If I could pick only one city to see when visiting Europe, I would have to choose Rome (after a lot of arm twisting). Rome is one of those cities where ancient ruins, Renaissance buildings, art, architecture and village-like neighbourhoods come together in just one afternoon stroll. However, Rome is becoming busier and busier by the day and this leads to long queues, restaurants offering just mediocre tourist menus and sky-rocketing hotel prices. With these 7 travel hacks, a relaxed trip to Rome with lots of history, good food and unknown must-sees, is guaranteed.
Skip those pesky lines
I was mortified to hear that waiting times for popular sights in Rome, like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums, can be as long as two hours. What a waste of time. Lucky for me, my friends had given me some advice on how to skip those lines. An easy way that requires no preparation at all is to walk up to one of the many tour guides offering their services just outside sights, since they have a special license they are allowed to take their group inside without having to wait. Another great idea is to buy a Roma Pass granting you skip the line access to many attractions in Rome, but you can also buy a skip the line ticket online.
Pick up a travel pass
The Roma Pass was pretty much a life saver when I visited Rome. I bought it at the airport while waiting for my luggage, and it granted me skip the line access to the Colosseum, free passage on public transport and free access to a number of museums. The Roma Pass is viable for 3 days. If you’re also planning on visiting the Vatican, I recommend buying the Onmia Rome & Vatican Card. If you don't feel like traveling by metro (and when it's warm, who can blame you!) ánd pressed for time the good ol' Hop on hop off bus takes you along all the famous sights of Rome and provides a skip the line ticket for the Colosseum.
Stay somewhere affordable
Did I just use ‘affordable’, ‘accommodation’ and ‘Rome’ in one sentence? And isn’t that sheer impossible? Well, you will have to look rather hard for accommodation in Rome that is both affordable and comfortable. Of course you can spend hours on Airbnb or Waytostay comparing, but I can recommend B&B Serafino whole heartedly. You can stay in this B&B for as little as €55 per night. The rooms are furnished with classic wooden beds, have gorgeous colourful tiled floors and excellent service. The Vatican is only 500 meters away, and you’ll find a metro stop within a 10 minute walk.
Mix highlights with lesser known sights
Yes, the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s square were amazing, I loved visiting the Forum Romanum and wouldn’t have missed Villa Borghese for the world. But these places are crowded and some really nice unknown sights in Rome get easily overlooked. I highly recommend checking out some lesser known sights as well, just to get away from the masses and enjoy a few hours of experiencing the real Rome. It’s fun to get lost in the small maze of streets of ‘Il Ghetto’, the old Jewish neighbourhood of Rome, search for antiques on the Porta Portese flea market or see some amazing ancient art in the old power plant Centrale Montemartini.
Stand at the bar and drink the water
If you’re like me and you’re from a country where you're sun-deprived for most of the year, it’s hard to understand that Italians drink their espressos inside, instead of sitting outside soaking up the rays of sun. Until you find out that a cup of espresso is as much a €3 cheaper when drunk at the bar. Oh well, when in Rome… Do bring an empty water bottle with you whilst strolling through Rome. Scattered through the cities you’ll find little drinking fountains where you can fill your bottle. The water is clear, fresh and perfectly drinkable.
Get on a bike
If you don’t have a lot of time to visit Rome, or you don’t want to be trapped on a bus or metro during your stay, just hop on a bike. The Highlights of Rome tour takes you to many of the famous sights of Rome in about 3 hours, while the Panoramic tour takes a little longer and will make your jaw drop more than once, when taking in all the incredible and different views over the city. If you’re on a budget renting a bike in Rome is the cheapest way to get around the city, for just €12,50 a day.
3x eating with the locals in Rome
- Piano strada
Trastevere is one of those Rome neighbourhood that has that typical Italian village feel, despite getting more popular over the last few years. Piano strada serves street food, from Italian style burgers to pastas and salads.
- Bar del Fico
Bar del Fico is set at a cute square with the same name. The shady garden and restaurant, with shabby chique interior, are open from the early morning until the wee hours. The wine list is excellent.
- Enoteca Cul de Sac
This wine bar is only a short stroll from Piazza Navona, and also perfect for a bite to eat. There are only a few tables inside and on the street, but it’s worth the wait if things are full. In the same street there are some other great options as well.
Have you visited Rome and would you like to share your favourite travel hack? Don’t feel shy and leave a comment.
Mooistestedentrips.nl (translation: the most beautiful city breaks) is a Dutch travel website by journalist Esther de Beer, but also has a selection of English articles. Hop on over and take a look. Never miss an update and follow via Twitter or Instagram.