Everything you need to know about visiting Rome

Everything you need to know about visiting Rome

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper

Rome is so much more than just the capital of Italy, the home of Vatican City and the Pope. A mecca for historic sites and museums, famed Italian food, great works of art, and higher end shopping, Rome is a stunning destination with attractions to keep any type of traveller busy. In Rome, gelato is acceptable for breakfast, lunch and dinner, romance flourishes on ancient streets, and the famous sights can be overwhelming but breathtaking. History is important to this age-old city, with the Pantheon, Colosseum and Roman Forum standing tall throughout the city, while the modern age creeps in and builds the city up to be one of the most popular European destinations for travellers. Zip through the city streets on a Vespa, enjoy an Italian cappuccino and cannoli or bask on the Spanish steps under the hot Italian sun. If you’re dreaming of a romantic vacation, a trip to dive into the past, or a destination full of delicious fare, Rome is your go-to. You know what they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Visit the Trevi Fountain when visiting Rome attractions for a beautiful art tour and to throw a coin into the fountain.

Trevi Fountain

Who should visit Rome

Rome is a popular destination for younger travellers looking to explore some of the top European destinations and see the famous sights of history books, or for more experienced travellers looking to dive into the history of the city and Rome attractions. Those who love art and history can lose themselves in the countless museums, galleries, and other areas of the city filled with famous sculptures and paintings. Foodies will enjoy Rome for comfort dishes like pasta, pizza, and gelato and the blend of all Italian cuisine meeting in the capital city; venture into a different café or restaurant each day and taste your way through the different regions with restaurants featuring different regional favourites. Still not convinced? Rome is a perfect introduction to Europe with many tours including the city on their itinerary full of attractions and sites to plant the travel bug.

Rome attractions

Rome is like any metropolitan city, with museums, galleries, statues, and sites waiting for you to explore. A top destination to visit historical sites and museums, visit Rome and explore lesser-known museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Museum of Roman Civilization and uncover that the city is more than the Vatican City.

Those looking to seek out great art, visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums for Michelangelo’s famous work, and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj for works by Raphael and Bernini. These famous artists left their marks on Rome, and there’s definitely enough to keep any artist or art historian busy during a trip to Rome: the Trevi fountain, at the cross-section of Via De’ Crocicchi, Via Poli and Via Delle Muratte, is not only beautiful but stop and take in the gods and goddesses depicted for a history lesson; you’ll find Neptune, Trivia, and Hygieia among others.

See Rome by Vespa with highlights of the Seven Hills, visiting the Baths of Carcalla, Appian Way, views of the Colosseum and Ancient Rome, and the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and truly experience the Italian way of life, getting an overview of the city in a day. Families should consider visiting the Pantheon where great stories can be told, and with a site visit at your own pace (perfect for little tired legs), or visit the Borghese Gardens, home to several museums, and let the kids relax and enjoy the outdoors, and the intricate water clock in Villa Borghese. There is no shortage of things to see in Rome!

Your list of Rome attractions should include the Colosseum, a famous site in the city.

Colosseum

For the top things to see in Rome, visit the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Spanish Steps. The Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built, is not only architecturally fascinating but a bucket-list item for many. Walk the corridors beneath the Colosseum where animals and gladiators were once transported, or visit the museum of Eros on site. Entrance fees for the Colosseum are approximately €16 and include entrance to the Palatine Museum and Roman Forum. A short distance away, visit the Roman Forum, the site of ancient government buildings where ruins stand tall drawing attention to Rome’s history. Don’t miss people watching on the Spanish Steps, connecting Piazza di Spagna and the Trinita dei Monti church at the top of the 135 steps. Also on the must-see list is Piazza Navona, not far from the Pantheon. At each piazza, or public square, in Rome you’ll find different statues, and a surrounding area full of restaurants and great people-watching: experience the true culture of Italy here with a relaxing afternoon.

No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Vatican Square, Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican

No trip should come and go without a visit to the Vatican, though. Plan on spending the better part of a day here to immerse yourself in the history; experience the spiritual atmosphere of the Vatican in St. Peter’s Basilica, enjoy the amazing work in the Sistine Chapel, or stand in the Vatican square and enjoy the architecture. Visit during a Papal Audience for a one-of-a-kind experience in the Vatican square as the area packs full of people eager to hear the address.

*TIP: Pre-book your tour to the Vatican with a date and time to bypass massive lines for entering.

For a truly Roman experience, take part in the Imperial Rome Gladiator Show and Dinner re-enacting a gladiator fight, complete with traditional dress and dances from Ancient Rome, making the evening both entertaining and educational. For a true Italian cultural experience, visit Trastevere, the famous neighbourhood known for artists and ancient buildings. The neighbourhood’s ancient charm can be discovered by Segway and allows for time with a private guide and time to explore on your own. (We recommend finding the l’Acqua Paola fountain – you won’t regret it!)

For travelers with young children not interested in museums, consider Technotown toy library with interactive floors, or the Civic Museum of Zoology. There is so much to discover we couldn’t possibly list it all. Consider some other Rome attractions and day trips from our favourites:

Indulge in pizza, pasta and gelato when in Rome.

Travel style

Many travellers visit Rome as a destination on its own while others include it in a tour of Italy or partnered with France, a European river cruise, or as an add-on to the beginning or end of a Mediterranean cruise out of the port of Civitavecchia, just over an hour from Rome’s city center. First-time visitors to Rome may choose to see the city as part of a tour, like Trafalgar’s London to Rome Highlights tour, with visits in London, Paris, Lucerne, Venice, Florence, and Rome.

For those looking for a higher-end vacation, a river cruise is an option for seeing Rome among other Italian destinations along the Tiber River. Other travellers book a Rome vacation package with flights and hotels booked together but the freedom to come and go and create a personalized itinerary of things to see in Rome.

Visit the Roman Forum for one of the top things to see in Rome and stand on ancient ground.

The Roman Forum

When should I go and for how long?

Visiting Rome is do-able year round, with cooperative weather most of the year. In July and August, temperatures can reach the low-30s (Celsius) while winter months (December – January) see average highs of 11C and lows of 4C. We recommend visiting Rome in spring or autumn, when weather is pleasurable and you can miss high-tourist season through the summer months.

We recommend between 5 and 7 days for a visit, to see all the major sites and truly indulge in Italian cuisine. A visit to Rome is often partnered with a river cruise hitting Venice and Florence, or a tour of other Italian hot spots like Florence, Tuscany, and Sicily. The city is a perfect stopover destination for before or after a Mediterranean cruise. Our Splendours of Northern Italy river cruise with Uniworld hits Venice, Florence and Rome in 13 days.

Hotels in Rome

Stay in the heart of Rome or remove yourself to the outskirts for a quieter stay; the city has plenty of accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels to hostels, and apartment-style stays for extended stays. While European hotels are modern, hotel rooms tend to be smaller, meaning a family of 4 may want to consider an apartment-style for a comfortable stay.

Best Western Hotel Mondial: 4 star
This hotel is in the depth of the city, across from the Opera House and between the Basilica of St Mary Major and the Church of Saint Susanna at the baths of Dioletian. Located around the corner from Termini Train Station, stay at this hotel for easy access to the rest of Rome by public transport.

NH Roma Leonardo da Vinci: 4 star
For visitors looking forward to visiting the Vatican, consider this hotel for a quiet location within walking distance of St Peter’s Square. This hotel features family rooms.

Domos Romana: 4 star
A former monastery, this hotel has classic décor, and guestrooms and penthouses able to house larger families. This antique setting and stunning site is just minutes from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, located in a perfect area for walking Rome.

The Vatican should be on every list of things to see in Rome.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Getting there

The Leonardo da Vinci Airport – Fiumcino (FCO) of Rome is the main international airport of Italy and Europe’s sixth largest for traffic. Located west of the city, the airport is approximately 40-minutes driving time from the city centre. Direct flights arrive in Rome from Toronto and Montreal and range from $830 to $1400. Flying direct from Toronto is available on Air Transat, Air Canada and Alitalia several times per week from early May to late October; while direct service from Montreal is offered several times each week May through October on Air Canada and Lufthansa. Year-round service and service from other gateways are available through connecting flights.

Charter flights from other European destinations may also arrive at the Giovanni Battista Pastine – Ciampino Airport, approximately 20km from Rome.

Travellers arriving into FCO have several options for transportation to downtown Rome: train, bus, or taxi. The Shuttle train Leonardo Express has direct service to Termini Station (across from the ancient Baths of Diocletian) every half hour, daily. Travelling into the city by train will cost approximately €14. Travelling by bus, a more economical option (approximately €4.50 – €7), may take upwards of an hour with bus stops along the route into and from Rome. Private shuttles are also available from both airports for a flat rate per person.

Taxis for Rome can be found at both domestic and international terminals at FCO, and a taxi into the city can range from €45 to €120.

Visit the Spanish Steps and enjoy people watching at this famous site.

The Spanish Steps

Getting around

Once you’ve landed in Rome, plan to use the hop-on-hop-off bus or explore by foot. The city is walk-able, but public transportation is also easy to use with metro, bus, train and tram options to see the city. Taxis throughout Rome are plentiful, though many narrow cobblestone streets may make driving difficult or accessing some areas not possible by car. Public transportation day passes or 7-day passes are available for travellers looking to do as the Romans do.

Price range

  • Flight: Between $830 (direct from Toronto) and $1800 (from Vancouver, connecting flight).
  • Hotel: Between $125 to $300, depending on hotel and season
  • Pizza: €4
  • Vatican Museums admission: €16 for adults, €4 for students
  • Gelato: €2.50 for a small cup

Other information

Language: Italian, though English is often spoken in tourist-heavy areas and at attractions
Currency: Euro
Electricity: 220V

*TIP: Tipping is not big in Rome, with most people rounding taxi fares up to the nearest Euro, and servizio (“service”) included in most restaurant bills.

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