Do you need a basic set of tips for visiting Rome? Are you feeling overwhelmed while planning your trip to the Eternal City? Not sure what to expect or where to even start? I've put together a collection of travel tips for you that may help.
Rome can seem overwhelming. Between the language barrier and the sheer number of sights to see, Rome is one of the densest of European cities. So, I'm here to tell you the basic facts to get you started on your trip planning for Rome. I'm sharing the essential tips for visiting Rome.
Rome had been on my travel bucket list for a while. I'd dreamed of seeing the Colosseum, of taking dreamy night photographs of the traffic and of tasting delicious pasta in street-side cafes. Rome always seems so magical in the movies and pictures.
Needless to say, a thunderous "YES" issued from my mouth when my beau, The Professor, suggested we go. Now, I'm the first to say that I'm a novice traveler. I'm learning how to travel smarter with each new adventure. It helped that my travel partner is an experienced traveler and tour guide, especially when it comes to Rome.
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A great trip to Rome doesn't require ten days. If you travel smart and plan your time accordingly, you can see the city in several days. Below are my best tips for visiting Rome. I hope it helps future Rome-antics plan their own unforgettable Roman Holiday!
Pay attention to the weather and seasons when planning your trip to Rome. I learned that early August in Rome is HOT!!!! Thank goodness for free water fountains and an air-conditioned apartment. Be aware that winter is a rainy season, so pack accordingly.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Rome is a walking city; bring comfortable shoes. FYI: You will want closed-toe shoes for visiting the Forum, where the dirt paths are littered with stones and blocks. I couldn't have made it without supportive shoes! Kudos to my pair of Softspots which got me through some tough terrain in style and comfort. Pictured below are my Baretraps Jordy sandals, which apparently are no longer on the market 🙁
Schedule Your Visit
Pay attention to the habits of the locals. For example, most Romans vacation in mid-August, which means that many shop and restaurant owners close and leave town on holiday. Being aware of seasonal events and rituals can also enrich your experience, especially in a historic place like Rome.
Read the Headlines
Public transport is the way to go if you want to really explore all areas of the city. But keep in mind that bus service can be spotty in Rome. Pay attention to the local news the days leading up to your trip. Watch for information about line closures, changes, and strikes. It could help avoid last minute hiccups.
Rent an Apartment
Consider renting an apartment. We were very pleased with the rate for our last vacation rental. And the location in Trastevere couldn't be beaten! Excellent shops, bars, and restaurants were right outside our door. And the nightlife in Trastevere is terrific for those looking to spend some time on the romantic streets of Rome underneath the moonlight.
We were able to secure a private, 1-bedroom apartment with a/c, kitchen, washer and full bath at a reasonable rate. Just be sure to bring a Swiss Army knife or other multi-tool. You’ll want to make sure you have a corkscrew!
Use Public Transportation
Bus tickets are available at any newsstand or tobacco shop (identified by a black sign with a big white “T”). You can buy individual passes or opt for 24-hour or 7-day passes to get the best bang for your buck. For more specific information, check out Lonely Planet's helpful guide to Getting Around Rome Via Local Transport.
Pay Attention to Your Pockets
Beware of pickpockets. Rome is known for pick-pocketing. Be aware that many work in groups. One creates a distraction while others move in for the steal. So, it’s safe to say that anytime something surprising happens, you should secure your belongings (wallet/bag/camera). Use the rubber band trick if you stow your wallet in your back pocket: wrap your wallet in several rubber bands, which makes it harder to pull out of the pocket due to the friction. Also consider investing in a PacSafe bag, backpack, or camera strap. No Slashers!
Drink Coffee Correctly
Romans drink coffee at bars. You order and pay to receive a receipt, which you then take to the bar. Romans also drink their coffee upon arrival, standing at the bar. Don't linger long, either. Romans drink up and get on with their day. Remember, you've got a lot of sightseeing to do!
Avoid the Prix-Fix
Don’t fall for the tourist menu: the Prix-fix salad, pasta, and dessert option. You find these typically at the trattorias conveniently located next to the major tourist attractions. Do yourself and your taste buds a favor: explore the streets and alleys to find the “local” fare.
Save Money on Major Attractions
Pay attention when purchasing your tickets to major attractions. Some, like the Colosseum, include free admission to other major attractions like the Palatine Hill and Forum Romanum IF you visit within the next day. Consider doing what we did: go to the Forum to buy tickets (shorter lines), then visit the Colosseum the next day!
Museums and Mondays
Remember that churches close to tourists during services and on Sundays. Also, Roman museums close on Mondays. It's always a good idea to plan your museum days on Sunday, and church excursions on Mondays. In need of another good museum suggestion? Try the Villa Giulia which houses the National Etruscan Museum.
Standing in this building was awe inspiring. #Rome itself was awe inspiring. Seeing the structures of #AncientRome and all of #Italy is something everyone should do. It puts so much into context. Humans have been suffering, building, thriving, living for thousands of years. Tonight I #prayforItaly and hope that help is available for all those suffering now.
Get Out of the City
The Via Appia can be a wonderful way to wind down and get away from the hustle and bustle of modern Rome. Rent a bike and see the sights along the most ancient of roads. Or you can choose to take a leisurely stroll; a bus line runs back into the city, making your return less work.
Between the incredible photo opportunities and the breathtaking ruins, I found the Via Appia to be a refuge from the busy Roman streets. The fresh air mixed with the ghosts of footsteps past energizes and intoxicates those who choose to take the ancient path.
Visit Lesser Known Museums
Be aware that the Capitoline Museum has two branches, one at the peak of the Capitoline Hill and the other in Ostiense, close to the working class neighborhood of Testaccio. The Centrale Montemartini is a MUST see, just like its sister location on the famous hill. Located inside Rome's first electrical power plant, the museum has an excellent collection of ancient sculpture. The juxtaposition between the modern space and classical works is a real treat. If you know you're visiting both, you can save a few euro by purchasing the tickets at the same time!
Enjoy the Ancient
Don't miss the Ara Pacis, or the Augustan Altar of Peace. This was by far one of my most favorite attractions. Displayed intact and in context, this unbelievable artifact is truly mind-blowing when you remember that it was consecrated in 9 BCE! The altar is housed in a controversial modern structure designed by American architect Richard Meier.
Rise and Shine
Of course, you must visit the Colosseum, but be sure to get there as early as possible! We arrived right at 8 am, and the lines were already long. We purposefully planned to visit early the morning after seeing the Forum. Seeing the Colosseum was an exciting experience. Sign up for updates from the blog, so you don't miss What I Really Thought About the Colosseum.
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