Travelling to Rome for your first holiday or as a seasoned traveller, a Roman Holiday can be full of many surprises. While this trip was my third visit to the eternal city, it was also my very first European city that I ever visited way back in 2001 with my little sister. I thought I would do a post on my travel tips to Rome as there are so many things that you need to be aware of; scams, rip offs and good bits and bobs that I learnt along the way while booking this trip.
So let’s get this Roman holiday started!
Not all hotels are created equal
Yip this is a biggie, a picture can be worth a thousand words however a tripadvisor search will give you a heads up on each hotel. While folks don’t like tripadvisor due to dishonest reviews, I think it does give you a pretty good idea on what you will be getting for breakfast, room size, location, safety and bed bugs. My hotel search made me go crazy but I found a very reasonable 4 star hotel which was really good, perfect location and the staff were fabulous. Do your research and maybe stay in areas like Borgo and Trastevere for something a little different. There are a number of 5 star hotels in Rome but check out their location as you don’t want to be a limited to a shuttlebus or catching taxis everywhere; walking around Rome is something that shouldn’t be missed.
Eeek, City Tax
No biggie but if you’re budgeting for your trip down to the last euro cent then you need to be aware that you will be charged a compulsory 6 euros per night per person for your stay in Rome and this is NOT included in your hotel rate and will be collected on check out. 36 euros for a three night stay can be eye watering…that’s afternoon tea for three people in a vintage tea room in England!
Don’t get sore feet in Rome, What Shoes to Take
This is where I’m going to be a nana and tell you to take sensible shoes…you will be on your feet for hours, walking along cobbled streets and these picture perfect cobbled streets will kill your feet on day 1 in Rome. Take trainers or flat comfortable shoes with grip…I’m saying grip as climbing stairs which can be slippy especially on a hot summers day or when wet! I wore my Birkenstock’s for the first two days and then changed over to my Supergas which was the best decision I made (plus they’re Italian!)…my feet thanked me at the end of the day.
Rome is best explored by…
Foot! Rome is one giant open air museum so enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed…on foot without a tour guide!
Catching the Bus in Rome
There are bus ticket machines by the bus stops where you can purchase tickets for 1.50 euro for use within 100 minutes once validated per bus ride but do remember to validate as they do check! Or you can buy tickets at a news agent which you will see on the street corners for the same price, once again remember to validate! You can not buy a ticket from the driver.
Taxis from Rome Airports
There is a fixed fee for a taxi ride for up to four people from the two airports in Rome. 30 euros from Ciampino and 48 euros from Fiumicino; these rates are for four people, their luggage and the tip for hotels in central Rome or as they say within the Aurelian walls plus the Vatican area. You need to make sure you choose a taxi which shows the 48 euros rate on the taxi door but then double check with the driver as you show them your hotel address as they will possibly try and rip you off for more; just walk away and find another taxi driver.
We were offered 75 euros and then 55 euros from the airport to the centre of Rome; the taxi driver ended up charging us 48 euros as I don’t take crap from them then he tried to drop us off two roads away from our hotel – stand your ground, tell them it’s not your hotel and to find it pronto. The taxi drivers are rude and aggressive but don’t take any nonsense from them (they will huff and puff and try and blow the Colosseum down)…stick to your guns of 48 euros only…and don’t tip the buggers! You can pay by cash or card but I paid by cash just in case he decided to play funny buggers. If it makes you feel any better…they also try this on with the locals as well!
Italian Gluten Free Food
Our hotel was situated in gluten free heaven….next to so many gluten free resturants and cafes in the Borgo area; Gluten Free is big in Rome so you won’t struggle. Most restuarants will have gluten free pasta available. I did take with me some naked bars just in case I needed a snack while out sightseeing.
Pre-booking tickets for the big attractions in Rome
You can pre-book a number of tickets on line to basically jump the ticket queue however the queues are really long regardless to enter each historic site in Rome due to security. Just a word of warning, if you book your tickets online they will add a 2 euro cost to each ticket price! That’s a lot of gelato spending money!
Tickets for the Galleria Borghese
These tickets are like gold dust so if you want to visit the Gallery to see masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael then you need to make sure you book weeks in advance via the official website which will include the 2 euro booking fee.
You will only get two hours inside the Gallery (and they enforce this as it’s by strict timed entry!) so to make best of your time I would suggest hiring a guide to take you through the gallery; that way you visit all the important pieces – I booked this tour with Viator and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our guide was an art historian so they really made each piece come to life and he was the only one wearing an official badge so be wary of the tour that you book!
Tickets for the Colosseum and Roman Forum
Head to the ticket office at the Roman Forum at just before 8.30am on Via dei Firo Imperiali to purchase your tickets; the ticket covers both the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Take the short walk over to the Colosseum and enter the pre-booked ticket line (hence avoiding that horrible 2 euro pre-booking fee plus queuing for a ticket and to then enter!); please note the queues are long due to going through security which is a messy affair as nobody seems bothered. Once you have visitied the Colosseum, head back to the entrance that you purchased the tickets from and enter the Roman Forum from this side as the queues from the other entrance are considerably longer.
You have two days to visit both sites with your ticket so you can visit the Roman Forum in the afternoon and then head to the Colosseum the following morning first thing!
^^View from the top of the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II
How to see the Sistine Chapel without the crowds
I’m not a huge fan of crowds, I like to enjoy an experience rather than getting pushed through shoulder to shoulder from one exit to another…there is a way of experiencing the Sistine Chapel without all the crowds and that’s booking yourself on a Privileged Entry Tour with The Roman Guy…I highly recommend this tour, it’s an early start but having the opportunity to enjoy the Sistine Chapel with only 100 or so other folks is rather lovely. I won’t lie, the museum does get busy along with St Peter’s Basilica but you will be ahead of the pack…this tour is more than just skipping the queue, it’s gaining entry one hour prior to opening time so worth the extra expense especially if you’re on a tight on time!
Seeing Rome from above…oh to be free like a bird
I remember the view from the top of St Peter’s…it was glorious but not for the faint hearted or people with disabilities however there are quite a few other spots to see glorious views across the city. The view from the top of the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (as the lady at the hotel said “the building that the Americas call the Wedding Cake”) are wonderful especially of the Colosseum and Roman Forum however there are a few flights of stairs inside prior to getting to the elevator…if you can manage a few flights then I would highly recommend this view and not many people know about it…secret squirrel stuff folks (costs 7 euros, cash only). If you aren’t able to do the stairs then take a taxi or bus number 115 to the top of Gianicolo Hill and look out over Rome (the view is free!), it’s a beautiful view and one that not many tourists know about! It takes approximately 20 minutes to walk from this spot to the Vatican…I know as we walked it.
^^The view from Gianicolo Hill…take a picnic and sit on the wall overlooking Rome
Church upon Church upon Church
When in Rome, make sure you pop your head inside a few churches and by this I just mean random churches that you stumble across while out walking…not St Peter’s Basilica! They are truly glorious and offer a tiny bit of respite from the the blazing sun and achy feet.
I really hope these travel tips are helpful for your Roman Holiday…I absolutely adore Rome and I wouldn’t say no to a fourth visit to the city!
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