For more than two and a half thousand years people have occupied a site in central Italy known as Rome. A few things have happened there; the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, you know, nothing that important. A major centre of literacy and art; Rome has been credited as the birthplace of Baroque and Neoclassicism, as well as one of the pillars of a little known movement called western civilisation.
Now the 14th most visited city in the world, Rome is easily the most popular destination in Italy, with seven to ten million visitors a year to its UNESCO listed city centre. Archaeological sites and wonders from centuries of innovation are apparent all through the city, making it a wonderful place to wander and dream of another time. We were there for four nights to dig through the brochures and hawkers, to search for excitement in an ancient city that has become blasé to tourism.
We arrived via the Amalfi Coast (see Amalfi Coast blog) and Naples using bus and train services between cities. From San Lazzaro (Amalfi Coast) we caught a one hour bus for €1.80 each to Castellammare Di Stabia, where we got a €2.60 train to Naples (45 mins). From Naples we paid €9 each for a ride to Rome on a bus with Flixbus, which took 2h 45mins. Total journey from Amalfi Coast cost €13.40 and took six hours including waiting time. From the Amalfi Coast this is the way to do it unless you are happy to pay for a train.
Trains between Naples and Rome with Trenitalia can be as cheap as €9.90 one way if you book in advance, and can take as little as one hour. On the day we travelled tickets were €44 each, hence the bus. Train connections to Rome from other cities are regular and numerous.
Buses around Italy are best provided by Flixbus, who also look after the Megabus services now as well. The Naples to Rome route has tickets from as little as €5. Alternatively you can check out Eurolines or local bus services at the station.
Another good option into Rome is ride-share. Sites like Blablacar are becoming very popular and can be a great, cheap way to travel. A ride from Naples to Rome might cost somewhere between €10 and €15 and takes two hours. In our experience ride-sharing is a great way to meet locals and is generally preferable to the bus.
Getting around Rome is really easy using the underground Metro and the light rail system called the ‘Trainino’. A single ticket within the city costs €1.50, and you can buy multi-pass type tickets depending on how long you visit. Buses are also a good option, and have the advantage of offering scenic tours of the city.
Hint – You need to buy a ticket before you get on the bus. Tickets are valid for 100 minutes.
Big cities are a good opportunity to save money on accommodation, so we chose to stay in someones spare room using Airbnb. Our room in Pigneto cost €29 per night and was in a wonderful apartment with a massive roof terrace. The biggest benefit of this style of accommodation is meeting and interacting with the hosts, which honestly made our Rome experience as good as it was. Local advice and perspective proved to be invaluable throughout our travels, and time and again only enhanced our experience.
For a step further, check out Couchsurfing. It can have all the benefits mentioned above, but is also free. We found it wasn’t for us, but there is a huge community who use it almost exclusively and Rome is the perfect city to try if you think it might work for you.
There are a ton of good hostels in Rome, and you can find them for any budget, but my advice would be to pay no less than €20 per night for a dorm bed in the central city. Above this price point you are getting well reviewed and professionally run establishments, where as under €20 you might find yourself somewhere rubbish in order to save a few €. Check out The Yellow if you like a heavy party vibe, and Rome City Hostel for the opposite.
Bnb’s in central Rome can be found easily using Airbnb. Expect to pay from €30 to €80 on average per night for a private room and from €40 to €100 per night for a whole self-catered apartment. You can definitely get cheaper (or more expensive) if you wish, just be sure to book well in advance.
Hotel rooms can be found under €50 per night, but there aren’t many. The average price for a well rated, reviewed and situated double room is around €80 per night. If you want to go above that you will find no upper limit in the city.
As for where to stay; really anywhere near the city centre will be great, but for somewhere a bit less touristic, try Pigneto. We loved the area with loads of restaurants, bars, cafes and craft beer on every corner. You might also find the area is slightly cheaper than somewhere closer to the main attractions.
So, probably the main reason you are visiting Rome is to see some awesome ancient history, and that’s a fair call, as it’s one of the best spots in the world for ancient architecture. If you are really keen there’s a little thing called the Roma Pass, which includes loads of attractions and all transport for a single fee. A 48-hour pass is €28 and you can get a 72-hour pass for €38.50, which is what we chose (although ours was €36 at the time). For us it wasn’t quite worth it, since we only managed a couple of included attractions, but it was handy for transport and would be worth it if the Vatican was included. Important; the Roma Pass doesn’t include the Vatican. Massive fail.
The Colosseum is the seventh most visited tourist attraction in Europe and is definitely worth your time. It’s kind of just what you would expect, but is still an impressive, awesome place to visit. Arrive as early as you can to avoid the worst of the cue, and you can get certain tickets (such as the Roma Pass) that allow you to skip the ticket cue entirely. The thing is; everyone knows about this now, so just arrive early and you should be fine. We arrived at 9:30am walked straight in, and spent about 1.5 hours there. You could spend more or less time depending on how much or little you care about history.
Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world, is the sixth most visited tourist attraction in Europe. We managed to see St. Peter’s Basilica (which is free) and thought it was very impressive, but the overwhelming display of wealth and opulence we found to be grotesque. Add to that the thousands of rude people swarming around every statue and painting, and we were out of there quick smart. Unfortunately we missed the Vatican Museum as we arrived 10 minutes too late; note – The Vatican museum closes at 6pm but ENTRY closes at 4pm. Again, massive fail, and once we realised it wasn’t included in the Roma Pass anyway, we decided we’d had enough of looking at the accumulated wealth of centuries of religious oppression, said “screw the Vatican” and found a good bar instead.
There are loads of good bars and restaurants in Rome. For great, fairly priced food in the Jewish ghetto, check out Franco e Cristina; you choose your food from a deli style counter and pay by weight, and the drinks are cheap. We spent €13 on a big lunch for two including wine. In Pigneto there’s a little gem called Betto e Mary, an authentic Italian eatery without any (many) tourists. They specialise in the ‘lesser known’ meats (or offal); we had oxtail spaghetti, veal oesophagus rigatoni and good wine for €19 total. Anther good spot in Pigneto is Mama’s Burger & Sandwich bar; awesome burgers and a good craft beer each cost €18 total.
A must visit in Rome is Cacio e Pepe; a restaurant named after the dish they specialise in. It’s pasta, cheese and pepper, that’s it, and it’s honestly the best pasta I’ve ever eaten. It sounds boring, but just go there and have your mind opened like we did. A meal there with wine cost us €22 and was easily one of the best meals of our whole trip.
For craft beer in Pigneto go to Hop Corner; a specialist beer bar.
Its a nice day just walking around the city visiting all the awesome old sites, there’s statues and ruins everywhere and it’s very easy to just wander. The Roman Forum is amazing and is included in the Colosseum ticket, the Pantheon (free), Trevi Fountain (free), Spanish Steps (free), Arch of Constantine (free), and Castel Sant’angelo (€15.50) are all worth a look and can all be seen in a day if you use the metro. Also check out Villa Borghese Gardens for a rest (and a nap) away from all the city madness.
Hint – Take the number 81 bus through the city, it’s a cheap bus tour past all the major attractions.
Hint 2 – There’s drinking water fountains all over the city, so only buy water once and re-fill your bottle.
Rome for three nights;
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