Situated on the River Tiber, between the Apennine Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the "Eternal City" was once the administrative center of the mighty Roman Empire, governing a vast region that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. Today it remains the seat of the Italian government and home to numerous ministerial offices, but is superseded by Milan, in the industrial north, in terms of business and finance.
Rome basically closes down for ferragousto, the August holiday. Central bars, restaurants and shops will mostly still be open but that's about it. Even big (in Italian terms) department stores like COIN and Rinascente have been known to shut for a week or two. You can't check this out in advance (well you can, but don't expect the information you get to necessarily be accurate) so think about this when you plan. Rome is also very hot in August, so you really don't want to be there anyway.
The international airport is Leonardo da Vinci (Rome Fiumicino, code FCO). It's well organized and connected to the center of the city by public transportation.
Leonardo Express trains leave every 30 minutes from the airport and arrive in Termini after a 40 minute journey. They're very cheap (about 8 euros).
A taxi journey to the center of Rome from Fiumicino may cost more than 50 euros. Roman taxi drivers may be not so kind to tourists and may ask for some strange additional fares. [Addition - check at the beginning of the journey what is on the meter. There should be, and usually is, a sheet attached to the seat backs giving the prices. The strange additions may be for your luggage. However one trick is to add it at the beginning and add it again at the end. It would be hard to negotiate this one I think without Italian]
Fiumicino Airport has everything a tourist may need, whether arriving or leaving.
Easyjet and Ryanair flights (see Discount airlines in Europe) arrive at Ciampino Airport (CIA). This small airport is closer to the city center than Fiumicino but less well connected by public transport. Catch the bus from outside the terminal building to Anagnina metro station, then take the metro to the city center.
The main station is Termini Station. It's not so safe in the night hours, especially if you have to wait at the taxi stop (after 10PM taxi drivers prefer not to stop here). The main taxi companies are 063570 and 065551.
Roman drivers are famous (or infamous) for their aggressive skills. Avoid driving in Rome.
===By bus=== RyanAir provides bus transportation from Campino to Termini for about 10 Euro
Cruise ships dock in nearby Civitavecchia. Most cruises should have some form of transport to Rome.
For information on public transport in Rome, there is an outstanding page on Geocities: http://it.geocities.com/mp_pollett/roma-tr.htm
The official page with lines, tables and maps, fares & tickets is Metrebus: http://www.metrebus.it/
Once you're in the center you're best off on foot.
Transport ticket (biglietti per autobus) - one metro ride and as many bus/tram rides as you can do in an hour and a quarter (1 Euro). Tickets can only be purchased Tabaccheria (big 'T' sign outside) or newspaper kiosks. You'll have more chances to buy them in "Bars" inside the Metro stations.
So called "24 hours" tickets are only valid on the day you buy them, not for 24 hours after buying. Be aware that many tabaccherie close on Sunday, so buy your tickets in advance. Stamp the ticket before boarding or face a 100 € fine (though inspectors are rare). In that case, pretend not to have so much money with you. Then you have a chance that they want to see your passport and write your address on a form. If you're lucky you won't get a bill any time (especially if you're foreign).
Roman Empire structures
Walk and feel the energy of the place, sights are everywhere waiting to be discovered. Explore the Travestere neighbourhood for some great cafes and tratotria, and a glimpse at a hip Roman neighbourhood.
Partying in Rome is a pretty easy thing to do. Given a heart for exploration, Testaccio is the place to wander. Head down there around 11pm and listen for music. The outsides of the clubs will give you NO idea what the insides are like. There are usually loads of people simply walking through the street or looking for parking. Be brave, walk in, meet some wonderful Romans, buy them drinks. This area is best in the Summer when the dancing moves outside. In the winter, most clubs close.
A great place to look for where parties are happening is http://www.nightshots.it. They list at least one party per night somewhere. Only bummer for English speakers is that it's in Italian. But, with a small help from the Lonely Planet phrasebook, you'll figure out the days and times with no problem.
Plenty of Italian, English, American etc etc institutions. Best do your own online research to pick what suits you.
If you want to work during the tourist season, ask around at the hostels, hotels and restaurants with that touristy feel. It is quite easy to get a job, and it is a lot of fun even if it does not usually pay well. Erm, there are differing views on how easy it is to get a job out here. There is high unemployment and most jobs seem to go on a family - friends - other romans -other Italians - white EU - other foreigners pecking order. Italian helps. And be wary about making any financial commitments before you've actually been paid - late and 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 resident. Check out Romebuddy.com for (biased) details on how to get one and other useful stuff on working/living in Rome. Legally, you are required to have a working visa, although it is very easy to work and live without one.
Be aware that clothing bigger than a UK size 12/US 16 isn't always easy to find. Quality of clothing varies, from the high-quality (and expensive) Prada, to the poor quality goods found in some local shops. Via del Corso has affordable clothing (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 great quality shoes and leather bags at prices that compare well to the UK and US, quality for quality. Children's clothing can be expensive - basic vests (tank tops) can cost 21 euro in non-designer shops. Upim is a good shop for cheap clothing of workable quality. Lots of fake plastic 'Louis Vuitton' bags on sale from immigrants. Make sure you haggle; unsuspecting tourists pay up to 60euro for them.
The Trastevere neighbourhood and the old Jewish quarter have some of the best trattorias and ristorantes in Rome.
Please, eat Italian food in Italy -- and most of all, Roman food in Rome. It's more than great, it's just spectacular!
In Rome you can ask for:
Regional wines (they're cheaper and very good). House wine is almost always drinkable and inexpensive (unlike, say in the UK). Most trattoria wouldn't be caught dead serving poor wine. If the place looks really tourist-trappy then this doesn't apply! (And why would you want to eat there?)
Water is free at most fountains from designated water fountains. Some of these date to ancient times, and the water is still very good. It's fresh spring water and 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 whole and it will shoot up so you can drink it
If you're arriving in Rome during high season, be sure to book your accommodation at least a couple of days in advance.
For backpackers the area east of Stationi Termini (the side where you find track 1) is full of cheap accommodation. Go to Enjoy Rome or find a place yourself. If you are staying for a week or more, haggle for a better price.
Clean, well-stocked, public bathrooms are hard to find. But the ones on the way into the Forum from the main road into Rome going to the Colosseum are worth knowing about. Take tissue paper and soap with you - chances are that there won't be any.
Rome is a safe place, even for women travelling alone. It is better if you don't look like a tourist; do not show your camera or camcorder to everyone, and keep your money in a safe place. Termini, Esquilino and bus line 64 (Termini to San Pietro) are not so safe. Read up on the legends concerning scams. Most of them occur regularly in Rome and you want to see them coming. Watch out for bands of kids who will crowd you and reach for your pockets under the cover of newspapers or cardboard sheets.
Lots of pickpocketing and bag- or purse-snatching takes place in crowded places, but there is very little violent crime. Members of Italian public would likely be sympathetic if you are a crime victim and try to help much more so than in say, London. Police are also generally friendly if not always helpful. Carabinieri and Polizia both do essentially the same thing and are equally good, or bad. Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work. If you are robbed, try to find a police station and make a report. You may need to persuade them to let you in and bother with it. In an emergency, call 113 or 118.
If you plan to spend some time at Lake Bracciano and visit the towns and villages north of Rome, you might want to rent an apartment in the country. If you have a car, it's even worthwhile to stay outside Rome when sightseeing in the city - cool, quiet, with access to good and inexpensive restaurants in the smaller towns. Parties of up to 10 can rent Casale Treia - the owner speaks good English and French: http://www.mazzano.com/accommodation.htm
Especially if you have a rail pass, making Pompeii a day trip, while it is a very full day, is very doable. You can amuse people on the train by your complete lack of luggage.