Planning your visit to Rome

The best way to see the sights of Rome is to walk around town. You’ll be blown away by the historical sights especially if they sneak up on you. We were walking around some small alleys when we saw a large group of people – moving closer to them, we chanced upon the Trevi fountain. It was an awe inspiring sight, despite the crowds, and the best part was the way it snuck up on us!

Colosseum on a hot summer day

Getting There

Airport
Rome’s main airport, Fiumicino (FCO), is fairly large and has great connections from all over the world. We flew via Delta from the US transiting in Minneapolis (MSP). There are plenty of options to get from the airport to the city center. Taxis are flat rate/fixed fare for €48 – although some drivers may try to overcharge you for luggage etc. There’s also an express train for €14 per person which gets you to Rome’s main train station (Roma Termini). We ended up taking a taxi since it was sweltering hot outside in August plus we were concerned about pick-pockets on the train, especially with all our luggage. One thing to note is the lack of UberX or UberPOP in Rome – the only option we found was black car. It was somewhat reasonably priced but we rarely needed to use it given the plentiful cabs around.

Weather

We visited in August and it was blistering hot. Temperatures peaked at 90F/32C during the day time. We could walk around for 3-4 hours at most before we needed to retreat to the comfort of our room for a few hours. The benefit of visiting in peak summer though was less tourists/wait times. A lot of local businesses however were shut since Italians, like a lot of other Europeans, take most of August off. The best weather can be found from March to late May. If you do visit during the peak summer months, try to get out at night.

Where to stay

Rome has no dearth of luxury hotels and rental units with options for every budget. We were able to find a great deal at the St. Regis Rome, which was the first five star hotel in Rome. The lobby was under renovation so there wasn’t a lot of space to hang out but the hotel offered complimentary champagne sabering (aka happy hour!) to make up for it! Breakfast was also plentiful – we mostly stuck to ordering off the menu in lieu of the buffet. We had booked a Deluxe Room (which is the second worst!) but it proved to be worth the little extra – the room had a separate living room and a small bedroom. My wife loved the artwork in the room – there was even an coffee table book showing all the famous artwork in the different hotel rooms. One of my favorite parts of the hotel was the historic elevator – seemed a bit rickety but it added to the hotel’s historical charm! Another big plus for this hotel is that it’s walkable to Rome’s main train station, Roma Termini. There are plenty of other good hotels in the neighborhood including the Sofitel and the Boscola Exedra (Marriott Rewards)

Champagne sabering at St. Regis

Food

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the food culture in Rome. While Italian food is world renowned and well liked, by the end of our trip, we were a little pasta and pizza’d out. I was yearning for a good salad by the time we left. Albeit, my favorite part about the food in Rome was how late everything was open. There were days when we were super tired and sunburnt from the sightseeing and would crash for 3-4 hours in the evening. We’d wake up at 10 PM and saunter out to find food and to our surprise there were plenty of good options. Another favorite was quick bites – the paninis and gelato that you can just grab and go! Nights have the added benefit of cooler temperatures so walk to the Trevi fountain or the bridges of Rome post dinner if you can.

Bridge of Angels by Night

One last thing on food, it takes a bit of getting used to the restaurant culture in Italy. Coming from the US, we expected efficient service and quick meals at sit down restaurants. Italians however love to enjoy their meals – by the end of our trip, we felt like we were part of the culture. A 1-2 hour lunch seemed like the proper way to eat, hanging out at our table post dinner over wine, dessert and expresso seemed quite appropriate!

A few places we visited/that were recommended:
– Get an iced Granita at La Casa Del Caffe Tazza D’oro. Good to combine with your visit to the Pantheon
– Grab a late bite around the Piazza Navona – plenty of restaurants around the Piazza. Be sure to admire the famous Baroque sculptures and fountains around the Piazza!
– Pick up small bites like paninis, or drink expresso standing up at the bar at one of Rome’s many cafes

Sight Seeing

Trevi Fountain thronged with tourists

List of main sights we visited:
– Vatican
– Colosseum
– Trevi Fountain (Free!)
– Pantheon (Free!)
– Piazza Navona (Free!)

For the Vatican and the Colosseum, we recommend booking tickets ahead of time. If not, you’ll see many tour operators offer their services. We ended up using one of these operators. While our experience at the Colosseum was pleasant, we ended up wasting 1+ hour for our Vatican tour. These tour operators will usually wait until the group is at least 25-30 people strong so it’s not for the impatient.

Panoramic Colosseum

Booking tickets is easy –

  • Vatican official tickets site – many tour options including breakfast, tour by Train and more! The lines at the Vatican are long and slow moving so do yourself a big favor and plan ahead!
  • Colosseum office site – we recommend booking the entry ticket, tour and underground tour (extra €9) ahead of time. The lines here are not as long as the Vatican but you’ll still be thankful for planning ahead!

A few additional pro-tips:

  • Entry to Museums and Archeological sites in Rome if free on the 1st Sunday of the month. This includes the Colosseum. However, the crowds on these days can be pretty daunting!
  • Roma Pass is another popular option. It allows free entry to the first or first two sites visited. It may be worth the price if you’re staying in Rome for more than 2-3 days and plan to visit many sites
  • Taxis hailed at the Vatican seem to have a surcharge to go to Rome. It is smarter to walk across the bridge yourself and hail a taxi in Rome proper!

Swiss Guards at the Vatican

Onwards from Rome

We caught the fast train from Rome to Florence on our way out. Florence is a town we absolutely fell in love with! More on that coming soon!

We love to hear your feedback and comments – let us know if these tips helped you! Leave a comment!