There are so many things to see in Rome, the so-called Eternal City, that one can live there for years and still not see them all (trust me, I’ve tried!). Not only the seat of some of the world’s most important history and culture, it presents its visitors with a way of life and a gastronomy that also provide indelible experiences that you won’t want to miss.
But Rome can be a bit overwhelming for some travelers, even for those of us at The International Kitchen, as it is a large metropolis not always considered “traveler friendly.” This doesn’t mean that the Romans are unfriendly – quite the opposite! – but that the city isn’t always set up to be easy for the foreign traveler to negotiate. So here are a few (a very few) tips to keep in mind when visiting this amazing city, especially if you’re only there a few days and trying to make the most of your trip.
Tip 1: Location, location, location. This might seem obvious, I know. But Rome is geographically very large. There are many great hotels off the beaten track in wonderful neighborhoods that we could recommend for repeat or long term visitors. But if it’s your first time and you’ve only got a few days, splurge on a hotel located near the things you want to see. That might mean staying near the Vatican, it might mean staying near the Forum, but the less time you have to spend traveling from hotel to the things you want to see the better. We just arranged a custom tour for clients and put them in a hotel right on the square in front of the Pantheon. They’ll be able to walk to the Pantheon of course, but also Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps – even the Forum is not too far of a walk. And they’re just steps away from what I consider the best gelato in Rome (you can see my family enjoying it in the picture!).
Tip 2: Figure our the public transportation system. Even if you stay near some of the sites you want to see, you’re going to want to move about and see more than just that, and the easiest and cheapest way to do this is by public transportation, which means by bus, tram, or “metro” (subway). Things to keep in mind: buy your tickets ahead of time either at a train or subway station, a newsstand, or at a tobacco shop (called a “Tabaccaio” and marked with a big “T”). Tickets can be purchased for single day or multi-day use, or for single trips (a trip being counted as 75 minutes from validation) Know ahead of time which busses or trains will get you where you want to go (either using a map or an app on your phone), and don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help. If you are at a bus stop and not sure of which bus to take, you can simply state “Mi scusi, per X?” and put whatever site you want to see in for “X” (such as “Mi scusi, per il Vatican?”). Trust me, it works. Don’t forget to validate your ticket in the little validation box on the bus or tram – this time stamps a single-trip ticket, which will then be good for 75 minutes. (If you have a one-day or multi-day ticket, the time it is good will start from the time it is validated.)
Another tip on public transportation – guard your wallet and purse like a hawk, especially if the bus or train is crowded. Don’t assume you’ll feel someone’s hand in your pocket (you won’t) – and even if you did, they’d be off the bus so fast you wouldn’t catch them anyway.
Tip 3: Pay for a professional to show you the way. Don’t be afraid to spend money on a private or semi-private tour if you want to see a lot in a short amount of time. Case in point is the Vatican Museums. They are large and unwieldy, packed with things to see, and fabulously crowded. Booking a tour with a guide and an early access ticket can mean the difference between a confusing and unbearable experience and an opportunity to see and understand some of the world’s best art.
For the record, we offer custom packages in Rome including any combination of accommodations, cooking classes (more on that later this week), and food and/or cultural tours. So whether you want to visit the Vatican, the Catacombs, the Forum, or all of the above, we’ve got you covered. Just inquire for a quote.
By Peg Kern
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.