Organize your own trip with FairplayTrips. It's easy, free and useful. Start here
All you need to know to prepare your 3-day week-end trip to Rome
Hugues 'The Dude'2 years ago
1
0

By Julo [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 

In order to prepare our trips to Rome, we have read dozens of web sites, as well as several travel guides, and we have talked to many friends and asked for advice.

We are now going to make all this hard (but most enjoyable) work available to you in this post, so that you can create your own trip to Rome, customized to your own tastes.

This post is for:

  • those who have never been to Rome, and want to discover the city during a 3/4 day weekend; If that's your case, and if you are in a hurry, go straight to discover the must see places.
  • and also those who have already been to Rome and want to discover more than the most popular sights, or who have more time to enjoy the city (5 to 8 days). In this case, you can also visit the section "more sights in Rome's neighborhoods", to get off the beaten track.

On top of the attractions presented in the first 2 sections, you'll find lots of useful, hands-on information in the following sections, that you can pick later on, when you are more advanced in your planning exercise.

 

At every stage of your trip preparation, you can use FairplayTrips (which hosts this post) as your travel assistant: it provides information on each place that you want to visit, lets you select the places that you like and organize them as you like it. When you have built your trip (in just a few clicks), you can share it with your travel companions to validate its content.

 

So let's go! What you'll find in this post includes:

Of course, all the information below is heavily inspired by my own experience (and that of a few friends), but I am trying hard to be as objective as possible.

Rome's must see places

These are the sights that everybody knows, and they are surely the reason of your trip to Rome. Every one of those places alone would justify your trip, and your main issue in Rome will be to choose what to visit (i.e. excluding stuff) rather than finding interesting places.

In this section, I suggest to organize the visits on a 3-day schedule, trying to optimize your transit time during the day. In order to do so, I have very roughly divided Rome into 3 parts: Ancient Rome (day 1), Renaissance/Baroque Rome (day 2) and the Vatican (day 3).

Must see places in Ancient Rome (day 1)

 

If you go to Rome and admit to your friends that you have not visited the Colosseum, surely you will be seen as an eccentric person at best. The Colosseum is like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Statue of Liberty in New York City or Big Ben in London: this is Rome's iconic place, its universal distinctive landmark. So, if you've never been there, well, follow the flow (and I mean the huge flow of tourists...), and you will actually enjoy an impressive and well preserved site.

But if you want to avoid the queue, you'd better book your ticket in advance. I you haven't booked in advance, I give you my tip: buy your combined ticket at the Palatine Hill. The combined ticket (the only one available to visit the Colosseum anyway) includes the entrance to the Colosseum itself plus the Forum Romanum and the Palatine Hill. And this is most enjoyable because those 2 other sites are also well worth a visit (and very close).

The Forum was the center of the Roman Empire, extending from northern England to Egypt. Arches celebrating emperors' victories follow each other, even if most of them have been heavily damaged throughout time. If the Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus are remarkably preserved, the Temple of Vespasian or the Basilica of Maxentius are in ruins.

So, one ticket for the 3 sites (if you really are out of time, you can skip my personal favorite, the Palatine Hill), half a day at least, and a pair of good walking shoes are all you need. Even if sites are very close to each other (see the map below), you will walk a lot between the temples and the arches, and some ancient paths are a bit bumpy.

When you are done with the Forum, you can go to the Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline hill, mostly designed by Michelangelo and considered one of the most beautiful squares in Rome (and, believe me, there is fierce competition!). In its center, you will find the famous equestrian statue of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (actually a copy) and, to see the original, you will have to visit the Capitoline Museums. Well worth a visit, the museum hosts a rich collection of ancient statues (notably a Hall of the Emperors) and other archeological treasures found around Rome.

We have also added on the map below the Pantheon, another Roman jewel. You will be impressed by the largest dome built in ancient times (more than 40 meters, i.e. 140 ft). Like for the Duomo in Florence (built 15 centuries later), you are confronted with a double masterpiece: of art and engineering. Entrance is free, and it is not so close to the other ancient sites that we mentioned earlier. Actually, if you want to optimize your travelling time, you can visit it on the second day, along with the sites from the Renaissance/Baroque periods, as it is between Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps).

 

 

Must see places in Renaissance/Baroque Rome (day 2)

 

After a day in Ancient Rome, you will discover more treasures from the 15-18th centuries period.

First, the famous Piazza Navona. This huge square, very crowded with tourists from all over the world, hosts at its center the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, by Bernini. This fountain is a jewel of Baroque art, and more than deserves a visit.

Walking towards the east, you will come upon the Trevi Fountain, where Anita Ekberg took a bath in Fellini's iconic movie La Dolce Vita. This is also where you'll have the opportunity to uphold a roman tradition: if you throw a coin into the fountain (with your back to it), then you'll come back to Rome one day (to actually get your coin back, the story says). Tempting, isn't it?

While you continue walking across the streets of Rome, feeling its unique atmosphere, head towards the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps. After the bathing experience with Anita Ekberg at the Trevi fountain, you now have the opportunity to have an ice cream with Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday)... So many flowers! And so many tourists! But the steps just cannot be overlooked, above all if this is your first trip to Rome. For the lucky ones, you'll find luxury boutiques on the Via del Corso in the area. For people like me, well, window-shopping is tolerated...

For the above-mentioned piazzas and fountains, of course, you don't need a ticket. However, Galleria Borghese is a totally different story... Booking is mandatory! Don't even think buying a ticket at the counter, you have to make arrangements in advance (all required information is available on the FairplayTrips' information page). But what a reward! You'll discover, in the middle of a wonderful park, the most beautiful marbles by Bernini, notably the Rape of Proserpina (a Baroque masterpiece), but also works from Canova, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian or Rubens. The constraints imposed by the gallery (2 hour visits max, limited number of people per time slot) strongly limit the number of tourists, and you can enjoy your visit quietly.

Before or after you've been to the gallery, have a nice walk in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, free and relaxing.

 

 

Must see places in Vatican (day 3)

 

Vatican City is a sovereign enclave within Rome, and surely is the state where you will find the most impressive cultural heritage on such a small area (Vatican City State is the smallest state in the world and counts only 800+ inhabitants). In order to visit this fabulous site comfortably, you should dedicate at least half a day, if not a day. The Vatican Museums are among the richest sanctuaries of Italian paintings (Fra Angelico, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio...), but also of sculptures (dating back to ancient times) and modern works by Rodin, Van Gogh, Chagall, Kandinsky, Picasso or Matisse.

Of course, the museums will let you visit the Sistine Chapel, another iconic masterpiece by Michelangelo. From a logistical point of view, you can book tickets directly on the museum's web site. Otherwise, you will have to queue for a usually long time, even early in the morning.

When you get out of the museums, you can enter Saint Peter's Basilica, et continue to admire Michelangelo's works, most notably his Pietà. The whole basilica of course is full of magnificent works by Bernini and Raphael, and you'll be impressed by its enormous proportions coupled with its graceful architecture. For those who still send postcards, you'll find the Vatican's post office on Saint Peter's Square.

On your way out of the Vatican, at the end of the Via della Conciliazione, you cannot miss the Sant'Angelo Castle, which you can admire from the outside if you are out of time. If you decide to enter and climb the stairs, you will have a very nice view of Rome (I give you another few spots later in this post...), and you will have access to a museum which, to be honest, has not created the same emotions as the ones I felt in the Vatican...

 

 

With all those must see places, you have enough to fill up a 3 day discovery weekend, in no hurry : Ancient Rome on day 1, Renaissance/Baroque Rome on the second day, and the Vatican on the third (which MUST NOT be a Sunday, otherwise it's closed). When we visited Rome for the first time, we could even land on the first day (in the morning) and take off in the evening of the third. So the above plan is humanly achievable, with the dedication of a Roman lover of course ;-)

Now, you know what you can reasonably NOT miss when you are in Rome. But there is much more to Rome than this quick introduction...

More sights in Rome's neighborhoods

Rome is not limited to its historic center, this is also a living city, with many tourists indeed, but also many things to discover in its surroundings. In this section, I would like you to discover places which are not at the top of your usual tourist guide, per neighborhood.

City Center: more to see...

Our must see places are all within the so-called "center" of Rome: a triangle Vatican - Villa Borghese - Palatine Hill. Before exploring other districts of Rome, sometimes a bit further away, we still have a few things to consider in the center.

 

When you stand on piazza Venezia (which is very central in Rome, and you will surely get there a few times), you cannot miss the famous Vittoriano, or Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, or "the typewriter" as Romans commonly call it... Whether you love or hate it, you will see it. You can get on the roof of the building and enjoy a very nice view of the city (7€ for the elevator ride). Very close to the Vittoriano, do not miss Trajan's Column, celebrating the emperor's victories over the Dacians (people from the Carpathian Mountains) and erected in 113 AD. Trajan actually ruled the largest Roman Empire in history (it had never been larger before, and never will be after his reign).

Further down the southwest, you can walk through the Roman Ghetto, the Jewish district. No specific building to visit, just a nice walk that you can extend towards Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber (see below). Quite a few good restaurants, as Roman cuisine has been heavily influenced by Jewish culinary traditions.

Going back to the north, and if you like cats (but who doesn't like kittens on the web nowadays...), you can discover a local curiosity: the cats' square, also known as Largo di Torre Argentina. Locals take care of and feed homeless cats in the piazza, which also hosts the ruins of 4 ancient temples (of which, I have to admit, not so much remains...). It is also on this square that Julius Caesar has been murdered in 44 BC by a group of senators. A real curiosity, I told you...

If you like princess's castles, and if you visit Rome on a Saturday morning, then you might consider Palazzo Colonna, a few minutes away from piazza Venezia. It's open to visitors on Saturday morning only (9:00 AM - 1:15 PM), but it is one of the hidden jewels of Rome. In its art gallery, you will discover works of Tintoretto, Guido Reni, Guercino and other significant artists of Renaissance and Baroque periods. You'll also be amazed by the palace's architecture, with frescoes on walls ceilings, and you'll have the opportunity to visit the apartments of a real princess of the 20th century, Isabelle Colonna, also richly decorated. The privilege to discover a princess's apartments however is a bit pricey, around 25€ per person.

If your thirst for art has not been quenched by the Galleria Borghese, you can enjoy another set of master pieces at Galleria Doria-Pamphili. The gallery shows works by Tintoretto, Bernini, Le Lorrain, Caravaggio or Velasquez, and you will also find in the palace a hall of mirrors (not as impressive as Versailles' version) as well as a very nice and quiet cloister.

Towards the northeast, you'll get to the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. You can visit parts of the palace (it's actually quite huge) on Sunday morning, from 8:30 to noon, for a fee of 10€. Maybe it's enough to see its exteriors, notably the piazza del Quirinale which hosts at its center the Obelisco del Quirinale, brought back from Egypt in the first century.

Finally, further up to the northeast, you'll fall upon the Palazzo Barberini, another palace dedicated to the art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Caravaggio, Raphael, Guercini et many other artists provide unique ornaments to this sumptuous 17th century palace, designed by Borromini and Bernini. A word of warning: several visitors complained that some rooms were not open at their time of visit, and that some paintings might be occasionally missing (Caravaggio), lent to other museums.

 

 

Trastevere - Gianicolo

Trastevere (literally "across the Tiber", Rome's river) is a neighborhood, west of the historic center and south of Vatican City. Gianicolo is a hill within Trastevere, offering a unique view of Rome (see below the section 'Rome with kids').

 

Trastevere is a livelier neighborhood than, say, the more upscale Piazza di Spagna. It is crowded with both tourists and natives, and it offers a very busy nightlife for both. It's very easy to access it from the historic center, but the metro does not stop there. So you'll have to use buses to get around if you need public transport.

At the center of the district, you'll find Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, overlooked by its magnificent church Santa Maria in Trastevere. Inside, mosaics display scenes from the Bible and the life of the Virgin Mary, in a style that seemed more Byzantine than Roman to me (but I am not an expert).

Another church, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, might be a good starting point for a walk in the district (if not essential to visit). Its Baroque style is more common for Rome, and it is built on the location of St. Cecilia's house (St. Cecilia is one of the most famous Roman martyrs).

As you get closer to the Gianicolo hill, you can access Rome's botanical garden (Orto Botanico), the former gardens of Palazzo Corsini. It hosts more that 8000 plant species, and is much appreciated for its quietness. However, the price (8€, 4€ if you are younger than 12) seems a bit prohibitive... And you can have a view that is at least as impressive for free, if you go a bit upper on the Gianicolo (see the section 'Rome with kids' below).

If you like to stay away from crowds, I'd rather advise you to visit the Villa Farnesina, not so far away. If you want to spend a private moment with Raphael (the painter), the museum offers 5 rooms decorated with some of his masterful frescoes. This is a quick tour (an hour or so), but you can also enjoy the wonderful gardens of the villa. Just be aware that the museum is only open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (closed on Sunday).

If you feel like climbing up the Gianicolo hill, you'll discover a magnificent view of Rome and, a bit further towards the west, you'll reach one of the largest parks in Rome, the Villa Doria Pamphili. Once again, these places are presented in more details in the section 'Rome with kids'. If, like me, you appreciate a bit of help, then I advise you bus 870, which stops near Castel Sant'Angelo, gets up the Gianicolo hill (where the view is so nice!), and stops at the entrance of Villa Doria Pamphili... Please have a look at the Atac web site (public transport in Rome) for more details.

Trastevere is also well known for its restaurants, and you'll find many around Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. More info about restaurants in the section 'Where to eat' below.

 

 

Northern Rome - Parioli

Parioli is the district at the north of Villa Borghese and is a residential, upper-class neighborhood. It is not so convenient to get there, and you'll have to use buses and Ferrovia Regionale trains (regional trains).

 

Villa Borghese also houses the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, which displays an impressive collection of modern master pieces from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Courbet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Klimt, Duchamp, Braque, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Modigliani, de Chirico... Besides its richness, the museum is not on the list of most tourists in Rome, so you can enjoy a quiet visit. If you like paintings from that period, it is well worth a visit in my opinion...

Still around Villa Borghese, you can discover the origins of Rome in the National Etruscan Museum in Villa Giulia. Anywhere else in the world, the museum would be an absolute must-see (and it is one for me). If you have any interest in archeology, you will love the numerous pieces of art and every day life displayed here: sculptures, jewels (a rich collection), but also tools and even weapons made by the people who founded Rome. Hosting those treasures, Villa Giulia is an amazing piece of architecture, not too crowded with tourists.

In the same surroundings, we can mention the Explora Children Museum, further detailed in the section 'Rome with kids'.

When you go up north (take the tramway, line 2, from Piazza del Popolo), you'll find the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts MAXXI, designed by the architect Zaha Hadid. The museum's architecture is really original, but the permanent collection is a bit deceiving. If a temporary exhibition gets your attention while you are in Rome, then it might be worth a visit.

Not so far away from the MAXXI, Auditorium Parco della Musica is a large music complex designed by Renzo Piano. I could not judge by myself, but I've heard that the sound of the 3 concert halls is very good. So, if you have the opportunity to attend a concert or an opera there, it will surely be a nice memory of your trip to Rome.

Towards the east, you'll reach Villa Ada, the second largest park in Rome after Villa Doria Pamphili. The park is very well kept and you can picnic, wander or exercise in it. No tourists in here, and you are actually not that far away from Piazza del Popolo in public transport: from Flaminio station (close to Piazza del Popolo) to Ciampi Sportivi (close to Villa Ada's entrance) with the regional train Roma-Viterbo (4 stops, a train every ~10 min. during the day).

Across the park, you'll find the Catacomb of Priscilla, the entrance of which is in the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla. Many Christian martyrs are buried in it, and some funerary elements are remarkably preserved. It's called the queen of the catacombs (regina catacumbarum), and many find it more interesting to visit than the more popular catacombs of Via Appia. To get back to the city center, bus 310 brings you back to Termini station.

Finally, I mention the MACRo (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome), but I would not necessarily advise you to go there. Unless you are a fan of contemporary art (and I am not...), the MAXXI seems more accessible to me. So, it's up to you...

 

 

Southwest of Rome - Aventino - Ostiense - Testaccio - EUR

What we call here the southwest of Rome starts south of the Palatine hill, and more or less follows the Tiber.

Starting close to the Circus Maximus, you will find an attraction very popular with younger visitors (see 'Rome with kids'), the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth). This sculpture, picturing a face with an open mouth, is surrounded by very interesting sites.

First, the church that hosts it: Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Inspired by byzantine style, it has been linked with the Greek community (catholic, non orthodox) since the 7th century. Its bell tower and a mosaic from the original Saint Peter's Basilica deserve that you spend a few moments to visit it if you are in the area.

The Piazza Bocca della Verità is actually located on the remains of the Forum Boarium (cattle market), the first Roman forum. So several well preserved ancient buildings sit around there: the Temple of Hercules Victor (victorious) and the Temple of Portunus on the square itself, and a bit further, the Arch of Janus and the Arcus Argentariorum (it is now partly incorporated into the church of San Giorgio al Velabro). On the Piazza Bocca della Verità, you will see the lovely Fountain of the Tritons, dating from the 18th century and of Baroque inspiration.

 

Climbing bravely the Aventine Hill (Aventino), you'll discover 2 very nice gardens: Rome Rose Garden, only open around May and June (during flowering time) and offering to visitors more than 1000 species of rose, and the Giardino degli Aranci (or Parco Savello), lovely garden planted with orange trees, with an amazing view of Rome from its terrace.

A bit further stands the impressive Santa Sabina church, surely one of the oldest churches in Rome (built during the fifth century), with its quiet, uncluttered (on a Roman scale) interior. Next to it, another curiosity of Rome, the Villa del Priorato di Malta and its keyhole. When you look through the keyhole, you can see 3 countries (and even 3 capitals) at the same time (Rome, of course, but also Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City State, and the villa itself which belongs to the Knights of Malta, considered a sovereign organization). You have a similar view from Parco Savello's terrace, even if a bit less original...

If you're not afraid of climbing the Aventine Hill (it's highly doable), this part of Rome, between the Bocca della Verità and the Villa del Priorato di Malta is a really nice addition to your trip: only a couple of hours in total, and far fewer tourists than the most crowded places of Rome.

If you head to the south, you'll get to the Testaccio district. Very few tourists here, a few monuments that I mention for the sake of (relative) completeness (rather than enthusiasm). The Pyramid of Cestius or the Porta San Paolo are not, in my view, essential places to visit. During the day, you may prefer a more local experience with the Testaccio market, close to Via Galvani, full of fresh products from local producers. Italian way of life...

At nightfall, Testaccio becomes the center of Roman nightlife. Restaurants, bars and clubs are busy with locals, except during the summer months where many places are closed. In July and August, night birds migrate towards the coast, on the Lido beaches for instance...

Continuing towards the southwest, you'll fall upon Centrale Montemartini (also accessible with the metro, line B, Garbatella station). This original mix of ancient Greek and Roman statues (from the Capitoline museums) hosted in a former power generation plant is an original combination, and offers visitors a unique experience (honestly not as mind blowing as the Orsay Museum in Paris, built in a former train station, but very nice indeed). The Garbatella district, which was developed in the 1920's, offers a very Roman atmosphere. As I can't find words to describe it, just watch a short clip from Nanni Moretti's movie Cario Diario (Dear Diary)...

Further away from the center, you'll fin the EUR (Esposizione Universale di Romadistrict, created by Mussolini as the site for the 1942 world's fair (which has never taken place due to World War II). The whole district is an architectural and historical curiosity, the culmination of which is the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the "Square Colosseum". Other buildings worth mentioning include the Museum of Roman Civilization (closed since December 2014) and the Palazzo dei Congressi. Finally, the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography may be an interesting site to visit if you have exhausted all other roman museums (how did you do that???), or if you are a fan of ethnology. Nice collection of objects from the 5 continents, notably Oceania and Africa. And you won't be overwhelmed by tourists here...

 

 

Via Appia

At the south of Rome starts the Appian Way (Via Appia), built some 24 centuries ago. In ancient times, it connected Rome to Bindisi et it was called Regina Viarum ("the queen of roads"). It starts at Porta San Sebastiano, and goes through what is now called the Appian Way regional Park. This portion of the road is paved with remains of Roman buildings, but it is also a very nice recreation area. Historically, the road started at the Baths of Caracalla, which could appropriately be included in your visit. The ticket for the baths is actually combined with the Tomb of Caecilia Metella and the Villa dei Quintili, for a total of 6€ (a bargain in my opinion). The Baths of Caracalla are remarkably preserved, and they will strike you with their size (it contained an Olympic-size swimming pool!). 6000 romans could relax and exercise each day. A must-see in my opinion, far less crowded than the Colosseum.

 

When you leave the Aurelian Wall through Porta San Sebastiano, the first monument you'll come across is the church of Domine Quo Vadis (Santa Maria in Palmis). Its nickname means "Lord, where are you going?", and this question was asked, according to the legend, to Jesus by Saint Peter fleeing persecution in Rome. The first church was then built where Saint Peter had his vision (the one you see now dates from the 17th century).

Right after the church, you can either enter the Caffarella Park, where you will find some remains of ancient roman buildings, or continue your walk on Via Appia, towards the Catacomb of Callixtus. 20km long (~13 miles), the catacomb is considered the first Christian cemetery. 15 Popes are buried there, and you can visit some parts of it. As a side note, it is very nice to discover the Via Appia with kids (not too young, and fit), but I did not bring my daughter to see the catacombs. Now, if your kids are a bit older, it really is up to you... You'll find another catacomb (of San Sebastiano) a bit further down the road, just next to the church San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Saint Sebastian outside the walls). The church was built in the 17th century and houses a stone carrying the alleged footprints of Jesus when Peter met Him at the location of today's Domine Quo Vadis church.

Alongside Via Appia, your next stop will be the Circus of Maxentius, where horse and chariot races took place. Emperor Maxentius ordred it creation in the fourth century, and was dedicated to the memory of his son Valerius Romulus. The site is remarkably preserved (it is in a much better state than the Circus Maximus down the Palatine Hill) and ancient sites lovers like me will spend a very nice time walking across its remains.

After a short walk, you will fall upon the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, daughter of a Roman Consul and above all the daughter-in-law of the famous Marcus Crassus, the extraordinarily wealthy member of the First Triumvirate (alongside Julius Caesar and Pompey) when the Roman Republic collapsed and transformed into the Roman Empire. The mausoleum, enriched with fortified walls throughout history (due to its strategic position), is the best-preserved monument on the Appian Way.

Further down the road, you can visit a newly open archeological site, with free entrance: Capo di Bove. It is a large property with thermal baths, that seems interesting but that I have not visited (yet!).

After a very long walk, you will find the Villa dei Quintili, built for the Quintilii brothers, consuls of Rome in the middle of the second century. Out of favor with Emperor Commodus (son of Marcus Aurelius), the latter took over the villa for himself, but, a few years later, he was murdered in it. The site is well preserved, with beautiful mosaics still visible.

As a remainder (and a warning): there is a good distance between Capodi Bove and the Villa dei Quintili. So don't hesitate to rent bicycles (see where on the map below), or to skip the beginning of the Via Appia and get to the Villa dei Quintili by bus (number 664), which connects you to metro A station Coli Albani (from there, you can go straight to Termini). And by the way, the entrance is on Via Appia Nuova, even if I heard (unverified) rumors telling that you could call and get the gate open on Via Appia Antica (never tried, at your own risk...).

Regarding bicycle rental, I have added to FairplayTrips and the map below the address and contact details of a few bike rental shops. Just make sure that you wear a helmet while riding, because Via Appia is sometimes a bit bumpy (if not dangerous).

 

 

Eastern Rome : Monti, Esquilino, San Lorenzo, Il Pigneto, Caelius and Latran

The Monti/Esquilino neighborhood is located at the east of the Forum Romanum. You will surely visit it if your hotel is close to Termini station. And this is surely a good idea, as you will find a few jewels of Rome, among which one of the 4 Papal major basilicas of Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore. This basilica, built during the fourth century, has been enriched throughout the years until the 17th century. Outside, you will admire its Baroque facade and the impressive column taken from the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (from the Roman Forum). Inside, the fifth century mosaics, depicting biblical scenes, are worth a visit by themselves.

Slightly up north you will discover the largest roman museum of ancient art, in the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme (between the Baths of Diocletian and Termini station). If you have any interest in ancient art, the museum is an absolute must-see. On 4 levels, you'll discover remarkably preserved Greco-Roman statues, pieces of art coming from Roman villas (notably Villa Farnesina) and a huge numismatic collection, with coins dating back to Rome's origins. As a side note, the Palazzo Massimo's ticket is combined with 3 other sites (the Baths of Dioceltian museum, Crypta Balbi and Palazzo Altemps) which are all part of the National Roman Museum. Don't feel obliged to visit all 4 (the 7€ ticket for Palazzo Massimo alone is not overpriced) but, if you feel like adding one of them to your planning, my personal advice goes for Palazzo Altemps (not far away from Castle Sant' Angelo), with its magnificent courtyard and its collection of ancient statues.

If you follow the Via Cavour, you'll reach San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains), a Roman church which hosts the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. But the church is best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. The global structure, originally intended to be much larger (more than 40 statues), has been completed by Michelangelo's students in a less ambitious version. Moses' statue however, by the master himself, demonstrates his unique talent for sculpting bodies and textures, and deserves a visit if you have time.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the above 3 places are very close to Termini, and, if your hotel is in the area, don't miss them, it will not take you much time.

Towards the east from the Colosseum stands the Basilica of San Clemente, built during the 4th century, burnt (by the Normans) in the 11th, and rebuilt in the 12th. It's an interesting site because if offers 3 levels linked to its history: in the basement you'll find elements of the initial pagan sanctuary of the cult of Mithras (around first-second centuries) as well as the first church (4th century) and, on what is now the ground floor, you'll find the church built in the 12th century, with its impressive mosaics.

Further to the east stands the famous Basilica of St. John Lateran, another one of the 4 major basilicas of Rome. Only Saint Peter in Vatican City outshines its prestige and splendor, which is not a surprise since the Lateran Palace, next to it, was the main papal residence for 10 centuries (from the 4th to the 14th), and that the basilica was built by Constantine even before Saint Peter. Its current version dates from the 17th century, and of course, is of Baroque inspiration. If you visit the church, spend an extra 2€ to visit the cloister, its quiet garden and Doric columns.

Further down the south, you'll reach the Santo Stefano Rotondo church, which is circular as the name implies. If you really are into churches (Rome is a good choice, well done!), it is close enough of Saint John Lateran to deserve a short visit. If time is an issue, I would skip it altogether...

On the other side of Termini station lies the San Lorenzo district. Close to the largest university in Europe (La Sapienza, 148 000 students), the area is well known for its nightlife, where students meet with artists and other hipsters. You'll find many bars (notably wine bars), restaurants and clubs, especially around piazza dell'Immacolata.

The last "eastern" attraction in my list is the Cinecittà studios. If they are a bit far away from the city center, they are actually only 20 minutes from Termini station by metro (line A, stop at Cinecittà), the stop being right in front of the studios. This place cannot be missed for any decent movie buff (above all the Italian cinema lover), and it will take roughly 2 hours to visit. Beware, 2 kinds of tickets are available (with or without the outdoor set visit). Despite its price, if you have decided to visit the studios, then take the complete tour including the guided visit of the outdoor sets (notably Scorsese's Gangs of New York, and other Ancient Roman style sets). Otherwise, the normal exhibition is a bit deceiving given the enormous potential at hand, but the Fellini room will be a must-see for his fans. Overall, if you have a spare half day in Rome and the budget for the complete tour, it may be on your list of sites to visit.

 

 

How to move around in Rome

If you stay in the center of Rome (roughly between Vatican City, Villa Borghese and the Palatine Hill), you won't need much of public transport. However, you will surely arrive by plane at one of the 2 main Roman airports (Fiumicino or Ciampino), and from there, you'll have to reach the city.

From the airport to the city

 

 

As you can see it on the map above, both international airports of Rome are respectively 20 miles away (Fiumicino) and 10 miles (Ciampino) from the city center. To get to the city center, you have several choices:

  • by train;
  • by bus;
  • by car.

 

Rome <-> Fiumicino Airport

By train - Leonardo Express (operated by Trenitalia) - Roma Termini <-> Fiumicino
Full price: 14€ for a single ticket, 28€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 13 and above).
Free: for kids aged 3 and below, and for kids aged 12 or below traveling with an adult (one child per adult, otherwise full price is applied).
The duration of the trip is 32 minutes, with a train departing at worst every 30 minutes (more trains at peak hours).
Schedule: departure from Roma Termini between 5:50 AM and 10:50 PM, from Fiumicino between 6:38 AM and 23:38 PM (verified in March 2015). Operated every day of the year.
Beware, if you visit the Trenitalia web site, you can find, on top of the Leonardo Express, the Frecciargento, which connects the airport to Termini. This train is not slower, but it is just more expensive (notably for kids below 12).

By train - Regional train FL1 (operated by Trenitalia) - Roma Trastevere, Ostiense, Tiscolana, Tiburtana <-> Fiumicino (source: https://www.adr.it/pax-fco-treno-collegamenti)
Full price: 8€ for a single ticket, 16€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 13 and above).
Free: for kids aged 3 and below, and for kids aged 12 or below traveling with an adult (one child per adult, otherwise full price is applied).
The duration of the trip is 27 minutes to Trastevere, 31 minutes to Ostiense, 41 minutes to Tuscolana et 48 minutes to Tiburtina, with a train departing at worst every 15 minutes during the day (30 in the evening).
Schedule: departure from Fiumicino entre 5:58 AM et 10:28 PM (verified in March 2015). Less frequent during the weekends. More details here.
Beware, this train does not stop at Termini station (and many hotels are close to Termini).

By bus - TerravisionRoma Termini <-> Fiumicino
Full price: 6€ for a single ticket, 11€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 4 and above). Internet discount if you book in advance: 4€ for a single ticket, 8€ for a return ticket on terravision.eu.
Free: for kids aged 3 and below.
Beware: travel time can vary a lot, and no guarantee is given to depart at the time set on your booking (first come, first served policy and sometimes a long wait at peak hours). Terravision is really cheap, but I have read quite a few complaints about it. See this discussion for some reviews..

By bus - Sitshuttle - Roma Termini or Vatican <-> Fiumicino
Full price: 6€ for a single ticket, 11€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 4 and above).
Free: for kids aged 3 and below.
Beware: same remark as above for Terravision, travel time up to 1:20 (depending on departure time), same "first come, first served" policy. Additional stop near Vatican City, but, when you leave Rome for the airport, the Vatican stop is after Termini and, at peak hours, it is possible that very few seats remain when the bus arrives. In any case, give yourself plenty of time to commute back to the airport.

By bus - CotralRoma Termini or Tiburtina <-> Fiumicino
Unique price: 5€ for a single ticket if you buy it at a reseller (Autogrill or Ferretti Tobacconist at the airport), 7€ if you buy it directly in the bus.
Schedule: 8 trips per day (of approximately 1 hour), among which 4 are night trips. More details here.
I have found very little feedback on Cotral, so please do not hesitate to leave yours in the comments section.

By car - Taxi - Rome (within the Aurelian wall) <-> Fiumicino
Fixed price: 48€, up to 4 passenger with luggage.
You can be dropped off anywhere you like within the walls of Rome, actually delimited by the Aurelian wall.

By car - Private transfer
Private transfer lets you book for yourself (and your co-travelers of course) a car that picks you up at the airport and drops you off at your hotel (and vice-versa). Price depends on the number of passengers.
For the record, I mention the Rome Shuttle Limousine service; its prices can be attractive compared to a normal cab (and you won't have to queue).
Example of prices: 45€ for 1 to 3 passengers including luggage - 55€ for up to 5 people, etc. (seer their web site for more information). An additional fee of 5€ is charged for transfers between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. A 5€ discount is applied if you book a return transfer. Payments can be made by cash or credit card in the car.

By car - Shared transfer
Shared transfer lets you book a car (or rather a mini-van) for several people who do not travel together (and usually don't know each other). The vehicle can pick up passengers around a location (the airport here) by stopping at several terminals for instance. In the same way, passengers will be dropped off in the order that optimizes the global transfer. So you may have to wait for other passengers, and you could also be dropped after another few stops.
For the record, I mention the Airport Shuttle service: 25€ for the first traveler, and then 6€ per extra passenger (luggage included).

 

Rome <-> Ciampino Airport

By train + bus - Roma Termini <-> Ciampino
Beware, there is a train station in Ciampino, but not at the airport! You have to take a bus from the airport to the station, and than a train to Termini. When you get out of the airport, take a Cotral/Schiaffini/Atral bus (1€ per passenger) to the Ciampino città station (duration: ~5 min., a bus every 30 min.), and then a train to Termini (1.50€ per passenger, 15 min. duration, 1 train every 10 min.). Source : http://www.adr.it/pax-cia-treno.

By bus - Terravision - Roma Termini <-> Ciampino
Full price: 4€ for a single ticket, 8€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 4 and above).
Free: for kids aged 3 and below.
Beware: see the above remarks about the commute between Rome and Fiumicino.

By bus - Sitshuttle - Roma Termini <-> Ciampino
Full price:
4€ for a single ticket from Ciampino, 6€ for a single ticket from Termini, 8€ for a return ticket (for travelers of age 4 and above).
Free: for kids aged 3 and below.
Beware: see the above remarks about the commute between Rome and Fiumicino. No stop at the Vatican City for the Ciampino line.

By bus + metro - Cotral/AtralRoma Termini (and other metro stations) <-> Ciampino, via Anagnina
Your trip is divided into 2 sections: from the airport to the Anagnina metro station by bus (Atral, every 40 min., 1.20€ per passenger + another 1.20€ per "overage size" suitcase - source), and then you are on metro line A where you can get to Termini or any other metro station that is most convenient to you.

By car - Taxi - Rome (within the Aurelian wall) <-> Ciampino
Fixed price: 30€, up to 4 passengers with luggage.
You can be dropped off anywhere you like within the walls of Rome, actually delimited by the Aurelian wall.
Beware, cabs departing from Ciampino are not all fully aware of the predefined fares to go to the city. See this post for difficult experience.

By car - Private or shared transfer: see the Fiumicino section, prices seem identical.

Metro in Rome

Rome has 2 metro lines (A and B), which cross at a unique point, Termini station. Metro stops in all major touristic areas of Rome (Centro Storico, Vatican City, Spannish Steps, Villa Medici, Testaccio...) except Trastevere and Gianicolo. It is a pity since those areas are quite nice and a bit less touristic... Once you are in the center, the metro will be of no use to you (but you'll need a pair of good walking shoes...).

For both lines (A and B), the first train departs at 5:30 AM, and the last one at 11:30 PM. On Friday and Saturday nights, the last train departs at 1:30 AM (source). All necessary information is available on the Atac web site. I highly recommend the combined map of metro and regional train lines (called ferrovie regionali, FR).

Bus and tramway

Rome has a very dense bus network, which can get you nearly everywhere you want. Do not hesitate to use the Atac web site, notably its interactive map with all bus lines. I just mention line 64, from Termini to Vatican City, stopping on Piazza Venezia and not too far away from Piazza Navone. It is a good addition to the metro lines to visit the city center.

Furthermore, some bus lines also operate during the night (beware, the night routes are different from the daytime versions), which could allow you to go back to your hotel even if you have enjoyed Roman pleasures a bit too late... The night routes (starting with an 'n') are accessible here.

Tramway lines do not operate within the city center, but may be of use when you explore the suburbs of Rome.

Buying public transport tickets

All Roman public transport can be accessed with the same tickets. Prices are listed below (verified in March 2015 - source):

  • Standard ticket (B.I.T.): 1.50€ - Valid for 1 metro ride or 100 minutes on all buses.
  • 1-day ticket (B.I.G.): 6.00€ - Valid for one day (until midnight on the day it has been first validated). Must be inserted in all machines to get into the metro, and kept with you all day. In theory, you should write your name on your ticket. It can be used for an unlimited number of metro, bus, train or tramway rides within the Rome network.
  • 3-day ticket (B.T.I.): 16.50€ - Valid for 3 days (until midnight on the third day it has been first validated), with conditions similar to the 1-day ticket (B.I.G.).
  • 7-day ticket (C.I.S.): 24.00€ - Valid for 7 days (until midnight on the seventh day it has been first validated), with conditions similar to the 1-day ticket (B.I.G.).

Children below 10 travel for free if they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.

Beware, there are quite a few controllers in Roman public transport, and the fine for a lack of a valid ticket is 50€. The fares above only cover Roman public transport, and other prices can apply if you use other transport networks.

Roma Pass also provides access to the public transportation network, and there is a clear overlap with the above tickets. We'll come back to the Roma Pass below.

Booking your tickets and Roma Pass

We are trying in this section to answer a few questions: should you book your tickets in advance? For which sites? Is Roma Pass useful?

Where should you absolutely book in advance?

The most critical site where you must book in advance is the Galleria Borghese (all details are available on its FairplayTrips page). No booking, no visit! The gallery relies on a partner for its reservations.

If you also plan to visit the Vatican Museums (and if you never did, I strongly advise you to do it), then I would recommend an advanced booking as well. Otherwise, you can start queuing in the morning, but the line is usually quite long… So use the official Vatican web site for your booking, even if there is an extra 4€ per ticket compared to the price you would pay at the counter. It’s your choice, time vs. money…

To a lesser extent, the combined ticket for the Colosseum / Forum / Palatine Hill can be advantageous to book in advance. In any case, never queue at the Colosseum! Instead, get to the Palatine Hill entrance, and buy you combined ticket there, with little to no queue (usually). Otherwise, you can book your tickets on their official web site, with an additional booking fee of 2€. So an early reservation is not mandatory here, and, if you also plan to visit the Palatine, then getting your ticket there might make sense (this is what we actually did the first time, ad we were happy with our  -improvised - strategy).

Free sites in Rome

You can visit many wonderful, unique attractions in Rome without spending a penny: piazzas (Saint Peter, Navona, Spagna...), fountains (dei Quattro Fiumi, Trevi...) or gardens (Villa Borghese) are all free.

 

San Luigi dei Francesi church between piazza Navona and the Pantheon, exhibiting 3 paintings by Caravaggio.Among free monuments you'll find the Pantheon and many churches where you will see unique masterpieces:

Roman churches could be the subject of a dedicated guide (and surely have been), but they are not the primary objective of this post. Just keep in mind that many of them contain artistic treasures, sometimes that only few people know about.

Roma Pass

Getting or not getting a Roma Pass is a question with no definite answer. Mainly because there are many different cases to consider…

First of all, what is Roma Pass? Roma Pass is a kit including a ticket giving unlimited access to Roman public transport (for 2 or 3 days depending on the version) as well as 1 or 2 (also depending on the version) free entrances to a selection of ~60 attractions. It also includes a small map of Rome, a small guide introducing the participating sites and also a guide presenting the events currently held in the city. After the first 1 or 2 free visits, the pass offers discounts to enter the other sites (usually between 1€ and 4.50€). All participating attractions are described in this guide online, and the list of discounted prices is available here.

Roma Pass has 2 versions: the traditional 3-day (72h) and the shortened 2-day (called 48h) one. Roma Pass official site is here.

As of March 2015, the 3-day Roma Pass costs 36€, and the 48h Roma Pass costs 28€.

You can get your Roma Pass online, but also at the entrance of all participating sites, as well as at news agents and other Roman stores. It is absolutely not necessary to buy it before you go, you can do it on site at your arrival.

Beware, Roma Pass does NOT give you access to the Vatican Museums, and transport to and from the airports are not included either. But otherwise, you have access to the Colosseum / Forum / Palatine (there is even a dedicated line at the Colosseum), to the Galleria Borghese (but you still have to book your slot at the Galleria and, if you plan to use your Roma Pass, you’ll have to book by phone and not through the web site) and to a plethora of interesting museums and archeological sites.

As for cutting the (long) lines, the Roma Pass is usually quite helpful for the 1 or 2 free entrances. Otherwise, for the following tickets, you will usually have to go to the counter to get your discount (and sometimes, you’ll have to queue…).

So, is it interesting or not? We’ll have to answer the question through an example, and compare the costs with and without a Roma Pass.

Cost of unlimited transport without Roma Pass:

  • For the 3-day pass, you can buy an equivalent B.T.I. ticket for 16.50€ (see above).
  • For the 2-day pass, you have to buy two 1-day tickets (6.00€ per ticket) for a total of 12.00€.

The combined ticket for the Colosseum (without extra booking fee or specific discounts) is 12.00€, and the ticket to visit the Galleria Borghese costs 11.00€. These 2 tickets are among the most expensive (and popular) that you will find in the Roma Pass selection, so they are good candidates for a realistic comparison. So, for the equivalent of a 3-day Roma Pass with 2 "free" entrances, you get a total of 23.00€, and for the equivalent of a 2-day Roma Pass, the most expensive single visit is 12.00€.

Eventually, it comes down to the simple calculation below:

  • 3-day scenario:
    • Cost of a 3-day Roma Pass: 36.00€
    • Without Roma Pass: [Transport] 16.50€ + [2 tickets : Colosseum and Galleria Borghese] 23.00€ = 39.50€ (more expensive than the Roma Pass solution)
    • In this scenario, the Roma Pass solution is cheaper, above all if you can get further discounts on the subsequent attractions.
  • 2-day scenario:
    • Cost of a 2-day Roma Pass: 28.00€
    • Without Roma Pass: [Transport] 12.00€ + [1 ticket : Colosseum] 12.00€ = 24.00€ (less expensive than the Roma Pass solution)
    • In this scenario, the Roma Pass does not seem relevant, and you'll have to evaluate the additional discounts you can get thanks to the Roma Pass (during 2 days only).

The benefits you get from a Roma Pass must be precisely evaluated. In our case, we did not buy a Roma Pass on our first trip to Rome because we did not need unlimited transport. Our hotel was close to Termini station, and we stayed within the city center. We only used the metro to go to the Vatican, and we took the bus once. It cost us 3€ in 3 days, well below the 16.50€ budgeted in the Roma Pass. But once again, every situation is different and, if your hotel is a bit further from the center, or if you want to discover other districts of Rome, the deal can become good.

Rome with kids

Traveling with your kids is one of the best experiences in your life, but, in my experience, it requires a bit more preparation. And, let's be clear, some of the best attractions in Rome won't delight some younger children... Vatican museums for instance, which may take you 3 to 4 hours of visiting time, are a bit too formal for kids (even if the Sistine Chapel will surely remind them images they have seen before).

However, there are plenty of activities that may entertain both children and grown ups.

Parks and gardens

What's better than a park for kids to run and play? Rome offers two large parks full of recreative areas for children (and their parents): Villa Borghese and Villa Doria Pamphili.

Villa Borghese is a large garden close to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, easily accessible from the city center. You can have a picnic but also rent bicycles or, even better, surreys so that you can cycle around the park. Of course, you can also plan a visit to the Galleria Borghese, which only lasts a maximum of 2 hours (not too long for kids).

On the other side of the city, Villa Doria Pamphilj is an even bigger park, even if it is less accessible from the center. This is the park where "real Romans" come for a walk, and you'll find far fewer tourists, but still many fountains (don't forget, you're in Rome...) and several monuments to admire. In order to get there, you can take a bus, notably bus 987 from the Vatican or Castle San't Angelo, or bus 31 which stops close to the metro station "Cipro - Musei Vaticani", or line 8 that you can take at Piazza Venezia and brings you not too far away from the entrance on Via della Nocetta (see the Atac web site).

If you get out the park on the Porta San Pancrazio side, don't hesitate to climb the Gianicolo, through Passeggiata del Gianicolo. At the top, you will admire one of the most beautiful views of Rome.

Of course, for older children, Via Appia and its park are a very good spot to organize an entertaining time, where you can combine cycling, picnic and the visit of superb ancient sites (see above).

 

 

Monuments and museums to visit with kids

Some famous sites of Rome are also very much appreciated by children. The Colosseum for instance is one of them. Can you imagine the Wembley stadium (and its more than 80,000 seats) adapted to roman ancient times! Kids usually love lions and gladiators, and the site presents nicely all the activities that would take place. It surely is one of the most efficient way to make children aware of roman history, and make them better understand what they will discover in Rome.

Not so far away from the Colosseum stands the Bocca della Verita, a funny sculpture where kids can put hand in the "mouth" (and, according to the legend, it would be bitten off if they were telling a lie).

In the historical center, the Trevi Fountain is also very popular, because you can throw a coin into the fountain and it is good fun for younger children (so have a few spare coins because, once they start, they usually want to do it several times - believe me, been there, done that...).

A Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition has been very successful in the past few years in Rome. It is planned to stay open until the end of April 2016, and it presents around fifty full-scale machines designed by Da Vinci. Kids can touch and handle them, and the whole visit is quite interactive.

Rome also hosts a children museum, the Museo dei Bambini Explora, which is very close to the Villa Borghese. Not much cultural content here, but 1 hour and 45 minutes where kids can relax and play with toys and games of their age.

In the same area you'll find the Bioparco zoo, with all the animals kids usually love. Once again a good relaxing time, not far away from the main sites and with a small recreation area for children.

Outside Rome : Ostia and beaches

If you have the time to leave the center of Rome for a day, both children and parents will be quite happy to visit the ancient city of Ostia. Ostia was the port of Rome in ancient times, but also a real roman city with its stores, temples and its fortified walls. In a much better condition than the Roman Forum, children usually like it. In order to get there, it is rather simple: just take the train (Rome-Lido line) from Porta San Paolo (train) station (which is very close to the - metro - station Piramide) and stop at Ostia Antica station. The site is then very close. Metro station Piramide is on metro line B. The whole trip (metro + train) is included in Roman Public Transport tickets (also valid with the Roma Pass).

Once you are in Ostia (a port, close to the sea), you may have the good idea to go to the beach with your kids. Well, it's actually quite simple, since the same train that brought you to Ostia can actually bring you to the beach! So, once in Ostia Antica, take the train and stop either at Lido Centro (from there, you are 600 meters away from Lido beaches - you can walk or take a bus), or continue to the last stop, Cristoforo Colombo. From there, you can go to the so-called cancelli beaches (cancelli means gates in English), far less crowded and much nicer than the beaches in Lido. A bus (number 7, Mare – Torvajanica - beware, the ride is not covered by the Roman Public Transport tickets, you need to buy a specific one) brings you to one of those (numbered) beaches.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I can show you the details of the train line below:

By Friedrichstrasse [ CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 

For those unfamiliar with Italian touristic practices, bear in mind that most Italian beaches are 'private', so you'll have to pay for admission and rent a sunbed (lettino) and parasol (ombrellone). It will usually cost you 5 to 10€ per person. Otherwise, you'll have to find a free beach (spiaggia libera), usually narrow, overcrowded and not very clean. This is why cancelli are better than beaches in Lido, free beaches are much larger and less crowded. And they are very close to the summer residence of the Italian President, and as such they are usually well kept...

You'll find below a map summarizing the various places around Ostia, notably the bathing areas with their cleanness measured by the Italian authorities (you can clone the trip in order to access all the details of each place).

 

 

Where to sleep? Where to eat? Where to go out?

As this post does not actually aim as beating length records, I won't list here all the places where you can sleep or go out in Rome (no, don't thank me...).

I can share with you a few places I have personally liked, or which are very popular (and for a reason). Otherwise, the most up to date source of information remains the web, and, whether you find a good or bad place, do not hesitate to leave a review on FairplayTrips. As a side note, FairplayTrips aims at creating a large source of OPEN data linked with travel, a kind of Wikipedia for travel (complementing Wikipedia for the non encyclopedic content like reviews of non historic places like hotels or restaurants), where all places worth a visit in the world would be listed, and where everyone can give her honest opinion under a free license.

Where to sleep?

You'll find in Rome more than 1000 hotels, and more than 3000 guest houses. And, thanks to web sites like Airbnb or HomeAway, you even rent rooms or apartments from locals right in the city center (several thousand possibilities here also). So giving you some potentially outdated advice (the first hotel we really liked is actually closed now) would be rather counter-productive.

Unless you come across a very good deal (an apartment from friends for instance), I can just give you some of my (very limited) wisdom:

  • List all the places you want to visit (after all, you don't visit Rome to sleep all day).
  • Try to find a place to stay which responds to your needs (kids, romantic...) and budget either not too far away from the center (you'll find many hotels in the historical center, but also close to Termini station and also the Prati district, close to Vatican City), or close to a metro station (buses are not always the safest bet, above all if you are getting further from the center).
  • If you only stay for a 3 day week-end, don't get to far from the center, you'll really save some time.
  • When you make your reservation, try to book directly with your provider (notably for hotels). Just bear in mind that, if you go through and online travel agency for instance like Booking.com, it retains a rough 20% fee that will not go to your provider...

However, thanks to Roma Capitale, which publishes its data under a free license, we have imported into FairplayTrips all accommodation facilities referenced by the city (a rough ~7800 in total!), per type (not only the ~1000 hotels, but also the ~3500 Bed & Breakfast and guest houses, the ~10 campgrounds and even the ~2700 holiday apartments in the city). At this stage, we do not have fares of availabilities, but at least you can have a global view of all your lodging options in Rome.

 

Where to eat?

If there is one thing you shouldn't worry about while in Rome, it's the quality of food. Your main concern will be to avoid the traditional "tourist traps" (and there are some in Rome like in any other large city in the world).

Like for accommodation, the most up to date source of information is Internet. Paper guides usually give you good advice, even if I have noticed 2 issues: some of my guides were second hand and a bit dated, and some addresses were not anymore up to the standards that the (old) guide described. The other issue is the popularity of the guide itself: you won't be the only one carrying your Lonely Planet guide, and sometimes, there will be more foreigners than locals in a "typical" restaurant listed in the guide. The price of success I guess...

Otherwise, follow your instinct, good roman cuisine is easy to discover, and no overplanning is necessary here.

Like anywhere else in Italy, you will find different types of restaurants, which can be of use at various times of the day:

  • Osteria / Trattoria: a family restaurant, not too expensive, where you eat homemade traditional cuisine (pasta among many other things). In tourist zones, they'll also serve pizzas. An osteria is an even simpler version of the trattoria.
  • Ristorante: a restaurant, but a bit more formal and gourmet than in some other countries (so more expensive than a trattoria). However, Italy would not be Italy if there was no exception: some trattoria call themselves "ristorante" to address a higher range market (with prices aligned to the top end) and, on the other side, some ristorante aim for a more local feeling by calling themselves "trattoria"... Beware, Italian restaurants usually charge for cover (pane i coperto) on top of the meals that you order (in general, between 2 and 5€ per guest).
  • Pizzeria: in Rome, quite a few trattoria also have a pizza oven. However, you'll also find many takeaway restaurants with delicious pizza à taglio (pizza by the slice), sold by weight (usually less than 5€ per slice), and that you eat like a sandwich (standing at the counter or at a picnic spot).
  • Paninoteca: Italian version of sandwich shop, very handy if you want to have a quick (and good) lunch, or buy your food for a picnic. A panino will cost you around 5€, with fresh, good quality ingredients.
  • Bar / caffé: In Italy, a bar is not only a night time facility, but is more like a French café or an Irish pub, where you can come several times a day (a coffee in the morning, a panino at lunch time and a glass of wine in the evening).
  • Enoteca: an Italian wine bar, where you can usually have dinner and of course taste local wines. Price ranges are very diverse, so you should read the menu before entering...
  • Gelateria: the place where you will enjoy fantastic Italian ice creams! You will find many of them in Rome, notably close to the main attractions of the city. A gelato is an absolute must during a summer holiday...

From our own experience, in order to save time and money for our hectic visits, we usually had panini or pizzas à taglio at lunch time, it is fast, very good and it fills you up for the afternoon. In the evening, we leant towards the Italian slow food approach, in a trattoria or a ristorante, to end up our evening with after dinner strolls in the Roman night.

 

Where to go out?

As I am now a (very happy) father, I do not frequent nightclubs and late bars anymore. So beware, this is more second hand information that I give you here (I still have single friends enjoying nights out though...). And if you have useful information for Roman clubbers, please let everyone know in the comments below...

So, if you are in the center of Rome (and if you don't mind meeting tourists), you have quite a few late bars and nightclubs around Piazza Navone, as well as close to the Campo dei Fiori. Be careful though not to be the target of tourist scams, it can happen in Rome like in any other place... You'll also find bars and music venues (jazz...) near the Spanish Steps, also in the center.

If you want to go out like a "real" Roman, you'll have to get off the city center, and explore San Lorenzo district, around piazza Dell'immacolata. You'll find music bars and clubs, full of students and younger people. A bit further to the east, you'll reach the Pigneto district, where a section of the Via del Pigneto is pedestrian (isola pedonale) and accommodates bars and concert venues.

The last area to mention here is the Testaccio district. Around Monte Testaccio (artificial mound built with broken amphorae dating from the time of Ancient Rome), you'll find a litany of bars and clubs, playing all kinds of music (techno, R'n'B, rock...).

One last word of caution: when you go out in some "red light" area of Rome, I've heard here and there some stories about tourists being beaten and robbed by some Mussolini fans. Bouncers in some nightclubs are obviously rather permissive regarding those attacks. Bear in mind that such problems can occur anywhere else in the world and not only in Rome, and 99.9% of night tourists have no problem with usually lovely Italians, but just be aware that you can be out of luck sometimes...

 

We're done...

Well, that's all for now, folks, about Rome and its charms. I hope this post will be of use to you during your visit, and will have given you a bit of the love I have for the eternal city...

If, like me, you like to know where to go at your destination, don't hesitate to use this trip on FairplayTrips. At the tope right of the page you can "fork" this trip, i.e. copy it for your own use. From there, you're free to modify, enrich or reorganize it to your own tastes. And you can even bring it with you on your smartphone (or tablet), so that all the information about each place is always with you, with an offline map of your destination as a bonus. You can have a look at the videos if you feel like it...

If you spot any error or obvious omission, please leave me a comment below. An please also use the comment box below to share your own addresses and tips...