Full of history, beauty, and culture Rome is never wanting for a dull moment. There is certainly enough in Rome to keep you busy for a dozen lifetimes. This is why having the best Rome travel tips for the first timer is so important.
The heart of Italy, from ancient to modern times, has always been the city of Rome. If it’s your first visit to the Eternal City you will want to be well prepared. We’ve compiled a handy list of must sees and important Rome travel tips that will help you get the most from your experience!
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1) Visit the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica
The world’s smallest country, Vatican City is completely encircled by the city of Rome. Vatican City serves as the spiritual center for millions of practicing Roman Catholics worldwide and is home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture.
Tour the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the famous St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried.
Buying a tour is the best way to see the Vatican, as you will skip the lines and have access to the best parts.
Did you know? It’s possible to climb to the top of St Peter’s dome. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy stunning panoramic views of Rome!
2) Explore the Colosseum
Now a mere shell, the Colosseum still remains ancient Rome’s greatest architectural legacy. The Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction of the elliptical bowl in 72 A.D, originally called the Flavian Amphitheater.
His son Titus inaugurated the amphitheater in A.D. 80 with a bloody combat between gladiators and wild beasts that lasted weeks.
I would recommend a guided tour if your budget allows, which could also combine the Colosseum with the adjacent Ancient Forum.
The Colosseum now requires timed admission, which means in addition to your ticket you must select a time slot to visit.
3) Roam through the Roman Forum
The Broadway of ancient Rome, the Forum was built in the marshy land between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills. The Forum served as the center of ancient Roman life in the days of the Republic before it gradually lost prestige to the Imperial Forums. Many of the buildings were eventually stripped bare during the Middle Ages.
One of the most iconic structures is the Temple of Saturn, which housed the state treasury and was a symbol of Rome’s wealth and power. Continuing through the Forum, you’ll come across the Rostra, a platform where orators addressed the Roman citizens.
This is where famous speeches and debates took place, shaping the political landscape of the time. The nearby Curia Julia, or Senate House, was where the Roman Senate convened to discuss matters of state.
Purchase a Colosseum and Forum combo ticket to save money and hassle waiting in line twice.
4) Walk in the Pantheon
Of all ancient Rome’s great buildings, only the Pantheon (dedicated to all the Roman Gods) remains fully intact, and remains among the greatest architectural wonders of the world due to its free standing dome and its concept of space.
The great building was originally built in 27 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa and then reconstructed by Hadrian in the early 2nd century A.D after a devastating fire. Just behind the Pantheon sits Hotel Minerva, which from the top terrace offers wonderful views of Rome’s historic quarter.
As of 2023, the Pantheon is now charging visitors an entry fee. The long free iconic site will now charge 5 euros to enter.
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5) Experience The Trevi Fountain
In the heart of Rome lies the captivating Trevi Fountain, an iconic masterpiece of Baroque art. Positioned in Piazza di Trevi, it enthralls visitors with its grandeur, featuring the central figure of Oceanus surrounded by tritons and seahorses.
To fully appreciate its beauty, it’s recommended to visit during the early morning or late evening to avoid crowds. Visiting at night is also an entirely different experience worth doing. Don’t forget to partake in the tradition of tossing a coin over your left shoulder, ensuring a return to Rome!
—> Read More: Rome: The Trip of a Lifetime
6) People Watch At The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps, a monumental stairway of 135 steps, add a touch of glamour to Rome’s landscape. Connecting Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti church, this landmark is a bustling hub, surrounded by designer boutiques and charming cafes.
Ascending the steps rewards visitors with panoramic views of the city, creating a picturesque scene, especially during spring when vibrant azaleas adorn the steps.
7) Eat Plenty Of Gelato
You can’t visit Rome without trying some of its word famous gelato. There are many gelaterias around the city, but if you want the best gelato in Rome you will need to look a little deeper.
My recommendation would Giolitti, a famous historic café from the 1920’s not far from the Pantheon in the heart of Rome’s Centro Storico.
8) Enjoy The Buzz Of Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and beautiful of Rome’s many squares. The large and lively square features no less than three magnificent fountains. Another eye-catcher in the large square is the Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.
Come to Piazza Navona to eat, shop, or people watch in one of Rome’s busiest squares. Also try coming at night, which offers an entirely different experience.
9) Stroll The Appian Way
The Appian Way is the oldest road in Rome, located just outside the main city center, and an absolute gem worth seeing. Walk along the 2,300 year old Roman road to get a wonderful glimpse into the distance past.
See countless ancient Roman statues and monuments, old ruins, Renaissance villas, medieval churches, world-class restaurants, and quaint little cafe’s all in the midst of a lovely natural setting.
10) Check Out A Rooftop Terrace
Rome has many rooftop bars from which to enjoy the beautiful cityscape full of domes and ancient buildings.
A personal favorite of mine can be find at Hotel Raphael, just a block west of Piazza Navona. Another recommendation is the terrace at Hotel Eden, one of the most prestigious in Rome. Hitting a rooftop will ensure you get a local authentic experience!
Getting Around Rome
Arguably the best way to get around Rome (no seriously, I can’t stress this enough if you can handle the traffic!) You will find a good place to rent mopeds across the street from the Central Termini Train Station, also near Maria Maggiore.
Five times as fast, 5 times as flexible, 5 times as fun…this will take your trip to a whole different level. If you’re serious about renting a moped in Rome, here is what you need to know about renting a scooter in Rome.
Metro: The Roman metro system isn’t the greatest in the world, but it’s cheap and will get you from point A to point B to major parts of the city. You can purchase a ticket in one of the machines before boarding the metro. Subway maps are usually available in the stations.
Bus: It’s advisable not to mess with the bus system, but there are a few major routes that can be useful in and around Rome. Generally, I think the bus system is too complicated for central Rome. Best to stick with walking and other means of transportation.
Taxis are more expensive than public transportation, but can be a good way to get around the city when you get tired of walking. There are cab stands are many of the major landmarks like the Colosseum, the Vatican, and near the Trevi Fountain.
Ask how much they will charge you BEFORE you get into the taxi. Rides are usually metered (except for a few flat-rate routes, often to and from airports), but it’s best to ask for an estimate.
Tip: Rome is an extremely chaotic city so make sure to always be alert as drivers and pedestrians alike will show no quarter for you while crossing the street or gawking at an attraction.
Embrace the Italian Way of Life
There is a different rhythm to life in Italy and to enjoy your visit, you have to accept it. It’s slower, more relaxing and gives you time to enjoy life. In Italy happiness comes from taking time to stop and enjoy the small moments of life. Sit down. Enjoy a snack.
Soak up the view. Don’t stress that the boat is late. If you don’t do it today, you can do it tomorrow. Have a coffee. Don’t worry about it.
If you want to blend in with the locals try not to wear any of the following: flip flops, Hawaiian shirts, obvious fanny packs, or clothing printed with the names of cities or other famous landmarks.
Conversely, Italians appreciate people who are well-dressed and give them more respect and attention. Dark neutrals such as black, gray, and brown will help you blend in.
Important Cultural Tips
- Religious sites are strict on garment attire, you must have your shoulders covered, and shorts are typically never permitted, along with baseball caps and any revealing clothing for women.
- Italians take the preservation of their monuments seriously, do not tamper or touch sacred objects.
- Coins should only be thrown into the Trevi Fountain.
- Italians are very outspoken, even more so in the capital. If you want to make friends be straight forward and outgoing, they will respond.
- Drink the water. Whether from the tap or fountain Roman water is clean, cold, drinkable and high in calcium. Don’t be afraid to fill your bottle over and over again. If it was good enough for an emperor, it is good enough for you.
—> Read More: The 7 Best Wineries in Tuscany
- Tipping is not nearly as expected as it is in America, but many servers have become accustomed to it in the capital, so best to leave a couple euro if you felt you had good service.
- You will almost always be charged a fee for table service, even if you order a simple beer at a restaurant. Rule of thumb is if you sit down you will pay extra. If you are looking for a quick something on the go, make sure it is from a side street vendors that don’t require you to sit.
- Be fashionably late for dinner. Most restaurants open for dinner at 7pm, but Romans usually head to restaurants around 8:30pm and onward.
- Stand up and smell the coffee. Though many bars offer table service, standing at the bar is perhaps the best way to catch great conversations, and bar prices are significantly cheaper than table service.
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