Difference between revisions of "Rome"
Revision as of 23:11, 29 April 2014
Rome (Italian: Roma), the Eternal City, is the capital and largest city of Italy and of the Lazio region. It's the famed city of the Roman Empire, the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita (the sweet life), the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. Rome, as a millenium-long centre of power, culture (having been the cradle of one of the globe's greatest civilisations ever) and religion, has exerted a huge influence over the world in its circa 2800 years of existence.
The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With wonderful palaces, millennium-old churches, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe's and the world's most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals. Today, Rome has a growing nightlife scene and is also seen as a shopping heaven, being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world (some of Italy's oldest jewellery and clothing establishments were founded in the city). With so many sights and things to do, Rome can truly be classified a "global city".
Rome can be divided into several districts. The so-called historical centre (centro storico) is quite small - only around 4% of the city area - but it's the place in which most of the tourist attraction are located: it lies completely within the Aurelian walls. Districts are explained below:
Situated on the river Tiber, between the Apennine mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the "Eternal City" was once the administrative centre of the mighty Roman Empire, ruling over a vast territory that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. Today, the city is the seat of the Italian government and home to numerous ministerial offices. Rome has 2.6 million inhabitants while its metropolitan area is home to around 4.2 million.
Architecturally and culturally, Rome has some contrasts - you have areas with pompously huge majestic palaces, avenues and basilicas which are then surrounded by tiny alleyways, little churches and old houses; you may also find yourself walking from a grand palace and tree-lined elegant boulevard, into a small and cramped Medieval-like street.
The abbreviation "S.P.Q.R" - short for the old motto of the Roman Republic Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and People of Rome") - is ubiquitous in Rome, being also that of Rome's city council; a humorous variation is "Sono pazzi questi romani" (these Romans are crazy).
For two weeks in August, many of Rome's inhabitants used to shut up shop and go on their own vacations; today, however, things have changed - many shops and restaurants (especially those located in the historical centre that cater to tourists) are open in summer. On the other hand, the ones located in residential areas do close. The temperature in the city at this time of year is not particularly pleasant: if you do travel to Rome at this time, you might see chiuso per ferie (closed for holidays) signs on many establishments. Even in these weeks the city is very beautiful and you will always be able to find somewhere to eat.
Rome's history spans over two and half thousand years, which have seen its transformation from a small Latin village to the centre of a vast empire, through the founding of Catholicism, and into the capital of today's Italy. Rome's history is long and complex; what follows is merely a quick summary.
Rome is traditionally said to have been founded by the mythical twins Romulus and Remus (the sons of Mars and Rhea Silvia) on 21 April 753BC. The twins were abandoned as infants in the Tiber river and raised by a she-wolf before being found by a shepherd (Faustulus), who raised them as his own sons.
Actually, Rome was founded as a small village on top of the Palatine Hill (including the area where the Roman Forum is found) sometime in the 8th century BC; due to the village's position at a ford on the Tiber river, Rome became a crossroads of traffic and trade. The settlement developed into the capital of the Roman Kingdom, led by a series of Etruscan kings, before becoming the seat of the Roman Republic in 509BC and then the centre of the Roman Empire from 27BC to 285AD. For almost a thousand years, Rome was the largest, wealthiest, most powerful city in the Western world, with dominance over most of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD, Rome maintained considerable importance and wealth. Beginning with the reign of Constantine I (306-337), the Bishop of Rome (later known as the Pope) gained political and religious importance, establishing the city as the centre of the Catholic Church. The city was sacked by the barbarians, first in 410 and again in 455; after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the city was besieged once more by the Ostrogothic king Totila in 537, followed by a failed Arab raid in 846.
During the Early Middle Ages, the city declined in population but gained a new importance as the capital of the newly formed Papal States; Charlemagne, for example, was crowned Emperor at Saint Peter's in 800. Throughout the Middle Ages, most of the city's ancient monuments fell in disrepair and were gradually stripped of their precious statues, ornaments and materials; these were either recycled in other constructions or, as in the case of marble, baked in order to obtain mortar for new buildings... meanwhile, the ancient Fora became nothing more but pasture land. However, Rome not only was a major pilgrimage site but was also the focus of struggles between Roman nobles and, most importantly, between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy. In 1309 The Pope left Rome for Avignon, at the request of the King of France, and the city plunged into chaos; despite it being formally under the authority of the Pontiff, nobles ruled it as they pleased and were known for oppressing its citizens, often engaging in bloody feuds. By 1347, the populace was on the verge of rebellion - a commoner, Cola di Rienzo, became "Tribune of the People" and promised to rule for the good of the city; a free comune (city-state) was established, nobles were exiled and a vast reform programme was started. However, said nobles conspired against Cola and this, along with the Tribune's own vanity, caused his downfall in 1354.
Following the return of the Papacy (1377) from the Avignonese captivity and with the Italian Renaissance fully under way in the 15th century, Rome changed dramatically. Extravagant churches, bridges, and public spaces, including a new Saint Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, were constructed by the Papacy so that Rome would equal the grandeur of other Italian cities of the period. The city recovered quickly from the sack of 1527 and, in the following 200 years, it became the centre of Baroque architecture; renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Caravaggio worked there while the new St. Peter's basilica was begun in 1506, only to be completed in 1626. During the latter stages of the French Revolution - more precisely, in 1798 - local revolutionaries inspired by the new ideals rose against Papal authority and a Roman Republic was declared; the Pontiff was forced to flee and the following year troops from the Kingdom of Naples entered the city, thus putting an end to the revolutionary movement.
Between 1805 and 1814, Rome was also occupied by Napoleonic troops.
In 1849, the population - with the aid of patriots such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini - rose against the Papal government and forced the Pontiff to flee the city and seek refuge at Gaeta. A modern, democratic, Constitution was drafted and a new Roman Republic was proclaimed. The Pope then requested the help of the French emperor, Napoleon III, who promptly sent an expeditionary force: despite some initial setbacks the French troops overcame the revolutionary forces which, after a month-long siege, attempted a desperate last stand on the Janiculum hill. In the ensuing bloodbath, the Italian patriots - along with their foreign allies - were crushed; Goffredo Mameli, composer of the current Italian anthem, was among the fallen. In 1860 Rome became again the focus of a power struggle with the rise of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, which sought to unify the peninsula; after a series of battles, the Papal States were stripped of all their Italian possessions except for Rome, which remained under French protection. However, with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, the French abandoned Rome, leaving it clear for the newly-formed Kingdom of Italy to capture on 20 September 1870. Rome became thus the capital of Italy, and has remained such ever since. The new Italian government started a huge campaign of public works; new districts (such as Prati, or the Esquilino), monuments (the Vittoriano) and public buildings were built, while countless Medieval and Renaissance buildings were torn down to make way for the new street layout and the Tiber river was enclosed within its current embankments.
Following World War I, with the rise of Fascism in 1922 Rome's face changed again: new districts (the EUR), avenues (via della Conciliazione, via dei Fori Imperiali) and other public buildings were built and ancient sites (such as the Fora or the Circus Maximus) were feverishly excavated; in doing so, entire Medieval neighbourhoods were bulldozed. Population grew; this trend was stopped by World War II, which dealt (relatively minor) damage to Rome. After Italy had signed the Armistice, the city was occupied by the Germans on 8 September 1943 despite heavy resistance from surviving units of the Royal Italian Army aided by local partisan formations: these were crushed in a bloody battle near Porta S. Paolo. Roman Jews were deported on 16 October and on 24 March 1944 - after 33 German soldiers were killed in a partisan attack - 335 civilians were rounded up and summarily executed at the Fosse Ardeatine. Rome was finally liberated by Allied troops on 4 June.
With the fall of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic in 1946, Rome again began to grow in population and became a modern city. Today's Rome is a modern, contemporary, bustling metropolis with an ancient core that reflects the many periods of its long history - the ancient times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Modern Era - standing today as the capital of Italy and as one of the world's major tourist destinations.
At last count there were close to 1,700 novels set in Rome in days gone by.  Most easily available in bookshops are those by Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor. Both are good storytellers and excellent at portraying life in Ancient Rome. Particularly interesting if you are visiting Rome may be Saylor’s “Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome”, which traces the first thousand years or so of Rome’s history by following the fictional fortunes of two families. Each chapter begins with a map showing the state of Rome’s development at the time of the chapter.
The classic work on Ancient Rome remains Edward Gibbon’s “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. This was written in 1782 but is still being reprinted. A marvellous book that covers Rome’s fortunes from Romulus and Remus to the 1970s is “Rome: The Biography of a City” by Christopher Hibbert (Penguin). An excellent guide book, too, although perhaps a bit too heavy to carry around.
English-language bookshops in Rome are:
Some Italian bookstores also have English-language sections. Try the large selection of English books (but also French, Spanish and more) at Feltrinelli International in via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando - or the smaller ones in the branches at Largo Argentina or via del Corso.
For "day-trippers", many ships arrange shuttle buses to and from the pedestrian port entrance. From there you can walk 10-15 minutes along the shore to the Civitavecchia train station. A B.I.R.G. round trip train ticket for Rome costs approximately €12 (as of 2014), and also entitles you to unlimited use of Rome's Metro, tram and bus lines. Trains for commuters leave every hour or so - more often during rush hours - and take about 80 minutes. For Rome, you can get off either at the Roma Trastevere train station or continue to Termini right downtown, where countless buses, some trams and the Metro await.
If starting or ending a cruise using the train, you'll likely want to take a taxi between the ship and the train station. Because some train platforms can only be reached by underground walkway/stairs, plan ahead for transferring your luggage. At certain times of day, there may be porters to help. See also "About luggage" in "By train" above.
It is now possible for modest-to large-sized yachts to dock in the new Porto di Roma at Ostia, a district located 20km from the city centre and linked by the Roma-Lido light railway (whose stations, however, are not within practical walking distance of the marina or riverside boat facilities).
Driving to Rome is quite easy; as they say, all roads lead to Rome. The city is ringed by a motorway - the Grande Raccordo Anulare or, simply, the GRA. If you are going to the very centre of the city any road leading off the GRA will get you there; if you are going anywhere else, however, a GPS or a good map is essential. Signs on the GRA indicate the name of the road leading to the centre (e.g. via Appia Nuova, via Aurelia, via Tiburtina) but this is useful only for Romans who know where these roads pass.
Rome's main railway station is Roma Termini, which is closed between 00:30 and 04:30. Most long-distance trains passing through Rome between these times will stop at Tiburtina station instead (see also the "By boat" section below).
Other main stations are Roma Tiburtina, Roma Ostiense, Roma Trastevere and Roma Tuscolana.
About luggage: when travelling between major cities or to/from another country, trains will be designed for passengers and luggage. Most others (e.g., between nearby towns and cities) are often designed to serve commuters.
Public transport to/from airports
From Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport, there are two train lines to get you into Rome:
Terravision is probably the easiest and cheapest connection between Fiumicino airport and Rome city centre, but the journey takes 55 minutes. You can either book online (€4 one-way) or buy the tickets there (€6 one-way, €11 round-trip). The bus departs near Terminal 3 of the airport and arrives at Termini station (the same applies for the route in reverse). There are other buses that go to Termini station and, during the low season, you can hedge your bets and see which one leaves earlier.
Note: When boarding one of the Terravision coaches from Termini to either airport, you must trade in your ticket for a laminated card called a "Boarding Pass". The €6 ticket is good for any bus in the day of purchase, but there's a limited number of seats available on each bus - and the Terravision office hands out these boarding passes on a first come, first served basis. For example, you may go to the station at noon and buy the 14:30 ticket to Ciampino. The ticket agent will however be giving you a generic ticket; you must then come back (they recommend 30 minutes earlier) at, let's say, 14:00 and trade that ticket in for a boarding pass valid for the 14:30 bus to Ciampino. In rare cases, these passes may have already run out by the moment you show up at the office - our advice is to get onto the bus before the one you actually want to ride. The agents speak decent English, though, so just ask them if you are confused.
From Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino, the bus stop is located outdoors at ground level, at the bottom of the Terminal 1 (Domestic Arrivals). You can buy tickets at the tobacco shop in the Terminal 1 baggage area, with the blue sign (Tabaccheria). Lines from Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino are:
The nighttime timetable is not kept very well; buses may be half an hour late or not arrive at all. Perch on the bus stop, don't give up - the bus will come.
An inexpensive choice from Fiumicino is to take the bus (COTRAL) to the "EUR Magliana" stop, which belongs to line B, and then take the Metro. It's the cheapest way to get to the centre (€2.50 bus + €1.50 Metro). The sign on this bus reads "Fiumicino-Porto-Magliana".
From Ciampino airport, you can take the bus 720 from the stop located outside the terminal building to the Metro line A Anagnina stop (the ticket costs €1.20). A Metro ticket to central Rome costs another €1.50. This bus also stops at the local train station in Ciampino (€1.20); from there, you can take a train (there are circa three connections per hour) to Termini (ticket: €1.50). The buses operate roughly every hour or 30 minutes on weekdays, and you should take into account the fact that the trip will take at least 45 minutes. This is true for both routes (the Metro can get very crowded). Timetables are available in some information booths. It's not possible to walk the 4km to the local train station, as there are no footpaths.
There are a few direct bus services from Ciampino, all of which arrive at Termini station in downtown Rome:
On most Ryanair flights and at the counter at the airport, you can buy a ticket for €4.
Taxis in Rome are white. There is a fixed fare of €48 from Fiumicino airport to downtown Rome (the area within the city's Aurelian Walls) and vice versa. Sometimes, taxis in the queue at the airport are not from Rome but from the nearby town of Fiumicino: these are not bound by the fixed fare rule and are best avoided. The fare from Ciampino airport to the city centre and vice-versa is €30; between the two airports, the fare rises to €50. For most other destinations, fares are not fixed and are based on the meter. Generally, Roman taxi drivers are hard-working honest people; however, there's a hard core of crooks who tend to work the airports and the main station. Do NOT negotiate the price for the city centre and be sure your driver activates the metre (all licenced taxis have a metre) when he/she starts driving to any destination not covered by a fixed fare. Drivers at the airport may try to talk you into paying more than the fixed fare, saying that your destination is 'inside the walls' or 'hard to get to'; if they try to overcharge you at your destination ask them to call a policeman. They will probably back down. Licensed limousine drivers may approach you at the airports, especially Fiumicino, where there are several companies (mainly cooperatives) with booths close to the exit. A drive with them to the centre could reach as high as €80 but if you are in a group a large limousine or "van" could be cheaper than two taxis. Be aware as well of unlicensed "taxi" drivers. Go directly to the taxi stand and ignore touts.
At the airport in Ciampino, there should be an organised taxi queue - however, the drivers will often negotiate amongst themselves if you are going somewhere the cab at the front doesn't want to go to. There are reports that late-night licensed cabs at Ciampino are asking €100 to take people into town, so try to avoid late flights or take the bus that connects with the flight. If you have to take a cab just pay the legal fare at your destination; if, instead, you have no stomach for the resulting argument then you can phone a cab from one of the numbers listed under the "Get Around" section.
Another option, is to book a licensed limousine in advance on-line. The prices are often cheaper than a taxi especially for minivans and in Fiumicino even for sedans. One disadvantage however is that you normally need to book at least 24 hours in advance so you need to plan ahead.
A shared airport shuttle can be hired for around €15 per person to take you from Ciampino airport. However, since the shuttle is shared, it may take longer to reach your destination if other customers are dropped off before you are.
Rental cars are available from all major companies at both airports. Providers can be reached easily in the Arrivals Halls at both Fiumicino and Ciampino.
Get a map from your hotel or go inside a hotel to ask for directions to a place. Every accommodation seems to have a stack of these sponsored by a variety of businesses. The roads can be confusing and directions can be hard to follow without a map to reference.
If you'll be staying in Rome for at least 3 days, consider purchasing the Roma Pass . It costs €34 and entitles holders to free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visited, full access to public transportation, reduced tickets and discounts for any other following museums (that are included in the programme - e.g., the Vatican Museums are not included) and sites visited as well as exhibitions, music events, theatrical and dance performances.
Rome ComboPass® is also available as a combo pass deal that includes the Roma Pass and hop on/off Bus 'N' Boat (currently not available).
In a nutshell: don't do it. Well, some people actually enjoy it. The traffic in the city centre can be chaotic, but it is possible to drive there; it will take a few weeks to understand where to drive, to get where you want to go. When driving in Rome it is important to accept that Italians drive in a very pragmatic way. Taking turns and letting people go in front of you is rare. There is little patience so if the light is green when you go into the intersection and you are too slow they will let you know. A green light turning to amber is a reason to accelerate, not brake, in part because the lights usually stay amber for several seconds. If you brake immediately when the light changes you are likely to get rear-ended. Parking is scarce. The city centre is plagued with people who demand money to direct you to a space, even on the rare occasions when there are many places available. While in Rome, it is better to travel by bus or Metro, or (in extremis) take a taxi.
If you're driving in the city centre or in certain parts of Testaccio, note that many areas (limited-traffic zones or ZTL) are limited to residents, who have special electronic passes. If you go into these areas (which are camera controlled) you may end up with a fine, particularly if your car has Italian plates. Beware that when turning right across a pedestrian crossing you might have a green light at the same time as the pedestrians.
Roman taxis run on metres, and you should always make sure the driver starts it. Taxis will typically pick you up only at a taxi stand, which you will find at all but the smallest piazzas, as well as at the main train station or when called by phone. Flagging down a taxi (like in London) is possible but quite rare as the taxi drivers prefer to use the stands. When you get in the cab, there will be a fixed starting charge, which will be more for late nights, Sundays and holidays. An €1 supplement per bag will be requested for every piece of luggage the driver has to handle (however, if you carry only one bag you won't have to pay the supplement). So, if you have a limited amount of luggage that wouldn't need to go in the trunk, you may decline when the driver offers to put your bags in the trunk. Drivers may not use the shortest route, so try to follow the route with a map and discuss if you feel you're being tricked.
Be aware that when you phone for a taxi, the cab's metre starts running when it is summoned - not when it arrives to pick you up! Therefore, by the time a cab arrives at your location, there may already be a substantial amount on the metre. A major problem is that taxi drivers often leave the previous fare running on the metre. So you may find the cab arriving with €15 or even more on the metre. If you are not in a hurry you should tell him (there are very few female cab drivers in Rome) to get lost, but if you are desperate to get to the airport it's a different matter. You can get a taxi pretty easily at any piazza though, so calling ahead is really not required. A trip across the city (within the walls) will cost you about €11 if starting at a cab rank, a little more if there is heavy traffic at night or on a Sunday. Taxi drivers may try to trick customers by switching a €50 note for a €10 one during the payment, leading you to believe that you handed them only €10 when you have already given them €50.
The main taxi companies may be called at ☎ 063570, 065551, 064994, 066645 and 0688177.
Once you're in the centre, you are best off on foot. What could be more romantic than strolling through Rome on foot holding hands? That is hard to beat!
Crossing a street in Rome can be a bit challenging, though. There are crossings but, sometimes, they aren't located at signalled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crossing just start walking and cars will let you cross the street. While crossing watch out for the thousands of mopeds: as in many European cities, even if cars and lorries are stationary due to a jam or for another reason, mopeds and bikes will be trying to squeeze through the gaps and may be ignoring the reason why everyone else has stopped. This means that even if the traffic seems stationary you need to pause and look around into the gaps.
Beware that unlike in other countries where a lit "green man" indicates that it is safe to cross the road, in Italy the green man is lit at the same time as the green light for traffic turning right, so you can often find yourself sharing the space with cars.
By public transport
In Rome, all public transportation (comprising buses, trams, the Metro network and the Roma-Lido, Roma-Viterbo, Roma-Giardinetti light railways) is managed by ATAC , whose site comes with a handy route planner .
Tickets must be bought from a tobacconist - look for the big 'T' sign, these shops are plentiful - or from a newsstand before you board the bus, Metro or tram. Metro stops all have automated ticket kiosks, and major Metro stations have clerked ticket windows. Newer trams have yellow single-ticket machines as well. Please note that the buses, Metro, trams and the ATAC-owned light railways all use the same kind of tickets. Options are the following:
When you board the bus or Metro you must time-stamp your ticket ("convalidare" or the red-tapey "obliterare") in the little yellow machine ("obliteratrice"). The last four types of ticket on the list above need to be validated just the first time you use them. On the whole, the integrated passes are not economical; unless you take many rides spread all over the day, the single ticket option is preferable. Calculating if a pass is worth it is easy since a single ticket ride costs €1.50. For example, for a daily ticket (€6) to be worth it, you would have to make 5 or more trips at intervals greater than 100 minutes apart on a single day. Many visitors just walk through the city in one direction and take a single ride back.
Some stations, especially those near the most popular sites, might have people that will insist upon helping you at automated ticket machines. Beware as some of these people are either pickpockets or scouts/spotters for other pickpockets nearby; when in doubt, walk away and come back to observe how others behind you are dealing with these people and/or using the machine. In many stations, a ticket window is available for buying tickets, where these "helpers" will not bother you at.
Ticket inspectors & fines
ATAC personnel polices the buses, Metro and trams for people riding without tickets. Inspectors can be rare on some buses, although they tend to increase their presence in the summer; they are present on the Metro as well (where they like to hang out at the turnstiles). You should keep your validated ticket throughout your journey as proof-of-payment: if you don't have sufficient money on you to pay the fine, they will actually escort you to an ATM to pay the fee. If you don't have an ATM card to withdraw the money, you will be asked to pay by mail, and the fee goes up to €140; in every case, the officer will issue a receipt.
Note that you can choose to pay on the spot - in this case, the fine will be reduced to €50, which you'll give directly to the officer in question. Of course, you should make sure that he/she (or, better: them, as they go around in packs...) is a legitimate ATAC inspector first! These people have an uniform consisting of a pair of black trousers, a light blue shirt with the red ATAC logo sewn on the breast pocket, and a badge - which they must carry around (either around the neck or pinned on their shirts) at all times. Another livery consists of navy blue jacket and trousers; occasionally, ticket inspectors may wear a yellow (or red) vest with the aforementioned ATAC logo on the back.
Since November 2013, traffic wardens too have been authorised to levy fines.
Roman buses are reliable, but can be crowded. They are the best way to get around the city (except walking). Free maps of the bus system are available, others can be purchased (€ 3.50 at Termini). Signs at the bus stop list the stops for each route. Ask for assistance. (In Rome, there's always somebody nearby who speaks English or tries his best to help you out). Some bus lines have arrivals every ten minutes or so. Less popular routes may arrive every half hour or less. If heading outside the centre beware that bus schedules can be seriously disrupted by heavy traffic. Sometimes trips just get cancelled altogether.
Useful bus lines (along with their most important stops) are:
Note: the 116, 117 and 119 are electrically-powered minibuses. However, due to a recent (April 2014) financial dispute between the city's administration and the carmaker, only half of these buses are currently running - passengers should expect some delays with the service.
Hop on / Hop off Buses
A popular alternative to city and pre-planned tour buses are the hop-on/hop-off (HO-HO) buses... that is, open-top double-deckers. In the last few years there has been a veritable explosion in the number of such buses, and at the last count there were seven different companies. An all-day ticket runs about €18/20, can be purchased as you board at any stop, and provides unlimited access to available seats (the open-air upper deck highly preferable in good weather) and earbud headphones to plug into outlets for running commentary on approaching sights. Commentary is offered in nearly every European language. Most companies follow more or less the same route, starting in sight of Termini station but there are also two different tours of "Christian Rome" and the Archeobus, which will take you to the catacombs and along the Appian Way.
One good tactic for first-time visitors is to ride a complete HO-HO loop, making notes of what interests you. Then stay on until you arrive at each point/area you wish to visit, do so, then hop back on another bus (for that bus line) for the next point/area of interest. Even with a prompt morning start, seeing/doing all that's available with some thoroughness can easily consume the whole day. If you're there more than one day and like the approach, on subsequent days look for different bus lines that take different routes, e.g., most of the same points/areas but in different order.
Taking pictures from the upper-deck while in-motion is tricky but doable (but not recommended by the bus lines) by those with good balance who can also recognise approaching limits on camera and lighting angles. An early start will also help choice of seat location to help camera angles. Watch out for the sales guys hanging outside of the big train station Termini who have leaflets for all the companies, they often actually work for just one and drag you to a ticket office which is a waste of time as you can just get a ticket on a bus.
The different bus companies offer vastly different service levels. Please help by writing about them:
In Rome, there are six tram lines: 2, 3, 5, 8, 14 and 19. These are the remnants of a much bigger network (in fact, the biggest in Italy) which opened in 1877 but was largely dismantled during the '60s.
There are two-and-a-half Metro (short for "Metropolitana") lines - A , B and B1 - crossing at Termini. A third, line C, is currently under construction; the first section, which is scheduled to open in October 2014, will run from Monte Compatri - a town adjacent to the city of Rome - to the temporary terminus at piazza Lodi. Another stop, near the archbasilica of St. John Lateran, is expected to open in 2015. A further three stops (located on piazzale Ipponio, via dei Fori Imperiali and piazza Venezia, respectively) will open between 2020 and 2024.
Note: if you're directed to the Tiburtina train station (served by line B), you'll have to board the trains bound to "Rebibbia"; trains bound for "Conca d'Oro" do not stop there. Also, try to avoid rush hour (08:00-9:30), especially on the older B line: beside the sheer number of commuters, most Metro trains on that line are old, cramped and not air-conditioned.
On weekdays, last trains on both lines leave their terminals at 23:30. On Fridays and Saturdays, last trains on line B leave at 01:30 and the line closes at 02:00 to re-open at 05:00. The Metro is the most punctual form of public transportation in Rome, but it can get extremely crowded during rush hour: see safety warning in the Stay Safe section.
By commuter rail
There is a network of eight railway lines - the Ferrovie Laziali or FL (also spelt FM or FR in outdated signage) - that mostly connect to the conurbations of Rome and other towns in the Lazio region; these lines are wholly owned and operated by Trenitalia. Tourists are unlikely to use them, except when arriving from Fiumicino or Civitavecchia, but they can be very convenient if you fancy a day-trip out of Rome (see Get Out). You can ride them by using ordinary ATAC tickets, as long as you stay within the city limits; if you're headed to any other destination that doesn't lie within the boundaries, you'll have to buy (and then time-stamp before boarding the train) a ticket, which costs €8. There are no reserved seats or travel classes.
Note also that this kind of ticket doesn't come with an expiration date (meaning that you can buy one and use it later).
Useful train lines (along with some of the most important stations) are:
Note: Placenames in brackets indicate that the station in question is located outside the city's boundaries.
On a moped
There is the possibility to hire motorcycles or scooters. Many Romans prefer this way of transportation and even in winter you can see them driving scooters equipped with raincoats, blankets, and rain boots. Motorbikes are not particularly safe in Rome and most accidents seem to involve one (or two!). Nevertheless, Roman traffic can be chaotic and a two-wheeled provides excellent mobility within the city. Scooter and motorcycle rental costs between €30 and €70 per day depending on scooter size and rental company. The traffic can be intimidating and the experience exciting, if a bit insane.
Some of the main rental shops:
On a bicycle
There is the possibility to hire any kind of bike in Rome: from tandem, road bikes, children bikes to trekking bikes. Some shops are even specialised only on high quality ones while street stands will hire you cheaper and heavy ones. Bicycling alone can be stressful because of the traffic: the best way to discover how to move around and avoid it first is with a guide, thanks to the tours offered by almost all rental shops. There are different itineraries offered from the basic city centre, panoramic Rome tour to the Ancient Parks (€ 29 for 4h). The experience is well worth it and you would reduce also your impact on the city's environment.
Even moderately experienced cyclists, however, may find that cycling through Rome's streets offers an unparalleled way to learn the city intimately and get around very cheaply and efficiently. While traffic in the city centre is certainly chaotic to someone from a country with more regimented and enforced rules of the road, Roman drivers are - generally speaking - used to seeing bicycles as well as motorcycles and one may move throughout the city relatively easily. Should you find yourself in a car's way, they will generally let you know with a quick beep of the horn and wait for you to move.
A particularly spectacular, and relaxing, cycle trip is to pedal out along the via Appia Antica, the original Appian Way that linked much of Italy to Rome. Some of the original cobblestones, now worn by over two millenia of traffic, are still in place. With exceptionally light traffic in most sections, you can casually meander your bike over kilometres of incredible scenery and pass ancient relics and active archaeological sites throughout the journey. (Rome/South)
Some of the many rental shops:
It is now possible to rent a Segway in Rome; it's a fast, convenient, and eco-friendly way to get around in the city centre. In Rome, a person on a Segway is considered a pedestrian, not a motorist, so Segways are only allowed on the sidewalks, not in the streets with the other vehicles. Segway rental costs between €25-50 per hour, or between €70-100 for an accompanied tour of 2/4h.
Some of the main rental shops:
Italians are very fond of their landmarks; in order to make them accessible to everyone one week a year there is no charge for admittance to all publicly owned landmarks and historical sites. This week, known as the "Settimana dei Beni Culturali", typically occurs in mid-May and for those 7 to 10 days every landmark, archaeological site and museum belonging to government agencies (including the Quirinale presidential palace and gardens, the Colosseum and all of the ancient Forum) is accessible and free of charge. For more information and for specific dates see  or .
In general, Rome's main attractions are free - for example, while it doesn't cost anything to enter the Pantheon you'll have to pay to visit the museums and so forth.
You are able to buy full day passes for €12 or a 3-day pass for €30. This pass gets you in to the Colosseum, Palatine hill, the Baths of Caracalla, and the catacombs as well as the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, the Villa dei Quintili and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella.
The main area for exploring the ruins of ancient Rome is in Rome/Colosseo either side of via dei Fori Imperiali, which connects the Colosseum and piazza Venezia. Laid out between 1924 and 1932, at Mussolini's request, the works for such an imposing boulevard required the destruction of a large area of Renaissance and medieval buildings constructed on top of ruins of the ancient forums, and ended forever plans for an archaeological park stretching all the way to the Appian Way. Via dei Fori Imperiali is a busy throughfare, but it has been partially pedonalised in August 2013; said boulevard is also the location of a grand parade held every 2nd of June in occasion of the Italian national holiday (see the "holidays and events" section). Heading towards the Colosseum from piazza Venezia, you can see the Roman Forum on your right and Trajan's Forum and Market on the left. To the right of the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine and the beginning of the Palatine Hill, which will eventually lead you to ruins of the Flavian Palace and a view of the Circus Maximus (see Rome/Aventino-Testaccio). To the left, after the Colosseum is a wide, tree-lined path that climbs through the Colle Oppio park. Underneath this park is the Golden House of Nero (Domus Aurea), an enormous and spectacular underground complex restored and then closed again due to damage caused by heavy rain. Further to the left on the Esquiline Hill are ruins of Trajan's baths.
In Old Rome you must see the Pantheon, which is amazingly well preserved considering it dates back to 125AD. There is a hole constructed in the ceiling so it is an interesting experience to be there when it is raining. If you are heading to the Pantheon from piazza Venezia you will first reach largo di Torre Argentina, on your left. Until 1926 the area was covered in narrow streets and small houses, which were razed to the ground when ruins of Roman temples were discovered. Moving along corso Vittorio Emanuele II and crossing the Tiber river into the Vatican area you see the imposing Castel Sant'Angelo, built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian. This is connected by a covered fortified corridor to the Vatican and served as a refuge for Popes in times of trouble.
South of the Colosseum are the Baths of Caracalla (Aventino-Testaccio). You can then head South-East on the old Appian Way, passing through a stretch of very well-preserved city wall. For the adventurous, continuing along the Appian Way (Rome/South) will bring you to a whole host of Roman ruins, including the Circus of Maxentius, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, the Villa dei Quintili and, nearby, several long stretches of Roman aqueduct.
Returning to the Modern Centre, the Baths of Diocletian are opposite the entrance to the main railway station, Termini. The National Museum of Rome stands in the South-West corner of the Baths complex and has an enormous collection of Roman scultures and other artifacts. But this is just one of numerous museums devoted to ancient Rome, including those of the Capitoline Hill. It is really amazing how much there is.
There are more than 900 churches in Rome. Probably one third would be well worth a visit!
St. Peter is said to have founded the Church in Rome together with St. Paul. The first churches of Rome originated in places where early Christians met, usually in the homes of private citizens. By the 4th century, however, there were already four major churches, or basilicas. Rome had 28 cardinals who took it in turns to give mass once a week in one of the basilicas. In one form or another the four basilicas are with us today and constitute the major churches of Rome. They are St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni. All pilgrims to Rome are expected to visit these four basilicas, together with San Lorenzo fuori le mura, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and the Sanctuary of Divino Amore. The latter was inserted as one of the seven at the time of the Great Jubilee in 2000, replacing San Sebastiano outside the walls.
Take a look inside a few churches. You'll find the richness and range of decor astonishing, from fine classical art to tacky electric candles. Starting with several good examples of early Christian churches, including San Clemente and Santa Costanza, there are churches built over a period of 1700 years or so, including modern churches constructed to serve Rome's new suburbs.
Churches in Rome deny admission to people who are dressed inappropriately; you will find "fashion police" at the most visited churches ("knees and shoulders" are the main problem - especially female ones). Bare shoulders, short skirts, and shorts are officially not allowed, but long shorts and skirts reaching just above the knee should generally be no problem... however, it's always safer to wear longer pants or skirts that go below the knee; St. Peter's in particular is known for rejecting tourists for uncovered knees, shoulders, midriffs, etc. (you also generally won't be told until right before you enter the church, so you will have made the trek to the Vatican and stood in a long security line for nothing) etc. The stricter churches usually have vendors just outside selling inexpensive scarves and sometimes plastic pants, but relatively few churches enforce dress codes and you can wander into most wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, or pretty much anything without problems. It is, however, good to keep one's dress conservative, as these are still churches and houses of prayer for many people (older Romans might comment on your attire if it is particularly revealing).
The Seven Hills of Rome
To the modern visitor, the Seven Hills of Rome can be rather difficult to identify. In the first place, generations of buildings constructed on top of each other and the construction of tall buildings in the valleys have tended to make the hills less pronounced than they originally were. Secondly, there are clearly more than seven hills - in Roman days many of these were outside the city boundaries.
The seven hills were first occupied by small settlements and not recognised as a city for some time. Rome came into being as these settlements acted together to drain the marshy valleys between them and turn them into markets and fora. The Roman Forum used to be a swamp.
The Palatine Hill looms over the Circus Maximus and is accessed near the Colosseum. Legend has it that this was occupied by Romulus when he fell out with his brother, Remus, who occupied the Aventine Hill on the other side of the Circus. Also clearly recognisable as hills are the Caelian, to the southeast of Circus Maximus and the Capitoline, which overlooks the Forum and hosts Rome's city hall, as well as the Capitoline Museums. East and northeast of the Roman Forum are the Esquiline, Viminal, and Quirinal hills. These are less easy to distinguish as separate hills these days and from a distance look like one.
The red line on the map indicates the Servian Wall, its construction is credited to the Roman King Servius Tullius in the Sixth Century BC, but archaeological evidence places its construction during the Fourth Century BC. Small bits of this wall can still be seen, particularly close to Termini railway station and on the Aventine hill. As Rome expanded new walls were required to protect the larger area. These were built in the Third Century AD by the Emperor Aurelian. Lengthy sections of this wall remain all around the outskirts of Rome's centre. Much is in very good condition.
Among other hills of Rome, not included in the seven, are those overlooking the Vatican; the Janiculum, overlooking Trastevere, which provides excellent views of Rome; the Pincio on the edge of the Borghese Gardens, which gives good views of piazza del Popolo and the Vatican, and Monte Mario, with its famous Zodiaco (a panoramic viewpoint), to the north.
If you are in Rome for the art there are several world-class museums in the city. The natural starting point is a visit to the area of Villa Borghese in Campo Marzio, where there is a cluster of art museums. Galleria Borghese houses a previously private art collection of the Borghese family, Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia is home of the world's largest Etruscan art collection, and the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna houses many Italian masterpieces as well as a few pieces by artists such as Cézanne, Modigliani, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh. The Capitoline Museums in the Colosseo district opens their doors to the city's most important collection of antique Roman and Greek art and sculptures. Visit the Galleria d'Arte Antica, housed in the Barberini palace in the Modern center, for Italian Renaissance and Baroque art.
A visit to Rome is not complete without a trip to the Vatican Museums. You'll need to go to the museums if you want to see the Sistine Chapel, but there is an enormous collection. You cannot miss any part of it, such as the tapestries, the maps and the rooms painted by Rafael as they are en route to the Sistine Chapel but there is much, much more to explore, including a stunning Egyptian collection and the Pinacoteca, which includes a "Portrait of St. Jerome" by Leonardo da Vinci and paintings by Giotto, Perugino, Raphael, Veronese and Caravaggio, to name just a few. Not to mention the countless, ancient statues...
Rome's National Museum at the Baths of Diocletian in the Modern Center has a vast archaeological collection as does the national museum at Palazzo Altemps, close to piazza Navona. Further afield, the Museo della Civiltà Romana (Museum of the Roman Civilisation), in the EUR, is most famous for an enormous model of Imperial Rome but it is also home to an extensive display of plaster casts, models and reconstructions of statues and Roman stonework.
If you have plenty of time there is absolutely no shortage of other museums covering a wide variety of interests. Examples include the Museum of the Walls (see Rome/South), the Musical Instrument Museum and a museum devoted to the liberation of Rome from the German occupation in the Second World War (Rome/Esquilino-San Giovanni).
Check museum opening hours before heading there. Government museums are invariably closed on Mondays, so that is a good day for other activities. The Rome municipality itself operates some 17 museums and attractions. Info at . These are free to European Union citizens under 18 and over 65. Web sites for other museums are listed on the relevant District pages.
The Keats-Shelley House is recommended for fans of second-wave British Romantic poets (Keats, Shelley, Byron etc). This is the house in which John Keats died of tuberculosis at the age of 25 in 1821; it is now a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets. It is located at piazza di Spagna, 26, right next to the Spanish Steps. For more information, visit .
Just walking around
Much of the attraction of Rome is in just wandering around the old city. You can quickly escape from the major tourist routes and feel as if you are in a small medieval village, not a capital city. If you can do so while watching for uneven cobblestones, keep looking upwards. There are some amazing roof gardens and all sorts of sculptures, paintings and religious icons attached to exterior walls. Look through 2nd and 3rd floor windows to see some oak-beamed ceilings in the old houses. Look through the archway entrances of larger Palazzos to see incredible courtyards, complete with sculptures, fountains and gardens. Take a stroll in the area between piazza Navona and the Tiber river in Old Rome where artisans continue to ply their trade from small shops. Also in Old Rome, take a 1km stroll down via Giulia, which is lined with many old palaces. Film enthusiasts will want to visit via Veneto (via Vittorio Veneto) in the Modern Center, scene for much of Fellini's La Dolce Vita.
The narrow streets of the historical centre frequently broaden out into small or large squares (piazze), which may have one or more churches and a fountain or two. Apart from piazza Navona and piazza della Rotonda (in front of the Pantheon), take in the nearby piazza della Minerva, with its unique elephant statue by Bernini and piazza Colonna with the column of Marcus Aurelius and palazzo Madama, meeting place of the Italian Senate; right next to it, there's the piazza di Monte Citorio with palazzo Chigi, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. On the other side of corso Vittorio Emanuele II are piazza Farnese, with the palace of the same name (now the French Embassy), two interesting fountains and the flower sellers at Campo de' Fiori - scene of the city's executions in the old days. All of these squares are a short distance from each other in Old Rome. The enormous piazza del Popolo in the North Center, which provided an imposing entrance to the city when it represented the northern boundary of Rome, is well worth a visit. A short walk back towards the centre brings you to piazza di Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Yet another fascinating fountain here. The area was much used as backdrop for the 1953 film "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
On the other side of the river is, of course, the magnificent St. Peter's square at the Vatican. Further south, in Trastevere, is piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere - a great place to watch the world go by, either from one of the restaurants or bars that line two sides of the square or, if that is too expensive, from the steps of the central fountain. The square attracts many street entertainers.
Moving back to the Modern Center you have to see the Trevi Fountain, surely a part of everyone's Roman holiday. Visitors are always amazed that such a big and famous fountain is tucked away in a small piazza in the middle of side streets. Take extra-special care of your possessions here. Further up the via del Tritone you will come to piazza Barberini, now a busy roundabout, but the lovely Bernini fountain is not to be missed.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is an excellent example of the Fascist architecture in Rome, and is often referred to as "the Square Colosseum"; it was designed by architects Giovanni Guerrini and Ernesto Lapadula as part of the ambitious building programme for the Universal Exposition of 1942, which never took place due to Italy's entry into WW2. After having seen the Colosseum itself, you could visit it so to compare the monuments' differences and similarities.
One of the best views is at the top of the Vittoriano. This can be reached by climbing to the mid level terraces of the building and then paying €7 to ride the lift up to the very top of the building. This gives breathtaking views over the entirety of Rome with informative diagrams to help you understand just what it is that you can see. Views of the city can also come from climbing the many hills, either the original "seven hills" of Rome, or others that surround them. The two most popular views of Rome are from the Janiculum hill overlooking Trastevere and the Pincio at the edge of the Borghese Gardens. The former, best reached by car, has sweeping views of the centre of Rome, as long as the city council remembers to prune the trees on the hillside in front of the viewpoint. Cross over the piazza for an excellent view of the dome of St Peter's. The Vatican is the main sight from the Pincio (Metro line A, "Flaminio - Piazza del Popolo" stop, and then a good climb). Less popular, but just as nice, is the orange grove at the Parco Savello on the Aventine Hill.
Rome for kids
If you are planning some serious sightseeing then leave the kids with their grandparents! They don’t take kindly to being dragged from ruin to ruin and church to church; a common sight in Rome is miserable looking kids traipsing after their parents. Also, push chairs/buggies are difficult to use because of the cobbled streets. If you are a family, do not try to do too much - Itt will be a big strain on kids and in the end everyone will be tired.
Apart from the major attractions, Rome has relatively little to entertain kids. If you noticed a big Ferris wheel on your way in from the airport, think again: the lunapark at EUR was closed down in 2008. A few of the other ways to bribe your kids, however, are:
Holidays and Events
Rome is replete with foreign language and cultural institutions. Of course, learning Italian is a worthwhile activity if you plan to stay for any length of time. If you plan to combine a stay in Rome with academic study, there are several English-language universities.
If you want to work, ask around at the hostels, hotels and restaurants. There are differing views on how easy it is to get a job in Rome; however, the country's currently in the midst of a financial crisis, unemployment is sky-high and most jobs seem to go on a family - friends - other Romans - other Italians - white EU - other foreigners pecking order. Knowing Italian helps. Be wary about making any financial commitment before you've actually been paid - late to non-payment is common here, and you may find as a non-Roman you are more likely to be seen as an easy target for this. You will also need a permesso di soggiorno, whether or not you are an EU citizen; legally, you're required to have a working visa although it is very easy to work and live without one.
There are numerous schools to teach the English language in Rome: if you're a native speaker, this may be the best opportunity of picking up a part-time work.
In Rome, obviously, the population speaks Italian and the road signs are mostly in that language (except for "STOP"). If you are staying in the city, there are plenty of English alternatives to be found; Rome is a popular place to visit and there are maps and information in many languages available. Police officers and transit drivers are more than willing to help you get around and usually provide easier ways to get around.
Also, most residents speak - to varying degrees - the local Roman dialect which can be hard to understand if you've just picked up Italian.
English is widely spoken in Rome by the younger generations and by people working in the tourist industry; among 40+s the chance of finding English-speaking people is a lot less, and with 60+s as good as zero. Most Romans, however, always try to be helpful with the tourists by giving some basic indications - and since so many people have a limited knowledge of English, it is wise to speak slowly and simply.
Romance languages other than Italian - especially Spanish, French and Portuguese, can be also understood (Spanish better than Portuguese) due to their similarity to Italian, although not necessarily spoken. Romanian, on the other hand, is not well understood despite it being a Romance language.
Rome has excellent shopping opportunites of all kinds - clothing and jewellery (it has been nominated as a top fashion capital) to art and antiques. You also get some big department stores, outlets and shopping centres, notably in the suburbs and outskirts.
Main shopping areas include via del Corso, via Condotti (plus the surrounding streets) and via Cola di Rienzo; the finest designer stores are around via Condotti, whilst via del Corso has more affordable clothing. The surroundings of via del Tritone, piazza Campo de' Fiori and the Pantheon are the places to go for cheaper items. UPIM is a good shop for cheap clothing of workable quality. Some brands (like Miss Sixty and Furla) are excellent, some are not as good - be sure to feel garments and try them on. There are also great quality shoes and leather bags at prices that compare well with the UK and US. However, when shopping for clothes, note that bigger sizes than a UK size 16/US 12 aren't always easy to find. Children's clothing can be expensive with basic vests (tank tops) costing as much as €21 in non-designer shops. If you really need to buy clothers for kids try the OVS or Cisalfa chains. Note that summer sales in many stores begin around 15 July and that Rome has New Year sales, too - they usually take place during the second week of January.
As mentioned above, via Condotti is Rome's top haute couture fashion street (equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York City, via Montenapoleone in Milan or Bond Street in London). Here, you can find big brand names such as Gucci, Armani, Dior, Valentino and Hermès, and several other high-class shops. However, the streets around the via Condotti, such as via Frattina, via del Babuino, via Borgognona and the piazza di Spagna also offer some excellent high fashion boutiques, including Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada and Givenchy (and several others). So once in the city, the big boutique names aren't absent. In these luxurious streets, however, you needen't only do clothing shopping - there are some really good and funky jewellery (e.g. Bulgari, Cartier, Tiffany's & Co.), pens and relative accessories (i.e. Mont Blanc) and artsy stores peppered here and there in these streets.
If you want to spend a day in a large shopping centre, there's the Euroma2 with about 230 shops (mainly clothes and accessories) and restaurants, to be found near the EUR district. Take the B line of the Metro to the "EUR Fermi" or "EUR Palasport" stops (direction: "Laurentina"); from the former Metro stop, you can take the # 070, # 700 or # 709 buses and get off at "Colombo/Pacifico". Otherwise, from the latter stop, you can cross the road and take the frequent free bus (ride takes 5-15 minutes) to the shopping precinct. In addition to many shops and food, the conditioned air and free toilets may be a welcome relief if you are in Rome during mid-summer.
Cinecittà Due is located in via Tuscolana (Metro line A, "Subaugusta" stop). You can combine a stop in this shopping centre after a visit to the Cinecittà studios, one Metro stop ("Cinecittà") after.
La Rinascente, Rome's first department store, having been opened in 1887, is also a good retail department store, selling fashion, design, houseware and beauty products.
There are lots of fake plastic designer bags/spectacles being sold at the side of the road. Be aware, buying fake products is illegal in Italy; fines up to €1000 have been reported. If you are happy to take the risk, make sure you haggle - unsuspecting tourists pay up to €60 for them.
If you want to buy souvenirs or gifts, a museum would be the worst choice since there are many stalls along the streets of touristic areas that offer reasonable prices. It is likely that the same item in the gift shop of any museum will cost much more.
Rome is full of good restaurants, many in attractive settings, particularly when you sit outside in the evening. No one location can be recommended to search for a good restaurant: some of the best places to eat are in the most unpromising locations while well-situated restaurants can often live on their reputation rather than the quality of their food. Restaurants in guidebooks can be good but prices can be inflated because it is more than likely a "tourist trap." To find an authentic restaurant that wont break the bank try to find a place in a more residential area or somewhere that isn't in the middle of the tourist locations.
Many of the best restaurants in Rome, however, are hard to find as most of them are located outside the historical centre - a good tip is to go where Italians live and eat. For example, beyond the Janiculum (in the Monteverde vecchio district) there are some trattorie with authentic Italian cuisine at an affordable price. Rome also has many beautiful spots to eat, so buying some delicacies to make up a picnic can be a great experience. An even more affordable choice is to go to a local supermarket which will also have good foods for lunch.
Roman pizzas are very thin crusted, quite different from the classical pizza made in Naples; they're also crunchier and have far less pizza topping. Most restaurants serve pizza only in the evening. Try some of the fried things like baccalà (battered salt cod) or supplì (fried rice balls with cheese and tomato) for a starter, followed by a pizza for a really Roman meal and avoid the tourist areas where you'll often pay double the going rate just to get a badly reheated frozen pizza. Some restaurants also make round pizzas to take away: look for signs reading either "pizze da asporto" or "pizze da portar via".
You'll have to cut your round pizza (in Italy, the cook doesn't do that for you) with fork and knife, which can then be eaten with one's hands; contrary to some travel myths, there's absolutely no stigma whatsoever to doing it.
Pizza al taglio is pizza with a thicker crust and cooked in a large pan. It is served by the piece - usually to take away - and is a good, cheap way to get something to fill you up: point to the one you want and indicate if you want more or less than your server is indicating with the knife. Unlike Naples, pizza al taglio here is sold by weight (the listed price is usually per 100 gm, known in Italian as an un etto, a hectogram).
Pizzerie al taglio (places selling pizza by the slice, that is) are the city's very own equivalent of a fast-food joint and, pretty much like the fish and chips shops in the UK, they're a cornerstone of Roman life. They sell the ubiquitous supplì - which is a truly delicious complement to pizza - pepper roasted chicken, fiori di zucca, potato croquettes, lasagne and roast potatoes; most of these establishments also make round pizzas to take away, but they cost more and you'll often have to wait (especially at lunchtime).
Bakeries (Italian: forno, or panificio) also make very good pizza by the slice, even though their choice of toppings is quite limited. There you can ask to have your (plain) slice of pizza filled with Nutella...
Look for a gelateria. You pay for your ice cream first... then take your receipt and go fight your way through the throng to choose your flavours. You will be asked "Panna?" when it's almost made - this is the offer of whipped cream on top. If you've already paid, this is free. Some gelaterie require a small additional charge in order to get your cream — mostly half or one euro.
There are a few signs to keep in mind: "Produzione Propria" (homemade - our own production), "Nostra Produzione" (our production), "Produzione Artigianale" (production by craftsmen). If the colours seem dull and almost ugly it is probably natural, the bright colors being just a mix. Producers to try include Gelarmony ; Gelato di San Crispino ; La Palma  with a huge choice of tastes; Pompi bars , famous for their wonderful tiramisù, a semi-frozen dessert made of mascarpone cheese, chocolate, coffee and ladyfingers, and Fassi .
Vegetarians and vegans
Vegetarians and vegans should have an easy time finding food in Rome (and Italy in general). Buffets in many restaurants usually have a good range of delicious vegetarian stuff - e.g. gratinated roast peppers/aubergines, etc. Also, pizzas don't always have cheese - a marinara, for example, is just tomato, garlic and oregano; moreover, one can always ask for a pizza without cheese. Italian servers and chefs tend to be accommodating. Vegans need to watch out for pasta fresca (fresh, homemade pasta) or pasta all'uovo, which is made with eggs. There are also some vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Rome.
While there is not much choice, at least Rome's kosher cooking is truly excellent; try "La Taverna del Ghetto" and "Yotvata" both in the (former) Jewish ghetto. The area around piazza Bologna (Metro line B, "Bologna" stop), in the Nomentano district, is also home to a sizeable Jewish community: there are a few kosher restaurants you might like to try.
You can get cheap food in Rome, the problem is that if you don't know the city well or are forced to eat out in the centre, the prices go up.
Chinese restaurants are still quite cheap but other ethnic restaurants (Thai, Indian) are generally expensive (think €30 upwards per person); sushi is very expensive (€ 40 minimum per person). Waiters have been known to take advantage of patrons by bringing more expensive items than what was ordered or asking for a tip, although it's not mandatory and should be included in the price by law.
Unlike other countries, you'll be charged for bread; if you don't want to pay for it, just refuse the baskets the waiter brings you or send back those already on your table. As far as cafés are concerned, only touristy ones will make you pay more if you choose to sit down - in (truly local) neighbourhood bars, that is unheard of.
Starbucks has so far avoided Rome (or Italy, for that matter).
Italians don't like to eat meals or having their coffee while strolling or sitting; a coffee is, actually, just a few minutes break and you'll find that most locals drink it standing in front of the counter.
What foreigners erroneously call "espresso" is just plain coffee, and is more commonly just referred to as caffè. Caffè doppio means a double shot of espresso, while caffè macchiato is espresso 'marked' with a dab of steamed milk, like a small cappuccino. An americano, or lungo - the one to order if you like filter coffee - is espresso diluted with hot water and is not drunk much by Italians. Decaffeinato is self explanatory, but it is often referred to by the common brand-name Caffè Hag. A caffè corretto is an espresso with some alcoholic drink, like sambuca (distilled from the elder tree, similar to the anisette), anisette, brandy, cognac, grappa (grape spirit) or whatever. Usually the barmen add about a spoon of the "correction".
Latte in Italian is just... milk. If you're expecting coffee in that glass, you should ask for a caffellatte. A latte macchiato (meaning "marked") is steamed milk stained with a smaller shot of espresso.
Cappuccino is well known outside of Italy, but be warned: it is considered very un-classy and... quite disgusting to order one after 11 AM (and certainly during or after a meal). Cappuccino doesn't help the digestion as an espresso is supposed to do because it's too heavy - especially after a large meal.
Wine and water
House wines (vini della casa) are almost always drinkable and inexpensive (unlike, say, in the UK). Most trattorie would not be caught dead serving poor wine. You may often find a bottle of wine on the table for you. Believe it or not: this bottle will be less expensive than a glass would be in the U.S. or UK, possibly only €4 or €5. This does not always apply to those places that look really tourist-trap-like! Slightly better quality wines are usually sold at a relatively small mark-up on shop prices. The best wines are marked as D.O.C. (Registered Designation of Origin) or D.O.C.G. (Registered and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) — they are not necessarily expensive.
Italians, despite the romanticised stereotype, don't usually sit outside cafés drinking a glass of wine and watching the world go by - this is actually something foreign tourists do! Wine is supposed to be served along with (usually, important) meals: it's not something you'd drink everyday. Also - when eating pizza Italians prefer drinking beer, or a Coke, or just a glass of water.
Speaking of which, most restaurants serve bottled water with their meals; it comes usually in 1 litre bottles and can be had normale/liscia/naturale (still water) or gassata/frizzante (sparkling water). No ice is usually served in the water, even in the summer like American customers can expect. Few restaurants offer the free water in the pitcher or the in-house "purified" water in the pitcher usually customised with their logo.
Water is free at designated water fountains, called nasoni (big noses) or simply fontanelle (small fountains). Not only the water's very fresh and good, but it comes from the famous springs scattered throughout the Lazio region - it is perfectly safe to drink. If you carry an empty bottle, fill it up for the rest of the day; look for the drinking fountain with constant running water, plug the bottom hole, and cool water will shoot up from a smaller hole on top of the tap. Don't put your lips round the hole at the bottom, as stray dogs tend to like to get a drink.
Pre-dinner drinks (aperitivi) accompanied with small hors d'oeuvres (antipasti) are very popular with the chic yuppies in their 20s-30s, who crowd the area around piazza delle Coppelle (behind the Parliament) and piazza di Pietra (near the Chamber of Commerce). Younger generations sprawl around the square and streets of Campo de' Fiori for a beer and a chat, while tourists and some posh locals alike sit to drink in the narrow streets beyond the Pantheon (piazza Pasquino and via del Governo Vecchio).
Clubbing & Nightlife
Given a heart for exploration, Testaccio is the place to wander for after-dinner partying on the weekends. Head down there around 23:00 (take Metro line B and get off at the Piramide stop) and listen for music. There are usually loads of people simply walking through the streets or looking for parking. Be brave, walk in, meet some wonderful Romans. This area is best in the winter. In the summer, the dancing moves to Ostia and Fregene, 45 minutes by car from Rome, at the seaside. Many clubs in Rome close in the summer months.
Many visitors like to go on Roman pub crawls: the Colosseum Pub Crawl for example, has been throwing parties since 1999.
To the east of Termini station, and near the University of Rome ("La Sapienza"), is the San Lorenzo district, where you will find many pubs and clubs where university students and young Romans in their twenties spend their nights. On Saturday night the streets are crowded with people moving from one pub to another. On the city side of the railway, near Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral, are some great Irish pubs eg, the Fiddler's Elbow, the oldest in Rome, where many English-speaking residents and Italian customers like to sip their pints. It's a good place to meet Romans who speak English. Also nearby are the Druid's Den and the Druid's Rock .
On via Nazionale there's a huge and beautiful pub called Flann O' Brien, one of the biggest in Rome. On the same street near piazza Venezia there is another cluster of pubs including The Nag's Head Scottish Pub. After 22:00 it's very expensive as it becomes more like like a disco. Entrance with first drink costs €13 while the drinks themselves cost €8. Before midnight, they sometimes host live music concerts. In the same area, at the beginning of corso Vittorio Emanuele II you can find the Scholar's Lounge Irish pub with nice music. This is definitely worth a look but there is no room to dance. During winter American colleges students residents in Rome end up their highly alcoholic nights here. Nearby there's the Trinity College Irish Pub. Drinks are quite expensive there.
Also on corso Vittorio Emanuele II, near piazza Navona, there's the Bulldog's Inn English pub. DJs play very good music there and there's room to dance, although few do. Nearby at piazza di Campo de' Fiori there are several crowded pubs (beware, there have been huge and serious fights there). In the narrow streets behind piazza Navona there are also many places to go. Try Jonathan's Angels in via del Fico. Also the Abbey Theatre Irish pub is a good place in via del Governo Vecchio.
On the other side of the Tiber river lies the Trastevere district; there are many places where you can eat and have a drink. This is also a good place to enjoy nightly walks. During summer, lots of stalls pop up on the Tiberine island - that is, the island at the centre of the Tiber river - and there's a good choice of things to do.
Far from the centre there are some other good places. The Palacavicchi, in the small suburban town of Ciampino, is a multi-dance room area where they play different kinds of music, mostly Latin American. You definitely need to get a cab to get there and it won't cost less than €20. South of Ciampino airport there is the Palaghiaccio for ice skating, and the Kirby's and the Geronimo pubs. All of them are nice places. At the Geronimo pub before midnight there usually are live music concerts with many bands covering different genres. On Friday and Saturday nights after the concert they play disco music. Entrance is free and you may drink and eat as you feel: it's a very cool place and for every budget. Unfortunately, you'll need a cab to get there.
Another huge skating rink is the Axel, on piazza Mancini (near piazza del Popolo).
Those Romans who speak fluent English usually have a great deal of confidence with tourists, so just offer them a beer and they will be glad to share with you their tip and tricks about nightlife in Rome.
As for discos, there are many; unfortunately, the city is huge and it's not very easy to find them, unless you have a very good guide. The best way to start is from the most renowned ones: the Piper, the Gilda and the Alien - all of which are run by the Midra Srl. Their website is nothing to write home about but can be used to discover telephone numbers and addresses. Gilda is near the Spanish Steps, while the others aren't too far from Termini; during summer they close to move to the seaside of Fregene (north of Fiumicino and Ostia), where Gilda on the Beach can be found.
A pint of beer in pubs usually costs around €6, entrance in discos around €20 with first drink included. Drinks in discos cost around €10.
One of the places to be on Friday nights is Circolo degli Artisti in via Casilina Vecchia, 1 (rather central but reachable only by taxi): a luxurious garden with open-air bars and tables, next to an ancient Roman aqueduct. Two large discos are Mucca Assassina @ Qube in via di Portonaccio, 212 and Alpheus in via del Commercio. During the week the main meeting place after dinner is Coming Out (a bar right in front of the Colosseum) where crowds of gay Romans and tourists gather in and outside all year round. Overwhelmingly crowded during the summer are late-night clubs such as Hangar in via in Selci (Metro Line A, get off at the "Manzoni" stop). The best sauna (open 24 hours during week-ends) is Europa Multiclub in via Aureliana (behind piazza della Repubblica; Metro line A, "Repubblica" stop). A meeting spot for gay people day and (especially) night is Monte Caprino, the park on and behind the Capitoline hill - below the City Hall - with spectacular views over the temples and ruins of ancient Rome. The Galoppatoio di Villa Borghese is crowded at night but go AYOR.
Note: As from the beginning of January 2011 Rome's city council now levies an accommodation tax. This is €2 per night per person for campsites up to three-star hotels and €3 a night for four- and five-star hotels. This fee is supposed to be for the restoration of Rome's crumbling ruins. Apparently, it can only be paid in cash.
The area to the southwest of Termini railway station has numerous large hotels; these are used in particular by groups and coach parties. On the other side of the station are many smaller, fairly inexpensive, hotels that are popular with individual travellers. Perhaps the best choice for a first-time visitor is to stay right downtown, (such as near the Pantheon). Most attractions are walking distance from there, and you will save much transportation time and leave more for enjoying the city. Hotels in the downtown area are costly, but a good apartment is a decent alternative, especially for couples and if you don't mind cooking yourself from time to time: it will save even more of your budget.
Offering of short term apartment rentals is enormous. Many apartments can be booked directly through the owner, but most owners make arrangements via rental agencies, both large and small. When looking for a hotel or an apartment in Rome, take note that the price of accommodations varies significantly from month to month, depending on typical amount of tourists—always check prices at your accommodation for your specific dates.
Being as it is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, there are tons of choices for where to stay, and you will have the choice of whatever type of accommodation you wish.
There are at least three campsites near Rome, they are:
- Via del Corso, largo Goldoni, ☎ +39 06 68136061
- Castel Sant'Angelo, Piazza Pia, ☎ +39 06 68809707
- Fori Imperiali, piazza Tempio della Pace, ☎ +39 06 69924307
- Piazza Navona, piazza delle Cinque Lune, ☎ +39 06 68809240
- Via Nazionale, piazza delle Esposizioni, ☎ +39 06 47824525
- Trastevere, piazza Sidney Sonnino, ☎ +39 06 58333457
- St. John Lateran, piazza San Giovanni, ☎ +39 06 77203535
- Santa Maria Maggiore, via dell'Olmata, ☎ +39 06 4740995
- Termini station (arrivals), piazza dei Cinquecento, ☎ +39 06 47825194
- Termini station, Galleria Gommata, ☎ +39 06 48906300
- Fontana di Trevi, via Marco Minghetti, ☎ +39 06 3782988
Romans regularly interact with foreigners and tourists - it shouldn't be hard to find friendly help, provided you know some Italian; as for most every place in Italy, just be polite and you won't have much trouble.
If you hit someone with your luggage or shoulder while walking on a street, say "sorry" (mi scusi or simply scusi). Despite being busy like New York and London, bumping someone and going ahead is considered bad behaviour; a little apology will be more than enough.
In buses or trains, let older people have your seat if there's no space available. The gesture will be appreciated. Romans, and Italians as well, can be chaotic while in a queue and often "clump" without any particular order: it's considered impolite, but they do it anyway (however, note that everyone knows who's last!). Be careful while driving, as Romans often drive frantically and bend the rules to cope with the heavy traffic.
Catcalls, shoutouts or wolf whistles directed to young ladies are nothing more but a travel myth; however - in the (admittedly, very rare) occurrence this happens to you - don't react and just walk away.
Rome is generally a safe place, even for women traveling alone. However there have been rape cases around Termini station, so be careful (especially at night time). There is very little violent crime, but plenty of scams and pickpocketing that target tourists. As in any other big city, it is better if you don't look like a tourist: don't exhibit your camera or camcorder to all and sundry, and keep your money in a safe place. Consciousness and vigilance are your best insurances for avoiding becoming a victim of a crime in Rome. Remember, if you are pickpocketed or victim of another scam, don't be afraid to shout, "Aiuto, al ladro!" (Help, Thief!) Romans will not be nice to the thief.
Members of the Italian public are likely to be sympathetic if you are a crime victim. Police are also generally friendly if not always helpful. Carabinieri (black uniform, red striped trousers) are military police while the Polizia (blue and grey uniform) are civilians, but they both do essentially the same thing and are equally good, or bad. If you are robbed, try to find a police station ("commissariato") and report it. This is essential to establishing a secure insurance claim and to replace documents: the chances of it resulting in the return of your possessions are, however, fairly remote.
Rome is home to two rivals Serie A football clubs - A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio; there's a long history of conflict, and even rioting, between the two. Never wear anything that shows that you support either of them during the Derby (when the two clubs play each other): avoid even wandering into groups of supporters of the other club, or you may be subject to heckling or even confrontation. Play it safe and refrain from openly supporting either club unless you are very familiar with the rivalry. If you are a fan of a foreign team that is playing in Rome, be careful as a number of supporters have been stabbed over the past few years. A.S. Roma's colours are yellow and red (more precisely, orange and garnet-coloured, the same you can see on the city's flag); S.S. Lazio's livery is composed by white and light blue (azure). Other tee-shirts not appreciated: Juventus (black and white vertical stripes), Milan (red and black), Inter (blue and black) - but they are twins with Lazio - and Napoli (light blue). However, don't take these tips too seriously: it is extremely unlikely that you'll ever get in any trouble whatsoever just for wearing other teams' tee-shirts (especially in the central areas).
Since Rome is incredibly popular as a tourist destination, a great deal of pickpocketing and/or bag or purse snatching takes place - especially in crowded locations - and pickpocketers can get pretty crafty. A 2010 study found that Rome was second only to Barcelona for pickpocketing of tourists.
As a rule, you should pretty much never carry anything very valuable in any outside pocket, especially the front pocket of your pants is one of the easiest and most common targets. Keeping your wallet in your front pocket or in your bag is far from safe. You should consider using a money belt and carry only the cash for the day in your pocket.
Also, beware of thieves — they will use the old trick of one person trying to distract you (asking for a cigarette or doing a strange dance) while another thief picks your pockets from behind. Bands of kids will sometimes crowd you and reach for your pockets under the cover of newspapers or cardboard sheets. It is generally a good idea to be extremely wary of any strange person who gets too close to you, even in a crowd. If someone is in your personal space, shove the person away. As one frequent traveler put it, "Don't be afraid to be a dick in Rome." It is better to be rude than to be stolen from.
Termini (the main railway station), bus line # 64 and the Trevi fountain are well-known for pickpockets, so take extra care in these areas. On the Metro especially, pickpockets are extremely skilled.
Remember that hotel rooms are not safe places for valuables; if your room has no safe, give your valuables to the hotel staff for safekeeping. Even if they do have a safe, hotels will usually warn you that they have no liability (unless you put your items in the hotel's safe). This is not true, as it is against the Italian normative on hotel responsibilities.
Be aware of the danger and take the usual precautions and you should be all right. You don't need to be paranoid, just keep your eyes open and use your common sense!
Read up on the legends concerning tourist scams: most of them occur regularly in the city centre and you will want to see them coming.
A particular scam is when some plainclothes police will approach you, asking to look for "drug money," or ask to see your passport. This obviously is a scam to take your money. You can scare them by asking for their ID: the Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work.
Another recent scam involves men working near the Spanish Steps, around piazza Navona and outside the Colosseum. They approach you, asking where you are from, and begin to tie bracelets around your wrists. When they are done they will try to charge you upwards of €20 for each bracelet. If anyone makes any attempt to reach for your hand, retract quickly. If you get trapped, you can refuse to pay, but this may not be wise if there are not many people around. Carry small bills or just change, in your wallet, so if you find yourself in cornered to pay for the bracelet, you can convince them that €1 is all you have.
When taking a taxi, be sure to remember licence number written on the card door. In seconds, people have had a taxi bill risen by €10 or even more. When giving money to taxi driver, be careful.
Around tourist sites like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Spanish Steps there are groups mostly of men trying to sell cheap souvenirs. They may also carry roses and say they are giving you a gift because they like you but the minute you take their "gift" they demand money. They are often very insistent and often the only way to get rid of them is to be plain rude. Do the best you can to not take their "gifts" as they will follow you around asking for money. Simply saying: "No!" or: "Go away!" will get them off your back until the next vendor comes up to you. Also, be aware of the toys being sold by these vendors. One such item is a squishy ball which flattens when thrown onto the ground; they cost around €1. Once bought, they last a mere quarter hour before bursting - if you get one and are not careful you could end up ruining your luggage.
Be wary of places where you can exchange currency. Read ALL signs before changing money. Often times places set up just for currency exchange will add as much as a 20% service fee on all money being traded. The shops near the Vatican have especially high service fees, whereas places near the Trevi Fountain will be more reasonable. The best bet is to change enough money before you leave your home country. There are few places around the city that are under the table and are just interested in American money. These places charge no service fee. Or simply go to a bank.
Be careful of con-men who may approach you at tourist sights. The best advice to avoid scams is to get way from anyone that you have never seen before who starts talking to you. For example, a man could approach you asking for directions to a bar, strike a convincing conversation and invite you for a drink at that bar. He would then take you there with some (call) girls, offer you a drink (for which he doesn't mind paying); a (call) girl will approach you and make you agree to pay for a champagne for her. Eventually, you'll end up being asked to pay hundreds of euros for that bottle of champagne when billed.
A car may pull up next to you, and the driver asks you for directions to, say, the Vatican. He will strike up a conversation with you while he sits in his car and tell you he is a sales representative for a large French (or Italian or whatever) fashion house. He will then tell that you he likes you and he would like to give you a gift of a coat worth several thousand euros. As you reach inside his car to take the bag the coat is in, he will ask you for € 200 for gas, as his car is nearly empty.
In an emergency, call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.
On anything else you may need for your Roman holiday, you can contact the official helpline of the Italian Ministry of Tourism: +39 039 039. 09:00-22:00 daily, in seven languages.
Embassies and consulates