers incredible accommodations in world-class settings, and, of course, has some of the best food and wine in the world.

    Couples after a relaxing and pampering vacation might prefer Venice. Life moves at a slower pace here, where locals are more relaxed and easygoing, food is tasty, and views are abundant. Of course, the city is home to some of the most exclusive hotels in the country, often accompanied by lavish spas and recreation centers.

    Rialto Bridge Venice

    If you and your significant other are here for the food, I recommend making a beeline for Rome. The vibrant capital is overflowing with local Italian establishments, from Michelin Star restaurants to local pizzerias with the most authentic slices. Of course, Roman gelato is in a league of its own.

    Couples looking for history will fare well in both cities, although Rome certainly has more historical attractions. Venice is better for those hoping to meander through museums with hallways lined with incredible art pieces.

    Simply because of its slow pace, relaxed atmosphere, and romantic setting, I believe Venice is the more romantic option when comparing Rome vs Venice.

    Winner: Venice

    Where to Stay in Venice: Hotel Carlton On The Grand Canal

    Hotel Carlton On The Grand Canal

    Treat yourself to a stay in the Hotel Carlton On The Grand Canal, overlooking the Grand Canal in the heart of Venice. The hotel offers a rooftop cocktail bar with a terrace and has gorgeous Venetian-inspired rooms fitted with Murano glass lamps and unique antique furniture.

    For Getting Around

    As the capital city and hub of the country, Rome is undoubtedly a more accessible city to get around compared with Venice. Both cities are best explored on foot, with small and manageable cultural centers, many car-free streets, and well-signposted attractions. 

    The city has a well working (although busy) public transport network which is easy to use and affordable. Rome’s transport includes an underground metro and buses linking the cultural center to the outlying suburbs. 

    I don’t recommend renting a car in this city, as traffic and parking can be super stressful.

    Two international airports service the city. Fiumicino is used mainly for intercontinental flights, while Ciampino is more popular for flights arriving and departing from Italy and Europe. 

    Rome Termini is the city’s Grand Central Station equivalent, connecting the city to other parts of Italy and Europe with high-speed trains. It’s also super easy to catch a cross-country bus from this station.

    On the other hand, Venice’s public transport system is a bit more complex to navigate. The network includes water taxis and buses that run throughout the canal system. The city has a central station known as Santa Lucia, just a 20-minute walk from the Grand Canal. Venezia Mestre is another station that sits on the mainland. 

    Winner: Rome

    For a Weekend Trip

    If you can only spare a weekend in either Rome or Venice, I advise heading north to the romantic city of Venice. The city might be challenging to navigate by public transport, but it is small enough to explore by foot within a quick weekend trip.

    Make sure you stay in a central location for a short trip to Venice, ideally in the centro storico (historic center). This center forms a large island made up of six districts. San Marco is a tourist hotspot. It’s worth a visit but can get crowded, so I advise staying just outside of this center.

    Venezia Venice Italy

    Cannaregio is a more quiet residential area that offers a good glimpse into local Venetian life. Castello stretches from the tourist center to the eastern public gardens. It’s a great place to walk around on foot and houses a ton of cozy boutiques and local eateries.

    Dorsoduro is a student-friendly part of the city that is also packed with art galleries and museums. Don’t skip a visit to San Polo, a small area tucked away at the top of the Grand Canal, home to the busy Rialto markets.

    If you’re a quick walker, you might even have time to explore a few neighboring islands. Giudecca, Sant’Elena and the Lido are great options.

    Winner: Venice

    For a Week-Long Trip

    There is no doubt about it; there is much more to do in Rome vs Venice to keep you busy for an extended holiday. This isn’t surprising, seeing as though the city is the capital and largest in the country.

    The best part about Rome is that the cultural center is so small and compact that you can easily visit all the main attractions within three or so days. Spend some time walking the narrow streets around the Spanish Steps down the Via Veneto main shopping street towards the Travi Fountain. From there, you could reach the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Esquilino, Piazza Navona, and Campo dei Fiori in no time.

    A visit to Rome wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of the Colosseum. Whether you enter the building or just marvel at it from the outside, it’s a site not to be missed. In the same area, you can stroll through the Roman Forum ruins and Palatine Hill, checking out the trendy Monti neighborhood along the way. 

    Spend some time exploring the streets of the Trastevere neighborhood, which are eerily quiet on a weekday yet buzzing with activity as the sun goes down. This is a top spot to get a taste of local Roman life. 

    The Vatican is a must, and can easily take an entire day off your trip. Walk the streets of this historic city and visit the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums and Gardens, and St. Peters Basilica for a glimpse of historic Rome. 

    I always advise spending a down day enjoying the sunshine in Villa Borghese. This park is packed with ancient ruins, archeological sites, and gorgeous gardens to relax in.

    Winner: Rome

    Visiting Rome and Venice

    If you’re lucky enough not to pick between Rome or Venice, visiting both cities is highly advised! With unique cuisine, cultures, and architecture to admire, you won’t be disappointed to visit both of these high-energy cities in one trip.

    St. Peter’s Basilica

    Taking the train is the most common and affordable way to get from Rome to Venice and vice versa. The distance between Rome and Venice is around 330 miles. You can catch a high-speed train and travel between the cities in as quick as three hours and forty-five minutes, while slower trains can take up to six hours. The train cuts directly through the country, offering exquisite views throughout the journey.

    The second best way to travel from one city to the other is to fly. Airlines like Italian and EasyJet operate routes between the cities, with just over an hour of flight time for a nonstop flight. Flights are more expensive than trains, and considering the time it takes to get to and from the airports in Rome (which are outside of the city), go through security, and board and disembark a flight, the journey ends up taking just as long as a train would.

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    FAQs About Rome vs Venice

    Final Thoughts

    Rome and Venice are two of Europe’s most iconic and beautiful cities. Located along the Italian peninsula, they offer a distinct vibe and climate from one another, as well as unique historical attractions, museums and galleries, and activities to enjoy.

    As the bigger city, Rome has a much more developed public transport network and is easier to get around compared with Venice. Combined with its parks and kid-friendly attractions, this makes it the better city for young families. 

    Venice is known as the City of Love for a good reason. It oozes romance from the canal-side hotels to the picture-perfect bridges. While both cities are exquisite destinations for a romantic holiday, Venice sits one up on Rome.

    Venice is easily explored with a quick weekend visit, while Rome has a lot more to offer and should be given a bit of extra time and attention. Whichever city you choose to visit, either Rome or Venice, both are sure to have you planning your return trip to Italy before you leave the country!

    venice gondola

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