travel to Rome?
The home of one of the world's greatest ancient civilizations, this
magnificent city is loaded with history, artistic and architectural
treasures, piazzas, pizzas and the Pope.
Rome's 3,000 years old Centro Storico is a must-see even
for artphobes - and it's not an expensive city either, unlike Venice or Florence. This is a city that combines the feel of a village with the culture of a vital and sophisticated European metropolis.
Best: May-October, very best May, June, October.
There's no real off season in the Eternal City but spring and autumn are the busiest tourist seasons, with a peak at Easter as Vatican pilgrims swell visitor numbers.
Winter from mid-January through February can be a great time to visit if you're lucky with the weather as hotel rates are low and restaurants uncrowded. July and August get oppressively hot, humid and overcrowded so avoid them if possible but if you don't mind the heat this is another good value season. Romans celebrate October for especially beautiful weather, but who knows these days? Midsummer temperatures average highs of over 30C (86F) and lows of 15C (59F).
Winter sees most rain (and even snow), though not that much, perhaps one day in three, with average low temperatures of 3C (37F) and highs up to 13C (55F).
Current Rome temperature and time.
Rome (Roma in Italian) is a very romantic, walkable experience and bikeable too, or you could
do the Dolce Vita thing and rent a scooter.
Apart from the vast numbers of lovely piazzas (as in square, not
thin crust), Roman relics and gorgeous Rome churches you will want to
see at least the mega-rich, independent state of the Vatican, its
museums (see Top Three Museums below) and the vast Basilica of
St. Peters (not as interesting or spectacular internally
as many other Roman churches, but big), the vast Colosseum amphitheatre (see Skip the Queues), the remains of the Roman Forum and its triumphal arches, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain (try it at night), the Pantheon (built by angels according to Michelangelo; way more impressive
outside than in), Piazza Navona with
its fountains, artists and cafés, Campo
dei Fiori open air market and the bustling narrow streets
of Trastevere for a real Roman night dining experience
More information on Rome sightseeing
Public Transport: Run by the municipal transport agency ATAC, Rome's bus network is extensive and quite efficient - which is more than can be said for its metro system, currently consisting of just two lines, A and B, which intersect at Termini Station. A is useful if you are going to the Vatican (direction Battistini, get off at Ottaviano), while B will take you to the Colosseum (direction Laurentina, get off at Colosseo).
Single tickets, which can be bought at metro stations, in most tabacchi (cigarette shops; look for the blue T sign), or at newspaper stands - cost €1.50 and are valid for 100 minutes on any combination of buses, plus one metro ride.
There are also whole-day (€6), three-day (€16.50) and weekly (€24) passes. All tickets and passes need to be stamped on the first bus or at metro turnstiles. Children under the age of 11 travel free.
Cars: Car parks and directional signs
are more or less non-existant and outside the centre streets are
stuffed with cars parked higgledy-piggledy so don't bring a car
here unless you have GPS, nerves of steel and a hotel in Rome with parking!
A Smart car would be an excellent choice of vehicle, or - four wheels bad, two wheels good - get around by scooter, though beware
cobblestones in the rain.
Taxis: Roman taxis aren't cheap: though the official minimum fare is €3 most journeys have a way of coming out at considerably more and a long crawl in heavy traffic can set you back as much as €30. There is a €3.50 night surcharge between 10pm and 7am.
Walking: Pedestrian crossings are common
but walkers need to develop a system to use them effectively because
vehicles will not stop at crossings unless compelled to do so. e.g.
by your lurching body. This is the way it works: stand at the beginning
of the crossing and look at driver's eyes. If they don't stop (most
unlikely), start to cross confidently when there is a reasonable
gap in the traffic, but maintain eye contact with drivers to check
they are actually slowing down. By law they should stop, though
Italians have a well-known disregard for the law - but at the same
time they really don't want to maim or kill you.
Museums and Galleries: Rome has an amazing variety of art
offerings, not just a line up of pricey paintings; hundreds of spectacular
and sometimes bizarre marble statues for a start...
The Top Three
The Vatican Museums, Musei Vaticani.
Perhaps the richest collection of art in the world, the 12 museums
include Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Raphael's four
fresco rooms as well as the best of Roman, Etruscan, Greek, Egyptian,
Assyrian and modern religious art, but are always crowded and a
long line may be anticipated to get in.
The full 7kms (4 miles) and 1,400 rooms of sights will need at least
two days of attention but there are colour-coded highlight walks.
The museums are not in St. Peters Basilica. They're a little
out of the city centre but easily walkable from the Piazza Navona
area or take the tube to Cipro-Musei Vatican. Skip the Vatican Queues. More Vatican information.
The Capitoline Museums are dead centre
Rome, built on the low hill where the city originated and designed
by the city's favourite artist, Michelangelo. No queues here, plenty
of space and focussed on wonderful Greek and Roman sculptures though
there are some excellent paintings too.
Galleria Borghese: A small but perfectly
formed collection of sculpture and paintings, including Bernini's Apollo and Daphne, this museum requires a reservation in advance
to get in. How to get into Galleria Borghese.
It's a hassle to get to as it's a bit north of centre and has no
metro running nearby so expect a long walk or taxi ride, but art lovers must see this
When visiting museums and galleries, make sure you have your passport or other official photo ID with you if you qualify for free entrance - for example, if you are an EU citizen under 18 or over 65.
Teatro Olimpico has the best reputation for dance.
The Filarmonica is for ethnic and contemporary.
The Opera season runs from Nov-Mar at Teatro dell' Opera; in summer
it moves outdoors (eg. Stadio Olimpico, Baths of Caracalla) and
the prices come down.
Theatre: Teatro Agora holds a short season of international theatre
in other languages, while the Colosseo Ridotto presents English
language shows every week.
Live Music: The city's more in favour of jazz than rock with plenty
Check 'Time Out' for event info/listings.
Ticket Office 'Orbis' is at Piazza Esquilino.
Termini station (Stazione Centrale Roma Termini)-
where the metro, overground rail networks, buses and tourist
buses all meet near Rome's centre - big, complex, busy and
not short of pickpockets, so don't leave wallets in unsecured
pockets and put shoulder bags around necks to the front.
Italy also apparently suffers from the less subtle snatching of
valuables by scippatori, who may rip jewelry, wallets,
handbags or even watches off and disappear, sometimes on scooters.
The Bugcrew saw no evidence of bag-snatching, but caught strange
fingers fumbling at a velcroed Bugpocket in the subway! It is advisable to tone
down the blatant wearing of expensive goodies. Save the flash
Why bother when there's a lifetime of sights in the city?
Well, if you must escape for a few hours...
Try Ostia Antica for ancient Roman
ruins (n.b. not tacky Ostia seaside town).
To get a real sense of the life and layout of an ancient Roman town, head for Rome's former port, which has been excavated, complete with theatre, apartment blocks, baths and communal loo. It's just as atmospheric as Pompeii but far less touristy.
Head for Piramide (south of the Colosseum) and take the Roma-Lido train line (20 minutes) to Ostia Antica; from here the entrance is a 10-minute walk.
Via dei Romangnoli 717, Ostia.
Open Tues-Sun, 8.30am-6pm.
Also Tivoli for Hadrian's spectacular Villa Adriana, fountains and landscaped
gardens (40kms out of Rome); medieval Viterbo with its great town wall and nearby Bomarzo's tranquil, wacky scuplture garden Parco dei Mostri (a favourite
of Mr S. Dali); Terracina for big,
calm, uncrowded white sand beaches with minimum life support or Sperlonga for the full monte Italian
beach resort experience.
Note that if you're driving signposting is dreadful and views are
generally not much better.
Rome has plenty of little trattorias that serve excellent meals
at the right price, but don't expect much other than classic, low-end Italian
cuisine...pastas, pizzas, salads and excellent ice-cream (gelato).
International cuisine or even wildly different Italian is hard to
come by on a budget.
Snack culture has been spurred on by the recession, and there are now places where you can grab a decent stand-up or carry-out meal for €10.
Fast foods and sandwiches (tramezzini) are common.
Some establishments don't have English menus so if you are a gourmet
or even just like to know what you're eating then study up on the
Italian language of food.
BTW, one guide book of much repute had several pages of food names
but overlooked the translation of 'the bill please'! (il conto
The Trastevere area on the left bank of the river is a bit of a
hike to reach (no metro stop) but interesting, evocative, very local
(as opposed to touristic) and bursting with tiny eateries, while
streets around Piazza Navona offer nice little places with
reasonable prices, though prices often get silly at restaurants on actual piazza's.
The oldest pizzeria is said be Da Ricci in Via Genova, the best
is Dar Poeta in Trastevere.
For vegetarians try Margutta Vegetariano in via Margutta.
Note that Romans rarely dine before 8pm.
Italy is still the European country with the highest average room rates, though a dip in tourist numbers over the past couple of years means that reductions and special offers are frequent so look for internet reductions and don't be afraid to haggle.
Longish-stay visitors or those on a tight budget who like to cater for themselves may like to rent an apartment, though they are often a bit of a walk from the core attractions, so check for good value, well-organised Rome self catering apartments that also include centrally located places, near popular sights, if you book ahead or go out of season.
The subway system is neither very convenient nor safe during busy times from tourist hot-spots when pickpockets roam with apparent impunity but if you're going in/out from a suburb there should be few problems.
If it's possible stay in a hotel near the centre, this is a wonderful walking city but you'll need to recharge your batteries (literally and metaphorically) frequently!
Rome offers some stunning high quality goods in original
and imaginative designs and fantastic varieties of colours.
Shoes, gloves and other leatherwear, cotton clothing, kitchenware,
all stylish but reasonably priced.
When entering or leaving shops, bars it's traditional etiquette to say 'buon giorno' in the morning or 'buona sera' in the afternoon or evening ( it covers both hello and goodbye). 'Ciao' is informal, for use with friends, young people or kids, or among work colleagues. If somebody thanks you by saying 'grazie' it's polite to say 'prego' (you're welcome) in return.
For good value try the market in Piazza Testaccio which offers a mass of stalls selling good-quality shoes and bags at knock-down prices.
You will need to sift carefully to find quality at the Porta Portese flea market, which unfolds along Via Portuense. It's entertaining and atmospheric but watch out for pickpockets.
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How to organise your Rome sight-seeing
The challenge is deciding what not to do: there are so many churches, archaeological sites, piazzas and paintings to see that a lifetime is hardly enough. Don't try to cram too much in: Rome moves at a slower pace than many northern cities, and to enjoy it you should take time out in pavement cafés as well as shuffle round the Sistine Chapel.
More on Rome from the Telegraph newspaper
Half circus, half sports arena, Rome's most famous Classical ruin is unmissable - especially now that they have extended the visitor route to the underfloor passageways through which gladiators and wild beasts made their entrances.
Piazza del Colosseo.
Open daily 8.30am to one hour before sunset.
Full-price admission (includes Roman Forum & Palatine): €12.
Roman Forum and Palatine
Come armed with a plan of how it all used to look (buy one at the visitor centre in Via dei Fori Imperiali ) to make sense of the majestic ruins of Rome's power centre and, on the Palatine hill, its upmarket residential district. Sign up for the guided tour of the Casa di Augusto, the early emperor's surprisingly modest and intimate private house with vibrant frescoes.
Via dei Fori Imperiali/Via di San Gregorio.
Open daily 8.30am to one hour before sunset.
Full-price (includes Colosseum): €12.
It's difficult to believe that this temple to all the gods has been standing here for almost 2,000 years. Even the bronze doors are still intact. The dome, with its oculus, was the biggest in the world until the beginning of the 20th century.
Piazza della Rotonda. Open Mon-Sat, 8.30am-7.30pm; Sun 9am-6pm.
St Peter's Basilica
Some find its gigantic scale a little overwhelming - but Catholicism's mother church was designed to shock and awe. Don't miss the view from the top of the dome.
Piazza San Pietro.
Open daily, 7am-6.30pm.
Admission free (dome: 8am-5pm; €7).
Otherwise known as 'the rooms full of papally collected or commissioned art that you have to schlep through to get to the Sistine Chapel' - but in fact there's plenty to enjoy along the way, from classical statues such as the Laocoon to Pinturicchio's delightful Borgia Room frescoes. Book via the website - or be prepared to queue.
Viale del Vaticano 100. Vatican.
Open Mon-Sat, 8.30am-6pm (ticket office closes 4pm).
Full-price admission €16. Also open with free admission on the last Sunday of the month, 9am-2pm (last entry 12.30pm).
One of the world's great private art collections, the haul that Cardinal Scipione Borghese assembled in his Roman garden villa includes Titian's Sacred and Profane Love, a gaggle of Caravaggios and Bernini's sublime sculpture Apollo and Daphne. Later generations made some worthwhile additions, such as Canova's risqué statue of Pauline Bonaparte.
Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5. Galleria Borghese.
Open Tues-Sun, 9am-7pm. €11.
Booking is obligatory, though can sometimes be done on the same day.
One of the joys and frustrations of Rome is the fact that its artistic highlights are so spread out, many still in situ in the churches or palaces for which they were commissioned. The masterpieces of the wayward genius of Baroque chiaroscuro painting are a case in point: as well as the Galleria Borghese, you will need to visit three centro storico churches to see the best.
Between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, San Luigi dei Francesi has three dramatic scenes from the life of Saint Matthew; Sant'Agostino nearby has the movingly realistic Madonna dei Pellegrini; and in Santa Maria del Popolo , on Piazza del Popolo, you can catch two dazzling studies in the use of light: The Martyrdom of St Peter and The Conversion of St Paul.
One of Rome's most worthwhile but least publicised sightseeing treats, this historical layer cake descends from a street-level medieval and early-Renaissance church, with frescoes by Masolino, via a fourth-century early Christian church to the basement remains of a second-century insula (apartment block), complete with shrine to Mithraeus.
Via Labicana 95. San Clemente.
Open daily 9am-12.30pm, 3pm-6pm.
Upper church free; lower church and excavations €5.
Museo dei Cappuccini
Children with a love of the macabre will enjoy the main Roman church of the Capuchin friars, who were buried in the crypt in a small patch of earth from the Holy Land - then dug up to make room for the next lot, with their bones being used to make decorations and chandeliers.
Via Veneto 27. Museo dei Cappuccini.
Open 9am-7pm, 3pm-6pm daily.
Who cares if the building outshines the art when the building is this exciting? Designed by Zaha Hadid, this new contemporary art and architecture museum in the northern suburbs radiates 21st-century energy and dynamism.
Via Guido Reni 4A. MAXXI.
Open Tues, Wed, Fri, Sun, 11am-7pm; Thurs and Sat, 11am-10pm; closed Mon.
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