Michele Frolla is sharing her top travel tips for Rome. Like most cities, Rome can be a little overwhelming for a first time visitor but we’ve got lots of simple insider travel tips to make your trip to Rome easier. Michele’s Rome travel tips will save you time and money and make your holiday as hassle free as possible!
Lap up the dolce vita lifestyle and enjoy Italy’s capital with the help of these handy Rome travel tips. After spending three incredible years in the Eternal City, I learned the ins and outs of Rome and saw the places where tourist struggle or are taken advantage of. This are my insider tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to you when you visit Rome!
I’ve gathered a list of 10 top tips and travel hacks for Rome that will ensure you hit the ground running and experience Rome as its best.
#1. Order house wine
When dining out, order the vino della casa (house wine) over a bottle of wine. Not only does it taste just as good, but it’s much cheaper. It’s usually served by the litre and comes in a carafe.
Pickpockets are all over the city, especially around monuments and archaeological sites. Watch out on bus routes 40 and 64 which go to the Vatican and are usually overcrowded with tourists, making it a notorious hotspot for pickpockets. Err on the side of caution and take the metro to Ottaviano instead. If anyone tries to distract you for any reason, be suspicious, especially if they are adamantly trying to get your attention.
Travel Hack Tip: A very simple way to avoid pickpockets is to simply carry very little that is worth stealing. I tend to go out with little more than my phone and my debit card, which I’ll keep in an inside pocket of my coat or something secure like a cross-body bag. This means you’ve got less to worry about and fewer objects to be thinking about when you’re in situations where pickpockets are about.
I’ll often still travel with a backpack filled with a water bottle and a jumper and whatever I need for the day, but there’s nothing of any value in there.
#3. Avoid Eating in the Centre of Rome
Unless a local gives you a recommendation, don’t expect to eat great food in the historical centre. I get it, you want to enjoy a meal with a view of the Pantheon, but remember that you’re paying for the view, not high quality food.
Romans wouldn’t be caught dead eating in Piazza Navona, neither should you.
We do have a list to some of the best brunch places in Rome but another great tip is to start your trip with a food tour. Through a food tour you’ll learn more about Rome but also find the best places to eat and drink in the city! You’ll get a little sample from lots of restaurants so make sure you note down your favourites and you can go back to them later in your trip. You can also chat to your tour guide and ask for extra recommendations as they’re usually only too happy to help!
Check out these food tours when you’re visiting Rome:
#4. Avoid Taking Taxis + how to get out of the airport in Rome
After a long flight you might be inclined to fork out for a taxi for door-to-door service. Just make sure you know what you’re paying before you jump in the taxi.
The city of Rome enforces a set fee for airport transfers, but some taxi drivers are known to rip off tourists. A taxi from Ciampino Airport into Rome is fixed at €30. This includes all passengers, their bags, and one stop in the centre. It’s illegal for drivers to charge more. A cheaper alternative is to take the airport shuttle bus (45 minutes; around €6). Public transport may take a little longer but bus tickets are considerably cheaper, particularly if you’re travelling solo.
From Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport, the set fee for a taxi is €48. However, the fastest way to reach the city is on the Leonardo Express train to Termini Station (30 minutes, €14).
Don’t let a taxi driver bully you into thinking your hotel is not within the Aurelian walls. Here is a map of where these set fees apply (see page 4)
#5. Italian Meal Times
If you normally eat dinner around 6-7pm, you may be in for a shock when you visit Rome because some of the restaurants aren’t yet open.
Generally, Italians start to head out for dinner from 8:30pm or even later. Restaurant kitchens are known to close well after 10pm so don’t worry about missing out.
If you can’t wait until 8:30pm, do as the Italians do and have an aperitivo. All over the city, from 7pm are bars which offer an open buffet and drink for €10. My personal favourite is Freni e Frizioni.
Italy doesn’t have a big tipping culture. In restaurants you can expect to see a service charge added to the bill. In trattorias and pizzerias, a one to two euro tip is fine. You can also expect to pay for pane e coperto (a bread and cover charge). This is standard and is added even if you don’t ask for or eat the bread.
Travel Hack Tip: Neither taxi drivers or bartenders expect tips.
#7. Avoid ‘Fake’ Gelato
Enjoying an authentic creamy gelato is one of the real pleasures when you visit Rome. But not all gelato is created equal. Steer away from a gelateria (gelato shop) with displays of pretty, puffy clouds of gelato. This fluffiness comes from artificial thickeners. Also, avoid gelato that is brightly-coloured, this means lots of chemicals were used in the process.
Travel Hack Tip: If you’re still unsure, compare its colour to how it would appear blended. A blended apple is never fluorescent green.
#8. Monday is Rest Day (+ plan a rough daily itinerary)
Since museums and restaurants are open throughout the weekend, Monday is their rest day and they remain closed. Make sure you plan ahead by checking opening times on websites to avoid disappointment and I’d highly recommend making a rough itinerary for each day during your visit to Rome, taking into account the opening times and days for each attraction.
Keep Mondays for shopping, visiting parks and relaxing.
One exception is the Vatican museums which are open on a Monday, but as they’re the only ones open it does mean they can be very busy. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to visit the Vatican as you avoid the weekend rush. St Peter’s Basilica is closed to tourists on a Wednesday morning so if you’d like to go inside then avoid visiting on Wednesdays too. Fridays start getting busy with the weekend tourists but they’re quieter than the weekend!
Even if you aren’t much of a ‘tour guide’ kind of person, I do recommend joining a tour for the Vatican. You will honestly learn so much and see so much more than you would alone.
#9. Free Museum Entrance
If you’re visiting Rome on the first Sunday of each month, it’s worth noting that numerous museums and archaeological sites are open to the public for free. This includes the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla, and Galleria Borghese. This isn’t just restricted to Rome, it applies to all regions in Italy.
#10. Book Online
While there are no fool-proof ways of skipping the line, you will no-doubt cut down your waiting time by booking tickets online.
Alternatively, arrive first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon when the queues have died down. But, let’s be honest, it’s so quick and easy to book tickets online using your phone that you might as well just do it!
We’re big fans of Get Your Guide for pre-booking entrance to attractions or booking tours. You can often book tickets with ‘skip the queue’ at no extra cost and pre-booking can also help with budgeting as you’ll pay for so much in advance.
There are some tour suggestions at the end of this post.
Is a tourist card worth it in Rome?
If you’re looking at something like the Roma Tourist Card, a paid pass which gives you access to attractions and public transport, then I’d suggest really looking into exactly what you’re getting. Yes, they do simplify the process of booking activities and can take the stress out of purchasing bus tickets, but they rarely save you any money.
Many of us have ambitious plans when we travel and think we’ll visit lots of attractions each day, but we rarely make it to all of them. And public transport often seems tricky when you’re researching it at home but it’s actually very simple when you arrive.
#11. What should you wear when you visit Rome?
Flat, comfortable shoes! That is our number one suggestion. You’re going to do a lot of walking while you’re visiting Rome so make sure your feet are comfortable.
Modest clothing – The summer months can be HOT so it might be tempting to wear skimpy clothing to keep you cool, but this isn’t advised. Some of Rome’s top sightseeing spots have a dress code which is enforced and you’ll be refused entry if your shoulders, thighs or cleavage are exposed. Keep your outfits modest, simple and stylish while you’re in Rome. This is particularly important for visiting St Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon and Vatican museums.
Read more: What to pack for a trip to Rome
#12. Bonus travel tip for Rome:
Don’t pay for water
The ancients keep the Eternal City well-hydrated providing the best drinking water to its citizens via its aqueducts. To this day, public drinking water flows from the nasoni fountains scattered throughout the city. This is especially convenient during the heat of summer as the water it refreshingly cold. Simply carry a flask or bottle with you and top up along the way as you explore the city.
#13. Spend one evening with a picnic dinner watching the sunset
You’re going to have some incredible meals while you’re visiting Rome but one meal I can guarantee you’ll remember for a lifetime is a simple picnic while watching the sunset.
This is especially beautiful during the hot summer months when you’ll want to spend as much time outdoors as possible (well, we Brits do anyway!)
Grab a bottle of wine and some plastic glasses, some nice bread and meats and head to one of these beautiful locations to watch the sunset in Rome.
Michele from The Intrepid Guide is a travel and language blogger and author. Originally from Australia, Michele moved to Rome in pursuit of perfecting her Italian. Currently based in London, she lives by the motto “The more we travel, the more we learn.” With her blog, Michele shares her passion for bringing language and travel together through with her destinations guides, language learning tools, travel phrase cheat sheets, and more! Follow her on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts.