Rome is one of the most beautiful, iconic and most traveled cities in Europe, with a long history to match. Because of this, it’s extremely crowded and it can feel as though everyone is visiting the city at the same time as you are! I mean, it certainly is the case for the main tourist sights! Before you pack your bags and get ready to eat your weight in gelato, here are my essential tips for planning a trip to Rome.
1. Chose the right season to visit Rome
Most travel guides you’ve read will probably tell you that spring and early autumn is the best period and they are absolutely right. Unless you’re a fan of scorching heat and humidity, I’d say you really want to avoid Rome (or any other Italian cities for that matter) in summer.
2. Wear comfortable shoes in Rome
Rome is a small city, with all the historical landmarks within relative walking distance of one another, so you’ll do A LOT of walking. Don’t set foot in Rome unless that foot is emblazoned with an Adidas logo, or other comparable brand of trainers.
3. How to get out of the airport in Rome
The cheapest (and fastest) way to get to Termini (the main station in the city) from Fiumicino airport is by train. The Leonardo Express train costs 14€ and shuttles passengers straight from FCO to Termini. From there, you can hop onto the metro or grab a cab outside to take you to your hotel.
4. Getting around in Rome
Rome has a refreshingly simple metro system, so unless your hotel is far from the city centre, you probably won’t need to take taxis. If you do though, stick to the white taxis and make sure they have their meter turned on. Like many other cities, taxi drivers will try their luck on unsuspecting tourists by charging higher fixed rate fares.
It’s worth noting when planning a trip to Rome, that Uber is significantly more expensive than metered taxis. This is regardless of the time of day or length of your journey.
5. Always ‘skip the line’ in Rome
Like many other tourists, you might have only two or three full days in Rome and you’ll probably want to see it all. Do you really want to spend 75% of your time queuing at the landmarks and completely miss out on a more authentic experience? I’m guessing not. I wouldn’t either, so I highly recommend paying a little extra to book ‘skip the line’ tickets; particularly for the Vatican Museum.
While there are no fool-proof ways of skipping the line, you’ll no-doubt cut down your waiting time by booking tickets online. Alternatively, try to visit the most popular sites either first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon when the queues have died down.
6. Be aware of closing dates
If you’re making a strict itinerary when planning a trip to Rome, make sure you know what will be open when. The Vatican museums (including the Sistine Chapel and Raphael rooms, of course) are always closed on Sunday (except for the last Sunday of the month, when it’s free to enter, but that means queuing for hours). Most museums are closed on Mondays, except for the Colosseum which requires to pre-booking, as does the Borghese Gallery.
7. Is the Roma Pass worth purchasing?
If you’re in town for more than 48 hours, you may consider purchasing the Roma Pass. They have a 48 hour and a 72 hour pass, and depending on which one you choose, it covers either one or two museum visits entirely, full access to public transport, and discounted entry to several other attractions.
8. Italian Meal Times
Italians generally head out for dinner from 8.30pm or even later, you might find that some restaurants aren’t open if you’re accustomed to eating dinner earlier than that.
If you can’t wait until then, do as the Italians do and have an aperitivo. From 7pm, you’ll find bars everywhere that offer an open buffet and drink for around €10. Restaurant kitchens are known to close well after 10pm, so don’t worry about missing out on a proper dinner!
9. Avoid ‘Fake’ Gelato
Creamy gelato is one of the things people associate Italy with, and highly likely to be one of the first things you’ll be searching for in the heat. However, not all gelato is authentic. Steer away from the gelaterias that display pretty, brightly coloured, puffy clouds of gelato; these are all artificial. An easy way to spot the fakes is by imagining what that flavour would realistically look like when blended.. A blended banana is never fluorescent yellow.
10. Don’t pay for water
Remember to pack a reusable water bottle as there are lots of water fountains scattered throughout the city in Rome. The water is clean and safe to drink and is especially convenient during the scorching summer heat as it’s refreshingly cold too. Just keep topping your bottle up as you wander round and explore the city!
11. How to get the best shot of the Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Trevi fountain, however, as it’s one of the most popular attractions in Rome, it’s incredibly busy at all times of the day. This mean you’re highly unlikely to get a photo of the fountain without hundreds of other people in it unless you literally get there before the sun rises – I mean, we all follow a few instagrammers who do that, but do you seriously want to be that person!?
There is a United Colours of Benetton store directly opposite the fountain, and if you go up to the first floor, you’ll see the windows that face the fountain. Now obviously it’s not going to be perfect, but if you get as close to the window as possible, you can get a shot of the whole fountain with very few reflections from the glass! – I just wished the windows were cleaner!
FYI, don’t forget to toss a coin into the fountain! Legend has it that you’ll return to Rome if you do. And while you’re there, beware of potential pickpockets. There is a constant police presence at the fountain due the number of frequent incidents.
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If you are visiting Italy from next year, 2022, you will need to apply ETIAS visa waiver. Here, you can see further information about this new border system ETIAS.