There are many things about Italy that make it beautiful. The food. The art. The architecture. The passion. It’s all perhaps most keenly felt in Rome, a city that’s the sum of its parts and also much, much more. Vespas whip down the streets, incredible smells waft from every restaurant, and history—a few thousand years of it—is on display almost everywhere you look.
So while you’re there, do as they say: Do as the Romans do. Shop, taste, explore, get lost, get inspired, and do it with your whole heart. Falling in step comes as easily as finding your next bowl of carbonara.
Before you go, learn more about Rome, the Eternal City that once ruled an empire.
Foodies, oenophiles, honeymooners, backpackers, art lovers, romantics
Rome does not come cheap! As one of the most visited cities in Europe, there’s much to see and do here, and while some of it is free or inexpensive (the Pantheon and the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint John are all free), other attractions’ entry fees begin to add up. The good news is that hotels are very reasonable—you’ll have a lovely stay at any number of hotels for well under $150/night—and the food doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, plenty of meals are priced at or under $15 excluding alcohol, but if you’re planning to taste as much as possible, give yourself $80/day to spend on food.
By and large, the Eternal City is a safe one for travelers, with one large exception: pickpocketing. Rome has a reputation for its pickpockets being among the stealthiest; it’s not as uncommon as we’d like to hear stories of a person’s watch being snatched right off their wrist without so much as noticing. Rome is also a place where many local men may be inclined to shout at or catcall women more overtly than other cities (and BIPOC of all genders might notice some stares). But it’s friendly towards LGBTQIA+ folks, and violence is rare. Your biggest concern will be getting a piece of jewelry or your wallet stolen.
Rome has a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers. Averages hover around 89° F in July and August, though heat waves can push those numbers significantly higher. In winter, things drop to the low 50s most days; nights will get a bit colder, but rarely cold enough for snow or ice.
Despite the heat, summer is peak season in Rome, when lines are at their longest and accommodation prices are at their highest. If those kinds of temperatures have you sweating just thinking about them, opt for spring or fall, when temps are comfortably in the mid 60s or low 70s most days. To avoid the bulk of the crowds, visit in winter (just avoid December 8, and Christmas through the Epiphany, January 6) when it’s chilly but blissfully quiet.
Drink your coffee at the bar. That’s how most Romans do it, as that’s how it’s the cheapest. Sitting down at a table can add a few bucks to your total bill—and that adds up fast if coffee is a daily necessity for you.
Look for an aperitivo with a buffet. The aperitivo is a time-honored tradition in Rome; it’s a pre-dinner drink and snack when people gather to discuss the day. Some restaurants offer a free snack, or even a buffet of snacks, to any guest who buys a full-price alcoholic drink. Pick your place right, and you can fill up for a small price.
Start with the freebies. Many of Rome’s best attractions are free. The Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, are all free. Plus, all state museums, the Colosseum, Palatino, and Roman Forum are free the first Sunday of the month.
Within Italy, Rome doesn’t claim ownership to the top spot for culinary delights—but it’s still in Italy, and so fantastic food is plentiful throughout the city. Plus, the city lays claim to a few specialities, like carbona, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe pastas, carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes), and suppli (rice filled croquettes).
From trendy restaurants and novelties (like a vending machine that makes customers fresh pizzas while they wait) to the time-honored trattorias and wine bars, you’re going to be well fed in Rome, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton.
Plenty of guidebooks and tourists will tell you that the historic center—where you’ll find attractions like the Pantheon and are close to the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain— is the best place to stay in Rome, but don’t listen to them. Instead, opt for Testaccio, which is near the historic center but with more character, or Trastevere, which is chock-full of local charm and fantastic food.
With its steep hills and cobbled streets, hoofing it in Rome might sound a bit treacherous, but it’s arguably the best mode of transportation since many of the city’s attractions aren’t far from one another. The metro, tram, and busses are also good options, but in order to successfully navigate, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all three of these systems, as there are gaps in what each offers.
Renting a car is not recommended, as the streets are impossibly narrow and difficult to get used to, but taxis are good options, especially for anybody with accessibility requirements. The streets are no easy feat to traverse via wheelchair. Uber is available in Rome, but highly regulated and very expensive.
The main airport serving Rome is Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO), which is often called simply Fiumicino Airport. It's more than 20 miles from Rome. Fiumicino is Italy's busiest airport (and one of the busiest in Europe), and is a hub for Vueling and Wizz Air.
Rome is also served by the smaller Rome-Ciampino International Airport (CIA), which is under eight miles from the city center, though this isn't typically an international gateway airport unless you're flying to Rome from elsewhere in Europe. It's a hub for Ryanair.
There are several options for getting from Fiumicino Airport into Rome. The Leonardo Express is a train that deposits travelers at Rome's main train station, Termini. It's about a 30-minute trip and a one-way ticket costs €14. Coach-style buses make the trip for a cost of less than €10, though the drive time varies with traffic. Expect at least a 40-minute journey. Rome's official taxis have a fixed fee of €48 for passengers going between Fiumicino and Rome's city center (confirm your destination is inside the "city center" map first).
Getting from Ciampino into Rome's city center is possible via taxi or coach-style buses. The fixed fee between Ciampino and the city center is €30, and bus tickets are under €5. Travel times can vary, as both methods are at the mercy of Rome's traffic, but since Ciampino is closer to the city center it's usually less than an hour.
Make the 2.25-hour journey to the ruins of Pompeii, one of Italy’s most important historical and archeological attractions. You can also hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius, which only takes about 30 minutes (also, be sure to check out Naples for some incredible pizza).
Hop aboard an hour-long train ride to get to Tivoli, home to some of the most opulent buildings in Italy—and that’s saying something—and the iconic thermal baths known as the Terme di Roma.
Head 30-45 minutes southeast of Rome to Lake Albano, where you can rent watercraft like kayaks and paddle boards (a warning: that water is cold), or check out the impeccably manicured grounds of Castel Gandolfo, including the lovely Belvedere Gardens.
Head three hours northeast of Rome to explore Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll find some of the best wineries in Tuscany.
Fly, rent a car, or take the train to make the 4-hour journey northward to Milan and Lake Como.
Go ~3.5 hours southeast of Rome to the Amalfi Coast, a gorgeous and upscale vacation destination for people the world over.
Take a 4-hour train ride up the coast of Italy to the Cinque Terre, a series of five iconic fishing towns that are perfect for exploring each town and making your way from one to the next via the rugged yet approachable hiking trails.
Take a 2-hour train ride to Florence, one of the wealthiest cities in Italy that’s known as the birthplace of the Renaissance Art movement, offering loads of art, delicious food, and romantic vibes.
Rome has long been Italy’s film capital and has appeared on the big screen in classics like La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday as well as more recent movies. Recommended films include Gladiator (for an idea of what Rome’s ancient ruins might have looked like during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (for the gorgeous shots of the city as a playground for rich American expats).
To learn more about Rome then and now, read Rome Tales, a collection of short stories that spans hundreds of years; I, Claudius, a historical novel about the first century emperor; or Lucrezia Borgia, about the daughter of Pope Alexander IV during the Renaissance.
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