Rome Travel Guide
Rome is the capital city of modern Italy, and has been a hub of culture and civilisation for thousands of years. It's hard to imagine the western world without the impact of ancient Rome. As they say in the classics, what have the Romans ever done for us? (Apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order?)
The eternal city is a mesmerising mix of contemporary Italy and ancient history, so no matter what you're looking for, there's plenty to do in Rome. The city attracts millions of visitors every year but fret not, you won't be overrun and trampled underfoot; if you step away from the tourist hotspots you'll find some of the best nightlife, food and drink in all of Rome.
But before you head off on your Roman holiday, we think it helps to get the lowdown on all of the city's hidden gems, such as where to get the best food in Rome and how to beat the queues. Fortunately, you're in the right place to be in the know and make the most of the things to do in Rome.
In our Rome Travel Guide, we'll cover:
- How to get to Rome
- The best ways to travel around Rome
- Where to eat in Rome
- Do you need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Rome
- How to make the most of your money in Rome
- Quick tips to travel better in Rome
So grab your camera and phrasebook, and come with us on a tour of history, food, amazing architecture and Roman charm!
How to get to Rome
We think the best way to travel to Rome from the UK is by plane. Rome is served by two airports, the larger Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) airport to the west and Ciampino to the south east. Flights from London to Rome take roughly two and half hours and transfers from either airport are relatively easy.
While you're at it, if you book yourself an airport lounge, you can squeeze in a last-minute flick through your Italian phrasebook, while indulging in the peace and quiet with a complimentary glass of bubbly in hand. Magnifico!
If you've never booked an airport lounge before, take a look at some of the secrets of UK airport lounges and find out how you could get in on the action.
How to get to Rome from Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport
There's plenty of options for getting to Rome from Fiumicino Airport to suit all budgets and transport needs. Here's some of our favourites:
How to get to Rome from Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport by train
From Fiumicino, we recommend catching the Leonardo Express train to Rome Termini, which will get you straight into the city. Alternatively there's the regional FL1 train to other stations across Rome, which is convenient if your hotel isn't in Rome's city centre.
We'd suggest avoiding the bus if possible, as it often takes longer than either train route, especially if you get stuck in Rome's notoriously bad traffic. Take the train, avoid the road rage and spend more time enjoying all the amazing things to do in Rome. Just remember to get your ticket validated before you get on the train, otherwise you could be fined... not the best start to your Roman holiday!
How to get to Rome from Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport by taxi
When catching a taxi to Rome from Fiumicino, look out for those registered within the airport region, as they'll take you anywhere within the city wall for a fixed fee. Just keep an eye out for the crest on the doors.
How to get to Rome from Ciampino Airport
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Now let's take a look at some of the ways to get to Rome from Ciampino Airport.
How to get to Rome from Ciampino Airport by bus
If you're heading to Rome from Ciampino Airport, we recommend taking the bus service. There is a train station nearby, but we don't think it's worth the hassle as there's a lot of connections to remember (or if you're like this humble writer, a lot of opportunities to get lost).
How to get to Rome from Ciampino Airport by taxi
Taxis from Ciampino Airport should offer a flat fare of €30 to get anywhere within Rome's city walls, but make sure you check this with the driver before you get in as we have heard of tourists being ripped off.
What are the best ways to travel around Rome?
Phew! Now you've arrived at your hotel, it's time to start exploring all the awe-inspiring things to see in Rome. Here's some of our picks for the best ways to get about the city.
Should I travel through Rome on foot?
Most of the main tourist sites in Rome are clustered into a two and a half mile area in the city centre, so as ever, we think that walking is the best way to get around. For example, a walk from the Pantheon to the Colosseum should take about half an hour. Just remember that comfy shoes are a must, given that most roads in Rome are cobbled and uneven.
Should I travel through Rome on the metro?
Public transport in Rome isn't as prevalent as in other European capitals, so don't expect to be able to hop on and off anywhere like with the London Underground. That being said, the metro can get you into the city centre quickly from the outskirts, giving you more time to enjoy all the things to see and do in Rome, so it's worth getting to grips with how it works.
The metro has just three lines, A and B intersect at the Rome Termini station, and C is the newest line that runs from the centre to the east of the city. We'd be lying if we said it was the cleanest metro we've seen, but it does the job just fine in our experience. We also recommend downloading Google Maps and Citymapper to help you find the quickest routes to wherever you need to go and travel better.
As for tickets, there are two main types to look out for when using Rome's public transport network. There's the Metrebus ticket or the Roma Pass.
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Should I buy a Metrebus ticket to travel in Rome?
Metrebus tickets can be used on all public trains, buses and trams, and can be purchased at bars, tobacconists, train stations, some bus stops and even hotels. Tickets aren't validated until you travel, so you can easily stock up on all the tickets you'll need for your time in Rome.
Metrebus tickets come in several different varieties, so to help you travel better here's a breakdown of what's on offer:
- The BIT is a single ticket for one complete Metro journey, one commuter-train ride, or 100 minutes on the bus. It costs €1.50 and you can swap between Metro lines at Rome Termini on the same ticket. Make sure to validate every time you use one.
- The Roma 24H is valid for 24 hours after the first use and costs €7 (£6.20)
- The 48H is €12.50 (£11)
- And the 72H is €18 (£16)
- The CIS is a 7-day ticket and will set you back €24 (£21.30)
Should I buy a Roma Pass to travel in Rome?
Coming in 48 hour and 72 hour variations, the Roma Pass also gives unlimited travel on public transport but includes discounts on some tourist attractions.
To validate the Roma Pass tap it on the yellow card readers, whether you're on a bus, tram or train. A green light will let you know it's worked. As with the Metrebus tickets, you only need to validate the Roma Pass the first time you use it but bear in mind that it must be validated within 24 hours of being purchased.
Just one last thing on transport. Remember that both the Roma Pass and the Metrepass don't work on Rome's sightseeing buses. For those you'll need to purchase tickets separately.
Where to eat in Rome
Trying some of the delicious local cuisine is one of our favourite things to do in Rome, and we think you can't do much better than sampling what's on offer in the city's Testaccio region, located to the south of the city. A little off the beaten tourist track, Testaccio was once the trade and slaughterhouse area of Rome, and this heritage of traditional food is still alive and well today. With this in mind, let's take a look at what food you can find in Rome's Testaccio region.
What food can I find in Rome's Testaccio district?
We met up with local restaurant owner Flavio to find out all about the area and to try some Roman cuisine at his restaurant, Flavio al Velavevodetto. The restaurant is set into a mound that's been built over a large deposit of ancient vases and crockery, making it one of the most unique places to eat in Rome.
We recommend trying the zucchini flowers, which were delicately fragrant and oh so delicious (not to mention friendly on the waistline). But a trip to Flavio al Velavevodetto wouldn't be complete without trying the award-winning carbonara; Flavio is known as the King of Carbonara and his signature dish is the best we've tried in Italy.
As a side note, Testaccio is quickly becoming gentrified as more tourist catch on to its amazing restaurants, so we recommend you head down ASAP before it changes forever. Trust us, it's a place not to be missed.
Do I need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Rome?
We found that most restaurants and tourist attractions in Rome spoke English, so you don't need to become fluent in Italian overnight. With that being said, we think it's a good idea to learn a few key phrases and words to help immerse yourself in the culture and authentically enjoy all the things to do in Rome. It also never hurts to show off your linguistic skills to friends and family!
To pick up some key phrases, we met up with Alessandro from venividivisit.org, a service offering free guides to some of Rome's lesser known sites. To book a tour head to their website and make sure to donate generously - it's definitely worth it.
What phrases should I learn for my Roman holiday?
- Hello - Ciao (informal) or Buongiorno (formal)
- Goodbye - Ciao (informal) or Arrivederci (formal)
- Yes - Si
- No - No
- Please - Per favore (formal) Per piacere (informal)
- My name is... - Mi chiamo...
- Thank you - Grazie
- I don't understand - Non ho capito
- Do you speak English? - Parla inglese?
- Where is the nearest metro station? - Dove è la stazione della metropolitana più vicina? (if you're feeling confident!)
How to make the most of your money in Rome
We've established how to get to Rome, as well as the wealth of things to do, culture, and places to eat during your Italian holiday, but to enjoy all of these things it helps to know how many euros to bring.
Here's some of our tips for making your money go further on your Roman holiday.
Can I pay by card in Rome?
Most places in Rome will accept card payments, and ATMs are frequent enough that you won't have any trouble accessing cash when you need it. Just make sure to check with your provider before using your card abroad, as some will lock your card if you don't warn them that you're visiting Italy.
If you're still unsure about carrying money on you through the busy Florentine streets, we recommend picking up a currency card, such as the FairFX money card before you leave. You can load the card up with your travel money before you set off for Florence, meaning all your funds are readily accessible wherever you are.
What's more, the exchange rate will be set there and then at the best rate for you. Then you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you're protected from the volatility of the currency market.
How expensive is Rome?
We found Rome to be slightly cheaper than London, and in line with many European capitals. If you really want to save money, then we suggest looking for restaurants away from the major tourist attractions; you'll find the prices are significantly lower, and that the quality of food is often much higher. Buon appetito!
Should I tip in Rome?
As for tipping, two thirds of Italians don't tip when they dine out, so don't feel pressured to tip when eating in Rome. If you have enjoyed your experience and think it's worth the extra, just round up the bill by a few Euros.
How much did we spend in Rome?
Here's a breakdown of some of the costs* of our Rome trip:
- Return flights - ₤70-₤180 depending on when you book
- 3 Bed apartment - ₤102 per night
- Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine - €12 (£10.60) (free for under 18s)
- Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel - €16 (£14.20) (€8 for 6-18 year old)
- Pantheon - Free
*Rate of exchange correct on 15/2/2018
Tips to travel hassle-free in Rome
Now that we're reaching the end of our Rome Travel Guide, let's take a look at some of the other quick tips to help you travel better and enjoy all the things to do in Rome.
When should I visit Rome?
April, May and late September through October is definitely the best time to visit Rome. You'll avoid the unbearable crowds of Summer and find that most of the things to do in Rome are still open. At the very least, we'd suggest avoiding August if you can.
We also found that Mondays were the busiest days for tourists, as most of Rome's attraction are shut on Sunday. This is something worth bearing in mind when planning the things to do in Rome during your stay.
How to beat the queues in Rome
Queues for Rome's most popular attractions can get crazy, and if you're not prepared you could be waiting for an hour if not longer. We recommend trying to arrive before half 9 to really beat the queues, or at least 30 minutes before opening. There's so much to see and do in Rome, so an early start is the best way to squeeze it all in.
What should I wear when visiting churches in Rome?
When visiting churches in Rome, make sure you cover your shoulders, knees and wear shoes. You may be sweating in the hot Roman sun, but if you don't adhere to the dress code you won't be let in, even if you've been queueing for hours. Not ideal.
The same dress code applies to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.
Do I apply for discounts in Rome?
Anyone aged 25 or younger can get discounted tickets to most Roman attractions. You're only young once, so get it while you can!
And that's a wrap on our time in Rome. We hope we've given you a taste of just some of the amazing things to see and do in this spectacular city. But reading about it and experiencing it first hand are two very different things, so treat yourself and travel better to Rome. Just before we go, if you want to explore more of the country, check out our travel guides for Venice, Florence and Pisa to help you travel better throughout Italy.
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