Rome is a beautiful city blending the conservation of an ancient time with the innovation of a modern era. The current city of Rome was literally built right on top of ancient Rome, so you will see ruins and reminisce of the ancient city everywhere you go. Of course, Rome is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, so especially during peak season, be prepared for massive crowds. I will help you plan your visit so you get to see the best of the best, as well as experience the magic of Rome, even with the swarms of crowds.
Rome – FCO
Rome (Ciampino) – CIA
Electrical Outlets: 230V supply voltage and 50Hz, plug type C
Airport to downtown: Arriving in a new country, many people would be tempted to just take a taxi, but taking the train from FCO to Rome is by far the cheapest, quickest, and easiest option. You will need to buy a ticket for the “Leonard Express” on Trenitalia – it costs 14 Euro per person. You can buy this ticket from kiosks (self-serve green or red ticket booths in baggage claim and throughout the exit), or at the train station itself. Keep in mind, the train station is about a 15 minute walk from baggage claim through the airport, so make sure you buy a ticket for the right time. Then, simply follow the signs for “Train” and you’ll arrive at the station! Whenever taking Trenitalia or Italo (two train companies in Italy, same concept just competitors), check if you need to validate your ticket. If you do, there should be a spot on your ticket that says “validate” and then a blank space. If you see this, stick your ticket into one of the green machines inside the platform gates and it will stamp your ticket.
Getting around the city: If you’re game to lace up your walking shoes, Rome is very walkable so you can get around most of the city on foot. Warning – because of the old cobblestone streets and ancient steps all around, the city is NOT easily handicap accessible. We walked pretty much everywhere except to Vatican City. To get to Vatican City, we took the metro which was surprisingly easy to use. We bought single ride tickets at the booth in the station and used google maps to figure out the stops. Pro tip – have small bills cash to buy the tickets. In most stations only one of four kiosks accepts card and there’s always a line. The kiosks only accept small bills, it kept spitting back our 20 Euro.
Accommodation: There are tons of hotel, Airbnb, and B&B options that allow you to walk to most destinations in the city. I was only in Rome for 3 nights and wanted to eat most of my meals out, so I opted for a hotel – Relais De L’Opera. The hotel was air conditioned, comfortable, and walking distance from most of the main sights.
Food: Honestly, it is hard to find a bad meal in Rome. Almost anywhere you go will be great, but here are the tips I got from my local friends to find a good spot:
When in Rome, you have to try Carbonara, Gricia, Cacio e Pepe, Fried or Roman style artichokes, and of course, gelato!
Tours: Rome is a beautiful sight to see, but there is so much history and context that makes the city even more beautiful. I highly highly recommend getting a tour guide for some places otherwise you won’t really understand what you’re seeing. The first time I was in Rome, I did a “Heart of Rome” tour that took me to all the major sights – not including the Colosseum and Roman Forum. This time, we used the “tours” in the Rick Steves Guide Book and this worked out great. If there is one place where you decide to get a tour, I recommend the Roman Forum. There is such rich history, and if you don’t have anyone to tell you what you’re looking at, it just doesn’t have the same effect.
Trevi Fountain: Located in Piazza di Trevi, this iconic Roman fountain is a must-see when visiting Rome. Although, everyone else knows it is a must see so it is always swarmed with crowds. If you really want to see it with less crowds – you need to go at 5:00 AM. This is the sweet spot between the early risers and the night owls. I went at 1:00 AM thinking the crowds would have died down, but it was still a sea of people. Crowds or no crowds, grab a gelato and admire the beautiful and massive fountain designed and created by Nicola Salvi in 1762. People come from all over the world to throw a coin in the fountain (right hand over left shoulder per the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain”), ensuring their return to Rome.
Pantheon: Make sure you visit one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings in the city. The Pantheon was originally a Roman temple, then converted into a Catholic church. Go inside (free entrance!) and marvel at the architecture of the gigantic freestanding dome. I highly recommend going inside, but make sure you time your visit so that it is not during a mass. Saturdays at 5:00 PM and Sundays at 10:30 AM – they won’t let in visitors.
Piazza Navona: One of my absolute favorite places in Rome, walk two blocks over from the Pantheon and you will be in Piazza Navona. The piazza is marked with three iconic fountains – the middle one ( La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) being the most famous. Hang out in the piazza, watch the street performers, check out the random vendors, or stop at one of the many cafes lining the plaza to grab an apertivo.
Spanish Steps: Historic 135 steps running between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, the Spanish Steps are another icon of Rome. There’s nothing much to do here but see them, and honestly I skipped coming here the last time I was in Rome.
*Local Tip: Start in Piazza del Popolo and walk down Via del Corso through the main shopping district in Rome. Turn left on Via Borgognona until you hit the Spanish Steps. Then continue on to Piazza Venezia back in the heart of Rome.
the museum are only 8 Euro. National Museum of Rome: Definitely not the most popular museum in Rome, this is a great place to see an extensive collection of Roman sculpture and avoid crowds. Tickets to
Roman Forum: This massive forum is where daily life took place back in ancient Rome. The area was buried for a long time and excavated in the 20th century, exposing and restoring the ruins you can explore today. This is a ticketed area, but I highly recommend getting a tour to walk you through the forum since there are so many incredible stories and facts that go along with the ruins you will see.
Surrounding the Colosseum: There is so much to see around the Colosseum and it’s hard to explain it all – but make sure you spend time wandering around Palatine Hill, Imperial Forum, Trajan’s Market, Circus Maximus, Campidoglio (Michelangelo designed hilltop square), and more!
*Local Tip: On top of Campidoglio you can get an aperitivo at Terrazza Caffarelli with an amazing view
*Local Tip #2: La Serratura is a nice little trick near Circo Massimo in a nice residential area
Victor Emmanuel II Monument: This modern monument in front of Piazza Venezia was built to honor Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. This is a huge monument right at the base of Capitoline Hill. You can enter for free and climb up the massive staircase on the front of the monument for great views of the city, but there’s not much to see inside.
This is another place I recommend getting a tour. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel are a must-see at some point in your life, but it can be a bit crazy to coordinate it all. The line to get into all of these places is always insanely long – and this is only for people who already have tickets. It is nearly impossible to buy tickets upon arrival.
If you’re going to skip going into the sights, I still recommend going to see St. Peter’s Square. You can walk around the square and see the basilica from the outside, then wander down Via della Conciliazione to Castel Sant’Angelo. We walked around the Castel from the outside, then wandered along the river, exploring the local markets.
Trastevere: One of my favorite parts of Rome, head across the river – stopping on Isola Tiberina, a little island in the Tiber river – to the lovely neighborhood of Trastevere. I would like to say this is a less crowded area, but most people have also figured out the charm of this neighborhood and it is usually quite busy. This neighborhood is a great spot to find bars and restaurants. We went to Tonnarello for a great meal.
*Local Tip: Head to Trattoria da Augusto if you want a really local family style trattoria
If you’re up for a bit of a hike, you can go up to Gianicolo – a hill with a beautiful viewpoint.
Quartiere Coppedé: Possibly the nicest residential area in Rome, this neighborhood is just a few streets that you can wander.
Parioli and Prati: Modern and wealthier residential areas that are interesting to explore if you want to see a different style of neighborhood. You can walk to the Bridge of Music and then to the Auditorium (modern architecture). Check out the Galleria d’Arte Moderna for a nice modern museum experience.
*Local Tip: Eat at “Cacio e Pepe”