Visiting Rome is often a pilgrimage rather than a holiday – especially if it is your first visit. The Eternal City is built on seven hills, although thankfully many of the most important sites are on the flat, making getting around much more easy than you would expect. The main sites are also reasonably close together, separated at times by the River Tiber.
To view the main sites, think of Rome as a game of two halves – on one side of the Tiber you will find The Forum, Colosseum, Caracalla Baths, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Via Vittorio Veneto, Borghese Gardens, the Diocletian Baths, the Jewish Quarter, Area Sacra and the Appian Park and Catacombs. This is enough to keep you happily occupied for days! On the other side of the Tiber, you will find the Vatican City and St Peter’s and Castel Sant’ Angelo.
In between all these well-known sites, there are other sites and temples to visit, piazzas, museums and galleries, street markets, shopping excursions, bars, restaurants, clubs, concerts in churches and concert halls – and gelato to enjoy at any time, often while seated by the Trevi Fountain or while resting on the Spanish Steps in the sunshine.
You can also take day excursions from Rome to Naples, Sorrento and Pompeii and travel farther afield to Capri.
To help you navigate the Eternal City and see as much as possible on what might be a short trip, here are 5 top tips for making the most of your time in the fabulous Eternal City:
- Accommodation: Rome has a wealth of accommodation to offer, but staying centrally round Piazza di Spagna and Via Vittorio Veneto is a good idea if you do not know the city. Via Vittorio Veneto is on a steep hill, but there are taxis in Piazza di Spagna and Metro Stations at Barberini and at the top of Via Vittorio Veneto near Borghese Gardens. Via Sistina is on a steep hill but has some reasonably priced hotels which will mean you are within walking distance of many of the main sites. Otherwise look for accommodation surrounding Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain, where the streets are on the flat.
- Getting round: The Metro is efficient and there are plenty of tourist buses for sightseeing, plus regular bus services which take you to the main sites. Transport is cheaper if you buy a travel card, but if you like walking, Rome is a wonderful city to walk around – it is hard to get lost because many of the streets will simply lead you back to a main road like Corso Emanuele II or Via del Corso. If you take a cab, use the white metered cabs, which are the official cabs – there are cab ranks near all the main sites, including just outside St Peter’s.
You can also take a horse drawn carriage – but negotiate carefully on cost as they are expensive.
3. Sightseeing: Because there is so much to see, it pays to be a little bit organised. Here is a rough guide to which sites are close together and can be covered in one or two days.
Piazza di Spagna – Spanish Steps – Keats Shelley House – Trevi Fountain
Via del Corso – Piazza Colonna – Goethe House – Piazza Del Popolo – Borghese Gardens
Borghese Gardens and Museum – Via Vittorio Veneto – Trevi Fountain – Emanuele II Monument
Trajan’s Market – Forum – Colosseum – Caracalla Baths – Circus Maximus
Appian Park – Catacombs
Circus Maximus – Trastevere (hardy walkers only)
Capitoline Museum – Teatro Marcello – Jewish Quarter – Area Sacra
Castel Sant’ Angelo – Vatican
Piazza della Repubblica – Diocletian Baths – Quirinale Palace – Trevi Fountain
Pantheon – Farnese Palace – Piazza Navona – Campo de’ Fiori – Area Sacra.
There are plenty of other sites to see, but you can use this guide to organise your sightseeing schedule. Tickets are easy to buy in advance online, but you will need to collect the tickets from the ticket office. The sites are also illuminated at night – you can book a night tour of Rome, but it is also nice to wander round after supper – the crowds usually remain at the Trevi Fountain until around midnight and the shops there stay open until late. The Borghese Gardens are also a lovely place to visit on a Sunday – there are cafes in the park and you can relax in the sunshine and watch life drift by.
4. Eating: You will never starve in Rome – there are restaurants, bars, trattoria, street vans, kiosks, bakeries, and cafes everywhere and food need not be expensive.
For food on the move, a sandwich or panini away from the main sites will cost around 2-4 euros and around 4-5 euros near the main sites. Main courses are from around 12-15 euros. Coffee 2-4 euros. The prices will vary seasonally and will obviously be more near tourist sites and in smarter restaurants – read the menu carefully as some tourist restaurants may charge a premium of as much as 20% after 9pm and others will add a cover charge.
You can eat well in Rome for a reasonable amount of money, however. I like Trattoria Angelina and Cafe on Via Poli – near the Trevi Fountain – for supper and a coffee break, which also has gluten-free and egg-free cakes. By Castel Sant Angelo, I frequent the Biblio Cafe – an open air cafe which is also a library and which has lovely cakes and sandwiches and a small terraced garden area to relax in. It is easy to find trattoria all over Rome and the food is usually good. The food vans all over Rome also offer good value panini and drinks for dining on the hoof – and the Coop supermarket has pre-packed sandwiches, rolls and salads from around 2.50 euros each. If you have to, there is also McDonalds, where there will inevitably be a long wait for the WC! Rome is also a wonderful place for patisserie if you have a sweet tooth.
You should also make time for a trip to Babingtons Tea Room at the foot of the Spanish Steps – a pot of tea costs from 11 euros, the cakes are to die for and served in vast portions. I also like to have breakfast there before setting off on an expedition – the omelette with thick toast soldiers is highly recommended for breakfast or brunch, or before you head off to the airport – or the scrambled egg muffin is a fitting alternative for smaller appetites.
5) Health: There are pharmacies all over Rome and the supermarket Coop also has a toiletries and health section. Piazza di Spagna has a very good Farmacia, which is centrally placed near the Keats and Shelley House.
There are public WCs in Rome, but they are not as prevalent as in cities like Venice. The main sites all have WCs, however, including the Forum, where the public lavatories are on the top level near the large viewing area that overlooks the Forum itself.
It can be very hot in Rome, so stay hydrated and covered up in the heat – out of season, it can be cold at night and rainy, so take a raincoat and jumper in Spring or Autumn, just in case.
If you have a pushchair or use a wheelchair, the pavements are usually well maintained, but piazzas and backstreets are often cobbled – take a look at the city centre on Google maps before you go, but you should be able to navigate the main thoroughfares to the sites round the Forum and the Vatican okay, apart from the busy roads. Take care at crossings – there are traffic police on duty to keep an eye on things, though. The Forum and Colosseum have elevators.
One other warning – feet! Rome is a long, hard walk – those cobbles again – so take plenty of comfortable shoes and boots to change into. I always carry a spare pair of shoes or sandals and a stash of plasters with me. You could also budget to buy a pair of shoes or boots while there – the best shopping for bargains is along Via del Babuino, off Piazza di Spagna; or along Via del Giubonnari, near the Jewish Quarter and Area Sacra, where I visit Alberto for shoes and boots and Frandi for bags.
For more information about visiting Rome, Verona or Venice, read my other blogs – if you enjoy reading them, please click Like. Grazie!
Have a wonderful trip and buon viaggio!
Want to go to Rome now?
Download ROME ALONE and ROME AGAIN free at Kindle Unlimited or for £2.40 each – and set off to the Eternal City for a weekend of surprises, as unhappy housewife Bee and newly-divorced Alzheimer’s expert Dr Neil McCarthy leave from opposite ends of the country for a mini-break full of the unexpected that will change their lives forever. Return to Rome with them three years later and discover the forces at work which they never suspected on their first trip.
ROME ALONE was short-listed for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’s New Novel Centenary Award.
Both books contain sexual content, adult themes and dark humour which some might find upsetting. Also scenes of shopping, gelati, vino rosso, amore and Rome.
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Catch up with the story in VERONA ALONE, when the action shifts to the ancient city of Verona, when former cellist Moira marks her divorce by fulfilling a girlhood dream of visiting the city during the annual opera season. There she is taken under the wing of a generous and quirky American, who appears to have a secret.
VERONA AGAIN sees three couples fight to save their relations – who will succeed, who will fail and who will lose the love of their life?
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All Images copyright A. Meredith
Featured image: St Peter’s Square