This isn’t a blog post about what to see and where to visit in Rome – you probably know most of that already! However there are a few things the guide books and travel blogs might not have mentioned that would be quite useful if you’re planning a sight-seeing holiday to Rome….
Beware free gifts.
Don’t accept anything from people who get in the way trying to sell you something unless of course you actually want to buy it. Roses, jewellery and twizzly things that light up at night seem to be popular choices. You will get people trying to engage in conversation – “Where are you from?” “Are you sisters?” are common lines, and then they’ll say you can have it for free because you look pretty; and show you a photo of their baby son back home, and then eventually ask for money. Some can be quite persistent and follow you down the street.
Keep saying no without getting eye contact, and walk on!
They are notorious in Rome, and although we didn’t experience it, our friend did, and our B&B owner warned us of them too. We were vigilant and kept all valuables in a zip-up fabric pouch looped through the drawstring of our rucksacks and tucked inside. I kept my camera on a screw-up carabiner on my rucksack strap. Chris had his phone in his pocket inside a fabric pouch looped through his belt-loop.
Do plenty of research before you go about opening times and types of tickets. I thought I’d researched enough, but over and over again we were annoyed by the lack of information over this. We hadn’t even realised that the joint ticket for the Forum and Colosseum were for two days, but different parts of the Forum are only open every other day; the walk to the Palatine was only open in the morning, and you needed a ‘super ticket’ to get into parts of it; which we didn’t think we had, but then later when it was too late realised we did. Also, you can only see the top level, the underground area and the platform at the Colosseum if you’re with a guided tour. Again we didn’t find this out until it was too late.
Maps & Guides.
Don’t expect staff at ticket offices or entrances to be helpful! In Britain, when we visit somewhere, we are used to being given a map and any information we might need, and offered an audio guide. No so here! We bought our tickets for the Forum, were given no map nor offered any kind of guide. Other people had them, so I suppose you just had to ask. I would recommend sorting this out at home before you go – there are tours you can download onto your phone; or if you’ve got the luggage allowance, bring a guide book with you! Don’t expect the people in ticket booths to be able to speak English, that was rarely the case.
As I mentioned, the ticket for the Colosseum is the same one as for the Forum. Therefore you will save a lot of time if you queue up at the Forum entrance and visit there first, than at the Colosseum entrance. When you get to the Colosseum you walk past the long queues to the front! (I credit this top tip to Hey Nadine and it worked well.)
Tour Guides and Ticket Touts.
Skip-the-line tickets are available online at little or no extra cost. This is provided you buy them long enough in advance before all the ticket touts buy them up. At the main attractions you are baffled and inundated with people offering tickets at inflated prices, some with, some without guided tours. It can be quite confusing as several wear smart suits and put lanyards around their necks with ‘Official Guide’ or ‘Official Info’ written on them. They engage in conversation, offering ‘free information’ and then try and sell you expensive tickets. In our experience, they are legit, in that the tickets we bought at The Vatican museums were for real, and the person we bought them from did take us in and we avoided the hour or more queue to get in. Like I said though, this doesn’t cost anything if you buy them online well in advance.
I found The Vatican very confusing! This was the worst place for ticket touts, and you spent so much time trying to avoid them, you can’t stand still for a second to actually see where you are. If you’re doing a Hop on Hop Off bus, it’s also about a 20 minute walk from the bus stop. We arrived at St Peter’s Square, but after the hot walk and the touts, when we got there we just wanted to hide at the side in the shade. The Vatican museums were the main thing we wanted to see, and I needed a map to find them as there didn’t seem to be any helpful signposts. The museum was huge and amazing; particularly the Sistine chapel at the end. However, the slow shuffling crowds gave us foot and back ache and after the several hours in there, we were done in!
Learn from our mistakes: Buy your tickets in advance, and get there early to avoid the worst of the crowds. Then you’ll have time for a rest before seeing St Mark’s Basilica.
Restaurants and cafes don’t let you have it for free even if you’re spending loads of money for food. However, on most crossroads in Rome there are fountains where you can fill up a flask. And it’s lovely and cold and tastes good. Stock up on water that way before finding somewhere to eat! And if you are visiting Rome in summer, you will definitely want it!
Rome at night.
After dinner, be sure to take a walk between and around the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. We hadn’t expected it, but street performers and street traders were everywhere and we even caught a clever projection onto an old building explaining its history. It’s a cool sort-of atmosphere at night and I’m glad we didn’t miss it.
Public toilets aren’t really a thing in Rome! Make the most of every stop in every tourist attraction and restaurant visit by using their bathroom facilities while you have the chance! At the Trevi fountain, if you’re facing it, there’s a shop on the corner on the right that has toilets. Although these were fine, you also probably want to take loo roll and hand sanitiser in your bag!
Well, I hope these top tips and advice have helped if you’re planning a trip to Rome. We had four days there in July and had an amazing time – I liked Rome much more than I expected to! I filmed the whole trip for my YouTube channel, so please make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy watching them too! I can’t really embed all four travel vlogs here, so here are the links: Day one – the Pantheon and Tevi Fountain. Day two – cycling the Appian Way. Day three – visiting The Vatican. And Day four – Visiting the Forum and Colosseum.
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Linking with #sharealllinkup at Not Dressed as Lamb.