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12 Tips for Rome

If you are planning a trip to Rome, learn how to save money, navigate like a pro, and eat like a local with these 12 tips.

Use Public Transportation

When in Rome, don’t rent a car. Rome is large, busy, and fast paced. Rome also has plenty of  public transportation options. We used the public bus system to access the tourist sites throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased at any Tabacchi shop but, if arriving in Rome by plane or train, stop at the information desk before leaving and ask if they sell bus tickets and have a route map. 

If arriving in Rome by plane or train, stop at the information desk before leaving and ask if they sell bus tickets and have a route map. 

The route map is very important because bus stops are not announced, making it incredibly difficult to navigate as a tourist. If you don’t have a route map but have wifi, you can use Google Maps and follow the moving blue dot to orient yourself.

Traffic in Rome

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Each day I logged about 15,000-20,000 steps on my fitbit. If it’s super important to look fashionable in photos, throw some cute shoes in a backpack, put them on for your photos, then slip your feet back into tennis shoes. The roads are uneven and difficult to walk in with heels or flip flops.

Get Up Early

Pick one important site and get up early one morning to enjoy it all to yourself.

If you want any photos without crowds or prefer not to spend half a day in line you will need to force yourself out of bed and be on your way early. 6am was the magic hour for us, but that could vary by season. I understand that you’re on vacation and want to sleep in, but pick one important site and get up early one morning to enjoy it all to yourself.

Early morning sunrise at the Colosseum

Papal Audience Tickets

If you want to see the Pope, tickets are required but free of charge. You can reserve tickets online or pick them up the day before to be part of the Papal Audience on Wednesdays. If this doesn’t interest you but you are visiting St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museum you may want to avoid doing so on Wednesday as there may be longer lines.

Get Cash from ATMs. Lot’s of it!!!

If traveling outside of the city, make sure you have enough cash for the days activities before leaving.

I’m embarrassed to admit, we ran out of cash several times throughout our stay in Italy. I don’t like to carry a lot of cash, but many places still require it. Be sure to ask before ordering a meal to avoid an uncomfortable situation (yes, that was me). If traveling outside of the city, make sure you have enough cash for the days activities before leaving.

Getting cash from an ATM in Italy

Mind the Dress Code

Remember Europe enforces dress codes for entrance into any basilicas or cathedrals. Be sure to plan accordingly. No bare shoulders, shorts, or skirts shorter than knee length.

No bare shoulders, shorts, or skirts shorter than knee length.

Don’t Overbook

Account for travel time and leave space for down time. Pick 2-4 sites that you absolutely must see and plan those. Leave space to wander the city and experience unexpected delights.

Our youngest daughter resting during our tour in St. Peter's Basilica

Purchase Tickets in Advance

I knew the recommendation to purchase tickets in advance, however, an advance online purchase charged a few extra Euros per ticket. In my quest to save money, I thought I could find a ticket location and purchase tickets upon arrival without paying the added fee. This was a huge mistake. 

Attractions in Rome are very spread out and traveling about to purchase tickets is a huge time waster.

Attractions in Rome are very spread out and traveling about to purchase tickets is a huge time waster. Not to mention, reserved time slots sell out leaving a wait in a 2+ hour line or a giant upcharge “skip the line ticket” as the only options. I also discovered that the booking fee is charged regardless of whether the tickets are purchased online in advance or at a ticket counter in person. 

Carry a Water Bottle

Avoid paying for bottled water at restaurants and cafes by utilizing the fountains throughout Rome. The water is free and refreshing.

Filling water bottles from one of the many fountains in Rome

Skip the Ticket Line at the Colosseum

When purchasing a ticket for either the Colosseum or Roman Forum, you will receive a combination ticket which is good for 2 consecutive days and includes both attractions. Lines are typically shorter at the Roman Forum, so purchase your ticket at the Roman Forum and skip the ticket line at the Colosseum. 

Audio Guides

To get the most out of your visit to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums, St Peter’s Basilica, and more be sure to download Rick Steves free audio guides to your phone before visiting. The guides are incredibly easy to follow, informational, and free. Also, no need to wait in line or wear dirty headsets. 

The guides are incredibly easy to follow, informational, and free.

There are also some audio guides for walking tours throughout various parts of the city.

Eat Like a Local

During our stay in Italy we learned that Italians stand to eat a lot. It’s especially common for breakfast and aperitivo (cocktails and finger foods). By doing so, you can avoid the coperto (cover charge) typically charged for sitting at a table to dine. And, it’s just fun to feel like a local.

Standing at the counter to eat like the locals, Oppio Cafe' near the Colosseum

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