Visiting any new city can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t speak the language. I always try to do research on the destination before I get there not only to be prepared, but to help me feel a little less anxious (I’m still a nervous traveller to this day!).
My husband and I spent just under four days in Rome, and I researched for months before our trip! Aside from the general “watch out for pick-pockets” and “research the neighborhood before booking your hotel,” here are a few things I found out in advance or while on our trip.
Hopefully these tips will help any first-time visitors or a be a friendly reminder for anyone planning a return trip to Rome.
1. Take the Leonardo Express train to the Roma Termini. If you fly into Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, there is an express train that takes approximately 30 minutes and delivers you directly in Rome. It’s inexpensive (compared to a cab) and runs every 15 minutes.
Planning Your Trip
2. Visit during off-peak months like Spring, Winter and Fall. While researching Rome, most sources said to just avoid visiting during the summer. Crowds are larger, and the temperatures can get quite warm (now imagine waiting in a really long line in the heat… I mean, if that’s your thing then go right ahead!)
3. Plan your visit – the route and the dates. If you plan your dates properly, you won’t miss any attractions that may be closed (I heard something about Mondays…) and you can plan your route to maximize your day.
4. Purchase tickets in advance to avoid crowds. If you can’t get your tickets in advance, make sure you get up early to visit attractions before the crowds. You can waste a lot of precious time standing in lines so make sure you spend more of your time enjoying the attractions than waiting to get in!
5. Do a “skip the line” tour of the Vatican. It’s worth the money. We met our tour guide and were promptly brought into the “skip the line” area. The general admission line was lined up 4 people wide and around the corner! Our tour guide was also very knowledgeable and I felt that we got more value during out visit because of this.
6. The Vatican has a strict dress-code. This means no exposed shoulders or knees for men, women and children. Dress properly, or you may be denied entrance. Alternatively, there are people and shops selling scarves and paper pants for those who didn’t abide by the rules. These are not worth the money…
7. Admission to the Colosseum includes entrance to the Roman Forum. But don’t start at the Colosseum! That’s where the bigger line is. Start your tour at the Roman Forum and then make your way over to the Colosseum… I wish I knew this one in advance.
8. Free admission days exist! Admission to many popular tourist attractions are free on the first Sunday of every month. This is great for money savings, but probably not for time savings as there will likely be larger crowds. We weren’t there on a Sunday to see.
Food & Drinks
9. Bring a reusable water bottle with you. Avoid wasting your money on bottled water because Rome has many drinking fountains with free, clean water throughout the city.
10. Avoid eating near tourist attractions. The food is over-priced, the restaurants are busy and you feel like you’re being rushed out. Trust me, I learned this one the hard way eating at a restaurant beside the Trevi Fountain.
11. Tipping is not required. This I found through research, but instead of me trying to poorly explain the specific details on this I would suggest searching for this on Pinterest. There you can find many pins on this topic specifically.
12. Stop into one of the many grocery stores or fruit stands for a snack. Save some money on your vacation and buy your lunch at a grocery store or fruit stand. You can get health snacks, make a sandwich, etc. It will save you money and you can have a lovely picnic in Rome.
13. Be prepared for uneven cobblestone streets. I saw many tourists (mostly ladies) wearing inappropriate footwear. Wear sensible footwear! We walked over 20,000 steps a day and even if you aren’t walking that much, do you really want to risk breaking an ankle on vacation?
14. Bring some sort of GPS/map/location device. My husband downloaded offline versions of Google Maps on our phones (accessible in airplane mode) and we used these daily. So handy to have that little blue dot and arrow to point you in the right direction.
15. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, you won’t be able to visit everything in a day! There is so much to see and do in Rome it can be overwhelming. Plan accordingly to maximize your visit and enjoy yourself!
And there you have it – 15 tips to help first-time visitors or returning travellers to Rome. This is by all means not an exhaustive list… but a few things to help you get started planning your trip or to just make you hungry looking at all of those carbs!!
If you have any additional tips, please share them in the comment section below!