You know how they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day? The same can be said for travelling in the city: there is just NO WAY you could only spend an afternoon there. This is by far one of my favourite destinations, offering a crazy amount of history, incredible dining, beautiful scenery and Italian hospitality. I have yet to meet a person who’s visited Rome who didn’t fall completely in love with it.
Now, where to go? Even if you meticulously plan your Italy itinerary ahead of time, there’s a good chance you will still see a landmark that hundreds of tourists are taking photos of and wonder, ‘What’s that?’ Places like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona will only command about 20 minutes of your time, but landmarks like the Vatican and Colosseum need at least half a day each, if not more.
It’s also VERY IMPORTANT to be aware of timing. I once missed getting into the Vatican Museum by about 15 minutes, because we didn’t make it on time for the final admission—despite closing time being hours away. While waiting in queues, you will occasionally be offered the ‘chance’ to buy a ticket to skip the line. A few people ahead of me in the Vatican line one morning paid about €20 for this option—and lo and behold, I was only about four feet behind them in the ticket line when the admission office opened. In summary: pay your way to the front at your own risk.
Quick list of attractions (prices and times as of 2013)
- Colosseum: €9 for a two day pass. Open 8:30am-6:15pm. Includes admission to the Palatine (gardens and ruins) and the Roman Forum which is open from 8:30am-7:30pm Monday to Saturday, and from 8:30am-6:15pm on Sunday.
- Saint Peter’s Basilica: Free, open from 7am-7pm
- Vatican Museums: €14, open from 9am-4pm Monday-Saturday, 9am-12:30pm on Sunday (closes at 2pm)
- Tickets for the Papal address: apply online or join the queue in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesdays.
- Castel Sant’Angelo: €8, open 9am-7pm April through September. Open 9am-2pm October through March. Last admission one hour before closing time.
I managed to book a fantastic bed and breakfast close to the Vatican called At Your Place. The owner Luca is incredibly friendly and is up every morning to serve guests hand crafted lattes, pastries, eggs and fresh buffalo cheese. Not only is he a gold mine of information for inquisitive travellers like myself, but he even wrangled up some tickets for us to the weekly Papal address, which saved us from lining up for hours in St. Peter’s Square. There are a plethora of options when it comes to accommodations in Rome, which will run you an average of €110 per night for a private, double room. If you can, pick a place close to the city centre, as most of the major highlights are within walking distance. There is definitely something to be said for staying in a more intimate place like a hostel or bed and breakfast, where Italian hospitality will be on full display.
When you land at Fiumicino Airport, a crush of tourists battle it out with drivers all pining for their business. If you hop into an official taxi, which is white, it costs about €40 to get to the city centre.
Make sure you get into an authorized one, as a number of drivers outfit their cars to look like cabs, then will try and charge you much more when you reach your destination despite agreeing on a price before. Sadly, I learned this one the hard way.
You can also get into town by train, bus or shuttle bus—all good, economical options.
In and around Rome, you can get to many landmarks by walking. There are just so many things to see that it seems like you stumble across some ancient ruin or towering building every five minutes. That being said, it makes for a long day. Try to figure out the bus routes beforehand so you can get a ride home, or spring for a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour, where you can board a double-decker bus that will drop you off at landmarks around the city. It will set you back about €19, but save your aching feet.
The greatest thing about Rome is you can’t get a bad meal. If there’s one thing Italians can do, it’s cook, and this country is carb heaven (here are some tips if you happen to have a gluten-free diet).
Enjoy an appetizer of brushetta followed by a margarita pizza—that won’t be cut into slices for you, FYI—or the pasta offering of the day, complemented by a cold glass of Prosecco to start, wine with your meal, then a shot of Limoncello to top it all off. No visit to Roma would be complete without popping into a gelato shop for a tasty treat to cool off.
When it comes time to pay the bill, remember that a service charge will be included on your bill. It usually ranges from 1 to €3, and counts as your tip. However, if you get exceptional service, feel free to throw a few more euros their way. Again, it’s hard to find a bad restaurant in this city, but for exceptional dining head to the Trastevere district. It boasts an excellent selection of authentic Roman restaurants, café and bars, while quaint streets lit with lanterns make for a romantic walk back to your hotel.
All in all, you won’t regret booking a trip to fabulous Rome. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore the city and surrounding areas, bring a great camera and a healthy appetite. And finally, when in Rome…
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