Rome and I got off to a bit of a bumpy start. No matter how much research you do, there always seems to be a little bit of a learning curve. Getting from the airport to my hotel, for example, not as simple as one may think. Sure, you can take a taxi, but it’ll cost you around 50 euros and I’m just too cheap for that. I opted to take the bus into the city centre, which I might add would have been a great plan had there not been a transportation strike that day. So, I was able to take the bus into the city centre, but once I got there all the other buses were either not running or very limited. This resulted in my taking a taxi and getting charged 50 euro anyway, for a ride that should have been around 20 euros maximum. The driver used the strike as a reason to overcharge, but what can you do? I just laughed it off as he kept wildly throwing his arms around in true Italian fashion saying “the strike, the strike” as I protested fruitlessly. Learn from my experience and take my tips below on how to avoid this scenario as well as a few extra tips along side my suggested 4 day itinerary.
My Four Day Rome Itinerary
Day 1 – Travel Day
No matter what time you get into Rome, take it from me and leave this as a travel day. I had purchased tickets to The Vatican for my first day in Rome as I arrived at 7:00am, but given the time difference and trouble getting to my hotel I ended up sleeping right through my reservations while taking a nap (I love naps)! No refunds on tickets kids, so don’t paint yourself in a corner on your arrival day schedule. Do yourself a favor and leave this day open for exploration and getting your bearings. There will be plenty to see walking around near your hotel and navigating the public busses.
Day 2 – Colosseum / Palatine Hill
Make sure to check hours and dates available so that you’re aware of any possible holiday closures. Also, weather can affect hours of operation. Purchase your tickets ahead of time online and save yourself the hours in line! When I visited, there was a line down the street that had to be at least an hour long for those waiting to purchase tickets on site. I was in the pre-paid line for a maximum of 15 minutes and that included getting through security.
Many people didn’t seem to realize that entry into Palatine Hill is included in your ticket price for entry to the Colosseum. As you exit the colosseum, head straight up the hill and there will be an entrance the right to get into Palatine Hill. There are mixed reviews on these ruins, but I honestly cannot understand how anyone could under rate ruins, they are ruins. Anyway, there are fantastic views of the entire hill as well as a great view of the colosseum from a distant perspective. Give yourself ample time to take in both the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. I’d say several hours between getting there, getting in and having time for photos and observing it all.
Day 2 (Evening) – Vatican Church
If you’re planing to go to the Vatican Museum, you can choose to pay 3 euros extra in order to gain direct access to the church after you visit the Sistine Chapel. However, the church is open late into the evening and it’s totally free to get in. I would highly recommend that you visit the church in the evening, it makes for stunning photos of the lit up vatican at night and the crowds are much less. You’re going to thank me once you get through the Vatican Museum and you’re completely exhausted and overwhelmed by having just experienced the Sistine Chapel.
The church itself was almost too much on it’s own. I think if I had combined seeing the church with the Vatican, I really could’t have appreciated it in the same way. It’s Incredibly beautiful and I’d plan to spend at least an hour here, two if you’re like me and you have to just star at the beauty of it all forever reminding yourself that you’re really there. Even if you’re not religious, it’s the art and history that will overwhelm you.
Day 3 – The Vatican
The vatican is easily an entire day, it’s huge and it’s a lot to take in. The crowds are astronomical no matter when you go, so make sure you buy your tickets online ahead of time! The line to buy tickets on site was way worse than the Colosseum and wrapped all the way around the block. It’s room after room after room of incredible art and you can spend all day just observing it all. I cannot even begin to explain this experience.
Make sure that your ticket includes the Sistine Chapel and please, be a responsible tourist and don’t sneak photos in this room. It took Michelangelo 4 years to finish this masterpiece, you can stand there for less than an hour and see if through your own eyes instead of a lens. Not to mention the fact that photos and video are not allowed, but that is besides the point. I stood looking up until my neck was sore and my mind accepted that I was witnessing it. It’s truly a site to see and something that you cannot miss in Rome.
Day 3 (Evening) – Esco Pazzo
Looking for a hip place to grab a natural smoothie, maybe swing on some wooden swings under an epic chandelier? Of course you are! I adored this little restaurant and it was amazingly delicious! I’d gotten food poisoning the night before, at least I am pretty sure I did and I wasn’t ready for anything heavy. This place offers all natural options and it’s about as hip as you get.
Day 4 – Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour (or see the Pope?)
The Hop On Hop Off bus tour is a great bang for your buck. For about $27 per person, you can grab tickets for this bus tour and have transportation to the hottest attractions throughout the day at your leisure. Honestly, I ended up skipping this because I happened to be in Rome on a Sunday and I simply could not miss the opportunity to see the pope in person! No matter your religious views, this 4 hour long mass will have you in complete awe the entire time.
There are several tour groups that will charge you about $40 per person for this experience, or you can just go and have it on your own for free. They claim to get you a prime location and give you background during the address, but I would have found the disruptive to the experience personally. Even if religion isn’t really your thing, come for the music, the crowds, the pope! Trust me when I say that it’s a once in a lifetime experience you really cannot miss if you’re in town on a Sunday. Contrary to what most websites claim, you do not need to obtain tickets for the public address, simply show up and go through security. Make sure you stay until the end, to snap some fantastic photos of the pope. You never know, you might even witness history in the making.
Quick Tips on Rome:
Attraction Staff: The people standing outside local attractions asking if you have tickets, are not all trying to sell you tours as you may have seen in other countries. Some of them are actual staff trying to help direct you to the right place or answer any questions. As a traveller one of the first things you learn is to decline all the tour guides outside attractions and you may miss the fact that these folks are actually staff. They might even be quite far down the street from the actual attractions and should have something on them that says “staff” (not to be mistaken with tour guide staff).
How To Get To Your Hotel From The Rome Airport Via Bus: Once you collect your luggage take a right out of the exit and head all the way down to the end of the pick up location where the large busses are located. There you can purchase your ticket to the city centre and arrive at the local bus hub. If you’re not feeling brave enough to bus it all the way to your hotel from there, a taxi will be significantly cheaper from here. See taxi / wifi tip below.
Wifi On The Bus: The bus from the airport to the city centre will have free wifi! This is the time you need to either use google maps to figure out the bus, walking or driving route to your hotel after arrival in the city (if you haven’t already). If you are looking to take a taxi from there, download the ap MyTaxi, this will give you the exact amount that you should be paying for your fair and trust me when I say if you do not know the exact amount, you could literally be taken for a ride. See MyTaxi tip below.
MyTaxi: Hands down the best taxi ap for Rome. The only draw back is that you cannot pay at the end with your credit card if you need wifi. So, I got in the habit of ordering my taxi and then paying cash at the end. The benefit of doing it this way is that you will know exactly what your ride will cost and your driver will be aware of that fact. They never had an issue with my paying cash as apposed to charging my card, so you should be OK there.
Screen Shot or Print Addresses: I tried really hard to have a basic grasp of the language before arriving in Rome, but alas I found myself failing at times under pressure. While taxi drivers might know the name of your hotel, you might not pronounce it correctly, which basically results in a perplexed look. So, I screen shot the addresses of all of my hotels, this way I could just show the driver and even though I sometimes got a chuckle from them using this method, we always understood each other.
Pre-Pay For Museums – There are places in Italy where you can get away with avoiding the surcharge for online ticket purchases as lines and crowds will be low, but Rome is not one of them. You really need to purchase your tickets ahead of time, especially with limited time in the city. Don’t waste precious hours in line when you can just pay a few dollars extra and get right in. You know that I hate paying extra and I love saving a buck, but there are circumstances when the little extra makes a big difference. This is one of them!
Bring Headphones: If you’re going to do any of the audio tours at the museums, make sure to bring your own headphones. They work great and you won’t have to hold up the little recorder to your ear. You can also pay extra for head phones on site, but you know how I hate that. Anywho, I have no idea how much they are paying the audio head set guy, but it’s entirely too little. I heard him explain how to use the device and drop it off after in at least 5 different languages, meanwhile I keep forgetting how to ask for a bag at the grocery store (borsa).
Train/ Museum Online Purchases (You Don’t Have To Print!): When you purchase online train tickets, the website claims that you have to print them for your trip. However, when I called to speak with customer service they assured me that you can show your train ticket on your phone. I was kind of freaking out because I’d forgotten to print my pre-paid tickets, but turns out this isn’t a requirement. This is also true for local attractions, I thought I’d need to print tickets purchased online, but you can simply show your confirmation and bar code on your smart phone and you’re all set. Oh, technology. Don’t tease me for not knowing this, someone out there doesn’t know this, we are normie traveller after all. LOL
Wifi: Many, many people and travel blogs (ahem, to remain unnamed) led me to believe that there would be no wifi anywhere. They could not have been more wrong or perhaps they are just out of date. There is literally free wifi in every single restaurant, cafe and hotel. At least in my experience, I have had no issue finding wifi. So, please don’t pay extra on your phone bill!
Transportation Strikes: From what I’ve learned from locals, transportation strikes are pretty common. The busses are still running, but they are very limited. So, make sure you download MyTaxi or be prepared to wait.
Bar: A bar is not a bar in the American sense. However, most of the time they do in fact serve alcohol. Basically, the bar is quite literally referring to the bar itself. Meaning, that you will either eat or drink at the actual bar counter, standing. If you choose to sit, you may find yourself paying substantially more for your drink as there is likely a sitting fee. There are bars that do not charge sitting fees, but they are difficult for us tourist to identify. If you want to be safe, just get it to go or drink standing.
Stay tuned for more tips on Italy as I travel through the country for the next few weeks.
Hope you found these tips useful for your visit to Rome!
Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and you should’t expect to see if all in just a few.
You’ll be back, so just do what speaks to you the most!
Comment with more tips or questions!