I’m not suggesting it’s literally possible to see all of Rome in a day, but my tips can help you get the most out of a visit to this amazing city even if you only have a very short time.
Rome is one of those places where there is something interesting around every corner. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the atmosphere and culture very quickly. This means you can pack a lot of sightseeing and history into a very short time.
Here are my top tips for a visit to Rome – even it it’s only for a day!
Rome in a Day
Wear comfortable flat shoes, and bring more than one pair.
Flat shoes, running shoes or trainers are best. In the Forum you are literally walking on what is left of the roads the ancient Romans walked on and most of the roads in Rome are cobbled or stone.
Look both ways, twice, before you cross any road
Everything scary you have heard about the driving in Italy is true. During our last visit, on the taxi rides both from and back to the airport the speedometer regularly hit 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph). In Rome itself the scooters and cars literally fly along the terribly narrow streets, and they will drive right up to the backs of your legs. While drivers are supposed to stop at pedestrian crossings, they don’t always do so. Be super careful, and if you have small children, make sure they understand they must hold on to your hand.
Carry tissues/Kleenex/sanitizing wipes
Public facilities in Rome are really hit and miss. In many places the toilets do not even have seats. It’s a bit indelicate to mention this, but better to be prepared!
Many of the tourist attractions in Italy open at sunrise, so an early start is a great way to avoid the lines.
Visiting the Forum and the Colosseum
There are three entrance gates but it’s best to enter at the Palatine Hill gate as there are often shorter queues here.
Visiting the Vatican
Be sure to arrive very early. Queues can stretch around the block – and it is a really big block! There is so much to see at the Vatican it could take days but if I had to choose one place to visit, it would be St Peter’s Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. The Sistine Chapel, on the other hand, gets extremely crowded. I remember feeling like I was being herded through with the crowd pressing in on me. I was so worried I hardly glanced at the ceiling!
For both the Colosseum and the Vatican, there are some online options for pre-booked tickets and private tours. I haven’t personally tried any of these but I would definitely look into them for next time.
Use the Metro
This avoids the terror of a taxi journey and saves your feet. A one way journey on the Rome subway costs €1.50, a day pass is €7.00. It’s an easy to understand system – all roads meet at ‘Termini’ in the middle of an X shape. Make sure you know where you are going before you get into the station though, and watch your bags/pockets.
Stay in the best hotel you can afford
The quality of hotels varies radically in Rome and some of the more budget-friendly places really are <ahem> basic.
On our most recent visit, we started out at The Kolbe Hotel, a four star establishment just opposite the Forum. The bathrooms were beautiful, but the rooms were quite utilitarian and the beds were hard as rocks. In all my travels, I’ve never come across such terrible beds.
We moved to the five star Grand Hotel de la Minerve, where we stayed the previous time we were in Rome. It was much more luxurious and the beds were really comfy. It is also more centrally located.
Most hoteliers are happy to help you with directions, dinner reservations or tours. Also do let them book you a return taxi to the airport. You can save money if they telephone and book you a car, as opposed to just getting one on the day.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
Restauranteurs will literally step out in front of you to ask you to come into their establishments, or even jump up and down and wave at you in the street. It’s not rude to just walk on by if you are not interested. A firm ‘no thank you’ also works well.
It’s hard, but ignore the beggars or folks who ask you to look at anything. There’s usually a second man on the ground waiting to grab your bag if you engage with them. Avoid buying souvenirs or umbrellas in the streets.
Rome doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to tourism, but in reality most people are very friendly and it’s quite easy to find your way around. Provided you keep your wits about you, you can have a really lovely time in this beautiful, historic city.
Spending a few days in Rome is wonderful but even if you only have a short time, you really can see a lot of Rome in a day.