Your Trip to Rome: The Complete Guide

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Rome, Italy, commonly referred to as the Eternal City, is a top travel destination that draws millions of visitors each year. An exuberant and modern world capital, Rome or Roma offers travelers fascinating reminders of its imperial past at every turn. It's also an international hub for contemporary fashion, design, art, and culture.

Encounter glorious monuments and ancient ruins dating as far back as at least the 3rd century BC. Marvel at the stunning Romanesque- and Gothic-style architecture, medieval churches, picturesque squares, Baroque fountains, and world-class museums. Besides having an almost unlimited number of sights and attractions to see, Rome is famous for its traditional Roman food and wine and its vibrant nightlife, as well as pretty urban parks and peaceful nature reserves.

Planning Your Trip

Things to know before you go:

  • Best Time to Visit: Since Rome has a Mediterranean climate, there's really no bad time to visit. If you want to avoid the crowds and the heat of summer, we recommend coming to Rome in the late spring or early autumn when the weather is mild and lines tend to be shorter. For average daily temperatures and rainfall, month by month, see our article, The Best Time to Visit Rome.
  • Language: Italian is the official language, but you'll find that many people speak some English, especially those who work in the tourist industry. That said, it's always a good idea to bring along a pocket-sized phrasebook or download one of the many free language translation apps on your smartphone, just in case.
  • Currency: As a member of the European Union, Italy uses the Euro (€). Prices include tax and credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants, hotels, and shops. But when purchasing small items like a cup of coffee, a slice of pizza, or a glass of wine, plan on paying cash.
  • Getting Around: Although Rome is a big metropolis, the historic center, or centro storico, is fairly compact, making it a highly walkable city. Public transport in Rome is run by ATAC, which operates the buses and trams linking riders to most areas in the city. The Metro subway system is affordable and quick.
  • Travel Tip: You might find shorter lines if you visit the most popular attractions in the early afternoon when most people are at lunch.

Getting Around

Rome has an extensive public transportation system that consists of the Metro (subway), buses, trams, and three suburban railway lines (FS). Convenient and relatively inexpensive, the network connects to Rome's most popular tourist attractions but can be sometimes unreliable and overcrowded, especially during the summer months.

Things To Do

With so much to do and see in Rome, we recommend you start by hitting the major tourist attractions first—especially if this is your first visit. Regardless, do make sure to leave time in your schedule for people watching on an intimate piazza or strolling down Rome's many charming streets and cobbled alleyways.

Here are just some of Rome's top attractions:

  • The Colosseum or Colosseo is the largest monument from Imperial Rome still in existence today. The enormous amphitheater once housed fierce gladiator contests and wild animal fights. It's best approached from Via dei Fori Imperiali to get the full effect of its grandeur. Entrance lines can be long, so check out our tips for buying Colosseum tickets and avoid waiting.
  • The Pantheon, one of the world's best-preserved ancient buildings, this masterpiece of Roman architecture began as a pagan temple before becoming a church in the 7th century AD. Located on Piazza della Rotunda, the Pantheon has a cylinder-shaped, hemispherical dome featuring a round hole in the top, the oculus, that allows natural light to stream in, as well as raindrops. Admission is free.
  • Vatican City, the home of Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums, is the world's smallest city-state. Geographically located within Rome, but not actually part of it, St. Peter's is the second largest church in the world and houses important works by Michelangelo and Bernini. The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) is a massive complex that contains an impressive art collection spanning 3,000 years—from Classical to modern eras. It's here that you can see the Sistine Chapel featuring Michelangelo's renowned frescoed ceiling.

For more information and details about Rome's sights and attractions see our 3 Days in Rome: What to See and Do or The 25 Top Things to Do in Rome.

What to Eat and Drink

Traditional Roman cuisine is based on inexpensive cuts of meat like offal and simple pasta recipes such as cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and black pepper) and spaghetti carbonara (egg, cheese, and pork cheek). Other Roman favorites include deep fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudia), supplì (stuffed balls of rice with tomato sauce), and thin, crisp-crusted pizza.

Frascati is a white wine blend made in an area just south of the city. Artisanal and craft beer has become quite popular recently with pubs cropping up all over the city. In speakeasies and chic hipster bars, cocktails are flowing after hours.

Read more about what to eat in Rome here.

Where to Stay

With so many diverse and interesting neighborhoods in Rome, it's hard to choose where to stay. For easy access to the airport and public transportation, staying in a cozy B&B or friendly hostel near Termini Station makes a lot of sense. If you want to be where the action is, there are a myriad of lodging options in Trastevere, Monti, and the centralissimo (very central) area, though these quarters can be rather noisy at night. If romance is what you're after, consider staying at a historic luxury hotel along the famed Via Veneto or near the Spanish Steps, but expect to pay a premium for such stellar locations. If you're on a budget, self-catering Airbnbs are available all over the city, offering a great solution.

Need more ideas about where to stay in Rome? Check out budget hotel options and our guide to the 10 Neighborhoods You Need to Know in Rome.

Getting There

There are two airports serving the Rome metropolitan area: Fiumicino (also known as Leonardo da Vinci) is the main international airport and Ciampino is a smaller, regional one. The best way to get into the city from the Fiumicino is by train to the main railway station closest to the historic center, Stazione Termini. You can also take airport buses to either Termini or Tiburtina station. We recommend you avoid driving in Rome if at all possible.

The Port of Civitavecchia is where cruise ships dock in Rome. See Civitavecchia to Rome Transportation for information about getting to the city or airport from here.

Culture and Customs

If you want to "do as the Romans do," then follow the bit of advice below.

  • You must have your ticket before boarding any public transportation—buy them at station kiosks, newsstands (edicole), and tabacchi (tobacco shops). At boarding, be sure to stamp your ticket to validate them or you could get hit with a steep fine.
  • You can't hail a cab on the streets of Rome, but can pick up one at the many official taxi stands scattered throughout the city.
  • In restaurants, remember that tipping isn't obligatory, but is much appreciated. The rule of thumb is to leave €1 for each diner in your group or round up the check a few euros. If you get exceptional service, feel free to leave up to, but no more than 10% of the total bill.
  • When perusing Rome's many boutiques and fashionable shops know that handling items is frowned upon, therefore it's best to ask the shopkeeper for assistance.
  • Rome is a relatively safe big city, yet it does have its share of petty crime. Be aware of pickpockets, especially at train stations, on the Metro, and in crowded tourist areas.

For more information regarding the art of tipping in Italy, check out our article, When & How Much to Tip in Italy: The Complete Guide.

Money Saving Tips

For budget-conscious travelers, here are a few ways to save a little coin without skimping on the fun.

  • Rock the Aperitivo (pre-dinner drink): When you order a glass of wine or cocktail, it usually comes with a plate of yummy food (cold cuts, squares of pizza, etc.) at no extra charge.
  • Forgo summertime and opt to visit during the winter, early spring or late fall. Temperatures are mild and travel packages and discounts are available.
  • If you're going to be in Rome for 3 or more days, the OMNIA or RomaPass pass is a great value. Along with offering free admission to several sights, you don't have to wait in line thanks to the "fast-track" entrance feature included in the price.

Find out more about the cheapest ways to have fun by exploring our guide on visiting Rome on a budget.

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