Rome sits on top of some of the oldest ruins in the world. This major city has 2.7 million inhabitants, yet when you visit, it still feels like a small community.
The people are generous, the food is plentiful and the sites are breathtaking.
By day you can be touring the Colosseum where Roman battles used to take place, and by night dining with strangers who feel like longtime friends. We have highlighted the basics and hope you love the city as much as we do.
How to get around
There are two airports that service Rome: Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) for International arrivals and Ciampino Airport (CIA) for domestic flights. Both airports have trains, buses or taxis that can take you to the city center.
From FCO, the fastest route to the city center is to buy a ticket for a Trenitalia train. At the airport, you will see kiosks to buy a ticket. You do not need to buy one in advance.
You must VALIDATE your ticket before you get onto the train.
Before you enter the train you will see small kiosks to slip the ticket into, and it will make a mark on the ticket indicating you are validated.
The train costs approximately €10 and runs every 20 minutes and takes 30 minutes to the city center (Roma Termini Railway Station). The train also has outlets to charge your electronics.
You can also take a bus, which costs €2, but it can be confusing to maneuver around, so we suggest the train. A taxi will cost about €55-€70. Just be prepared to possibly wait a while for the subways and trains as they are usually late.
The city has a subway system called Metropolitana, or Metro.
- There are only 3 lines, and the trains run every 7-10 minutes and are efficient.
- They are covered in graffiti and do not exactly smell like flowers, but it’s cheap and fast.
- A one-way ticket is €1.50 or a day pass is €6.00.
- The city is also very walkable. We stayed on the east side of the city and walked all the way to the Vatican and it took about an hour.
- The buses run frequently, but tend to be very crowded and the maps are crazy to follow. We suggest walking or taking the subway.
Rome can be expensive, as it’s a major city.
Hostels will cost anywhere from $25-$40 USD a night, meals are $10-$50 and tourist attractions range anywhere from $0- $20. If you prefer to stay in an Airbnb, the prices range from $50- $300 a night depending on the season and location. Hotels will range from $100-$200 a night.
You may want to consider buying the Roma Pass if you plan on seeing multiple museums.
This pass will give you entrance to a few museums plus subway rides. We go into detail on the costs under each attraction below.
For meals, eat breakfast at the hostel, go to the supermarket for some snacks to bring with you on your daily walks, and eat sandwiches or pizza for lunch, which can range from $5 – $12.
Dinner can be a combination of dining out, $35-$50; and making meals at the hostel. We suggest going to the local supermarket and checking out the fresh produce, meats, and cheeses.
In Rome, there are a LOT of cured meats and some of the most delicious cheeses, all for purchase at the grocery store.
Where to stay
The city is walkable, there is an old ruin or site to see within walking distance of where you are staying.
We recommend staying at the Yellow Hostel. It is a lively hostel, hosting a wide range of ages. It was recently renovated and looks like a hotel, but with multiple beds in one room.
The notable thing about this hostel is that there is an Italian restaurant right next door (a real one, not a tourist trap), and they own a large bar that has live cover bands most nights. It is an excellent place to socialize and make friends to see the sites with.
What to do
The first thing we always suggest doing is to take a walking tour.
It will give you a lay of the land and an idea of what attractions you want to spend your money on.
Most hostels offer free ones. If you are not staying in a hostel, New Rome Free Tours offers tours every day. There is a lot to see and do in Rome, but below are basic tips to help you stay on track during your visit.
The Vatican is comprised of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
- Buy your ticket online in advance, we cannot stress this enough. The entire city is crowded and filled with tourists. Purchase them for early morning or late before they close to avoid the largest of the crowds.
- Try not to go on the weekend and Monday. Tuesday thru Friday is best.
- Head towards the rear of the Vatican City (behind the church, walk alongside a tall stone wall) to enter the museum first. The Sistine Chapel is located at the very back of the museum. Your shoulders and knees must be covered to enter. There is a hidden door for tour groups only, that will lead you directly into St. Peter’s inside of the Chapel, sneak inside with a large group to go unnoticed.
- Once in St. Peters, you can go to the copula to see breathtaking views of the city. However, even if you pay the €7 to take the elevator you will still have 320 steps to climb in a tight space. If you do not like tight spaces and steep inclines you may want to avoid the climb.
The second busiest tourist attraction in Rome, you should allot at least 4 hours to tour this space.
The actual Colosseum does not take 4 hours to see, but the grounds and getting through security can hold you up for a while. Do NOT get haggled into going on a “group” tour. You can see the site yourself without a guide.
- Buy your ticket on Palatine Hill. There are two locations to buy your tickets, at the Colosseum itself and at Palatine Hill. The Hill is 5 minutes from the Colosseum entrance, walk down Via di San Gregio away from the Colosseum and the entrance to the Hill will be on your right.
- Use the restrooms inside the Hill, as soon as you enter. The bathrooms at the Colosseum will have long lines. You do not need to explore the Hill, you can turn right around and head back to the Colosseum. Tickets are €12 in both locations, same price, no lines at the Hill.
- Getting through security can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. Be prepared to wait. You also cannot bring any food or drink inside, that includes WATER.
- Buy the audio tour. Walking around the Colosseum aimlessly is pointless and you won’t know what you are looking at unless you have a historical knowledge of the area already. Spend the €5.50 and an hour and 10 minutes to walk the site.
It is the oldest preserved ancient monument in the world, once a temple and now a church. It dates back to 120 AD; that’s pretty old!
Try to go near sunset when the square looks beautiful and there is usually live music being played outdoors. The Pantheon is free to enter.
This large white marble fountain is free to see, but it is swamped with tourists.
Go early in the morning, before breakfast time or very late at night, after 11 pm to avoid the crowds and get pictures without people’s heads in them. Don’t forget to make a wish by throwing a penny into the fountain!
This park is free and it is beautiful. We did our morning runs throughout the park. It is quiet, beautifully landscaped and you may even catch people using rowboats near one of the monuments.
Where and what to eat
There are a lot of tourist traps in Rome. Be aware of restaurants that have menus with pictures of the food, or hosts standing outside trying to get you to look at the menu.
There is no shortage of amazingly fresh food, but choose wisely before entering so you are not ripped off. Our suggestion is to head to the market to get the real taste of Italy and avoid the tourist traps.
An open-air market with local vendors serving up their family recipes and prize-winning dishes. It is only open from 6 am – 2 am. You can taste fresh ravioli, bruschetta, burino and burrata made on-site, and of course, your favorite Italian desserts polished off with an espresso. Some items you can eat right then and there, and others you can take with you back to your hostel or Airbnb kitchen.
This restaurant is the epitome of Italy. The servers were handsome and kind, knowledgeable about the food, and extremely attentive throughout the entire meal.
The food is impeccable. The cheese plate is served with a fresh fig jam and freshly baked semolina bread.
Each pasta dish is handmade and each sauce delicious to the last drop. We ate here four times over the course of 5 days, that’s how good it is.
Considered a restaurant, as they do have seating in the rear, this small venue located near the Pantheon sells cured meats, cheese, and biscotti.
They usually have free samples of pork being freshly sliced for you as you enter.
Italy is not known for their pubs, they are more famous for their wine bars which you can find on every corner. However, we stumbled into the only pub in Rome playing American football one Sunday night.
They carry beers from all over the world on tap, with Peroni as the beer of the day (of course). Even though every American tourist was in the bar at the time, it was a nice break from our European month long trip to hear some familiar accents.
Yes it is a chain restaurant. However, it really does have the best tiramisu. Get a fresh piece, not one in the coolers, it will taste much better. Ladyfingers, mascarpone, coffee and a hint of cocoa, nothing gets better than that! Mangia!
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