Rome is the capital city of Italy and of course is most famously known as the home to many ruins and excavations here of popular sites like the Roman Forum and Colosseum. In fact, Rome is essentially such a big museum that the whole historic city centre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
I’ve had the privilege to travel to Rome on three different occasions. Once was when I was in high school, once was when I was 20, and most recently, in my 30s. Each time I’ve visited this city has been a very different experience given how different these times of my life were. However, if there is one thing I know for sure is that the second you get your first look at the Colosseum, you’ll fall in love!
This guide will help you plan your perfect vacation to Italy with some of the biggest recommendations and tips I’ve learned over my three trips.
Getting around Rome
To be honest, every time I have been to Rome I’ve stayed central to all the key attractions so I’ve walked everywhere. With the exception of the Vatican, most of the main sites are within walking distance. However, given Rome is such an extensive city, they have a great transit system.
Metro: The Rome metro system has three lines that cross the city. Although their metro isn’t incredibly extensive when compared to other cities, it does have stops at all the main attractions. You can get a ticket at all the stations, as well as at newsstands, and in most corner stores. If you are planning to travel multiple times on the metro, you should buy a few tickets at once, or buy a travel card. The metro is open 5:30 am-11:30 pm, and on Friday & Saturday, it runs until 1:30 am. You can find more info on tickets here.
Bus: Since the Metro is limited, it’s likely you’ll take the bus in Rome. Rome has close to 350 bus lines so it can be a little confusing to figure out as a tourist, but their bus system is essential for getting around the city. At each bus stop you’ll usually find a screen that’ll tell you when the next bus is coming, and a sign with all the detailed information you need regarding stops. However, in any city, I like to use the Google Maps transit option to make sure I’m going the right way on the right bus. You can buy tickets in any metro station, newsstand or convenience store. Just like the metro, you are able to buy a travel card if you plan to travel by bus more than once. Just make sure you validate your ticket when boarding the bus.
Tram: Trams can be cleaner than the buses but the tram system is small and doesn’t reach the city centre therefore unless you are staying outside of the city centre, then there isn’t much appeal to these tourists. Nonetheless, they run from 5:30 am-12 am. At night, the trams are replaced with night buses.
Taxis: Like in most major cities, taxi drivers can get a bad reputation for ripping off tourists. What we did when visiting Rome recently was request taxi cabs through the FreeNow app. This made it easy to pay right through the app and know your fare before getting into the car.
Scooters & E-Bikes: You’ll see a ton of electric scooters and bikes laying around the city that you can easily sign-up to use and grab to get from point A to point B. There is more details on all the companies that operate in the city here but I did notice you could also borrow them via Uber as the company Lime is connected to it.
Where to stay in Rome
Like any city, Rome is full of fantastic neighbourhoods and districts to stay in. Picking the best neighbourhood is really dependent on what you’re looking for in your stay. Here are some of the key ones to choose from via Untold Italy:
- Pantheon / Piazza Navona / Campo de’ Fiori – best for first-time visitors. Easily walk to major sights of the city and enjoy the atmosphere of one of the greatest cities on earth
- Piazza di Spagna – home to luxury hotels and high-end shopping. Being close to the gardens at Villa Borghese means this area of Rome is also great for families
- Trastevere – charming neighborhood close to the historic center known for small cobbled streets and a thriving restaurant scene *Since I’ve been multiple times, if I was to return, I’d stay here
- Colosseum / Monti – an interesting combination of ancient sites and a bohemian neighborhood. Not as easy to walk to other sites from here *This is the area we stayed in during my recent trip
- Vatican / Prati – an elegant residential area that is a useful base for St Peter’s square and the Vatican Museums
- Roma Termini / Esquilino – best area in Rome for budget travelers and those needing quick transit out of Rome
- Testaccio – an interesting neighborhood with great restaurants and bars plus specialty shops
You’ll find a selection of hotels ranging from luxury to budget, as well as inns, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnb’s to rent in the city of Rome. We opted for an inn called Nicholas Inn. It wasn’t anything fancy and was quite simple, but it did the trick, was clean, and was close to everything.
Best places to eat in Rome
Where do I even begin with where to eat in Rome? There are literally hundreds of amazing restaurants in Italy’s capital city. But just like any city, there are a lot of tourist traps, and not-so-great restaurants too. Before we head into recommendations, there are a few things to look for when picking a restaurant to try and avoid some of those more touristy spots:
- Host Outside: Avoid any restaurants that have a host trying to convince you to come to eat at their restaurant
- Picture Menu: If the menu has photos of the food on the menu, I’d skip it
- Tourist Sites: Do not eat near any main tourist attraction, try to walk away from the attraction and down some side streets to find a good spot
- Bilingual Menus: It is common to find menus in both English and Italian, but if you stop at a place that offers a menu in a million different languages, try another spot
Now to the recommendations. First off I want to say that I haven’t eaten at all these places but they’ve come recommended to me by trusted friends and sources. You can also find even more recommendations PLUS all the below pinned to this Google Maps list.
- Mimi e Coco (2 locations in the city) *Note I ate here for dinner to but it was just meh. I would go back for the aperitivo only
- Il Sorpasso (near the Vatican)
For the Main Course:
- Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 (you will have to wait in line – get there 45-60 minutes before the restaurant opens)
- Felice a Testaccio
- Trattoria da Danilo
- Taverna Trilussa (a bit more expensive)
- Cantine e Cucina
- Trattoria Da Teo
- Colline Emiliane
- Osteria De Fortunata
For a Casual Lunch:
- MAMI (try their fried artichokes and pizza)
- Bonci Gabriele (pizza)
- Mordi e Vai (be prepared to wait in line)
- Drink Kong (one of the best bars in the world)
- Jerry Thomas Speakeasy (20s themed)
- Bar San Calisto (super local bar with a great energy)
What to do in Rome
There are a million things to do in Rome that will suit your whole family’s needs and interests. Of course, I can’t list them all out but hopefully, this will give you a head start on some of the top things to add to your itinerary.
Museums & Galleries:
Baths of Diocletian: Huge ancient baths that were abandoned when aqueducts were cut off towards the end of the Roman Empire. Today they are a part of the National Museum of Rome.
Capitolini Museum: Said to be the world’s oldest museum, Capitolini Museum has the largest collection of artifacts in the city.
Borghese Gallery: The Borghese’s family’s private art collection stands at the heart of eponymous gardens. In high season, tickets must be booked far in advance.
National Gallery of Modern Art: Situated in the Palace of Fine Arts, this gallery celebrates artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as is the home to a contemporary collection.
Scuderie del Quirinale: You can find popular exhibitions on show at the former stables of the Quirinale Palace. Past exhibitions have included Picasso, Matisse, Frida Kahlo, etc.
Cripta Cappuccini Museum: A spooky spot near Piazza Barberini where the walls are adorned with the bones of over 3,000 Capuchin monks.
Admittedly, I am not a museum person so if you want more information on some of the top ones in Rome, here is a great article to read
Landmarks & Architecture:
- Colosseum (book your tickets/tour in advance if traveling during high season to skip the line)
- Trevi Fountain (go EARLY like 7 am to beat the crowds)
- Roman Forum (often included in your ticket price for the Colosseum)
- Pantheon (often included in your ticket price for the Colosseum)
- Palatine Hill
- St. Peter’s Basilica (book tickets in advance)
- Spanish Steps
Rome is FULL of amazing landmarks and I would need multiple blog posts to cover them all. Here is a more extensive list if you’re looking for one
Outside of just all the delicious, typical foods of Italy, here are some that are famous in Rome particularly:
Artichokes: You’ll find artichokes in many styles in Rome, especially in the spring. Try fried artichokes, a popular street food, carciofi alla Romana which are split open and filled with mint, garlic and parsley before being steamed with a concoction of olive oil, white wine, and water, or carciofi alla giudea which are Jewish-style, where the artichoke is flattened so that its leaves open outwards like a flower and then deep fried whole.
Carbonara: Made with eggs, hard cheese, cured pork, and black pepper, this pasta dish was actually created right in Rome.
Cacio e Pepe: Another classic Roman dish is cacio e pepe, a simple pasta dish made with cheese and pepper.
Maritozzi: Sweet, leavened buns, sliced open and filled with barely sweetened whipped cream. Great for a breakfast pastry!
Pizza al taglio: Aka pizza by the slice is the common Roman style of pizza which features either adorned dough cooked in sheet pans or worked into an oblong shape, then baked.
Suppli: Rice croquettes (or balls) served at Rome’s takeaway joints and pizzerias. The classic version features bits of ground beef or sausage or chicken gizzards (or sometimes all 3) cooked with tomato sauce and rice. These make for a great snack!
There are a lot of great day trips from Rome if you plan on centralizing yourself in the city of Rome for multiple days and are looking to explore some additional areas. Here are some of the most popular:
Pompeii: An archaeological site in Southern Italy that will take you about 2.5-3 hours by train to get to, or you can join a tour that’ll take you from Rome and back like I did back years ago through Viator. Pompeii was once a thriving Roman city but was buried under meters of ash and pumice after a volcano eruption in 79 AD. Which eruption preserved site features and you can visit the ruins of the streets and houses today. Personally, I don’t think this is something you’d go to for more than a day so it makes a great day trip.
Tuscany: Tuscany is about a 3-hour drive from Rome, and although I would recommend longer than a day in this beautiful region, you can definitely go for a day. The easiest way to do this in a day is take the train from Rome to Florence and spend the day exploring Florence. However, you can also opt to hit up wine country instead if you have a car. Again, you will feel rushed with only a day but it is possible if you’re okay with just a little teaser of the region.
Ostia Antica: I’ve never done this day trip but it comes highly recommended. Ostia Antica is a large archaeological site and is supposed to be a real treat for history lovers to explore this ancient town. Travel there in just 50 minutes from Rome by car or take the commuter train.
Orvieto: A small city on a rock cliff in Umbria, Italy. Worth a visit to see the Duomo di Orvieto which dates back to 1290 and has a mosaic façade, and the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a 16th-century well shaft with a double spiral staircase. You can also visit the National Archaeological Museum and just explore the ancient city. Orvieto is about 1.5 hour drive from Rome, or you can take a train.
For more day trips from Rome, check out this helpful article detailing 15 top-rated day trips you can take
Cooking Classes: One thing I wished I had time for on any of my trips to Rome was a cooking class. They have so many in the city of Rome that looks incredible. During the pandemic, I actually did one online through Airbnb Experiences where I learned how to make gnocchi with an Italian nonna. You can actually join this class in real life too when visiting Rome here. Another great-sounding class I considered was Rome Cooking Class.
Vatican: I went to a Catholic high school and my first trip to Italy was on a high school trip, so naturally I paid my visit to the Vatican then. This is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and home to the Pope. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures and Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel. If you have the time, the Vatican is definitely worth visiting (book tickets/tours in advance) even if you aren’t catholic.
FAQ & Tips for Rome
What is the weather like in Rome? The best time to visit Rome is in April-November when the weather is warm. However, it is a destination you can travel to year-round. If you can, try to avoid visiting during peak season (June-August) to beat some of the crowds.
How many days do I need in Rome? People can spend a week in Rome, however, I recommend only 2-3 days to get in the highlights. Personally, after a few days of touring around in a busy city, I’m ready to move onto a less touristy/busy area.
How do I get from the Rome airport to downtown? The bus will be the cheapest option (5.80€ per person) and takes about 50-minutes. There are two trains that run as well for 8-14€ from the airport to the city centre, or you can opt for a taxi which has a flat rate from the airport of 48€.
Are their pickpocketers in Rome? Yes, 100%! This is one of the most common crimes against tourists. However, don’t let it scare you off. It just takes some common sense while traveling. Wear money built with most of your money and passport, or keep any valuables in your safe at the hotel. Wear a crossbody purse that you can have in front of you at all times, and if you plan to carry a backpack, don’t keep any valuables in it or lock it. When you are dining, make sure to not leave bags hanging over the back of your seat or even just placed on the table.
Is Rome safe for solo travel? Yes, there are very few places in Europe, if any, where I would feel unsafe traveling alone. Here are some solo travel tips to help you feel more confident.
Do I have to tip in Italy? It won’t be looked down upon but it’s not necessary. A lot of restaurants add a service fee automatically to your bill and unlike in North America, restaurant staff is paid living wages.
What are your biggest tips for a trip to Rome, Italy? Share your recommendations below in the comments.