Rome For The First Time – Read This First

Are you planning your first-time visit to Rome? If so, congratulations! Rome is one of the most fascinating and beautiful cities in the world. There is so much to see …

Are you planning your first-time visit to Rome? If so, congratulations! Rome is one of the most fascinating and beautiful cities in the world. There is so much to see and do that it can overwhelm first-time visitors. Here are some suggestions of what to see and do on your first trip to Rome.

How To Get To Rome

You might be wondering how to get to Rome. If you’re visiting Rome, chances are you’re either flying in or taking a train. Though, it’s certainly possible to arrive by other means, such as by taxi or even a cruise ship. The following will cover how to get to Rome by each means of transportation.

Flying To Fiumicino

Most international flights land at the Rome Fiumicino airport, about 28km (17 miles) west of the city. To reach the city center from Fiumicino, you have a few options.

The shuttle train called Leonardo Express is the cheapest and fastest way to get from Fiumicino to Rome. It takes you to the Termini station in 32 minutes nonstop and costs €14.00 per person.

If you prefer, you can also get to Rome from Fiumicino is by taxi. This will cost you about €50.00, and it will take 40-50 minutes depending on traffic.

Lastly, several private shuttle buses take you to Rome city center from Fiumicino for about €7.00, and the time can vary from 40 minutes to one and half hours depending on traffic and the number of stops.

Flying To Ciampino Airport

If you’re arriving at Ciampino Airport, it is located about 14km (8.5 miles) south of Rome.

This airport is mainly served by low-cost airlines from most European and Italian cities. And, while not as busy as Fiumicino, Ciampino still receives a fair number of flights.

The Ciampino airport is connected to downtown Rome via a shuttle bus that takes you to the train station and a train called Airlink that takes you to Rome’s Termini station. This option is cheap at €2.70 but takes about 60 minutes. Another option is a shuttle bus that runs approximately every hour and costs €6.00. The shuttle bus takes you to Termini station, about 35 minutes. Lastly, you can take a taxi to the city center for between €30 and €40.

Train

If you’re headed to Rome from another Italian city, you’ll probably go by train. The central train station in Rome is Termini. The station is right in the city center. From termini, you are a few minutes away from every hotel in the city center by subway or taxi.

Cruise Ship (Port Of Civitavecchia)

Another common way of reaching Rome is by cruise ship at the port of Civitavecchia. Civitavecchia is located about 90km (56 miles) northwest of the City center. To get from the port of Civitavecchia to downtown Rome, you can take a local train that takes about 1 hour and costs between €5.00 and €7.00. Alternatively, you can use a bus service that connects the port to Rome Termini, which takes about one hour.

Another way to reach Rome city center from Civitavecchia is by taxi or private vehicle. And this will cost you upwards of €200.

Finally, another common way to reach downtown Rome from the cruise terminal of Civitavecchia is by using the transfer provided by the cruise line.

Driving to Rome

Lastly, if you are driving to Rome from another Italian city, we strongly recommend driving to the hotel and leaving the car in a garage. Driving in Rome is challenging and not recommended because of traffic and because most of the streets in the historic area are permitted only. Also, parking in Rome is a bit of a challenge. So bottom line, don’t drive in Rome.

How Many Days Should I Stay In Rome?

We often get this question: “How many days should I plan in Rome?” We think you should spend a minimum of 3 days in Rome. Especially as a first-timer in Rome, three days is the minimum to have a good idea about the city without rushing. Rome has so much to offer that even 4 or 5 days is a reasonable amount of time to spend in the city. 

If you only have three days in Rome, this is what we suggest you check out:

Day One

Saint Peter’s, The Vatican, the Vatican museums with the Sistine Chapel, and Castel Sant’Angelo. Buying the tickets in advance is essential to avoid the long lines at the ticket office. Same thing for the Colosseum as well.

Day Two

Day two Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, and the Pincio.

Day Three

The Colosseum, the Roman Forum with the Palatine, The Campidoglio, Teatro Marcello, the mouth of truth, and finally, the Jewish ghetto.

Best Time To Go To Rome

The best time to go to Rome is any time other than the summer. Summer is the peak season. The city is busy with tourists, so hotels and flights are more expensive. Finally, it is really hot and humid. So if you can choose when to go to Rome for the first time, we suggest mid-April to mid-May and the end of September to the end of October. During these months the city is not as busy, hotels are less expensive, and the temperatures are very comfortable. 

Areas To Stay In Rome

In our opinion, the best place to book a hotel in Rome is right in the city center. This way you are very close to all the attractions. To keep things simple we divided the city center into five groups. Let’s explore a few options with you.

Around The Rome Termini Train Station

In the termini station area, there are a lot of hotels. Most of them are more affordable than hotels in other city center areas. We love this area because of its convenience and affordability. Rome Termini station is not only the central train hub but also the subway’s main hub. Unfortunately, this area is not the nicest nor the cleanest. Also, it is hectic and can be noisy at night. Finally, walking to the main attractions from termini is a bit of walk. 

Monti – Colosseum

The Monti area is an excellent location for hotels. Hotels in this area can be slightly more expensive than the ones by Termini station, but they are also located in a much better area. Additionally, hotels in the Monti area tend to be a bit newer. Finally, the Monti area is a little further from many attractions. However, it is the closest to the Colosseum and the forum.

City Center

Hotels in Rome’s city center are the most strategically located. You’ll be close to Piazza Navona, Campo Dei Fiori, Pantheon, & Trevi Fountain. Hotels in the city center are perfect if you like to walk around or want a nice dinner in Trastevere. Price-wise they tend to be a bit more costly than other areas. Also, hotels in Rome’s city center are often in 3, 4, or 5 hundred + year old buildings, so rooms are often a bit small, and the layout can be weird. Also, they often have very small elevators and a few steps here and there. So if you have mobility issues, keep this in mind.

Borgo and Prati

Borgo and Prati area is located near the Vatican on the left bank of the Tiber river. Here you can find a wide variety of hotels, from budget to more modern and upscale. This area is still within walking distance from the city center however it is a bit of a long walk. 

Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps and Via Veneto Area

Next, we have the Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, and Via Veneto area. In this area, you’ll find the most luxurious hotels in the city. Most of these hotels are 5 stars and up, with impressive buildings, doormen, and red carpets. They often have gardens and panoramic terraces with bars or restaurants. In other words, these are the hotels if you want the best Rome has to offer.

How To Move Around Rome

Rome is a perfect city to walk around. The city center is relatively small, and most of the attractions are a few minutes away from each other. So we think the best way to explore Rome is by walking. When you get tired of walking, you can find taxis everywhere, and the prices are affordable. Word of caution: only take legitimate taxis with the white car, the sign on top, and the meter.

Another great way to get around the city is by the metro. It is fast, cheap, and convenient.

We are also big fans of the Hop On Hop Off buses. And these are great options for visiting a city for the first time. Unfortunately, in Rome, this is not a very good option. Most of the major attractions in Rome, like the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain, are in pedestrian-only streets. Some other attractions are located in narrow streets where buses can not go. This means that the hop-on hop-off will take you to the nearest possible place for a specific monument, but you still have to walk to reach it. So, in our opinion, it is not worth it.

Another fantastic way to visit Rome is by Segway. Segway tours are an excellent way to get around Rome because they are nimble. And you’ll love it!

What To Avoid On Your Trip To Rome

Despite what you may have heard, Rome is a very safe city. It is also a very big city with crowds. And like any other crowded city with many tourists, you must pay attention to pickpockets. Nowadays, they are not very common but still be aware, especially if you take a train. Also, avoid people begging for change. They might distract you while they try to steal your wallet or camera. 

Also, we would avoid most tourist traps like the wax museum or the Leonardo exhibit. Not that those are not interesting, but if you made it to Rome, you might want to enjoy a more authentic experience – and the wax museum isn’t that. And the Leonardo exhibit – well, there’s nothing but copies. You could see the same stuff online for free.

Lastly, try to avoid stores that target tourists. They will charge you way more money than they should. If you want to buy a nice bottle of wine, or a bottle of balsamic vinegar, or a bottle of limoncello to bring home with you, just go to a local supermarket. You’ll find a great selection there without paying the tourist price.

How To Enjoy Your First Time In Rome Like a Local 

Once you have seen all the city’s great attractions, take some time and enjoy the city like a local. Rome is not just an open-air museum. It’s also a beautiful, vibrant city. We suggest you take an afternoon and walk a little bit off the beaten path, you will discover some stunning little piazza or beautiful buildings. Also, you can take a stroll or a bike ride by the Villa Borghese gardens. You can admire stunning city views while enjoying the peace and quiet of the park.

If you want to stop for an aperitivo (the Italian version of a pre-dinner drink), try to find a place where locals go. Avoid the bars right in front of the Colosseum or the Pantheon; yes those are beautiful places, but they will charge you way more money for the location, and you won’t have an authentic experience.

Some Important Tips For Your First Time In Rome

Rome is a city that has something for everyone. From its ancient ruins to its beautiful art and architecture, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you are visiting Rome for the first time, here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip.

Tours

A guided tour of the city can be an excellent way to learn about the city and the history of a monument. However, we suggest picking tours that are not too intense. For example, we had some friends visiting a few years ago and wanted to book a tour for them. The guide was knowledgeable, but it was 40C outside, and we walked from 9 am to 6 pm. By the time we were done, we were so tired and sweaty, and all we wanted to do to sit down with a cold beverage. So maybe book a 2-3 hour max tour of a specific area to avoid being overwhelmed. 

Cell Phone Coverage

Also, consider buying an Italian sim card if you want to save money on roaming for your phone. Italy has some of the cheapest data prices in the world. For less than €10.00, you can have 70 or 80 gigs of data. Also, if you visit more than one country in the EU, the same sim card will work all over the European Union for no additional cost. 

Using & Exchanging Money

We also get asked about exchanging money. Don’t use the money exchange stores. Those are way too expensive. And, don’t use your debit or credit card from your home country! You’re going to get terrible foreign exchange rates. Instead, we like to use Wise. With Wise, you can convert money into euros at the BANK rate, with virtually no markups. 

And Wise gives you a visa debit card, which you can use immediately online or on your phone. And they mail you a traditional plastic debit card that you can use to withdraw Euros from any of the local ATMs, again with a favorable forex fee. And if you run out of money, you can instantly transfer more dollars from your bank at any time using the app. And at the end of the trip, if you have some extra Euros, you can convert them back and deposit them back into your US account, or spend them… the choice is yours.

Oh, and speaking of cash, here is another very important tip! Always keep some change with you – especially 1 euro and 50 cent coins because most public bathrooms only use those to get in! 

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our tips for first-time visitors to Rome. With some planning and following our advice, we are sure you will have a fantastic time in Rome!

Buon Viaggio! (Have a nice trip!)

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