Rome Travel Guide
It famously straddles seven hills, but Rome often feels like several cities. There's the ancient one, of course – the Rome of emperors and amphitheaters, still visible today. Then there's grand, baroque Rome, a city of immense squares, florid churches and fountains, each more spectacular than the next. There's the Dolce Vita vibe, still, in elegant boutiques, bars, and restaurants, and landmark hotels still on Via Veneto. But Rome is also modern, with formerly residential neighborhoods such as Testaccio, Monti, and Ostiense now as attractive to tourists for their nightlife as the classic areas.
It all swirls together into one timeless gumbo. In the space of a day you can go from a Roman emperor's home to a hipster market; you can peel away the layers simply by stepping down into the basement of a church. Of course, all this excess needs some restraint. You should find that in the Vatican; but instead, you'll find Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel there. So when it all gets too much, there are the parks: the Giardino degli Aranci with its sublime views of the dome of St Peter's; the Villa Borghese, whose sprawling grounds contain several museums; and the Via Appia Antica, a Roman road strewn with mausoleums, catacombs, and ancient aqueducts. Even out in nature, Rome can't help but go over the top.
Central European Standard Time
Best Time to Go
Fall is famously stunning in Rome, known for soft-lit afternoons and a warming sun. To avoid the crowds, go in early-to-mid December — the religious visitors start piling in for the Pope's Christmas address after that — or in January and February.
Things to Know
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I don't speak Italian: Non parlo italiano
I'm lost: Mi sono perso/a
How much is...: Quanto costa...
I would like…: Vorrei…
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Calling Code: +39
Capital City: Rome
How to Get Around
Trains: Roma Termini is one of the biggest railway stations in the country, perfectly placed on the high-speed lines for fast access to Naples, Florence, Milan, and beyond. Fast direct trains to Fiumicino airport also leave from here.
Buses: Rome has a decent bus network although there's not much coverage in the historic center. It's easy to get out to places just beyond the city walls, such as Testaccio, Piramide, and the Via Appia Antica however. The metro system skims the city center.
Taxis: Taxis are plentiful, with stands at major sites — you can also use the FREE NOW hailing app. Fixed rates are in place for rides from airports Fiumicino and Ciampino, with prices clearly marked on doors.
Car service: Most hotels can arrange transfers; those to and from Fiumicino are normally good value, with prices only a little higher, but with no risk of arguments over fares and supplements at the end.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Trastevere: On the Vatican side of the Tiber – the Ponte Sisto bridge is the entrance point – Trastevere is one of the center's trendiest neighborhoods, with exceptional restaurants and buzzing bars alongside quiet lanes and cobblestone streets that feel far from a city. This has always been an area of artists and artisans, and there's still a boho feel to the air.
Testaccio: A port of ancient Rome, this Tiber-side district south of the city center used to be best known as the location for the city's slaughterhouse. Today, that slaughterhouse hosts modern art exhibitions, and there's a slew of trendy bars straddling this and Ostiense, the district next door. As a working class area, its restaurants have always been top-notch.
Monti: Hipsters love Monti, the former down-at-heel neighborhood sitting between Termini railway station and the Colosseum. Back in ancient times, this was the Suburra (slums); more recently it was the Red Light district. But in the last couple of decades, its cobblestone streets have been transformed by artisans, bars, and boutique stores, making it Rome's nightlife capital, spiraling off from Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.
Vatican City: This is of course the seat of the Catholic faith, and life revolves around the church here in the Vatican, an independent city stage within Rome. You're here for the museums and St Peter's Basilica of course, but there are other finds, such as the Auditorium Conciliazione concert hall and its chic Chorus Caffe.
Campitelli: If you're here for all things ancient, this is where you'll spend most of your time. Campitelli is home to the most famous parts of ancient Rome, including the Forum, the Palatine, and the Campidoglio; the Colosseum skims its edge.
Campo Marzio: If you're looking to splash some cash, you'll want Campo Marzio. One of the most ancient areas of Rome, it pairs sites such as the Mausoleo di Augusto and the Ara Pacis with the chic shopping streets around Via Condotti and the Spanish Steps, and finishes at Via del Corso, where you'll find the high-street stores.
Fall in Rome is spectacular – so much so that there's a name for the city's warm and sunny October days: ottobrata, where temperatures can hit the 70s in the sun. Winters are mild, although January temperatures can plummet to the 40s, and it can rain. Spring, like fall, is a beautiful time to go, with trees in blossom and temperatures in the 60s. Summer is hot and humid – so much so that most Romans abandon the city for the month of August.
Apps to Download
Street Art Roma: Maps out Rome's street art