Planning a trip to Rome needn't be exhausting if you keep a few things in mind. Your first step onto Roman soil will swallow you whole. Rome is an ancient world that features everything on a grandiose scale, including large piazzas, enormous buildings and towering statues. Sitting alongside these 1000-year-old monuments are apartment buildings, drugstores, and even a McDonald's or two. Traveling to Rome is an experience you will never forget.
Plan on setting aside about three or four days to tour Rome. If you can fit in more time, do it. With only a few days, you can easily hit the major sights: the Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Forum, etc. If you have a few extra days and you can comb Rome's ruins for a more fulfilling experience.
Learn basic Italian phrases before you go. Most shop owners speak some English, but remember the adage: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Honor that ancient advice and brush up on your Italian. You'll be met with smiles and appreciative people no matter how poorly you sound.
When to Go
Tourism is Rome's biggest business. You'll sometimes wonder if any Italians actually live there. Each season in Rome has different crowds, different store hours and different weather. Generally, everything is cheaper, lines are shorter and shop hours are decreased from November through May, which is Rome's "off-season."
Use the information below to plan your trip wisely:
Summer (June - October)
- Warm to hot days with lots of sunshine.
- Long lines for everything. Rome is packed with tourists in the summer.
- Shops and museums have extended hours.
- Hotel and museum prices may be inflated.
Winter (November - February)
- Cooler, more overcast/rainy days.
- Shorter lines for sights.
- Shops/museums may close early and have more days off.
Spring (March - May)
- Warm, moist days. Bring an umbrella.
- Shorter lines for sights.
- Shops and museums may close a little earlier.
Sightseeing in Rome
You cannot possibly stuff more than 2000 years of history into a few short days of sightseeing. Expect to leave Rome with a longing to come back. You can hit the major sites with a few well-organized day trips. However, since the city is so large, traveling from one corner to another will eat up most of your day.
For simplicity's sake, divide Rome into these four areas:
- Northwest (Vatican, Basilica and other sights)
- Southwest (Trastevere, for strolling and eating)
- Southeast (Colosseum, the Forum, grand old Rome)
- Northeast (Roma Termini and shopping)
Concentrate a day or two in each of those areas, allowing time for meals, idle strolling and waiting in lines. Don't forget to wander through the main part of Rome to see the various piazzas and other beautiful architecture. No matter where you go or what you do, Rome will fill your eyes with beauty. Soak it in and live the Roman life.
Rome is easy to get into by any means except car. Avoid traveling by car in Rome, it will cause you more hassle than it's worth. If you manage to squirm your way into the city's center in a car, you'll never find a parking space and you'll end up walking long distances. Stick to trains, buses and foot travel. The central, throbbing pulse of Roman transportation is Roma Termini, the train station located in the northeast corner of the old city. Buses, airplanes, taxis and trains almost always make stops at this station. Use it as a central hub for your excursions into the city's core.
While in Rome, the Metro system can shuttle you to the main areas of the city. Buses cover the streets quite well, but are often unreliable due to traffic and events that close certain roads. The most reliable way of traversing the city is by foot. You'll get a great view of "bella Roma," but will have to allow extra time for the journey.
Other Tips for Touring Rome
When touring Rome, use common sense and consider these basic travel tips:
- Keep a wary eye open for pickpockets and purse snatchers. Secure your money, avoid walking at night, and be especially careful in crowded trains and buses.
- When planning a trip to Rome, remember that Italian life is vastly different from life in America. Take in the relaxed attitude and don't be afraid to speak to the natives. The more open you are, the better time you'll have.
- Invest in the "Roma Pass." This is a ticket that will provide transportation and admission into two museums. It is available at tourist information centers and all the major museums.
Most importantly, make a plan and stick to it. Sightseeing in Rome will require a lot of walking, a good map and a spirit of curiosity. However, such diligence will be rewarded with the experience of a lifetime!