Rome Travel Tips
Rome was not built in a day and has the spectacular treasures to prove it…
Rome has provided the pretty backdrop to many a Hollywood movie: Three Coins In The Fountain, Seven Hills of Rome and Roman Holiday to name but three.
It’s the city of the Caesars, of romance, the city of la dolce vita and long sunny days, the city of endless art, churches and museums, fountain-splashed piazzas and majestic monuments to its golden age of empire.
Those monuments will already be familiar to many – the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. But one of the greatest pleasures of exploring Rome is the number of times you stumble across hidden corners, wonderful viewpoints, evocative street scenes and touching vignettes of daily life.
Getting to Rome
By AirRome has two main airports, Leonardo da Vinci (better known as Fiumicino) and Ciampino. www.adr.it
Most international carriers fly to Fiumicino; low-cost and charter airlines usually fly to Ciampino. There are non-stop flights from most major European cities as well as many US and Canadian cities. The best way to get into Rome from Fiumicino is to take the Leonardo Express, which goes every half-hour to Rome’s main railway station for 8.80 Euros.
The journey’s about 35 minutes. If you opt for a cab, make sure it’s an official one – white, with taxi lights on top. The fare will be around 40 Euros. If you arrive at Ciampino, take the Terravision airport coach service. It costs about 7 Euros for a 40-minute journey to the main railway station. A cab will cost around 30 Euros.
Numerous fast and overnight services operate to Rome from most European capitals, with connections from major towns. Rome has several stations, but most international services stop at Stazione Termini or Roma Tiburtina.
Entry to Italy by road is best made via the Mont Blanc Tunnel (France); the Brenner Pass (Austria) and the St Bernard Tunnel, Chiasso or Simplon Pass (from Switzerland). Driving in Rome is not for the faint-hearted. Traffic is heavy, parking is often haphazard and tempers are notoriously short.
Tips on Rome Holiday
Italian is delightfully easy on the ear and relatively easy to learn. A few polite phrases might break the ice. Try Buongiorno (Good morning) or Bueno sera (Good evening). Come sta? (How Are You?) or Quanto costa? (How much?)
Currency And Tipping
The Italians use the Euro, made up of 100 cents. Tipping is not expected for all services, and rates are lower than those elsewhere. As a general guide, cabs: round up to the nearest 50 cents; restaurants: around 2 Euros 50; porters: 1 Euro a bag.
Rome can be extremely uncomfortable in the high summer, with temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius in July and August. Light clothes and sensible planning will prevent you becoming hot and bothered in the Roman fray. Top restaurants might demand formal dress for dinner, but for the majority, it’s smart casual.
Rome is generally safe, but take precautions. Pickpockets are the main worry so carry money and valuables in a belt or pouch, wear your camera, leave valuables and jewellery in the hotel safe and avoid gangs of street children.
Many of Rome's sights can be visited on foot – there are organised walks taking in monuments and other places of interest on the way. There’s also a small, efficient (but crowded) subway system that will take you to the outskirts of the city.
Rome Top Ten Attractions
Probably Rome’s most recognisable sight - a huge amphitheatre, completed in AD80 and the scene of gladiator fights and battles with wild animals.
The heart of ancient Rome for thousands of years. Now has many ruins and a few standing buildings.
Rome’s best-preserved monument of antiquity, built in 27BC. Inside are several tombs, including that of the painter, Raphael.
The Trevi Fountain
The most famous and spectacular of Rome’s many fountains. Legend has it that if you throw in a coin, you will return to the city one day.
The Spanish Steps
There are almost 140 of them and it’s the ‘in’ place to hang out in Rome. People sit and read, take photos, write postcards or just show off. In early May, there’s a beautiful display of flowers.
St Peter’s Basilica
Worth the inevitable lines and security checks to enter. Underneath Michelangelo’s huge dome is a cathedral that’s truly awesome – eleven chapels, forty-five altars and priceless works of art. http://www.stpetersbasilica.org
The independent state that forms an enclave within Rome, where the Pope is guarded by handsomely-dressed Swiss Guard. This is the centre of the Roman Catholic faith that draws pilgrims from all over the world. http://www.vatican.va
The Sistine Chapel
Situated within the Vatican Palace, the Chapel contains the breathtaking ceiling painting by Michaelangelo and other stunning frescoes. http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sistine
The climb to the top of this hill rewards you with a marvellous panorama of the entire city. Add a sunset and you have a perfect Roman moment.
A huge square with an imposing fountain embodying the spirit of the Baroque age. A place to linger and enjoy Gelati – the renowned Italian ice cream.
Eating and Drinking
Few things – perhaps only cars, football and families – come between Romans and a good meal. A summer evening’s meal al fresco can be one of Rome’s most memorable experiences. The city’s specialities may not always be appetising – things like tripe, brains, salt cod and offal – but more common Italian staples like pizza and a hundred kinds of pasta can be found in most restaurants.
The streets around Piazza Navona contain many restaurants, though few areas are without their quiet neighbourhood trattorias and pizzerias. It’s often in these places – away from tourist areas - that you will enjoy your best, and most reasonably priced meal. Book before you go … and find the most stylish places to eat at
Though not a city to compare with London, Paris or New York, Rome still has much to satisfy the wealthy and discerning shopper. It’s best known for its luxury goods – silks, leather, jewellery, shoes and accessories are of the highest quality. The most exclusive shops cluster in the grid of streets around Via dei Condotti and Piazza di Spagna (by the Spanish Steps).
Less expensive streets include Via del Corso, Via Nazionale and Via del Tritone. La Rinascente is Rome’s grandest department store with branches at Piazza Colonna and Piazza Fiume. Rome’s most attractive food and vegetable market is in Piazza Campo dei Fiori. Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, however, is the city’s main market, selling food and general goods.
Porta Portese is the city’s most famous flea market (Sunday only - and it’s crowded). Via Sannio next to San Giovanni in Laterano has a smaller junk and second-hand clothes market on Saturdays.
Nightlife for many Romans means a meal in a pavement café, although there are more active nightspots to be found. Jazz and Latin music clubs are especially popular in Rome. For the Latin beat, try Caffe Caruso on Via Monte Testaccio.
Yes!Brazil in Via San Francesco is also a lot of fun. The best overall spot is said to be Big Mama (Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa) with both jazz and blues. www.bigmama.it Sitting at cafes until the small hours is a feature of Rome’s summer nightlife. Caffe della Pace (Via della Pace) is the most popular. Pubs and beer halls are also well frequented. Try the Fiddler’s Elbow on Via dell’Ormata.
Out side Rome
The ancient town of Tivoli is the most popular one-day excursion from Rome. Some 20 miles from the city centre, it’s known for two main sights, the Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa celebrated for its gardens (www.villadestetivoli.info), and the Villa Adriana (http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/901_Hadrians_Villa.html), a vast villa and grounds created by the Emperor Hadrian.
Trains run from main termini to Tivoli, but this can be a slow journey. Buses depart every 10 or 20 minutes from the Ponte Mammolo Metro station (Line B). The journey time is 50 minutes. If you have time to spare, Frascati offers a cool, calm retreat from Rome’s heat and hustle.
The Villa Aldobrandini was built at the end of the 16th century and was one of the few old buildings to survive the bombing during 1943 and 1944 that destroyed 80 percent of old Frascati. The villa itself is closed to the public, but some of the grounds are open and offer excellent views of Rome in the hazy distance. Trains depart from main termini every hour and the journey takes 30 minutes.