Although modern Rome encompasses a vast area and is home to over three million inhabitants, the centro historico (historic center) can be managed on foot with the help of a good map. Using the main rail station, Stazione Termini, as reference, the center spreads northeast to Piazza de Spagna and the parklands of Villa Borghese, southwestward to old Rome, and across the Tiber river to Vatican City.
Caesars and popes of centuries past built Rome on a grandiose scale. Eye-popping art and architecture greets your gaze at every turn. It's a living museum of western civilization, but it exists in combination with all the unruly aspects of city life, so the Eternal City is best appreciated at a leisurely pace, allowing ample time for sitting and daydreaming.
From the Capitoline Hill, for example, you can look out over the ancient Roman Forum and beyond to the pine-covered Palatine Hill. From here, it isn't hard to imagine life as it was 2,000 years ago, even as traffic swirls madly around Piazza Venezia at the foot of the Capitoline.
Rome has the same unsavory elements that plague all large cities. Thievery involving purse snatchers riding motor scooters and distraction tactics by groups of aggressive children are commonly reported troublesome issues around places frequented by tourists. While smart solos will be alert, wary, and careful with their money, they won't be deterred from enjoying all that Rome has to offer both day and night.
Singles needn't worry about dining out evenings in the busy streets around Piazza Navona or Piazza di Spagna. On the other hand, most women are likely to feel uncomfortably conspicuous night-clubbing solo in Rome.
Tourist hot spots are known to attract a type of character who makes a sport of ardently pursuing foreign women. Not that this game is especially dangerous, it's just that some solo women do feel disrespected. But most just take it as harmless flirtation after all, scarcely anyone wants to be alone all the time. But times do change. I recall, on my first solo trip to Rome, way back in the 80s, I felt the constant attention became tiresome. On my last visit, no one approached me at all, then I wasn't sure whether to be glad, or sad.
Summers are hot and humid with an average temperature of F85; 29C. Winter can be chilly and damp. Most comfortable in May and October.
Currency: The euro has been official currency since 2002. C$1 = .64; US$1 = .68. >> ATM machines and major credit cards are widely used. >> Keep handy only enough cash to cover expenses for a day or two. >> Use an under-cover money bag for valuables such as tickets, passport, and credit/cash cards. >> Only carry a purse if it has a shoulder strap, and wear it slung diagonally across head and shoulder. >> Keep a wallet only in button-down side or front pockets. >> Avoid walking close to curbs, and be especially alert around Termini Station, busy piazzas (squares) such as Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Campidoglio, and St Peter's Square.
Everyone who does service in Italy looks for a tip. Restaurant waiters 5-10% even when a service charge is added; café and bar waiters 15% only if service charge is not included; taxi drivers and tour guides 5-10%; chambermaid .75-1.00 per day; ushers .50; porters .50-1.00 per bag.
Contact: Aeroporti di Roma.
Serves low-cost and charter airlines. Several bus shuttle services connect to Stazione Termini, Rome's central train station, and also to Fiumicino Airport. Taxi fare: 30.
International, inter-city, and local trains converge at Stazione Termini located at Piazza dei Cinquecento. Tourist information and reservations, ATM machines are available. Allow plenty of time before departure for deciphering schedule boards, buying tickets, locating your departure track. Fares and schedules: www.trenitalia.com.
Two lines, Linea A and Linea B, traverse the city, crossing at Stazione Termini. Useful Stops:
ATAC buses or trams. The main terminus is at Piazza Cinquecento adjacent Stazione Termini. Piazza Venezia and Largo Argentina are also central terminus points. NOTE: tickets must be validated at on-board machines. Fares: From 1 (one ride) to 16 (one week pass).
Several companies operate open-deck tour buses with frequent departures starting about 9am from Termini Station and stops at districts of interest. Although costly compared to public bus, it's the easiest way to get oriented, and you also get an audio commentary (available in several languages) on upcoming sights. Fare: about 20.
Details: Rome Open Tour.
TIP: A comprehensive route map for the bus, trams, train, and metro is helpful and can be purchased at newsstands. Look for: Le mappe del trasporto pubblico a Roma.
TIP: The Roma Pass (23) allows free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visited, full access to the public transport system (3 days), reduced tickets and discounts for other museums and sites as well as exhibitions, music, theater, and dance performances.>
Details: Roma Pass.
Cycling, like driving, is not for the faint of heart in Rome, but not out of the question. ATAC operates a bicycle-rent program at stations throughout the city. See article at Friends in Rome
Rome has a wide assortment of accommodation from short term apartment rentals to bed and breakfast pensions, budget and deluxe hotels. The few hotels listed here have been recommended by CSTN readers but have not necessarily been inspected recently.
Hotel Teatro di Pompeo, Largo del Pallaro 8, 00186 Rome. Tel. +39-06-6872812. Hotel housed in a 17th-century building sited on the remains of the ancient Pompey Theatre, 200 meters from Piazza Navona. Rates: From 140 to 160.
Hotel Golden, Via Marche 84, Rome 00187. Tel.+39-06-4821659; . Non-smoking hotel conveniently located near Villa Borghese, Via Veneto, Piazza di Spagna, Fontana di Trevi, and the Borghese Gallery. A/C, breakfast room, Wi-Fi. Airport pick-up arranged. Nearest metro: Line A, Barberini Station.
The district around Stazione Termini is the most affordable in central Rome and convenient for rail, metro, and bus terminals. Take extra caution to protect against petty thievery in the vicinity of Stazione Termini, especially at night.
Hotel Sandra, Via Villafranca 10, Rome 00185. Tel. +39-06-4452612; Family-run, friendly atmosphere, located 1km northeast of Termini Station, on the 3rd floor of a 19th century palace, across from the Biblioteca Nazionale (National Library). Restaurants and major attractions easily reached via metro and bus. Nearest metro: Line B, Castro Pretorio Station.
Hotel Sonya, Via del Viminale 58, Rome 00184. Tel. +39-06-4819911. Three-star hotel across from the Opera House, 793 meters (less than 1 km) from metro and Termini Station.
Hotel Gerber, Via degli Scipioni 241, Rome 00192. Tel. +39-06-3216485. Three-star hotel in a residential area. Walk to Saint Peter's Basilica or the Villa Borghese Museum in 20 minutes. Nearest metro: Line A, Lepanto Station.
NOTE: With a few exceptions, most shops keep morning and early evening hours and are closed in the afternoon. Many businesses also close Monday mornings.
NOTE: Many museums and galleries are closed on Mondays, and some close at 1 or 2pm other open days.
At the very heart of old Rome, Campo de' Fiori square and surroundings are located between the Tiber river and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Once home to Renaissance era courtesans and artists, it is still famous for its open-air fruit and vegetable market, and boutique shops along streets leading to the square. It's busy at night with restaurants and bars.
Piazza Navona is a large historical square featuring fountains, baroque palaces, and churches. Residents and tourists alike flock there for people watching, meeting and mingling, café dining, and strolling nearby quaint streets packed with restaurants and artists' studios. It's lively day and night.
Exclusive shops featuring designer labels line the streets around Piazza del Popolo Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, Via Condotti, Via Veneto, Via Frattina, Via Borgognona and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). Galleria Alberto Sordi (Via del Corso at Piazza Colonna), central Rome's only shopping mall, is open 10am to 10pm.
A former working-class district, Trastevere is now trendy for nightlife, restaurants, wine bars, and boutiques. Porto Portese flea market, the biggest in Rome, occupies Via Portuense from Piazza Porto Portese to Piazza Ippolito Nievo. Sundays, to 2pm.
Information, directions, opening hours, and ticket options are available at Rome Info.
NOTE: Shorts, miniskirts, bare shoulders, and/or flip-flop sandals are inappropriate wear at basilicas and catacombs.
The Capitoline Hill displays monuments to Roman wealth and power, both past and present, situated around Piazza del Campidoglio. The Monumento a Vittorio Emanuel is a gigantic, often ridiculed, memorial to the unification of Italy. Palazzo Senatorio is the current seat of city government. Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo form the Museo Capitolini and house the city's collection of historic artworks.
Among Rome's most important relics, the Colosseum was built between 72-81AD to present public spectacles such as gladiatorial combats. Next to the Colosseum is the Arco di Constantino (Arch of Constantine) dating from 315AD. Metro: Linea B Colosseo.
Founded in 27BC and rebuilt in the 7th century, this is the best preserved building from ancient Rome. It is unknown how its original builders worshiped in the building, but it has been used as a church ever since the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface the VIII in 608. It's located at Piazza della Rotonda.
This is the highest of Rome's seven hills, bounded by Via del Corso, Via del Tritone, and Via Nazionale to the northeast of Termini Stazione to the park lands of Villa Borghese. Besides Palazzo Quirinal (home to the Italian head of state), famous sites include the Trevi Fountain, the Palazzo Barberini (arguably Rome's best art museum), Keats-Shelley House (a memorial to the English poets), numerous Baroque churches, the Museo Nazionale Romana, and the Teatro dell' Opera.
The Palatine Hill is where the city of Rome was founded, according to legend, in 753 BC by twins Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. Now an archaeological treasure, the Roman Forum was once the center of commercial, religious, and administrative life that inspired and sustained the rise of the Roman empire. Uncovered remains include the Arco di Tito (Arch of Titus), the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and the church of San Luca e Martina, all linked by the Sacra Via thoroughfare.
TIP: The Miracle Players perform comic theatre in English at the Roman
Details: Miracle Players.
Vatican City encompasses the headquarters of the Catholic faith, the residence of the Pontiff, eleven museums, two papal chapels, and four papal basilicas. St Peter's Basilica was built over the tomb of the martyred Apostle. Master designs include the dome by Michelangelo, facade by Maderno; colonnade and square by Bernini; world-class art treasures held in the Egyptian Museum, the Braccio Nuovo, Pio Clementino, the Etruscan Museum, Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartments, and the sublime Sistine Chapel. The Vatican was created a sovereign state within a state in 1929, and the event was marked by the building of a new road, the Via della Conciliazione, which leads from St Peter's Square to Castel Sant' Angelo, a fortress built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (130-139AD).
Julius Caesar is said to have planned the building but was killed (44BC) long before construction was completed in 13BC. Emperor Augustus named the theater after his nephew who died in 23BC. It is a classic example of Roman architecture with tiered arches, corridors, and columns, which have been altered and restored over the centuries for use as a fortress and a palace. Today, the upper levels are apartments and the surrounds are used for concerts in summer.
Dating fro 312 BC, the Via Appia Antica was Rome's first major highway. Parts of the road near Rome have been conserved as a park, and parts are still open to traffic. Many monuments and ruins are in the vicinity, including:
Details: Parco Appia Antica.
Covering an area of 10 hectares, the 3rd century Baths of Caracalla were
a leisure complex designed to accommodate 1,600 people. Opera concerts
are held here during summer months.
Details: Opera Roma.