Compared to many European capitals, the area that is normally of interest to travellers visiting Rome is quite walkable.
I want to give you a little guide on how I divide up Rome. What I would classify as beginner, intermediate, and expert. What all those categories include, how you can navigate in and between these neighborhoods, and just some overall basics that will be useful for your time in Rome.
How I classify seeing Rome as a beginner is you’ve never been here. Maybe it’s your first stop on an Italian summer tour or your first time out of your home country. Let’s say Rome is your first taste of being a foreigner. You’re a little intimidated, maybe you don’t speak the language, and you’re a little jet-lagged.
If this is you, here is how I think you should do Rome:
- Give yourself at least five days.
- Do some research ahead of time.
- Know what you want to see and do.
- Colosseum and Roman Forum – give yourself a day just to do these two attractions.
- Vatican area – between lines and getting through the Vatican museums, it will take your whole day or at least a good portion of it.
- Spanish Steps, Via del Corso, Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain – Via del Corso is one of the best shopping areas in Rome, and it puts the Pantheon on one side and the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain on the other. All of these monuments are beautiful but don’t take a full day to see, so you could easily fit them into the same day without feeling overwhelmed.
- Villa Borghese – You could also leave Villa Borghese as its own day. It is a huge and very beautiful park. There is a zoo inside as well as Galleria Borghese. You can rent bikes or row boats, have a picnic, and really just take a break from the lines and monuments.
- Trastevere, Piazza Navona, and Castel Sant’Angelo – Trastevere is an area loved by locals and tourists alike. This area will offer many bars and restaurants as well as cute shops. It is a great place in the centre that is very picturesque. To fit a little bit of monuments into your day as well, make your way back towards the Vatican area and check out Castel Sant’Angelo. Adding the castle on this day rather than Vatican day cuts down on how long you’ll be standing in lines that day. Then finish off admiring the fountains of Piazza Navona.
Rome’s city centre is very walkable, but if you are doing so much in just a few days, you might want to give your feet a break. All of these transportation options are quite easy to navigate. Google Maps works fairly well to give public transport options in Rome.
- Buses – There are day buses and night buses. Ask your host or hotel front desk which routes you should look out for to get you to the main attractions, which stop is closest to you, and how to get tickets. They’ll give you the most updated information.
- Metro – The metro is a good tool to have. Occasionally the buses in Rome can take quite some time to arrive, so if you’re trying to make a reservation at the Vatican or dinner reservation, check to see if there is a metro stop close by you could utilise.
- Walk – I love walking in Rome. I would really suggest trying to organise your time in Rome in a way that you can not rush and enjoy walking through the side streets of Rome and walking by beautiful monuments everyday. It is breathtaking. You can download offline google maps and have access to it while abroad.
I would say for each of my area points, give yourself a full day. If you have left over time in your day after finishing what you have planned, find a bar or restaurant in a beautiful piazza, order a spritz, and enjoy il dolce far niente, the Italian way of life, the sweetness in doing nothing.
Visiting Rome as an intermediate, in my opinion, means maybe you’ve been here a time or two before, you’ve already done the Vatican and the Colosseum, and so what now?
If this is you, here is how I think you should do Rome:
- Try to find more off-the-beaten-path activities.
- See what concerts or exhibitions are on.
- Trastevere – Let’s start first with Trastevere. This area was also mentioned in the beginner area, but I think it should also be included here. It is also one of the top areas to stay in Rome.
Trastevere will have the odd tourist trap or two, but it is a neighbourhood filled with charm and has a lot to offer. If you visited this area on your last trip to Rome or are feeling adventurous, go further into the neighbourhood and see what the less touristy side has to offer.
- Spanish Steps/Piazza Navona – While I mentioned these monuments in the beginner area, in the intermediate, I suggest looking for lesser-known museums in this area of the centre. Rome is full of museums packed with beautiful art and treasures. Assuming you’ve already toured the main attractions, look at the lesser-known gems of these areas.
- Appian Way, Catacombs, and Aqueducts – Venture a little further away from the more talked about monuments and check out the area of the Appian Way. Full of history and beauty, this peaceful part of your Rome trip will surely be a favourite.
- Buses – Buses will always be a friend in Rome. The metro of Rome is expanding, but it is a slow expansion, as there are many underground treasures they keep running into. So, check out the bus routes, get your tickets, and explore without exhausting yourself, as you might be exploring a little further out.
- Metro – Even with what I mentioned above, a metro is a great option if there are stops nearby to where you’re going.
- Tram – While the tram is not the most useful mode of transportation for visiting the main attractions, as in the beginner lever, for adventuring to the slightly more local side of town, the tram could be a great friend.
- Walk – I still love to walk. Take the other modes to get you outside of the centre but then enjoy the walk.
Being an intermediate Rome traveller means knowing that Rome is best enjoyed at a slow pace. Take a long lunch, plan a day to lay at the park and just relax under the Italian sun and just enjoy the lesser-seen side of one of the most visited cities in the world.
You’ve been to Rome, you love Rome, you know Rome, and you’re going back again. What should you do, what neighborhoods in Rome should you see, and how should you enjoy the Eternal City as an expert Rome traveller?
If this is you, here is how I think you should do Rome:
- You already know what you like, so if you want to revisit your favourite monument or site, do it. You’ll always have time to come back and explore more of Rome.
- Did you make some local friends on your last visit? Try to coordinate and meet up. Meeting with friends you meet travelling is such a great experience, and if they’re locals, they’ll know great spots.
- Testaccio – If you’ve been to Rome before, you know food is a big deal. Food in Rome is delicious, and there are endless options. Not only Italian food but also foreign cuisine. Testaccio is a big “foodie” neighbourhood. Not only do they have the Testaccio Market full of vendors of delicious food, but the restaurants in this neighbourhood are incredible.
- The Aventine Hill – Maybe you’ve already been to explore Aventine Hill on one of your previous Rome trips, but this is one place that I always return to. It has the Orange Garden of Rome. It’s beautiful, peaceful, gives a great view of Rome and you can take a bottle of wine and enjoy the view with friends while watching the sun set. There’s also the famous keyhole.
- Prati – The neighbourhood of Prati is a more local area, I would say. It is close to the Vatican but is just out of the way enough that it fits into more of the residential side of Rome. It has many great shops, restaurants, and bars to explore.
- San Giovanni – San Giovanni is another primarily residential neighbourhood. If you’re already confident with Rome, it could be a great option as a place to stay. Even if you don’t stay here, there are many restaurants, shops, and even some great flea markets to explore. Not to mention the beautiful Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.
- Buses – As always, buses are great for every level of traveller.
- Tram – The tram might be the perfect option for you if you’re exploring a bit more outside the historic centre
- Metro – The metro lines go quite far, and if you’re adventuring the less touristy sides of the city, this might be the fastest way to get there.
- Bikes and scooters – I will be honest. I am not a big fan of scooters and bikes. I think they can be quite dangerous, especially if you don’t know the city. Now I know you’re an expert traveller of Rome, close to an honorary local, but if you haven’t driven in the city (which I also don’t recommend as a guest to Rome), then you don’t know the roads. And because Rome is so busy with traffic and tourists, I think this option is an accident waiting to happen. But, if you are confident in your skills, this is an option you could consider. Just please be careful.
- Walk – My always favourite option, walk whenever possible.
If you’re an expert-level visitor of Rome, I think you’ll be quite confident in planning your days in Rome. Maybe you want a week to revisit your favourites, make a few day trips out of the city, and enjoy much of the Roman cuisine. Or maybe you’re visiting elsewhere in Italy and just want to make a day trip (if you’re not too far away, of course). As an expert Rome lover, you know Rome is best enjoyed slowly, but any time with the city is welcome, in my opinion.
Tips for all Levels of Rome Lovers
- Romans are very kind, don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for recommendations, directions, or anything. Most people are willing to help. If you end up talking to someone rude, try again and ask someone else. Locals know best; most of the time, they’re very kind and willing to help.
- Be smart in your clothes and shoes. Of course, dress however you like, but just be aware of how Rome can be in its summer months. Dress comfortably. Especially in the footwear department. Sore feet can really put a damper on a holiday. Also, be aware that if it is summer and you’re dressing to keep yourself cool (shorts, skirts, etc), many churches and religious areas will request that you cover your knees and shoulders. So wear a longer dress and bring a light scarf or cardigan for your shoulders on days when you have activities planned where that could be necessary.
- Stay aware of pickpockets. There are quite a few in Rome in the heavily populated tourist areas. Be aware, and you should be fine.
- Research ahead and ask your hosts or hotels about local events happening: markets, concerts, festivals, and exhibitions.
- Try to avoid peak hours. Try to book your sightseeing and tourism away from peak hours. Especially in the summertime, where it can get so hot around midday.
- In August many shops and restaurants will be closed and the hours of many businesses could vary. Check ahead. August is holiday time in Italy, so many locals will be travelling abroad or relaxing at the beaches around Italy.
Some Key Words in Italian
|Hello||Ciao (informal) Salve (formal)|
|Goodbye||Ciao (informal) Arrivederci (formal)|
|I would like (formal/more polite)||Vorrei|
|Can I have (informal)||Posso avere|
|Where is the bathroom?||Dov’è il bagno?|
|1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10||Uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque, sei, sette, otto, nove, dieci|
|Can you help me?||Puoi aiutarmi?|
|How much does it cost?||Quanto costa?|
|Beautiful||Bella (feminine) Bello (masculine)|
|Do you speak English?||Parli inglese?|
I hope my zones of Rome, tips and tricks, and quick Italian lessons have helped prepare you for your first or next adventure in the Eternal City. There’s always more to see.