A tourist guide to Rome – General Advice and Getting From The Airport

This February (2014) I took my mum to Rome for 6 nights while my dad and brother went hiking in Germany. I learnt so much and visited a good number of places that I felt my experience may be helpful to others so here is a blog-advice-guide. I’ll cover the most popular sites in Rome, as well as taking the Italian railway to Pompeii and the metro system within the Rome vicinity.

General advice

  • Take a map and mark your hotel on it before you go so you can always get back to it even if you’re lost and need to take a taxi.
  • Be careful of wearing heels on the cobbles!
  • Learn basic Italian at the very least. Take a phrase book to help too.
  • Eat somewhere new every night. There’s so much choice! We managed to always keep our dinner at under €15 each for a main course plus a half litre carafe of wine between us. Occasionally we had a starter or dessert which took the price up a fair bit, but we were pleased with how affordable eating out can be.
  • Try a new gelato flavour each time!
  • Try and pay for things with cash as close to the right price you can. If you only have notes you may be asked for an extra euro or two so that they can give you change in a note. I was thanked for paying in change once! It definitely helps you at the end of the holiday for changing more money back into your own currency.
  • Take ID! Even if you don’t want to carry around your passport with you, keep your driving license if you’re 18-25 and want to take advantage of the significant discount you get at attractions (apart from the Vatican, but we’ll get to that). Even i you don’t qualify for the discount, you still have to leave some official ID when hiring audio guide handsets.
  • Note for coffee drinkers: an espresso seems to be what they mean when it’s just advertised as “coffee”. I don’t like coffee at all, but my mum drinks decaffeinated americanos with milk and it was always more expensive if it wasn’t specifically advertised as being available. You will always have to ask for milk too, so ask for it as you order to save them coming back with it later.

Getting from the airport

Since I booked via Expedia I had the option to book shared transportation (a minibus which drops you to your hotel) as I booked the whole trip. It suited my visit this time since my mum would rather just be dropped off right at the front door from the flight- completely understandable. However, it did add about £20 pp for a round trip. If you’re on more of a budget then you can take the metro from the airport into the centre of rome for €1.50 and walk from the nearest metro station. Taxis are expensive (compared to other cities I’ve taken them in) and when we did take one this trip he tried dropping us at the wrong hotel and charging us loads. I know this won’t be unique to Rome at all but if you’re nervous or want to keep an eye on the the pennies, figure out your nearest metro station and take a map. I’ll discuss the metro system later. We arrived early Saturday evening so had plenty of time to get out for dinner and come back via a handy shop to buy our own bottle of wine.

A tourist guide to Rome – Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill, Città dell’acqua, Spanish Steps

This February (2014) I took my mum to Rome for 6 nights while my dad and brother went hiking in Germany. I learnt so much and visited a good number of places that I felt my experience may be helpful to others so here is a blog-advice-guide. I’ll cover the most popular sites in Rome, as well as taking the Italian railway to Pompeii and the metro system within the Rome vicinity.

Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill, Città dell’acqua, Spanish Steps

The ticket for the Colosseum, Palatine and Forum is one thing and can’t be bought separately. You can buy a ticket at any of the entrances and it will get you in to all three sites as a standard. The queue at the Colosseum is huge, even in winter. If it doesn’t come out of the entrance, the ticket office is still a quarter way round the building. If you want to jump the huge queue then you can do one of two things:

  • Go through the middle entryway to the Colosseum and pay for an audio guide with a ticket for your visit. This isn’t an advertised queue jump; we were in the normal queue for tickets and a man came along announcing it to the crowd. We were one of two couples who took his advice and got in 10 minutes later. We probably would’ve been waiting at least an hour otherwise- no exaggeration!
  • Start your visit at the Forum or Palatine Hill and buy there. When we left each of these, there wasn’t a queue at either!

The audio guide is an extra €5 each but it would highly recommend it for the Colosseum (I didn’t notice if they were available for the other two). Even if you have a guidebook like I did, they are very good value for money. Entry price is €7.50 for 18-25s, €12 for adults (remember this is for all 3 attractions and is valid for 2 days! This last bit isn’t advertised but is on the back of the ticket.)

The reverse of the triple site ticket

The reverse of the triple site ticket

There are options for extra tours. We wanted to do the underground tour for an extra €9 but you cannot go underground as it has been flooded, so there were no tours at the time of writing. Check out http://www.the-colosseum.net/around/visit.htm for more details.

We did this on our first day and was a brilliant introduction to Roman sights. We were so lucky with the weather; the light rain stopped and the sun came out just as we were making our way around the start of the Colosseum and it stayed nice for the rest of the day. The Palatine doesn’t take very long to get around but the signs for the exit will take you the long way out. We weren’t in any rush so didn’t mind. It is worth noting that the Palatine isn’t suitable for anybody unsteady on foot or in a wheelchair. The Colosseum does have a lift though! The Forum is stunning and deserves as decent amount of your time.

Those three sites together take a few hours so we grabbed something to eat at a bar in Piazza Venezia (they’re called bars but are open for light snacks and pizzas etc in the day). It is usually cheaper to take away, so sat outside next to Foro di Traiano in the sun.

We went back towards our hotel area (Trevi) and before I left for the holiday I had found online a little gem round the corner from the Trevi fountain. Città dell’acqua is a small excavation found during the development of the area where you’ll see the remains of an Imperial era building with a holding tank for water from the same aqueduct which still feeds the Trevi fountain. It’s about €3 to get in and only takes 20-30 mins max, but is a nice little find and deserves a few euros from you to see some more intimate ruins close up. It’s got very restricted opening hours: 4-7.30pm Monday, 11am-3pm Thursday-Sunday. If you face the Trevi fountain, turn around 180 degrees and up the street in front of you there is a sign pointing to your left for the entrance.

I think the Spanish Steps are more spectacular in the summer when there are huge garlands of flowers going up the steps but even in winter they can be appreciated for their grandeur and architecture. I wasn’t as taken by them as others seem to be, I’m not sure why.