Apparently, all roads lead to Rome. If this is true, we should all meet end up in the Eternal City sooner or later. Have you started packing yet? Regardless of when you’re planning to make the trip, these insider tips will help make your visit unforgettable for all the right reasons.
The best-laid plans
Are you a super-organised traveller who books everything six months in advance? Or do you favour a more laidback, last-minute approach? However you like to travel, Rome is such a big city, packed with so many exciting sites and activities, that thinking ahead will help you to really get the most out of your trip:
- Consider which time of year you would like to visit. Peak season is from June to August, although Spring can also be very busy as people flock to the Vatican for Lent and Easter. If you don’t cope well with high summer temperatures, you may like to think about coming in May, or September/October.
- Accept that you will not be able to see everything. Make a list of the sites that you would be heartbroken to miss, but also allow time to just wander and enjoy the many piazze and churches.
- Purchasing tickets for popular attractions in advance will considerably cut down on queuing time. During peak season, queues at key tourist sites can last as much as four hours – that’s a long time to wait!
Visiting Rome: getting around
Rome is known as the City of the Seven Hills and is full of charming cobblestone streets – sensible footwear is a must. Given the size of even the historic centre, it is also advisable to look carefully at the various transport options to maximise your energy for sightseeing.
- There are lots of public transport options including buses, trams, the Roman metro and overground trains. Choose from single tickets or travel passes valid for 1, 3, 5 or 7 days, but make sure that you validate your ticket before starting your journey.
- Officially licensed taxis are white, with a sign on the roof, and have meters. They can be found at taxi ranks or hailed in the street.
- If you’re looking for a nice accommodation to stay, here you can find a great list of flat to rent in the Eternal City. We highly recommend you to choose the area of Trastevere, full of delicious restaurants, cafès, bar and it’s very close to the main attractions.
Food, glorious food! That’s worth visiting Rome!
Italy is a foodie’s daydream, but there is actually no such thing as “Italian food“. Each region has its own distinctive cuisine and dishes may be quite different to the standard pasta/pizza fare dished up in Italian restaurants in your home city. However, not all restaurants in Rome will offer the same high standard and it’s worth asking around to avoid the tourist traps:
- Look out for places called “trattoria”, which serve local food at reasonable prices. Italians tend to eat dinner quite late, so you may be the only customer if you arrive before 8 pm, especially in summer.
- Famous Roman dishes include pasta all’amatriciana (tomatoes, bacon and pepper), pasta alla carbonara (bacon, eggs, black pepper and parmesan) and pasta cacio e pepe (pepper and Pecorino cheese – sharper than parmesan). All the three contain a lot of pepper, so be careful if you don’t like spicy food. My 2 best restaurants ever are Taverna Trilussa – in Trastevere area, and Osteria degli Amici, in the near district of Testaccio.
- Ice-cream parlours labelled “gelateria artigianale” sell ice cream made with only fresh ingredients and no artificial additives – delicious! Again, ask around to avoid tourist magnets that are only using the label for marketing purposes.
A little Italian goes a long way
Making the effort to pick up a few words of Italian will be appreciated. However, if you’re not sure how to say something, it’s better to switch to English than to Spanish. Even though Italian and Spanish are closely related, it may make people suspect that you don’t know the difference.
Good morning = Buongiorno
Good evening = Buonasera
Goodbye = Arrivederci
Please note that it’s customary to greet and say goodbye to shopkeepers or shop assistants.
Yes = Sì
No = No
Thanks = Grazie
When refusing an offer from a street vendor, answer with a firm “No, grazie” and move on.
Please = Per favore
Thank you = Grazie or Grazie mille
You’re welcome = Prego
Excuse me/sorry = Mi scusi or Scusi
To ask for the cheque in a restaurant, raise your hand and say “mi scusi“. When you have the waiter’s attention, say “può portarmi il conto?“.
The art of politeness visiting Rome
Learning about a different culture is one of the benefits of travelling. Here are a few tips to help avoid upsetting the locals:
- Dress appropriately for religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees, and avoid making noise. This is a sensitive issue and you may be refused entry if underdressed.
- Tradition states that throwing coins in the Trevi fountain means that you will return to Rome in the future. However, please avoid throwing coins at the other fountains and definitely don’t jump in or wash your feet in them.
- Don’t forget: the Pantheon is in Rome and the Parthenon is in Athens!
We are almost out of time, but our final tip is to fill up your water bottle at one of the many public water fountains dotted around the city, which look like old-fashioned water hydrants. A great way to cool off on a hot day! Hope you enjoy your time in this ancient city and that you have a great trip!