Rome was the first city I ever visited in Italy back in 2003. I remember thinking, “oh my God, I’ve been to Italy, now I’m complete!”
I’ve been back to Rome a handful of times now, and I can say my very favorite time of year is springtime in Rome. My favorite memory in Rome isn’t the Vatican or the Trevi Fountain (although those are up there), it was getting drenched in a sudden downpour and running undercover into a dimly lit bar (Italian coffee shop), laughing over a hot drink.
While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Rome, I do hope that I can point you in the direction of some valuable resources from the people who are experts. (And if you live in Rome or have some valuable tips, please be sure to leave a comment!)
I’ve noticed a few things have changed in Rome over the years. For example, the Foro Romano, or Roman Forum, used to be completely free, and you could just walk in. Now, it’s fenced off and you have to buy a ticket.
Here are my tips (based on my experience):
Buy your tickets to major attractions in advance.
I cannot stress this enough. There was a line for the Vatican literally a mile long, and we happily cut to the front of the line with our tour guide (we were happy with our guides for the Colosseum and Vatican from Blue Italy Tours). Not to mention, a good tour guide will provide information to make the attractions much more interesting and memorable. So worth it.
Stay in the historic city center.
I say this because last time we stayed in an otherwise lovely Airbnb, but had to commute 20 minutes both way by tram to the historic city center. Save 40 minutes of your day exploring the ancient ruins, not someone’s armpit on a sweltering tram ride.
I kept thinking how lovely it would be to just walk out the door or look out the window and see the romantic historic center of Rome, like when we stayed at the dreamy Hotel Veneto Palace years ago.
Rome is a very walkable city. Most of the famous attractions are within walking distance from each other (I would say with the exception of the Vatican).
Another reason to stay in the historic city center is that taxi drivers charge more to drive outside of the “Aurelian walls.” (Click here to read all about taking taxis in Rome).
Go on an Angels & Demons scavenger hunt.
When I visited Rome with my brother and cousin nearly 10 years ago, I had just read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. It mentions so many obscure statues and monuments that I was determined to find out if they really existed (they do). It was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done. It forced me to really notice and admire many statues and monuments I normally would have walked past without a care. If you were intrigued by the book like me, I highly recommend doing an Angel’s & Demons self-guided walking tour. (I didn’t use a guide though, I just wrote down all of the places mentioned in the book and found them).
Download CityMaps2Go and never get lost.
The best thing I ever did was download CityMaps2Go before my trip. As an American, international cell phone plans are VERY expensive, and I only had like 15 minutes of data to use for my entire trip. I was constantly on a hunt for cafes with free wifi. CityMaps2Go was so easy to use and didn’t use any data. Lifesaver.
And I’ve got a few things on my wish list for my next trip:
Learn about ancient Roman history.
If you’re a history buff like me, I highly, highly recommend watching Mary Beard’s 3-part series “Meet the Romans” (available on YouTube). She has a way of bringing the people of ancient Rome to life. I’ve become obsessed with learning all about ancient Rome from her!
Now that I’ve done all of the major tourist attractions, like the Coloseum, Vatican, Roman Forum, etc. I am just itching to do a walking tour of the ancient Appian Way and also visit the catacombs that Mary Beard mentions in her documentary.
Taste the best of Rome.
I can’t lie, almost more than the history, I am drawn to Italy for the food.
As far as restaurants go, Elizabeth Minchilli is the Roman food goddess and has many great restaurant recommendations. I’ve been admiring her snaps and Instagram posts for quite some time, and can’t wait to try some of her suggestions (she also has a food tour that looks amazing!).
I had the worst pizza I’ve ever tasted in Rome (when I was young and naive and didn’t know how to avoid tourist traps). Next time I’m definitely going to take advice from the experts on where to dine.
Have coffee with kitties.
Who doesn’t love coffee? And kitties? Cats are prowling everywhere amongst Roman ruins, but I can’t wait to visit Romeow Cat Bistro on my next trip. I visited a cat cafe in San Francisco, and I adore the concept.
Well, those are my tips for visiting Rome in a nutshell!
If you live in Rome or have visited before, share your tips in the comments!