First Trip to Rome? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

January 23, 2023

Teeming with character and brimming with personality, Rome is a city of contradictions; loud, gritty and frenetic; charming, beautiful, and captivating.

Visitors quickly learn to take Rome as they find it; what you see is what you get with the Eternal City, and what you get is a truly memorable experience. Nevertheless, it’s always worth taking certain words of wisdom into account when embarking on an exploration of any new city, so here are just some of the most important points to consider!

How do I plan my time in Rome?

When your time in a new city is limited, it’s normal to fear that your all-round experience will be equally limited, but when it comes to Rome, there’s no need to panic about ‘fitting it all in’.

OK sure, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see each and every single sight that the Eternal City has to offer, but thankfully, Rome’s biggest attractions are concentrated in certain areas of the capital. This means that with a small amount of forward planning, you can earmark certain sights (and therefore certain areas) for certain days, thereby avoiding unnecessary dashes back and forth across the Italian capital! One very easy way to do that – and ultimately ensure you get the most out of your trip – is to plan your exploration of the Eternal City thematically!

In other words; ask yourself what comes to mind when you think of Italy’s capital. Is it the popes, the paintings, the piazzas, and the Pantheon? Or maybe it’s the the Colosseum, the catacombs and the cobbled streets? Depending on which cultural touchstones take personal precedence, you can easily allocate certain time slots – or indeed entire days – to certain themes, and then sightsee accordingly! It really can be as simple as that!

What’s the best way to see the sights in Rome?

Rome, Italy
See the best Rome has to offer!

Rome, as we all know, is a bucket list destination for most visitors to Europe, not to mention Italy. Art enthusiasts, history buffs and devoted foodies descend upon the Italian capital in their millions every year, and so it’s no real surprise that visitors are encouraged to consider crowding issues when sketching out their sightseeing schedule.

We’ve all been there; shuffling from one foot to the other while waiting in line for an attraction, jostling shoulder to shoulder with fellow tourists as you eventually gain entry, moving en masse through the attraction as you struggle to hear your guide. Sound familiar? With all the best intentions in the world, it’s not the most ideal way to view any city’s cultural or historical landmarks, is it? Experiences can be marred by queues, lines, crowds and slow moving tours, and there are few among us who don’t have memories of such a situation.

So, given the number of attractions Rome boasts and the numerous sights the city has to offer, it’s certainly advisable to book tours in advance, especially ones which feature skip-the-line access, and opt for small-group, local-led tours! From taking the aforementioned thematic approach to booking a tour in advance, you will ensure a truly hassle-free experience of Rome for yourself!

Read more: 12 Alternative Things to Do in Rome for 2020

Where should I stay in Rome?

Rome, Italy
Navigating Roman neighbourhoods

When it comes to visiting a new city, one of the first questions that arises is the matter of accommodation. Where you choose to stay can often make or break a trip, depending on your needs and wants. Too far from the hustle and bustle of a city, and you run the risk of isolating yourself. Too close to the centre, and you may struggle with noise pollution among other things. Indeed, seasoned travellers know that finding the perfect balance in terms of accommodation is an art, and it largely depends on what you want from your trip.

Ahead of your trip to the Eternal City, you will have likely familiarised yourself with well-known neighbourhoods including Trastevere, the Jewish Quarter, and Testaccio, but what exactly can you expect from them and others?

Let’s start with Trastevere; one of the liveliest neighbourhoods in the Italian capital, it’s also one of the most popular areas in the Eternal City. Known for wallet-friendly accommodation, enticing eateries and a variety of bars, Trastevere is a hive of activity and certainly worth considering as a base if you enjoy being in the midst of the action while on vacation!

Moving on to the Jewish Quarter! If you tend to gravitate towards slightly less hectic areas, but still appreciate a charming, bustling atmosphere, opting for accommodation in the Jewish Quarter may be the best move for you. Teeming with must-see historical landmarks, time in the Jewish Quarter guarantees an authentic Roman experience!

Heard of Testaccio? If not, that might be because it’s one the least tourist-oriented areas of Rome which, as we all know, is a major plus among many visitors to a new city! Located in the 20th rione of Rome, the area is known for its vibrant nightlife while also giving more than a passing insight into the edgier side of the Eternal City.

And what about Quartiere Coppedè? When it comes to neighbourhoods in Rome, Quartiere Coppedè is every fantasy fan’s ideal daydream, but interestingly, it isn’t a regular feature on the well-worn tourist track. While not far from central Rome by public transport, the area still feels ever so slightly hidden, utterly enchanting in its aesthetic and the perfect spot for the architectural buffs among us to enjoy some R&R in Rome.

Located near the Vatican, the Prati neighborhood is often associated with the finer things in life. Think spacious tree-lined avenues, elegant buildings and an array of high-end bars and restaurants. Oh, and if exploring a city’s selection of designer stores is always high on your list of priorities, it’s definitely worth making Prati your base during your time in the Eternal City!

Read more: Where to Stay in Rome: How to Choose the Right Neighborhood for your Visit

Is Rome expensive?

Rome, Italy
How to indulge your tastebuds in Rome

In recent times, Rome has come in for intense criticism among visitors – and managed to make global headlines in the process – due to the excessive restaurant bills presented to unassuming tourists dining out in the Italian capital. Think lunches which cost in excess of €400 and you’ll get the idea!

Like many international cities, Rome has a somewhat poor reputation for overcharging tourists. Indeed, many visitors to the Italian capital arrive having been pre-warned to avoid establishments targeting tourists. Often located mere metres away from a major attraction, these establishments tend to attract passersby with pictorial menus in a variety of languages, and generally don’t tend to deliver on the cuisine the country is renowned for!

Nevertheless, it is actually very easy to eat and drink incredibly well in Rome – indeed, just like a local – without breaking the bank at all! All it requires is the inclination to meander off the city’s main streets and into the laneways and side streets which house some of Rome’s most authentic and local-loved eateries! It’s as simple as that!

What’s Rome like in summer?

Rome, Italy
Staying cool in Rome in the summer

One word; hot. In fact, Rome in summer is known for being particularly hot. For example, temperatures in the Italian city reached highs of 38 degrees Celsius / 100 degrees Fahrenheit in August 2019, which makes planning an itinerary all the more crucial if you hope to avoid crowds during the summer’s hottest days.

There’s no doubt that Rome and hot days go hand in hand, but it’s not just the sweltering heat that’s set to make summer 2020 in the Eternal City a particularly memorable one! If you’re a fan of the Beautiful Game, and eager to get in on the UEFA Euro 2020 action, remember that Rome will be hosting the tournament’s opening game in June, as well as three others in the Stadio Olimpico. UEFA will be celebrating the first UEFA Festival which promises to ‘bring the city of Rome to life, with a celebration of arts, culture, music and most importantly football!’

Word to the wise: If football fatigue sets in, why not join us for an evening of pasta making or sink beneath the surface of the city for a stroll through Rome’s catacombs?

What’s Rome like in winter?

Rome, Italy
The Christmas and Epiphany Market in Rome

If you have an aversion to hot weather or always hoped to see the Eternal City during winter months, it may be worth planning your trip to the Italian capital as the year draws to a close, when temperatures begin dipping and the heat of the summer has finally abated.

Indeed, December 2019 in Rome saw highs of just 18 degrees Celsius and lows of 10 degrees, making it more agreeable among sightseers or those who tend to shy away from the sun’s rays…. and the city’s crowds.

So, let’s talk winter in the Italian capital! Once the Christmas and Epiphany Market pops up at the Piazza Navona, you can be sure the festive season in Rome has kicked into full swing! The rest of the city plays host to a variety of trees and decorations, and the city seamlessly segues from a prime summer destination into a much-loved winter spot, complete with cosy bars, festive stands and Christmas merriment.

Read more: Italy in the Off-Season: A Guide to Winter in Italy

How do I tip in Rome?

Tipping; it can be a real minefield on vacation, can’t it? Luckily for visitors to Rome, it doesn’t have to be!

Tipping in Italy is neither mandatory nor expected, but if you do decide to do so while visiting Rome, the gesture is a very clear indicator that you appreciated the service provided. As many of us like to tip – or are, at the very least, accustomed to doing so – it’s worth remembering that different etiquette applies depending on the service provided. 

As explored in a previous article, there are just a few handy rules to keep in mind before parting with your cash in Rome! From coffee and cocktails to taxis and tour guides, there is no reason to feel out of depth (or out of pocket!) when it comes to eating out, getting around or enjoying a drink in the Eternal City.

Read more: How to Take a Taxi in Italy Without Getting Ripped Off

What rules should tourists be aware of in Rome?

Rome, Italy
After dark in Rome

With the matter of cover charges… well… covered, it’s now time to consider other areas of cultural etiquette that should be considered upon your first trip to the Eternal City!

In recent years, a number of new rules and regulations were introduced in Rome, many of which put a halt to certain conduct typically associated with the city’s most iconic attractions.

Long to jump in the city’s fountains? No longer an option. Hoping to attach a ‘lovelock’ to a bridge? ‘Fraid not. Plan to spend a moment sitting on the Spanish Steps? Nope, not happening. Oh, and if you think flouting the rules will result in a mere slap on the wrist, think again. Choosing to ignore the regulations can result in hefty fines in some cases, so heed the warnings and behave accordingly!

And there you have it folks; from landmarks and lovelocks to tipping and tours, consider yourself well-equipped, well-informed and well-prepared for your first foray in the Eternal City!

Read more: 11 Surprising Ways to Get in Trouble in Italy

by Niamh McClelland

View more by Niamh ›

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