Home to the iconic Colosseum, Rome is one of those cities that everyone has to see once in their life as it has so much history.
When to Go
In the summer months (mainly July and August), the city is swarming with tourists and all of the sites will be very crowded. The weather gets very hot as well and prices are higher for accommodation and transportation. If you can, avoid the peak months and book your trip during May, June or September as the weather is still good.
If coming from North America there are daily direct flights from New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Toronto on many different airlines. If you can’t fly direct, there are numerous daily flights to Rome from all of the main cities in Europe.
Currency & Payment
Italy is a part of the EU, so they use Euros here (€). $1US is equal to approximately €0.86. $1CAD is equal to approximately €0.68. Try to get some euros at your local bank before heading over as the exchange rates at the airport and in the touristy parts of the city aren’t great. Credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere here and ATMs are frequently found. Tipping isn’t mandatory but leave a few euros change or round up the bill if the service is good.
Before you Go
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your departure date
- Pack converters to charge your devices. Power sockets in Italy are type C and F (two pronged round sockets). The standard voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
- If you have a student ID, bring it as it will save you money on entrance fees to the sites.
- Get some Euros at your local bank before heading over to save on the exchange rates.
- Italy is a bit more expensive than other countries in the EU so expect to spend a bit more here for everything.
- Download the map of Rome on your maps.me or Google maps app on your phone and pin all of the locations you want to visit.
The attractions of the city are spread out a bit but you can easily walk everywhere if located centrally. In the summer months it can get very hot though so if you don’t want to walk you can always take the metro for only €1.50 per ride, open 5:30am to 11:30pm (to 1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays). It is really nice to just wander the streets of Rome though and stumble upon local eateries and shops. Another good option to get around the city to see the attractions is to get a hop-on hop-off bus ticket. Cita Roma is the cheapest option for €19 per person and regular red Hop-On-Hop-Off bus is €23 per person for one day. Try to avoid taxis if on a budget as they are quite expensive and will cost around €10-15 just for a short taxi ride within the city center. They will also charge more if you take one after 10pm and if you have luggage.
Rome has two main airports. You will likely fly into the Fiumicino (FCO) airport if flying from North America. It is about 26km southwest of the city near the ocean. If flying into the FCO airport, take the Leonardo Express train. It will take you from the FCO airport direct to the Termini station in the city center. It runs every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 11:30pm and takes about 32 minutes. It costs €14 per person. Make sure to validate your ticket on the platform before entering the train. If heading to the airport on the Leonardo Express, the trains from Termini will depart from track 24. The local metro line connects to the Termini station so look up ahead of time which station is closest to you so you can just transfer from there. If you want to take a taxi, it is a set fare of €48 (for the white Roma Capitale taxis) and will take you about an hour.
If flying Ryanair into Rome, you will flying into the Ciampino Airport (CIA) which is about 37km southeast from the city. To get to the city center, take the SIT Shuttle Bus for €4. It runs 7:45am to 11:55pm every day and it takes about 40 minutes to get to the Termini Station from the airport. If you want to take a taxi, it is a set fare €30.
Where to Stay
Stay in the Navona/Pantheon area if you can. It is very walkable to everything and has many restaurant choices close by. Also, in Europe, your hotel points go a lot further than if used in the US. SPG has a great deal for the Meridien Visconti Hotel using not too many points and it is only a short walk from the Vatican and Trevi Fountain. Make sure to book your accommodation early though, especially if visiting during the summer months.
What to Do
Rome has so much history and because of this, many of the main attractions are historical monuments and sites.
- Colosseum and the Roman Forum – buy tickets online to avoid long line. Tickets cost €12 per person (plus a €4 for purchasing online). Ticket is good for Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palestine Hill. If you can’t or forget to buy tickets ahead of time online, buy them at the Roman Forum ticket office as the line is significantly shorter.
- Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica – Vatican museums entrance fee is €16 per person (plus a €4 pre sales fee if bought online). It is really worth it to buy tickets ahead of time online because the line gets really long. Purchase as far in advance as you can, guided tours can sell out weeks in advance. St. Peters Basilica is free to enter, but again get ready to wait in line. You can purchase a guided tour that lets you skip the line if you want. No large bags are allowed, you can bring in plastic water bottles, and make sure you wear clothes that cover your shoulders and no shorts/short skirts. If you happen to be visiting on the last Sunday of the month, the museums are free.
- Trevi Fountain – make sure to throw a coin over your shoulder in the fountain and make a wish! Although, usually you through the coin in to ensure you will return to Rome. Around €3000 is thrown daily into the fountain which is now collected daily and given to charity.
- Spanish Steps – has a nice view from the top and in a perfect location for shoppers as it is surrounded by high-end designer boutiques in the Tridente area.
- Pantheon – the best-preserved ancient monument and doesn’t cost anything to enter.
- Piazza Navona – a large beautiful plaza that houses many shops and restaurants.
- Chiostro del Bramante museum – check out what artists are being shown at the museum and visit it if interested. When I was there they had a great Jean-Michel Basquiat show.
Where to Eat/Drink
Most restaurants you will stumble across will have decent food, especially if ordering Italian. Try to avoid the main touristy areas if on a budget. There are so many good restaurants in the city but here are a few that are recommended.
- La Scala – located in the Trastevere area, this Italian restaurant has great pastas and a nice patio.
- Pizza Napule – great place for pizzas and each one will cost around €9. They are quite big and can easily be shared.
- l’impiccetta – a very traditional roman restaurant in the Trastevere area. The portions are big and it’s reasonable. The pasta there is a must.
- Fuoco Restaurant – open until late, this eatery has some good non-traditional options for food. Their homemade pasta is delicious.
- La Francesca – a great local restaurant located near the palace of justice. Reasonably priced and delicious food. It is best to make a reservation for dinner if you want one of the tables outside.
- Fatto Gelato and Millennium for gelato.
- Via dei Coronari – great reasonable restaurants, perfect for lunch, snack or a drink.
- Bar del Fico – casual bohemian bar to grab some drinks.
- Coho Apartments – an apartment-style snack bar, great to grab some drinks.