Ah, Rome. It’s a tough city who has seen better days. But there is nothing more beautiful and delicious than Rome at sunset while you are twirling pasta on your fork. But once I book the hotel and plane ticket…What do I do in Rome? What is there to see in Rome? I’ve got you covered. I spend a few days in Rome, in a cheap but safe hotel, took public transportation and DID IT ALL! I can’t wait to share it all with you because I want you to get the most out of your travels.
Forgive me Hemingway but Rome is the movable feast! I loved it, I even loved the gritty neighborhoods completely riddled with graffiti. Why is there so much graffiti in Rome? Great question. In older time, the only way for the people to get the message out to the rulers – was to write it on the streets. It’s cultural and most graffiti is not senseless. It has a message. That is why the streets have tons of graffiti. I wouldn’t mind if maybe they pressure washed it a bit.
Where I Stayed
Personally, I stayed on the far east side of the city in a quiet neighborhood. My hotel was a side street with a bus stop, metro station and deli on the corner. By the way, every corner deli sells metro & bus tickets. Also the most delicious salami sandwich with lemonchello you’ve ever tasted!
The hotel I booked was the Holiday Inn Express Rome San Giovanni. This hotel was quiet, clean, and each room as a private balcony overlooking a courtyard. It also includes a very nice free hot breakfast. I recommend you book an executive suite, it comes with a free wifi hotspot phone that you can take with you. This came in VERY handy as we walked around the city. Wifi is a little hard to come by in Rome.
Getting Around the City
First things first, which airport is closest to Rome? You want to fly into Leonardo da Vinci International Airport also known as Fiumicino International Airport which is 32km outside the main city. Now, bigger question, How to get to Rome from the Airport? Very easy, Take the FL1 train into Rome! How much is the FL1 train from the airport into Rome? It is only €14 . The train leaves every 15 minutes or so. (You may have to switch trains or take a short walk to get to your hotel.)
BUT remember, a Taxi/Uber/private car will cost you $50 or more to take you from the airport to the the city center. Don’t do it!
To feel and experience Rome, you need to walk to streets. The city center is only a couple miles wide. You can talk always everywhere! But, I highly recommend that you download the Google maps app to help you plan your transport. Some destination might be too far to walk and you’ll want to talk public transportation. There is a metro system, but to get around all the touristy areas I suggest you take the bus. (Warning, it gets very crowded during rush hour. Standing room only). But the bus is the easiest and most reliable form of transit when you are navigating Rome. We took the #16 bus back home every night and never had problem. Just go to a corner deli, newspaper stand or pharmacy and ask to buy a bus ticket. Bus tickets are €1.50 and valid for one Metro ride or 100 minutes on all buses allowing transfers.
If you are planning on visiting the Vatican and you are staying a bit farther away, you should take the metro train. Always filter your current location vs your destination through Google Maps App.
If you get lost or confused, go to a free wifi hotspot and use Google Maps app for directions. Put in your current location and destination. Choose the “transit” option instead of “drive” or “walk”. If will give you perfect directions on which tube/train/subway/metro to take and stops, including updated transit closures and such. You can screen shot it and head out!
What to see in Rome?
The streets are an attraction, the food is an attraction, the language is an attraction. Everything about Rome makes you want to slow down and watch. It is also a very old city. Very old. Thousands of years old! There’s so much to do and see but i’ll share with you the most touristy things to do here.
- Colosseum. Constructed in 70AD it is the largest amphitheater ever constructed.
- Roman Forum. This ruin is one of the original structures of the Rome Republic from 500BC. It was the spot where all the public affairs and events took place. It was the “internet” of ancient rome.
- St Peters Bascillica. Built in 1506 around the grave of the Apostle Peter, this massive domed structure also houses the graves of over former 91 popes, some of which are on display. Don’t forget to look up at all the details of the roof and ceilings!
- Sistine Chapel. This is a famous chapel that Michelangelo painted between 1508 and 1512 at the height of the Renaissance! The iconic painting of the near-touching hands of God and Adam is painting on the ceiling of the sistine chapel. When you see it, it will take your breath away. There’s nothing like it.
- Castel Sant’ Angelo. Constructed in 135 AD, this is a towering cylindrical building claims to have the best views of Rome from the top. Climbing to the top of the stairs and sunset and you will be blessed with a spectacular view!
- Piazza Navona. Is seems that every corner of Rome as a piazza or open square. But this one is massive and one of the oldest! Built in 1AD! It also has a huge foundation in the center called Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.
- Trevi Fountain. Speaking of fountains, the most beautiful fountain in all of Rome is the incredible Trevi Fountain! It’s source was used as one of the original aqueducts to the city. There is a-lot of superstition around this fountain. It is said that the throwing of a coin from the right hand over the left shoulder will ensure that you will return to Rome in the future.
- Pantheon. The pantheon is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It was built in 188 AD. It was originally a roman temple to pagan gods but now serves as a church.
- Spanish Steps . These steps have a unique and irregular design. The steps form a butterfly shape as they widen at the botton. Little known fact, as you climb the steps, look up to the right corner apartment. This is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821.
- Trastevere Neighborhood. Wander these streets and get lost! It’s a delightful eclectic area that just screams ROME! Every corner is picturesque. This is where I found some of the best food in the world. A top restaurant that I need to share is “Osteria Delle Coppelle”. The best pasta you will every taste is right here. If you visit Rome, so not miss this little spot!
- Vatican City. It’s actually a country. It is recognized by the united nations as it’s own country. Bring your passport! This place is massive! It’s protected by high walls and you could spend an entire day wandering the inside. Important Question: Where do you enter the Vatican? If you have bought a ticket, you should enter the North entrance off of “Viale Vaticano” street.
Do not enter the southeast entrance next to St Peters Basilica – unless you are only there to see St Peters. Go in the North entrance always. There are many pricey tickets to get into the Vatican and see everything. If you just want to get in and explore I recommend you do it the cheap way and buy a Sistine Chapel open tour ticket for € 17.00. Buy tickets from the Vatican Website and they can scan your tickets off your phone screen at the door. When you get through security at the Vatican you need to go to a ticket machine and verify your online tickets and “check in”, then you will be allowed to go through the turnstiles into the museum grounds. ALWAYS buy your tickets in advance! The lines are VERY long.
I hope this blog post made it a little easier for you. All I want to do it help you get the most out of your travels. If you still have questions, drop them in the comments below.
Watch a short fun Vlog of the highlights of Rome…
Before you go, be sure to read my Guide to London or my First Time in Paris post. Click to watch this Rome Vlog below and let me know where you want a guide to next! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more travel advice and inspiration.