There is so much to see in Rome, so you don’t want any slip ups or silly mistakes to get in the way of seeing as much of the city as possible. Having recently visited Rome, I decided to put together some tips that I would give to anyone planning trip there, as it can be overwhelming in trying to work out which sites to see when, how much to try fit in, and what to look out for.
- Get a good map. In Rome there is a never-ending network of winding alleyways and narrow roads with no or few street signs. Investing in a detailed map of the city is a must before going, as the paper ones given out for free at many of the hotels are often too simplistic or not clear enough to be useful.
- Only buy a ROMA pass if you are seeing sights outside central Rome. The ROMA passes are a great way to fit a lot into your trips as they offer free and discounted entrances to the different sights, as well as free access to all public transport. They are available for 48 or 72 hours, being active once you start to use them. On my trip, I only explored the city centre, in which a lot of the attractions are free. I only used my ROMA pass to enter the Colosseum site, while attractions like the Pantheon are free to get into, and the Vatican was not included at all. The free access to public transport was the most useful part of the pass. If you’re planning on only seeing the main sites in Rome or are going to stay within the city centre, I would suggest that you buy a public transport pass as opposed to the ROMA pass, and book or reserve a lot of your tickets to the historical sites online instead, particularly for the Vatican.
- Try to aim to see one major sight every day in the morning, then minor sites in the afternoon. The sites in Rome get crowded very quickly, particularly the main ones like the Colosseum. The best way to skip the long queues is to plan to see one major site every morning, then spend the rest of the day exploring the smaller sites and the city. I would suggest that you aim to see sites like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Church and the Vatican Museums on different days as early in the day as possible. Each of these sites require at least an hour and a half to fully enjoy them, if not 3 hours. By seeing them in the morning, you avoid wasting your holiday by spending hours in queues, and you also avoid information overload by trying to do too many major sites at once.
- Some sites are better to see later in the day. Certain attractions are better seen in the late afternoon or the evening. The Roman Forum is best seen in the late afternoon when there is quieter queues and less people. Similarly, you can still enjoy the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain in the evening when these often chaotic attractions are much more hushed. I loved seeing these sights at dusk when I could fully enjoy them instead of in the middle of the day when it was too hot and too busy to absorb the history that I was surrounded by. Equally, make sure you explore the city in the evenings or at night, as you should try experience it in every light. When I was walking back to my hotel along Via Dei Fori Imperiali at night, I was taken by surprise by the electronic projections of computerised versions of ancient Rome onto the ruins. It was a wonderful sight watching the ruins come to life as I watched projected Romans walking in togas along now ruined pathways, a birds-eye view of Rome as it once was 2000 years ago, and now ruined houses reimagined in all their splendour. It was completely unexpected and I would not have known it existed had I not been walking that way at that time.
- Go further afield to truly taste Roman food. When you’ve been exploring ancient history all morning, the idea of walking another 15 minutes to find a more authentic restaurant seems ridiculous. But it is so worth it! The pizzas served near the main attractions are nothing compared to the amazing delicacies you can find in the less visited parts of Rome. The most popular of these neighbourhoods is Trastevere, the best place in my experience to find delicious Italian foods, particularly the gelato! It is also well worth visiting the food markets that pop up around Rome every month. The most well know of these is the farmers’ market in Campo de Fiori, Rome’s historic market place that has existed for over 400 years. It is a must-see historic site for any traveller, as well as a great spot to pick up authentic Roman foods (try the olive paste!). It is open daily, but is best explored in the morning.