( This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info here. )
Who DOESN’T want to go to Rome?! If you love history and culture – Rome’s the place to be. Want to see some amazing architecture? Rome is it. And you must try the Roman food specialties at least once in your lifetime!
If you’re afraid of going to Rome because of its reputation as being a chaotic mix of traffic jams and hot-headed Italian temperament, let me ease your worries. Rome is separated into individual districts, each with its own quaint character – which makes for a small village feeling, rather than a metropolitan chaos.
I recommend spending at least 4 days there. Five days in Rome would be better. That way you can not only do the “touristy” things that everyone should see, but you’ll also have enough time to get off the beaten path to become a tiny feel for how it would be to actually LIVE there.
Getting to Rome
As the saying goes: “All roads lead to Rome.” The road you take does, of course, depend on where you’re coming from.
If you are coming by car – beware! You need a permit to drive in the old town of Rome. This means you must park your car in one of several public parking garages outside the boundaries of the old town, and this can get expensive. If at all possible, try to fly into Rome and then rent a car at the airport if you plan to travel further. Alternatively, the train is always a great option when traveling in Europe.
Best Time to Visit
Rome is a very popular tourist destination and is busy all year round. If you want to avoid the crowds but still enjoy some sunny weather, April & May are your best bets.
There were already lots of tourists when I was there in mid-April, but not horrendously full yet. I could wear short-sleeved shirts during the day and light sweaters in the evenings. That time of year could not have been more perfect.
I don’t want to imagine how hot, humid and full the city is between June and September. The hotel rates are ridiculous at that time of year as well. Sounds like a hot, sweaty and expensive mess if you ask me.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Rome are expensive. NICE Hotels in Rome are VERY expensive. As with most of my trips, I recommend renting an apartment. It is the more financially friendly alternative to a hotel and living like a local makes you actually feel like one.
Tripadvisor.com is an excellent place to start looking for an apartment (or a hotel or hostel for that matter.) I can particularly recommend the one we rented in the Jewish Ghetto in the city center. Here’s the review I wrote for TripAdvisor:
“This apartment is within walking distance to all the main attractions of Rome while being nestled in the cozy and quaint Jewish ghetto. It is only one block from the Largo di Torre de Argentina if bus or taxi is needed. There are fabulous restaurants and shops just a block away. Guiliana the owner is so very friendly and really went out of her way to make us feel welcome. She gave us some useful tips for parking in Rome, using public transport, booking tickets for museums etc. The interior of the apartment is exactly like the photos show: clean, modern and tastefully decorated. The kitchen is well equipped. Do yourself a favor and stay here!!!”
This is the door to that apartment house – kinda scary on the outside, but a clean and beautiful loft apartment on the inside!
Just drop me a line if you’re interested in learning more about that apartment. This place was so perfect, that I don’t share it with everybody…I might want to go back myself one day and it will be booked solid!
Chances are, your flight home will be early in the morning. And if you’re like me, the last thing you want to do at the crack of dawn is to try to find your way out to the airport in a busy city like Rome. Most of the nicer hotels in the Centro Storico do have a shuttle service, but I recommend staying at the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel for your last night. It’s connected to the airport, so you can be at check-in within minutes of leaving the hotel. This was awesome at 4 am! As an added bonus – the restaurant and lounge there are excellent.
And the FOOD, oh YES, the FOOOOOD!!!
In my itineraries, I do recommend several restaurants and trattorias at which you can have an amazing meal and not be treated like a tourist.
But if you follow the rules “When in Rome – do what the Romans do,” you simply can’t go wrong. This means: eat WHERE the locals eat, eat WHEN the locals eat and eat WHAT the locals eat.
Any travel guidebook will inform you about the differences between the Italian and American eating cultures. Wanna eat like a king without breaking the bank? Do what the Romans do – you won’t regret it.
Roman cuisine is religiously seasonal and regional!
If you have the money, I highly recommend getting a taxi from the airport to where you’re staying. There are public buses and trains frequently running between the airport and the city center (Centro Storico), but they aren’t that much cheaper than a taxi.
If you’re like me, your brain gets frazzled from long plane trips. The first thing you want to do is take a shower after getting off that plane and the last thing you want to do is figure out the public transportation system in a very busy city.
I found the public transportation in Rome to be very confusing. My time was too precious to risk getting on the wrong bus or subway and winding up somewhere I didn’t want to go. That’s why I booked an apartment in the city center within walking distance of all of the main sights. I did take taxis on a few occasions, to get to destinations a little off center – for bike riding on the Appian Way, for example.
My #1 Travel Tip For Rome
I can’t express this enough: If you are planning to see the Colosseum or ANY of the larger museums, be sure to get your tickets online. This will save you HOURS of standing in line, especially at the Colosseum or The Vatican Museum. I’m serious!
What to See in Rome
Download my 4 day Rome itinerary and learn the best way to see the city. It includes the 4 walking tours I created and used during my last trip. They worked out perfectly and I’m really glad I can share them with you.
These routes are the most efficient way of seeing all the sites while still giving you enough leeway to make this experience your own.
You may choose to hop the subway, bus, or taxi if you get tired of walking or need to go a longer distance (out to the Appian Way and then later on to Palazzo Corsini, for example.)
I’ve also included the awesome restaurants I dined at with addresses and telephone numbers for making reservations.