Since I sent out my infamous “Rome Tips” document for the ~25th time last week, i figured I should post it here so that others can hopefully use it as well. 🙂 Rome is where my love for Italy began. Growing up, I’d drive my parents crazy about going on a trip to Italy. I joke that my ancestors have always pulled me there, and I’m believing more and more that this truly is the case. I took one step off our Alitalia flight in 2003 and was home.
I’ve since been back to Italy a total of 15 times, most of which have included Rome (if even for a day!). Below are some general notes and tips I’ve recorded over the years.
Getting to the City
- Upon arrival at FCO Airport, follow signs for the Train Station (Stazione, Treno, etc.), and take the train to Roma Termini, the main train station in Rome
- Should cost ~€14 per person and take about a half hour
- It’s called the Leonardo Express train and has no other stops, so it’s very easy
- Purchase your tickets at an electronic ticket booth before boarding the train and be sure to validate them before you hop on (you’ll just insert them into a validating machine that will stamp them)
- Villa Borghese, the Central Park of Rome
- VB is beautiful to walk around and inside is a museum, a great zoo, lots of fountains, etc. It’s easy to get lost in, though!
- You can exit the park at Piazza del Popolo if you’d like, which is a big, beautiful piazza that gives way to three streets that are known as “il Tridente” – Via del Babuino on your left, Via del Corso down the middle, and Via di Ripetta on your right (when the Piazza is behind you and you’re facing the three streets)
- Via del Babuino will take you to Piazza di Spagna, where the Spanish Steps are
- Via del Corso is excellent for shopping!
- All the way at the opposite end of Via del Corso is Vittoriano/Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele (aka Wedding Cake Building, one of the most beautiful buildings in Rome IMO!)
- Take the elevator to the top for incredible views of the entire city, especially the nearby ruins and Coliseum (€7 per person, totally worth it!)
- The Coliseum and ruins/Roman Forum are right behind this building, and the Capitol buildings are also nearby (to the right when you’re looking directly at it)
- Via di Ripetta will lead you toward the Pantheon, although it’s off on a side street (there will be signs)
- Breathtaking structure, especially from the outside
- La Fontana di Trevi (the Trevi Fountain) is between Via del Corso and Via del Babuino on a side street, and there will be signs for that as well
- The Vatican and its museums are stunning and well worth however long it may take you to get in
- Best time to arrive is at the end of the afternoon, around 3PM, as it closes at 5:00 and is insanely busy earlier in the day (especially in the morning!)
- If possible, visit the Papal Gardens and the Catacombs (underground, older Vatican with the tombs of past popes)
- Note: if you get claustrophobic, the Catacombs will be difficult to walk through
- Be sure to rub St. Peter’s foot for good luck!
- Your knees and shoulders must be covered to enter – no tank tops, short shorts, etc.
- The Pope hosts a Papal Audience almost every Wednesday. It’s not a full blown mass, but rather a chance to see and pray with Pope Francis
- Begins between 10-10:30AM depending on the time of year, but people typically arrive super early to get better seats
- Free entry!
- The Vatican is across the river, and as you’re walking back towards it you approach the Castel Sant’Angelo (it’s huge! & can’t be missed!)
- The metro system is extremely easy to use! There are only two lines, the red A line and the blue B line, but they’re in the process of building a third
- Almost all stops you’ll need are on the red line, except for the Coliseum which is on the blue line
- Most stops of your interest are named according to the attraction that’s nearby (ex: Spagna for Piazza di Spagna, Colosseo for the Coliseum)
- There is also a tram, but it shouldn’t be necessary to use to see anything popular (unless of course you’d just like to try it!)
- HOWEVER, everything you want to see in Rome is in walking distance! You can literally walk around the entire city to cover everything, and although it wasn’t built in a day, it can be seen on foot in just two! 😉
- The main station, Termini, is where you’ll arrive from the airport. It is probably THE shadiest spot in the city. Be mindful of your belongings and try to avoid staying in a hotel that’s close to the station, as its surroundings are ugly & unsafe as well
Where to Eat & Hang
- Piazza Navona is a popular tourist spot for restaurants, but it is expensive and not super authentic
- Beautiful to walk through, though! Definitely check it out
- Via Veneto is huge for restaurants, but is even worse than Piazza Navona (they will rip you off in a heartbeat and the food isn’t spectacular)
- Note: remember that there is no tax on food in Rome, nor are you required to tip anywhere in Italy. In fact, you are expected NOT to tip, as it is not customary. If taxes or tips are added to your bill, you can ask that they be removed, as there is no basis for them
- The less Americans there are around, the better and more authentic the restaurants will be
- Don’t bother going into a place that has a waiter outside trying to lure you in – tourist trap!
- I’ve found that there are great authentic restaurants near the river (although not directly ON it, as they can be touristy and expensive as well)
- Campo dei Fiori is a popular night-time spot, especially for tourists
- It’s a piazza with tons of bars and people from all over the world
- Always a lot of fun!
- Wine Bar Camponeschi is right outside the piazza and is one of my favorite restaurants in Rome
- I’ve never seen a tourist there, only Romans
- Their carbonara sauce is the BEST!
- The address is Piazza Farnese, 50/50a
- Phone #: +39066874927
- Casa & Bottega is my favorite lunch spot
- Right across the river on your way back from the Vatican/Castel Sant’Angelo
- The address is Via dei Coronari, 183
- Phone #: +39066864358
- There’s a pub crawl that leaves from the Spanish Steps every night that I personally think is amazing. It’s cheap (it at least was around €25, not sure if it’s gone up) and includes unlimited PIZZA, shots at the door of every bar, unlimited beer & wine, a T-shirt, & free entry at each stop, including the club at the end. I don’t even drink and I love it. We did this crawl almost every weekend when I studied abroad in Rome!
Side Notes and Tips
- Italian country code (for telephone calls) is 39, so if you’re calling an Italian number, you’d dial +39 and then the number
- You can add an international plan to your phone for $30 (Verizon), but it’s limited and automatically charges you if you go over your tiny amount of data
- It’s cheaper to get a Vodafone SIM card once you arrive and switch your SIM out
- Usually €30 for the card and your plan, and you’ll be able to make calls, text, & use data, and it should last your whole trip!
- You’ll have an Italian phone number but all of your stuff will be the same (pictures, contacts, etc.)
- They sell them at airports and in big train stations
- US country code is 1, so you’d dial +1 and then the number of anyone you’re calling back home
- The maps they give out at hotels are cartoon-like with photos of monuments but are very helpful! The city itself can be confusing to navigate around, but everyone speaks English and can help!
- ATMs are called Bancomats and they are all over the city
- It is cheaper and easier to take money directly out of your checking account this way, as exchanging cash will cost you more and you don’t want to have much cash on you unless necessary anyway
- It is not customary to sit down for coffee in Italy
- Instead, stand at the “bar” and drink it/have a small breakfast like a croissant
- Bars in Italy refer to coffee shops, although many also serve alcohol as well
- “Un caffe`” is not a regular American coffee, but rather an espresso
- “Caffe` Americano” is American coffee (the closest thing to it, at least!)
- As in any city, always be mindful of your belongings
- I keep my phone and wallet tucked into my pants and under my shirt to be safe
- Don’t accept help from anyone who approaches you at the train stations, etc.
- Rome is not dangerous by any means, but we Americans can be easy targets!! 😉
- Building #s come after street names in Italian addresses, and street names are found on the sides of buildings as opposed to on actual street signs like here in the US
- There is no tipping in Italy! Though it feels so uncomfortable for us as Americans, it is NOT customary to leave tips at restaurants, in cabs, etc.
- If you really enjoyed interacting with your server and found them to have gone above and beyond, you can certainly leave them something, but don’t feel like it has to be 20%! A couple euro coins would be plenty (honestly!)
- Driving is on the same side of the road as us
- Most cars are stick-shift, not automatic, so if you’re renting, be sure to specify that you want automatic and not manual!
- Tolls can be paid in cash or credit card if your rental doesn’t have “Telepass” (their version of our EZ-Pass)
- In many cases, you’ll pull up to a tollbooth and take a ticket. Before you exit the highway, you’ll go through another toll booth where you’ll insert your ticket and be given the price
- Though there are illustrations to help, if you’re paying with a credit card look for “CARTE” on the signs up top to know which lane to stay in
- You won’t see many cops on the road, but the Italians are definitely watching your speed!
- There are cameras all over, so be sure to stay at a reasonable speed or you’ll come home to a speeding ticket in the mail! I get one every single time I’m there
- Their signs are different than ours, so it can be confusing to determine what’s a one-way, where you can and cannot park, etc. See my previous post for details
- You can drink/fill your water bottles from any fountain in Rome. The water is clean and SO GOOD!
- The fountain at Piazza di Spagna was just restored, and it looks amazing! They’re still working on the actual building at Spagna but it’s worth the trip regardless
- The Trevi Fountain, unfortunately, is still undergoing restorations 😦
I hope this helps! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out 🙂