Difference between revisions of "Rome"
Revision as of 16:22, 16 May 2009
Rome, the 'Eternal City', is the capital of Italy and of the Lazio (Latium) region. It's the famed city of the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita, the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. The Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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. The metropolitan area is home to around 3.3 million people.
The abbreviation "S.P.Q.R" is ubiquitous in Rome, short for the old democratic motto "Senatus Populusque Romanus" (Latin) or "The Senate and People of Rome" (English translation).
For two weeks in August, many of Rome's inhabitants shut up shop (literally) and go on their own vacations; many stores and other amenities will be closed during this time. The temperature in the city centre at this time of year is not particularly pleasant. If you do travel to Rome at this time, be prepared to see Chiuso per ferie (Closed for holidays) signs on many establishments. Even in these weeks the city is very beautiful and if you are looking for a less overcrowded vacation in Rome, this is not a bad time.
Rome's history spans over two and half thousand years, starting as a small Italian village to the center of a vast empire, to the founding of Catholicism to the capital of today's Italy. Rome's history is long and complex; below is merely a quick summary.
Rome is traditionally thought to have been founded by the mythical twins Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned as infants in the Tiber River and raised by a mother wolf before being found by a shepherd who raised them as his own sons. Rome was founded as a small village sometime in the 8th century BC surrounding Palatine Hill, where the Roman Forum is currently located. 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 at around 500 BC, and then the center of the Roman Empire from 27 BC on. 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 Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Rome maintained considerable importance and wealth.
Beginning with the reign of Constantine I, the Bishop of Rome (later known as the Pope) gained political and religious importance, establishing Rome as the center of the Catholic Church. During the Early Middle Ages, the city declined in population but gained a new importance as the capital of the newly formed Papal States. Throughout the Middle Ages, Rome was a major pilgrimage site and the focus of struggles between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.
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 in order so that Rome would equal the grandeur of other Italian cities of the period. The corruption of the popes (which was partly responsible for the extravagance of their building projects) during this period led to the Protestant Reformation and, in turn, the Catholic Reformation.
In the 19th century, Rome again became the focus of a power struggle with the rise of the Kingdom of Italy, who wished to see a reunification of Italy. The Papal States remained in control of Rome under French protection, but with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, French troops were forced to abandon Rome, leaving it clear for the Kingdom of Italy to capture. Rome became the capital of Italy, and has remained such ever since.
Rome today is both a contemporary metropolis and reflects the many periods of its long history - Ancient times, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. With the rise of Italian Fascism following World War I, Rome's population grew. This trend was stopped by World War II, which dealt relatively minor damage to Rome. With the dismantlement of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic following WWII, Rome again began to climb in population and grew into a modern city. The city stands today as the capital of Italy and a major tourist destination.
Rome has two main international airports:
Public Airport Transportation
From Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport, there are two train lines to get you into Rome:
COTRAL/Schiaffini  operates buses from both airports to the city. Don't forget to mark your ticket after getting on the bus; if the machine doesn't work (which is fairly common), you have to write your name, birth date and current date & time on the ticket.
From Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino, the bus stop is located outdoors at ground level, at the bottom of the A Terminal (Domestic Arrivals). You can buy tickets at the tobacco shop in the A Terminal baggage area, with the blue sign (Tabacheria). Lines from Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino are:
A good choice from Fiumicino is to take the bus to EUR Magliana (stops directly at the metro station, which belongs to line B) and then take the Metro. It's the cheapest way to get to the centre (€2 bus + €1 metro). The sign on this bus reads "Fiumicino-Porto-Magliana".
From Ciampino airport, you can take the bus from the stop located outside the terminal building to Metro Line A Anagnina station (ticket: €1.20). A metro ticket to central Rome costs another €1. There are also buses at the same price to Ciampino local train station; from there there is a train to Rome Termini station (ticket: €2). The buses operate roughly every hour or 30 minutes during the Italian work day (8-12 and 16-20), and you should count on at least 45 minutes travel time for either route. The Metro can get very crowded. Timetable booklets are available in some information booths.
There are a few direct bus services from Ciampino, all of which go to the Termini in Downtown Rome:
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.
Private Airport Transportation
Taxis in Rome are white. There are fixed fares from downtown to the airports. City center to Fiumicino and vice-versa cost €40. City center to Ciampino and vice-versa cost €30, as it is to any destination within the city walls. For other destinations fares are not fixed. Do NOT negotiate the price for the city center with anyone and be sure your driver activates the meter (all regular taxis have a meter) when he starts driving to any other destination. Fee for luggage is around €1 each. Be aware of unlicensed taxi drivers or limousine drivers (dark cars) that approach you at the airports: A drive with them could reach as high as €80. Go directly to the taxi stand and ignore touts.
Be aware that both airports are outside of the city limits, this implies that the fare for the first part of the journey is higher (a number 2 appears on the meter): the driver is supposed to change the fare to number 1 once he hits Rome's ring motorway (G.R.A.) and enters the city limits.
Rental cars are available from all major carriers at both airports. Providers can be reached easily in the Arrivals Hall at Fiumicino and in the airport terminal at Ciampino.
Rome's main railway station is Termini Station. Like any other train station, it is not very safe at night. It is also locked up between 00:30 and 04:30, when the only people hanging around outside are taxi drivers and the homeless. Most long-distance trains passing through Rome between these times will stop at Tiburtina station instead.
Other main stations include Ostiense, Trastevere, Tuscolana, Tiburtina.
Driving to Rome is quite easy; as they say, all roads lead to Rome. The city is ringed by a motorway, 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.
Most cruise ships dock in Civitavecchia, to afford their passengers opportunity to visit the area and/or Rome. Many ships arrange a shuttle bus to and from the port entrance. From there you can walk 10-15 minutes to the Civitavecchia train station. Purchase of a B.I.R.G. round trip train ticket for Rome costs just 9 Euros (as of Fall 2008), and also entitles you to unlimited use of Rome's Metro/underground and bus lines. Trains for commuters leave every hour or so, and take about 80 minutes. You can get off near St. Peters, or continue to the Termini station right downtown, where countless buses and the Metro await. At some ten times the cost, ships often offer bus trips as well, taking 2 hours or so to reach Rome.
Now it is possible for modest-sized cruise ships to dock in new Porto di Roma, Ostia, located a few kilometers from Rome and linked by train and metro.
In a nutshell: Don't do it. Well, some people actually enjoy it. Roman traffic is chaotic, but it is possible to drive there. However, the roads are not logical and the signs are few. 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 the light changes you are likely to get rear-ended. Parking is scarce. Rome 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 far better to travel by bus or metro, or (in extremis) take a taxi.
An alternative is to rent a scooter or a bicycle. Roman traffic is chaotic, but a scooter provides excellent mobility within the city. Scooter rental costs between 30 and 70 euros per day depending on scooter size and rental company. The traffic can be intimidating at first, but the experience is well worth it.
Be warned that when you phone for a taxi, the cab's meter starts running when it is summoned, not when it arrives to pick you up, so by the time a cab arrives at your location there may already be a substantial amount on the meter. You can get a taxi pretty easily at any piazza though, so calling ahead is really not required.
A trip completely across the city (within the walls) will cost about €11, a little more if there is heavy traffic at night or on a Sunday. From Ciampino airport the flat rate is €30 to anywhere in the city period, and this is set by a central authority. Drivers at the airport may try to talk you into more, saying that your destination is 'inside the wall' or 'hard to get to'. State flat out before you drive away that you want the meter to run. If they try to overcharge you, start looking for a policeman. They will probably back down. Taxi drivers can often try to trick customers by switching a 50 euro note for a 10 euro note during payment, leading you to believe that you handed them only 10 euro when you have already given them 50 euro. The main taxi companies may be called at 063570 and 065551.
Rome also has several taxi cooperatives:
Once you're in the center, 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 challenging. There are crosswalks, but they are rarely located at signaled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crosswalk the secret to getting across is to just start walking. Cars will not slow down, but they will alter their trajectory to avoid hitting you. Do not try to run across or anticipate gaps in traffic. Keep a steady pace, look straight ahead, and you will get to the other side safely.
Watch out for the thousands of mopeds. As in many European cities, even if the cars and trucks are stationary due to a jam or for another legal 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 to make sure nothing is going to hit you.
By public transport (ATAC)
Tickets must be bought (from a 'Tabacchi' - look for the big 'T' sign, these shops are plentiful), before you board the bus, Metro, or tram. Metro stations will have automated ticket kiosks, and major Metro stations will have clerked ticket windows. Many trams have single ticket machines as well. Tickets for regular ATAC buses, Metro, and trams are the same fares and are compatible with each other. Options as of March 2009 are the following:
When you board the bus or metro you should validate it ('convalidare') in the little yellow machine. (The last four must be validated the first time you use it only.)
ATAC  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. Inspectors are present on the Metro as well, and 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 money, you will be asked to pay by mail, and the fee goes up to €140. Inspectors can also fine you for getting in and out of the wrong door, even if the bus is empty! The entrances are the front and rear doors and the exit in the middle. Many Romans ignore this distinction.
Roman buses are reliable but crowded. They are the best way to get around the city (except walking).
Free maps of the bus system are available. Others for purchase (3.5 euro at Termini). Bus stops list the stops for each route. Ask for assistance. (In Rome, there is always somebody nearby who speaks English.)
A popular alternative to city and pre-planned tour buses are the Greenline and Redline hop-on/hop-off, double-decker buses. An all-day ticket runs about 18-20 Euros, can be purchased as you board at any stop, and provides unlimited access to available seats (upper deck highly preferrable in good weather) and earbud phones to plug into outlets for running commentary on approaching sights. Commentary is offered in nearly every European language.
The Tram routes mostly skirt the historic center, but there are stops convenient for the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Trastevere area. The number 8 does run into the center to Largo Argentina, not far from the Pantheon. If you want to catch a soccer game at one of the stadiums in the north of the city, catch the tram (2) just north of the Piazza del Popolo.
There are two lines, crossing at Termini station. Line A (red line) runs northwest past the Vatican, and south. Line B (Blue Line) runs southwest past the Colosseum and northeast. In 2008 Line A stops running at 11:00 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays the last trains of Line B leave from the stations at 1:30 am and the line closes at 2:00 am to re-open at 5.00. 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 suburban rail lines that mostly connect to smaller towns and conurbations of Rome. However, most of Rome is well covered by the ATAC buses, Metro, and trams.
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 "La 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 (including the Quirinale presidential palace and gardens, the Colosseum and all of the ancient Forum) are accessible and free of charge. For more information and for specific dates see  or .
You are able to buy full day passes for €10,or a standard Colosseum + Palatine ticket at €11, better still, a 3-day pass for €23. This pass gets you in to the Colosseum (Colosseo), Palatine Hill (Palatino Hill), the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), and the catacombs as well as the Terme di Diocleziano, Palazza Massimo alle Terme, Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, Villa dei Quintili, Tomba di Cecilia Metella. If you don't want to cram it all into one day, get the pass. Plus, it is nice to buy a slice of pizza and eat in the gardens of Palatine Hill.
In Old Rome you must see the Pantheon, which is amazingly well preserved considering it dates back to 125 AD. There is a hole on 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 first reach Largo di Torre Argentina on your left. Until 1926 this 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 Emmanuelle and crossing the Tiber river you see the imposing Castel Sant' Angelo, built as a Mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian. This is connected by a tunnel 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 Center, 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.
If you aren't familiar with Roman Catholic churches, take a look inside of any one of these. You'll find the richness and range of decor astonishing, from fine classical art to tacky electric candles. Please note that some churches in Rome deny admission to people who are dressed inappropriately. You will find "fashion police" at Rome's 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.) The stricter churches usually have vendors just outside selling inexpensive scarves and sometimes plastic pants. Few other churches in Rome enforce dress codes. You can wander into lesser known churches like Sant'Ivo and Sta Maria in Trastevere wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, or pretty much anything without problems. It is, however, good to keep one's dress tasteful, as these are still churches and houses of prayer for many people. (Older Romans might comment on attire and perhaps harass you if it is particularly revealing.)
If you are in Rome for the Arts there are several world class museums in the city, the natural starting point is a visit to 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 worlds largest Etruscan art collection, and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna is both home of some national master pieces, and international blockbusters like Cézanne, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh. The Capitoline Museums in the Colosseo district opens its doors to city's most important collection of antique Roman and Greek art and sculptures. And finally try the Galleria d'Arte Antica, housed in the Barberini palace in the Modern center, for Italian Renaissance and Baroque art.
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. Keep your eyes pointing 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 frequently broaden out into small or large squares (piazzas), which usually 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 Piazza della Minerva, with its strange elephant statue by Bernini and Piazza Colonna with the column of Marcus Aurelius and Palazzo Chigi, meeting place of the Italian Government. On the other side of Corso Vittorio Emanuele are Piazza Farnese with the Palazzo of the same name (now the French Embassy) and two interesting fountains and the flower sellers at Campo dei Fiori, scene of Rome'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 Campo Marzio-Parioli-Salario, 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 center brings you to Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Yet another fascinating fountain here. On the other side of the river is, of course, the magnificent square of St Peter's at the Vatican. Further south, in Trastevere is Piazza 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 we come to Piazza Barberini, now full of traffic but the lovely Bernini fountain is not to be missed.
With no tall buildings in Rome, views of the city 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 center of Rome, as long as the authorities remember 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, Piazza del Popolo, and then a good climb). Less popular, but just as nice, is the orange grove at Parco Savello on the Aventine Hill.
Rome for kids
If you are planning some serious sightseeing then leave the kids behind. 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.
Rome has relatively little to entertain kids. If you noticed a big Ferris wheel on your way in from Fiumicino Airport, think again. Lunapark at EUR was closed down in 2008. A few of the other ways to bribe your kids, however, are:
Walk and feel the energy of the place, sights are everywhere waiting to be discovered.
Explore the Trastevere neighbourhood for some great cafes and trattorie, and a glimpse at a hip Roman neighbourhood.
Rome is replete with foreign language and cultural institutions. Of course, learning Italian is a worthwhile activity while in Rome.
Be a good guest if you do not speak Italian. Being extra polite will keep you out of trouble.
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. 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. Legally, you are required to have a working visa, although it is very easy to work and live without one.
In Rome, obviously the population speaks in Italian for formal purposes. The road signs are in Italian but it's common to find explanations in English too. Residents in their common life speak their own slang, romanesco, a dialectal form of Italian based on vernacular expressions and particular contractions and vocabulary. Roman slang is not far from Italian language so is easily understood by other Italian people, while for foreigners it can become harder. If they see that you are foreigner, usually they'll speak in correct Italian language. Roman people are very fond of their language. In southern Italy and in the big cities people use dialects. Don't be surprised if you can't understand locals in Naples or Reggio di calabria even if you know Italian quite well. In this situation, politely ask them to repeat.
English is widely spoken in Rome, especially by people working in virtually any touristy areas. But you'll be able to speak English with common people very often, especially with younger persons aged between 14 and 35. English is studied by italian students since lower schools and they often can speak it: if you meet someone who's not skilled, he'll however understand basic questions and will surely try to help you. Older citizens don't know English very well, some of them know little French or German but not so much.
Spanish is known by an average number of persons but it can be easily understood by almost everyone if spoken slowly and simply, because it's quite similar to Italian language.
Main shopping areas include Via del Corso, Via Condotti, and surroundings. The finest designer stores are around Via Condotti, whilst Via del Corso has more affordable clothing, and Via Cola di Rienzo, and the surroundings of Via del Tritone, Campo de'Fiori, and Pantheon is place to go for the cheapest 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 to the UK and US. But when shopping for clothes note that bigger sizes than a UK size 16/US 12 isn't always easy to find, and Children's clothing can be expensive - basic vests (tank tops) can cost 21 euro in non-designer shops. Summer sales begin around July 15th.
If you want to spend a day in a large shopping mall, there's the Euroma2 with about 230 shops (mainly clothes and accessories) and restaurants near EUR district. Take Metro B line from Termini to EUR Palasport station, cross the road and take the frequent free bus (ride takes ca 15 minutes) to the mall. In addition to many shops and food, the conditioned air and free toilets may be helpful for a tourist.
There are lots of fake plastic 'Louis Vuitton' bags on sale from immigrants. Make sure you haggle; unsuspecting tourists pay up to 60euro for them. Be aware, that buying of fake products is criminalized in Italy. Fines up to €1000 have been reported. It is possible that having a receipt helps even if the product is fake - this is, however, quite uncertain.
The Trastevere neighborhood and the old Jewish quarter have some of the best trattorie and ristoranti in Rome.
Lots of the better places serve pizza only in the evening, as it takes most of the day to get the wood oven up to the right temperature. Try some of the fried things like baccala (battered salt cod) for a starter, followed by a pizza for a really Roman meal. For one of the most famous places for pizza, try 'Da Baffetto' (Via del Governo Vecchio). Roman pizzas tend to be very thin crusted. Avoid the tourist areas where you'll often pay double the going rate just to get a badly reheated frozen pizza. Instead, head for a pizzeria like 'Pizzeria Maratoneta' in via dei Volsci / via del Sardi, San Lorenzo area, where you'll find a fine atmosphere of families and groups of students, menus in English, and you'll get a good meal with a bottle of local plonk at a very reasonable price. Pizza al Taglio Is a good cheap way to get something to fill you up, and it makes a good lunch. Point to the one you want, indicate if you want more or less than your server is indicating with the knife. It's sold by weight (the listed price is usually per 100 gm) and a good quick lunch or snack.
Look for a gelateria with a big plastic sign with a big 'G' on it outside. This means it has a guild association and will be good quality. Remember that it costs extra to sit inside. You pay for your ice cream first...take your receipt and go fight your way through the throng to choose your flavors. 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.
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 colors seem dull and almost ugly it is probably natural, the bright colors being just a mix. Keep in mind, Italians usually won't queue, but if they are in line for gelato, get in line yourself, you may have hit the jackpot.
Italian cafes are great. A latte in Italian is just a glass of milk. If you're expecting coffee in that glass, you should ask for a caffe latte. A latte macchiato (meaning "stained") is steamed milk stained with a smaller shot of espresso. "Espresso" or "normale" is just that, but more commonly just referred to as caffe. Espresso doppio means a double shot of espresso, while espresso macchiato is espresso 'marked' with a dab of steamed milk. Americano — the one to order if you like filter coffee — is espresso diluted with hot water and not drunk much by Italians. Cappuccino is well known outside of Italy, but be warned: it is considered very un-classy, and somewhat childish, to order one after 11am (and certainly after a meal). Decaffeinato is self explanatory, but often referred to by the common brand-name Caffe Hag; it is usually instant coffee and not nearly as good as the real thing.
Vegetarians should have an easy time. Buffets usually have a good range of delicious vegetarian stuff - eg gratinated roast peppers/aubergines, etc. Vegans should do all right too; pizzas don't always have cheese - a Marinara for example, is just tomato, garlic and oregano. Remember though that Parmesan cheese is not permitted to vegetarians.
While there is not much choice, at least Rome's Kosher restaurant is truly excellent. "La Taverna del Ghetto" is in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, steps away from the Colosseum.
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).
Regional wines are cheaper and very good. House wines 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 US or UK, possibly only €4 or €5. This does not always apply to those places that look really tourist-trap-like!
Water is free at most designated water fountains. Some of these date to ancient times, and the water is still very good. It's fresh spring water coming from the famous underground springs of Rome and is 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.
Pre-dinner drinks (7.00 PM to around 9.00 PM) accompanied with small hors d'oeuvres (aperitivo) are very common for Romans: 1) chic yuppies in their 20s-30s crowd the area around Piazza delle Coppelle (behind the Parliament) and Piazza di Pietra (near che Chamber of Commerce); 2) younger generations sprawl around the square and streets of Campo de' Fiori (behind Piazza Venezia); 3) everyone sits to drink in the narrow streets behind the Pantheon (Piazza Pasquino and Via del Governo Vecchio).
Clubbing & Night Life
Given a heart for exploration, Testaccio is the place to wander for after-dinner partying. Head down there around 11pm (take metro Line B and get off at Piramide station) and listen for music. There are usually loads of people simply walking through the street or looking for parking. Be brave, walk in, meet some wonderful Romans. This area is best in the winter when the dancing moves outside, especially in Ostia and Fregene to towns 30 minutes driving car from Rome, at the seaside. In the summer, many clubs close and you might have to inquire to find out which ones are open.
Young tourists and backpackers like to go on famous Roman pub crawls. The Colosseum Pub Crawl for example, has been throwing parties since 1999.
Not far from Termini Station and near the first University of Rome "La Sapienza" is located the San Lorenzo district, where you will find many pubs and clubs where usually university students and young Romans in their twenties spend their nights. On Saturday night the streets are crowded by people moving from one pub to another. Also near the Termini, near Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral, are located a bunch of great Irish pubs, i.e. 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 The Flan 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 their Dj makes you also dance, unfortunately it's very expensive at night,like a disco. Entrance with first drink costs 13 Euros and drinks cost 8 Euros. Before midnight they could host live music concerts. In the same area, at the beginning of Via 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.
Also on via Vittorio Emanuele, 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 inCampo dei fiori squarethere are several crowded pubs. Beware, there have been huge and serious fights there. After Piazza Navona, in the narrow streets there are also many places to go. We recommend a visit to the artistic bathroom of 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 River Tevere is Trastevere district where there are many places to eat and drink. Also a good place where to enjoy a walk in crowded streets at night. In summer time on Isola Tiberina, the island in the Tiber, are built temporary bars and people crowd happily and restlessly at night.
Far from the center there are some good places also. The Palacavicchi in a small suburban town called 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 that's expensive in Rome. Near the Ice Palace of Rome, in the area called Santa Maria delle Mole, which belongs to the small town of Marino, there are The Ice Palace itself, 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. Very cool place and for every budget. Unfortunately you need a cab to get there.
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 & tricks about night life in Rome.
Friday nights at Giardino delle Rose in via Casilina Vecchia 1 (rather central but reachable only by taxi): a luxurious garden with open-air bars and tables. Two large discos are cramped up with people on Friday and Saturday nights: check out Mucca Assassina (one-nigh party usually held at the disco in via del Gazometro or at Classico in via Ostiense). During the week there is little to do except for meeting after dinner at Coming Out (a bar right in front of the Coliseum where crowds of gay romans and tourists gather in and outside, all year round but overwhelmingly crowded during the summer) or going to late-night clubs such as Hangar in Via in Selci (Metro Line A, get off at Manzoni station). The best sauna (open 24 hours during week ends) is Europa Multiclub in via Aureliana (behind Piazza Esedra, Metro Line A Repubblica station). The meeting spot for gays day and (especially) night is Monte Caprino, the park on the Palatine hill behind the City Hall (Piazza Venezia) with spectacular views over the temples and ruins of ancient Rome.
The best choice for a first-time visitor is to stay downtown (like near the Pantheon): most attractions are walking distance from there, it will save much time from transportation and leave more for enjoying the city. Hotels in the downtown 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.
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.
Here's an overview of most likely prices for the most typical types of accommodation, in a monthly breakdown:
Offering of short term apartment rentals is enormous. Many apartments can be booked directly through the owner, but most make arrangements via rental agencies, both large and small. There are a few large apartment rental agencies that offer apartments throughout the entirety of Rome, including:
Note hotel listings can be found in the appropriate districts, and should be added there too:
There are at least two campsites near Rome, they are:
Romans regularly interact with foreigners and tourists; it shouldn't be hard to find friendly help. 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): despite being very busy, Rome is not London or New York and going ahead is considered bad behaviour, while a little apology will be satisfactory.
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, are very chaotic while in a queue, and often "clump" without any particular order: It's considered unpolite, but they do it anyway. Be careful while driving, as Romans often drive frantically and bend the rules to cope with the heavy traffic.
Rome is generally a safe place, even for women travelling alone. There is very little violent crime, but plenty of scams and pickpocketing which will target tourists. As in any 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. Conscientiousness and vigilance are your best insurances for avoiding becoming a victim of a crime in Rome. Remember, if you are pickpocketed or 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, and 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 and report it. This is essential to establishing a secure travel insurance claim.
Rome is home to two rival Serie A football clubs, A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio, and there is a history of conflict, and even rioting, between the two. If you dare to wear anything that supports either of them, especially during the Rome Derby (when the two clubs play each other), make sure you don't wander into 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 playing in Rome (especially against Roma) be very very careful as a number of supporters have been stabbed over the past few years purely for being foreign.
Being the incredibly popular tourist destination it is, a great deal of pickpocketing and bag or purse-snatching takes place in Rome, especially in crowded locations, and pickpocketers in Rome can get pretty crafty.
As a rule, you should pretty much never carry anything very valuable in any pocket. The front pocket of your pants is one of the easiest & 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 bag-snatchers--one popular technique that purse-snatchers use is to ride by you on a moped, slice the strap with a knife and ride off. They might also try to cut the bottom of your bag open and pick your wallet from the ground. Others will use the old trick of one person trying to distract you (asking for a cigarette, doing a strange dance) while another thief picks your pockets from behind. Bands of gypsy kids will sometimes crowd you and reach for your pockets under the cover of newspapers or cardboard sheets.
Termini (the main railway station), Esquilino and bus line 64 (Termini to San Pietro) are well known for pick-pockets, so take extra care in these areas. In Metro pickpockets are extremely skilled.
Remember that hotel rooms are not safe places for valuables; if your room doesn't have a safe give them to the hotel staff for safekeeping.
You don't have to be totally paranoid, but be aware of the danger and take the usual precautions.
Read up on the legends concerning tourist scams. Most of them occur regularly in Rome 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 is a scam to take your money. You can scare them by asking for their ID. Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work.
Currently there are two middle-aged men working near the Spanish Steps. They approach you, asking where you are from and begin to tie bracelets around your wrists. When they are done they will charge you upwards of €20 for each bracelet. There are also two men in their early twenties doing the same thing in the Piazza Navona. 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.
When taking a taxi, be sure to remember license number written on the card door. In seconds your taxi bill can raise by 5, 10 or more euros. When giving money to taxi driver, be careful.
Be careful of con-men who may approach you at tourist sights such as the Colosseum or Circus Maximus. Eg. a car may pull up next to you, and the driver ask you for directions to 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 fashion house. He will then tell 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. When you refuse, he could turn angry and now demand money from you, any money, of any currency. Don't fall for such confidence-tricks - if something sounds too good to be true, it is.
In an emergency call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.
Embassies and consulates