Like any strong-willed city with a rich history, Rome is complicated, and can feel overwhelming.
But also like any city worth its salt, Rome is eternally worth it (you just have to get to know her a bit).
Whenever we’re going to a new place, it’s always marvelous if we happen to know someone who is from that city, or loves it and knows it well. These little tips can completely rewire a trip for the better.
Well, you’re in luck! Consider us your friendly local, and read on for some Rome travel tips that will help make this one trip you’ve been waiting for!
1. Aperitivo is essential
This is a glorious concept you want to make the most of, preferably every evening.
Aperitivo is that twilight moment, just after work and before dark, where you get to meet your friends (or bring a notebook and people watch) at a bar or café and enjoy a drink, usually paired with a buffet.
Most places in Rome will do some form of aperitivo, so generally there will be a set price. Ask what’s included, but you can usually enjoy a drink (whether alcoholic or virgin) and a plate of food.
A year-round social tradition that Romans partake in regularly as a form of after-work drinks, this is especially fun during the summer, when you can snag a table outside and enjoy an Aperol Spritz while the sun goes down.
Local tip: If you’re in the Testaccio area, check out Oasi della Birra, which has a wonderful buffet as well. Our favorite in Trastevere is VinAllegro, and when in the Prati area (near the Vatican), check out Il Sorpasso, which makes a charcuterie board that will change your life.
2. Nap time is real (and August is like one long nap)
This is something you’ll want to keep in mind: many shops, even the chains, will close between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
They’re also often closed on Sundays or have much-reduced opening hours. If you’re looking to head to a specific place, it’s worth it to reach out beforehand and check their hours.
Another thing to keep in mind: August is a beautiful month, but there are some things to know if it’s when you’re visiting the Eternal City. Many places will be closed half the month or all month long, and the city can get hot, uncomfortable and crowded.
To see our favorite side of Rome, visit outside the very hot summer months. Fall and spring are beautiful, and there’s something to be said for having the city to yourself during the winter, too!
3. Plan ahead for the most popular sights
Especially during the warmer months from late spring through the summer, the big sights like the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums are going to be packed.
Make sure to show up early, and you can save considerable time by pre-buying tickets online for most sights. If you want to splash out a bit, you can even look for a tour that will get you early entrance and a small group with a guide.
4. We’re not kidding with that whole “cappuccino is a breakfast drink” thing
In Italy, cappuccino and caffé latte (coffee mixed with a healthy dose of milk) go strictly with breakfast.
If you want to coffee like an Italian, as of lunchtime you’ll want to cut those two out. If you like milk with your coffee, opt for a macchiato, which is a dash of milk in your espresso.
5. The Opera di Roma is a summer must
If you remember one thing from this list, this should be it.
Every year, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, or Rome Opera House, gathers up its skirts and plunks itself down in the ancient thermal baths of Caracalla. These ruins are so mythical and grandiose, it’s hard to believe that this is how the Romans set up a place they bathed in!
During the summer, the walls of the majestic terme reverberate with the music of the greats, and you can go see a variety of concerts, operas and ballet performances in a setting you’ll never forget. The shows usually run from mid-June to early August.
6. Not all public transportation is created equal
If you’re using public transportation to get around Rome, be advised that buses can be slow and unreliable, although there are some applications you can download (like RomeBus) to track the progress of the bus you’re looking for.
The metro lines are more reliable, but if it’s raining even a bit, expect delays.
If you’re looking for a taxi, you can book one easily using the MyTaxi app. Uber also works in the Eternal City, though it’s more expensive here than you may be used to. Another fun option is Scooterino, the scooter version of Uber!
7. Day trips
Know that if you’re spending enough time in Rome to wander outside of it, there are some glorious places a hop, skip, and a jump away.
8. Don’t eat around the monuments
Not because they’ll get offended, but because tourist traps are a real thing.
Our general rule is, if the menu has pictures, we don’t go there (although there are exceptions to this rule, so go with your gut). Rome is an incredible place, and you’re probably also here because you love food, so we really want you to enjoy it!
Check out one of the best places to lunch in Rome, but also remember that some of the best places are the little family-owned spots that you stumble into without meaning to, which brings us to our next point…
9. Get lost
Not in the mean way, but the literal one.
Rome is a mighty walkable city and one of the best ways to explore it is by simply getting lost and letting the city present its treasures to you. We’re willing to bet that this is how you end up falling in love with our city.
Happy wandering, travelers!
Calling all curious travelers! Do you love connecting with the local community while in a new place? We’re right there with you. We’d love to keep connecting you to Rome through our newsletter. It comes out a couple of times a month, brimming with dispatches on culture, recipes, tips and even a discount or two!
Born just outside of Rome, Flavia grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, eventually moving back to the Eternal City and confirming her lifelong commitment to real gelato. Today she travels the world working for an international humanitarian organization and spends her free time writing and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso. Her debut novel, All the Way to Italy, was published in April 2018. You can find her city blog on Rome at whichwaytorome.com and her portfolio of published writing at flaviinrome.com.