Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world. Large numbers of tourists regard The Eternal City as a destination and plan their entire vacation around it, while plenty more travelers arrive via river cruises for short explorations. Contrary to popular belief, these crowds are not just limited to peak season, meaning the summer months. The fact is, Rome hosts plenty of tourists during the winter months as well. But don’t let the crowds deter you from fulfilling a dream and visiting the capital city of Italy. Here are some tips to assist in making the most of your time, including how to avoid disappointment and long lines, as well as save money.
For starters, allow for at least 3 to 4 days in the city at a minimum, especially if you are a first-time visitor. Anything less will result in rushing and stressing, especially since several of the attractions can encompass an entire morning or afternoon. Planning for only a day or two will lead to disappointment because there won’t be enough time to explore all the ancient monuments and sights or indulge in the cuisine. There will only be time for a few highlights.
Do your best to pre-plan your visit rather than waiting until you arrive and wasting time in your hotel room as you attempt to put your itinerary together. Do your research before you go… decide on the things you want to see, find out how to get there, and research ticket options and prices, as well as transportation or walking routes. And wherever possible, book tickets in advance so you can avoid potential closures, as well as wasting time while standing in line. For example, the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are two of the world’s most visited attractions so they are always busy and the lines are quite long. The longer the line, the more potential there is for tickets to sell out.
When planning to visit the attractions, aim to go early in the morning. If you wait until the afternoon, much larger crowds will have gathered. This will make the attraction more difficult to navigate, plus it will be far more difficult to take a half-decent photo.
Consider purchasing a Roma Pass, available in two options – 48 hours and 72 hours. This city card offers skip-the-line admission to 1 or 2 attractions and is fully refundable if you cancel within 24 hours. It also gives users discounted ticket prices for some museums. If you plan on visiting for a longer time, a 7-day pass is also available and offers more attractions.
If you want to get more out of your visit, consider a guided tour of the most popular attractions. This approach is a little more costly, but it provides valuable information and explanations of what you’re seeing rather than trying to guess as you wander blindly and potentially miss something of interest. Additionally, guided tours are timed which allows tourists to avoid the entrance line-ups.
If you plan on using the city’s transportation system, bus tickets must be purchased before boarding the vehicle so find a ticket outlet before you hop on. The great thing about traveling by public transit in Rome is that all tickets are integrated. One ticket will get you around on buses, trams, trains, and the Metro, and all very cheaply. There are a few different options to choose from, including everything from weekly passes to single tickets which cost €1.50 and are valid for one metro ride or 100 minutes on all buses allowing transfers. They can be purchased from many of the kiosks located in tourist areas, such as Termini Station.
When dressing for a day of sightseeing, comfortable and casual clothing is the way to go, especially since you’ll be walking a lot. Comfortable shoes are a MUST! Jeans and casual pants, T-shirts, running shoes, and sandals are all acceptable. However, it should be noted that, despite the heat of the summer months, tank tops, halter tops, shorts, and mini skirts are not acceptable at the Vatican and basilicas. So if you plan to include these places on your itinerary, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees. For some, a light and airy summer dress might be a good option.
Don’t miss the chance to indulge in mouthwatering Italian cuisine. If you’re looking for a great place to eat, the historic center offers several memorable restaurants. However, for obvious reasons, tourists should expect this heavily trafficked area to be hectic and expensive. Instead, for a foodie experience, consider visiting Trastevere, located on the opposite bank of the river Tiber, south of the Vatican. This old working-class neighborhood features cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, and medieval houses, and is particularly lively in the evenings with lots of restaurants, trattorias, and pizzerias. Explore this genuinely Italian district of Rome with a leisurely stroll or kick back on one of the charming café terraces to enjoy authentic cuisine.
Finally, beware of pickpockets. Sadly, Rome ranks right behind Barcelona when it comes to skilled pickpockets that prey on distracted tourists. Enjoy the sights but keep your wits about you. Safety tips include keeping totes, purses, and backpacks zippered shut and carried toward your front, instead of slung over your shoulder toward your back and accessible to anyone behind you. If you tend to carry your wallet in your back pocket, move it to a front pocket, or place it safely in an interior jacket pocket or fanny pack. If using a fanny pack, never buckle it at your back where it could be easily accessed, unsnapped, and drop to the ground – pull the buckle around to your side or front. Don’t hang your bag off the back of your chair while seated at a restaurant or outdoor cafe, where someone could easily snatch it and run. Put all bags under the table and between your feet. And don’t leave your phone sticking out of your pocket. For the sake of safety, as well as convenience for snapping photos while on the go, consider a phone case that comes with a ring or strap so you can slide it over your finger(s) and keep the phone attached to your hand. Or, better yet, purchase a lanyard-style case that allows you to hang your phone around your neck.
Photo Credit – Kalisa Veer on Unsplash