Is this your first time visit to Rome? Congratulations, you have made a great choice booking a trip to the maraviglioso Eternal City! Visiting Rome was my first ever international trip and, since then, I have returned to what I call my first travel love, over and over. I lost count on how many times I visited Rome. As one of the biggest European capitals, traveling to Rome for the first time can be a bit daunting, especially with so many places to see and things to do. In order to enjoy the city, don’t set yourself the target to tick all the monuments and the touristic places. Instead, decide a relaxed itinerary and just enjoy your first visit to Rome. I haven’t seen everything in Rome, and I can easily count at least ten trips to the Italian capital.
Best Time to Visit Rome For the First Time
Rome is a very touristic city, no matter which time you decide to go. However, the winter months seem to have a bit less visitors because it can rain quite a bit. Avoid going to Rome in August – that’s when most of the locals have their holidays, so more than half of the businesses will be closed. Also, in summer, the temperatures in Rome are too high to explore the city comfortably.
Book Your Tickets Ahead of Time
The days in which a ticket bought at the Roman Forum would guarantee you fast entrance to the Colosseum are long gone. With online tickets, it doesn’t matter if you wake up early and are the first one in the queue, because they are time allocated. When you have limited time in Rome, I recommend booking a skip the line ticket for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. This amazing archaeological site can take easily an entire day to visit. I highly recommend a guided tour, to understand better the history and what the ruins around you used to be. For me, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, together with the Palatine Hill and the entire archaeological area surrounding them, will always be one of the most fascinating experiences I have ever lived. Stepping on the same stones which were part of the streets on which 2000 years ago the Romans walked on, felt so surreal. When you tour the Colosseum with a guide, the monument comes to life, and this majestic building transforms from one of the new wonders of the world to a gruesome blood bath arena in which so many people died in cruel ways, for other’s entertainment. In order to understand history better, you need to walk through the Roman Forum with a knowledgeable guide.
Bring Good Walking Shoes But Also a Pair of Heels
Rome is an open air museum which is best explored by foot. The historic centre is paved with cobbled stones, which can be difficult to navigate in anything else but good trainers with back support.
I only took a taxi, bus or metro in Rome when I had luggage, to and from my hotel. All my sightseeing was done by foot. Prepare to walk 15+ kilometers each day!
Whilst you will walk a lot from one site to another during the day, in the evenings you do need a pair of nice shoes for going out to a restaurant. Remember, you are in Rome and Romans like to dress up.
Know How to Make a Difference Between Authentic and a Tourist Trap – Don’t Get Ripped Off!
Unfortunately, being such a popular destination, there are many tourist traps in Rome. As a general rule, when you go to a restaurant, avoid places in the main squares or next to the most popular monuments. The food won’t be as good, and you will be charged a fortune, even for a simple coffee. Instead, walk two-tree streets away and look for trattorias in smaller squares and on less busy roads. A good sign of spotting a good restaurant is seeing Italians eating there. The same thing applies for restaurants that advertise their menus outside, in different languages, or the ones that have waiters outside, trying to lure you in.
Taking photos with the Gladiators in front of the Colosseum is a tourist trap as well. They will charge you (and not just a few euros) after you have taken the photos. Be aware of this. If you are willing to pay for a photo though and have a nice memory, go ahead though, just know what to expect. The rates go at around 10 euros for a photo!
Most of the touristic places in Rome will have people walking around with flowers, who will try to force one in your hand. This is a very popular practice around Fontana di Trevi, where tourists don’t usually pay attention at anything else but taking a photo whilst throwing a coin into the fountain. Once the flower is in your hand, they will ask for money and refuse to take it back.
If you are using a taxi, know beforehand an approximate of the fare and make sure that the driver is using a meter. If you are not sure, just ask a local how much it would be to your destination. For airport rides, there are fixed prices: 30 euros from Ciampino and 48 euros from Fiumicino. Do not pay more than this!
Be Aware of the Coperto
Coperto is a tax that cafes and restaurants are adding to your bill when you sit down at a table. This is around 1-2 euros per person but it’s not legal in Rome and Lazio region. Some places, especially around the main squares however do take advantage of the tourists and charge for bread instead, even if you don’t request it. Pay attention and refuse the bread. Also, check your bill to see if any “servizio” has been added on it, which again is not legal in Lazio. If you want to have a coffee, head over to a bar – the Italian equivalent of a café. Order your coffee and drink it at the bar, the same way as the locals do. This way not only that you will avoid the coperto but you will also get to observe the fast pace of life in Rome. Make sure you don’t order cappuccino after 11AM and remember that latte means milk in Italian, and if you ask for one you will receive just a plain glass if milk instead of a frothy milky coffee.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Whilst the major attractions of Rome are concentrated in the historic centre and around the Vatican, you need to step away from them to get to know the real city. Neighbourhoods such as Trastevere, Testaccio, Monti or Pigneto are great to explore without looking for famous sights. These are the places where you will find the most authentic food in Rome as well, where the locals go out to eat.
Experience the Local Food
Rome is a paradise for good food and, same as every other region in Italy, has its own traditional dishes that you must try! The most famous Roman dish is the pasta cacio e pepe, a simple but flavoursome spaghetti dish seasoned with pecorino cheese and black pepper. Pasta carbonara is another Roman classic, a creamy spaghetti with guanciale (cured pork cheeks), pecorino and egg yolks, with no added cream.
When you walk down the street and fancy a snack, pizza al taglio is always a great option. Pizza by the slice is served pretty much everywhere in Rome. Pizza al taglio is baked in large square trays and is topped with different things, from the simple margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil) to gourmet ingredients. My favourite will always be the artichoke pizza al taglio. And talking about artichokes, you can’t miss the carciofo alla Romana, if you visit Rome in spring or autumn, when this vegetable is in season. Braised and stuffed with herbs, with a touch of lemon on top, carciofo alla Romana is a delicacy that melts in your mouth, leaving you craving for more.
Another street food favourite in Rome is the supli, a deep fried rice ball filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce. It resembles the Sicilian arancino.
For seconds, because yes, pasta is a first course in Italy, opt for a Saltimbocca alla Romana – juicy slices of veal wrapped in prosciutto and sage and cooked in white wine, or Coda alla Vaccinara – ox tail stew with pancetta, vegetables and red wine.
Are you excited about visiting Rome for the first time? I hope you will love the city as much as I do! I would love to read your opinions in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post written together with Musement. However, all the opinions in this article are my own and I would not recommend anything that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself doing or think it was a great place to visit.
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