A city full of food, art, history, and its own little country. Is it any wonder Rome is the most visited city in Italy?
I’ll be upfront: you will never have enough time in Rome. You could live there for years and still discover amazing pieces of artwork in chapels hidden all around the city. You just can’t see it all! But you still can see the parts you most want to see. And if you don’t have any ideas, just read this blog post!
When Should I Go?
Just like with Venice & Florence, I highly recommend visiting Rome in October. You are far less likely to deal with maddening crowds. Rome is a little colder in October, so if you don’t want to bring a coat with you, I recommend September. (And you’ll be surprised: low season is still pretty crowded!)
Where to Stay
Rome is an expansive city. You aren’t going to find a hotel that is near absolutely everything. But you can make smart choices based on your itinerary.
If you’ll be spending most of your time visiting Vatican City (and you could—it’s got a plethora of things to see!), stay at Hotel Michelangelo. It’s a beautiful hotel, situated steps away from the Vatican. However, it is on the opposite side of the river from most of Rome’s other sights.
If you’re planning on spending a day or less visiting the Vatican, you’ll want to stay at the Pantheon Inn. As you can tell, based on its name, it is located near the Pantheon. In fact it is quite centrally located—ideal for any large city.
But if both of those options seem out of your budget, Hotel Tirreno is an excellent option. Because its rates are lower, it’s not as centrally located, but is instead closer to the train station. However, it is not on the outskirts of Rome, and getting around the city will still be quite manageable even if you plan to walk! One of my clients who stayed there loved its “large rooms and incredibly friendly staff!”
Where to Eat
You can’t truly appreciate Rome if you’re not eating gelato at least twice a day. (I kid! Maybe…) But gelato’s not the only thing Rome has to offer.
For a more private dining experience, try Tratorria Polese located near the Vatican. It’s a family-run restaurant, set back away from the busy streets. A couple of clients (who stayed in Rome a week) ate there several times!
If you’re a fan of pasta carbonara, visit Ristorante Abruzzi. As my clients say of this restaurant, “order the pasta carbonara, and we mean it!”
Travel Agent Expert Tip: Tipping is not expected in Italy…at least from Italian customers. US tourists are more likely to tip out of habit, setting up the expectation that Americans always tip. However, that still shouldn’t make you feel obligated to tip. You don’t need to tip more than 10% for exceptional service. (And always check your bill for a service charge called servicio; that is a tip already added.)
What to Do
You’ve probably got a whole bucket list of things you want to do in Rome: Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Colosseum, Sistine Chapel. It can get overwhelming to choose! To help, I’ve picked out some client-tried-and-tested experiences that will make your trip all the more memorable.
Visit the Colosseum at night! Not only are there fewer crowds, you’ll get to see these historic ruins from a completely unique perspective! City Wonders has a fantastic three-hour tour that also lets you skip the line. (And as I mentioned before, skipping the line is very important!)
The Sistine Chapel is hands down a must, and the best way to visit is to be in one of the first tours of the day. City Wonders (yeah, them again! I’ve had great reviews from clients about their tours!) offers an Early Sistine Chapel tour that starts at 7:15 AM. The benefit of this early tour is you get to spend much more time (and more relaxed time) taking in the magnificent ceiling. If you take a tour later in the day, you will be rushed through, since so many people will be visiting. A bonus about this tour: you can spend the rest of the day visiting the Vatican museums for as long or as short as you want for no extra cost!
The Borghese Gallery and Gardens tour provided by City Wonders (no shocker there) is a little gem, especially if you’re an art connossieur. The guides are not only knowledgeable, but excited to share their knowledge of collection! Opt for the afternoon tour.
Travel Agent Expert Tip: Even if you don’t take a gallery tour, you can still access the Borghese gardens. And you should—just before sunset! It has one of the best views in the whole city to watch a Roman sunset!
Other activities I recommend include a Papal Audience, which happens every Wednesday (as long as the Pope is in town). Tickets are free, so unless you’re planning on combining another tour with a Papal Audience, you won’t need to purchase tickets through a tour company during the low season. During high season (summer, near Christmas), I highly recommend going with a tour group—tickets will be in great demand!
If you have more time to tour, be sure to check out other ruins like the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Pantheon.
Last, but not least, consider straying from your plan and taking time to stop in random churches. You’ll be amazed at how even the least assuming church are filled with the most magnificent art!
How to Get Around
Rome is easily walkable, but very big! If you find yourself exhausted, the city transportation is convenient.
Rome is also a good hub if you’re considering only spending a day visiting Pompeii, Naples, or the Herculaneum.
And it is a good departure point when heading back to the United States. But like any international flight, be sure to arrive at least three hours before your departure.
You’re all set for your Roman Holiday!
Have you been to Rome recently and have any tips you want to share? Write them in the comments below!
Now get out there and go!