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BlogDestinationsThe Beginner’s Travel Guide to Rome
Destinations

The Beginner’s Travel Guide to Rome

Dec 07, 2020 by Lara Bone

This destination guide was created for you by our global team here at Go Ahead Tours! Whether we’re designing new trips or writing guides like this one, everything we do is handcrafted. Read on to get our staffers’ insider tips from their travels.

The city of Rome is brimming with monumental structures, ancient architecture, classical art, and all the pasta and gelato you could want—there’s truly no place quite like the Italian capital. If you’re dreaming of Rome travel (who isn’t?!), then our experts have you covered for your tour of the Eternal City. Check out all our Rome travel tips in this Rome Travel Guide, including the best things to do in Rome, top things to see in Rome, and more.

Currency: The euro

Language: Italian

Best way to get around: On foot—many of the top Rome attractions are close together. While Rome is considered to be a larger city, staffer Chloe said, “It’s still so charming and walkable, and it’s incredible how many historic landmarks and ruins are located right in the heart of the city.”

Phrases to know: The basics! You certainly don’t need to be fluent in Italian to visit Rome, but knowing a few greetings will impress any local.

Ciao! - Used to say both “hello” and “goodbye”

Grazie - “Thank you”

Prego - “You’re welcome”

See more Italian phrases to know before you go >

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WHEN TO TRAVEL TO ROME

There’s no bad time to visit the Eternal City. There are so many things to do in Rome, and with hot summers and mild winters, you’ll be able to experience all the food, art, and stunning architecture the city has to offer in any season. Here’s what you can expect throughout the year when you travel on one of our Rome tours.

  • The fall offers a Rome travel experience with fewer crowds and cooler weather. Crisp autumn evenings from September to November are perfect for enjoying a meal al fresco (and one of our best Rome travel tips is to enjoy a meal outdoors while you watch daily life go by!). Just keep in mind that November is Rome’s rainiest month, so you’ll want to bring an umbrella.
  • During the wintertime, Rome's famous Baroque square, Piazza Navona, is transformed into a huge Christmas market. Temperatures averaging in the high 40s mean you’ll need a warmer jacket, but don’t miss out on the holiday magic of seeing Christmas trees outside the Colosseum. It’s one of the prettiest things to see in Rome on tour.
  • Spring is one of the best times to visit Rome—off-season travel is always a good idea. Easter in Rome attracts large crowds, especially at Vatican City, but you’ll enjoy sunny days and fewer crowds at many attractions in Rome before the busy summer season kicks into full swing. It’s just one of the many reasons to visit Rome in the spring.
  • Enjoy higher temperatures? Summertime will be your favorite season to travel to Rome. Average temperatures in July and August are in the mid-80s. While it may be hot and humid, you’ll still enjoy strolling along cobblestone streets with a gelato in hand.

Visit Rome on tour

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WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO ROME

One of our top Rome travel tips? Pack layers in all seasons, so you’ll always be prepared and comfortable while enjoying all the things to do in Rome. You definitely won’t need a heavy jacket in the summer months, but temperatures can fluctuate during the off-season, so it’s good to pack accordingly—no Rome Travel Guide is complete without a mention of layers, layers, layers. Here are some of our expert tips on what to pack for Rome.

  • Comfy walking shoes. Rome is full of cobblestone streets, and you’ll do a fair amount of walking between Rome attractions. Whether you spend the day roaming Vatican City, going on a self-guided walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, or exploring the Roman Forum, you want to make sure you have comfortable shoes.
  • Something to cover shoulders and knees—religious sites, especially the Vatican, require visitors to dress appropriately. That’s one of the most important things to know before you go on Italy tours! We suggest packing a lightweight shawl for the summer months, but a long sleeve shirt or cardigan will be fine for off-season travel to Rome.
  • A light jacket when traveling to Rome in the fall and spring. Temperatures in Rome can vary a lot between day and evening so pack layers to be comfortable throughout the day.

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WHAT TO SEE IN ROME

A city like Rome has it all: stunning architecture, food, history, fashion, and renowned art. Where else can you walk down the street and see ancient buildings dating back thousands of years, next to modern coffee shops? If you’re overwhelmed with all the things to see in Rome, don’t worry, we’ve narrowed it down to a few must-see attractions to check off your bucket list while on our trips to Rome.

  • The Spanish Steps, constructed by the French in the 1720s as a gift to Rome, this magnificent staircase links the Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti church, which is located at the top. At the bottom of the steps, you’ll find an early Baroque fountain, “Fountain of the Old Boat,” and the streets below are filled with small shops and cafes. Pro tip: Climb the 135 stairs to the top for a great photo op.
  • The Pantheon is one of the most historic things to see in Rome on tour. Located in the Piazza della Rotonda, it’s one of the most well-preserved structures of the Ancient Roman empire, and is now a present-day church. Entrance is free, and standing inside the massive dome looking up at the oculus will make you feel like you’ve gone back in history.
  • The Trevi Fountain, an iconic symbol of Rome that was finished in 1762, is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. Don’t forget to toss a coin into the fountain before you leave—legend says this ensures one day you’ll return to the Eternal City. “I would visit the Trevi Fountain late at night,” said staffer Lara. “Not only is it quieter and surrounded by fewer people, but watching the fountain lit up against the night sky is a moment you won’t forget.”
  • The Colosseum, constructed in 70 B.C., is perhaps the most internationally recognized symbol of Ancient and Modern Rome. It was once an amphitheater for gladiators and entertainment, and no photograph or postcard can prepare you for the wonder of seeing this monumental structure in person. Put this at the top of your list of places to see in Rome on tour.
  • Vatican City is a must-see attraction in Rome. It’s a city within a city, and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. There’s also an abundance of history and art to explore in the museums, including one of Italy's most famed attractions, the Sistine Chapel. Rome travel tip: If you’re touring Rome on a Wednesday morning, you might get a chance to see the Pope if he’s in town.

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HOW TO SPEND FREE TIME IN ROME

Whether you love history, food, art, or everything in-between, Rome has a lot to offer to every type of traveler—and this Rome Travel Guide is full of the best places to find whatever you’re looking for! One of our experts’ best Rome travel tips for free time? “Stay away from the main piazzas,” said staffer Cayleigh. “That will guarantee you a more authentic, local experience while in the city.” Here are some things to do in Rome during your free time on tour.

  • Explore Trastevere. Translating to “across the Tiber,” you’ll find this bohemian neighborhood a perfect place to spend your evenings. Filled with excellent restaurants, bars, and a vibrant nightlife, this neighborhood is one of the best places to go for authentic Italian meals and a chance to mingle with the locals.
  • Stroll through the gardens of Villa Borghese. There you’ll find a serene stretch of greenery and a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a perfect balance between nature and art, and an ideal place to explore on a sunny day on tour in Rome. For the art lovers, visit the Galleria Borghese, which houses the work of Italian masters Bernini and Caravaggio.
  • Take a walk through the Jewish Quarter. Hidden in the heart of the city, this centrally-located neighborhood is one of Rome’s most under-the-radar attractions. Step away from the crowded piazzas, and take a self-guided walking tour down this quiet neighborhood’s main street, Via del Portico d’Ottavia. You’ll find many restaurants specializing in Jewish cuisine like fried artichokes—when it comes to what to eat in Rome, this specialty is right at the top!
  • Descend into the Catacombs. Ever wonder what’s under the Eternal City? These ancient burial sites might be spooky, but also act as an underground art gallery, housing many frescoes and sculptures dating back to 400 A.D. There’s no better way to learn about the history of Rome’s dark side than by exploring it’s underground tunnels.
  • Shop at the local markets. You’ll find it everything from clothes, to vintage prints, to local meats as you chat with vendors. Looking for rare antiques or designer clothes at a bargain? Visit the Borghetto Flaminio flea market. If you’re on the hunt for art and literature while on tour in Rome, the Fontanella Borghese Market will be the place to find old prints and bargain for books. “The markets make you feel like a local, and it’s a chance to find unique keepsakes instead of the manufactured tourist items,” said staffer Lara.

Plan a dream trip to Italy

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WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN ROME

Wondering what to eat in Rome? While the pizza and pasta that Italy is known for is hard to beat, we’ve got some other amazing and authentic foods we recommend trying while on tour in Rome. And if you need any tips for eating in Italy, start with this: Try everything!

  • Deep-fried artichokes might not be the first food you think of when you invision Roman cuisine. However, there are few vegetables loved more by the Eternal City than the Roman artichoke, known as carciofil ala guidia. You’ll find this dish on most menus around the Jewish Quarter from November to May, and Nonna Betta is especially famous for them. You’ll even see stacks of artichokes outside restaurants and at local markets.
  • Supplì are perfect on-the-go snacks during a long day of exploring. These fried rice balls stuffed with mozzarella are one of Rome’s most popular street foods. If you need a pick-me-up after a visit to the Vatican, dig in to supplì at Pizzarium, located right outside the Vatican museum exit.
  • Cacio e pepe is one of Rome’s most iconic pasta dishes. Made with local pecorino cheese (cacio) and freshly ground black pepper (pepe), it’s a classic that beats traditional spaghetti and meatballs any day.
  • Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is a distinctly Roman style of pizza baked in large square trays with a variety of toppings ranging from simple marinara sauce, to local cheeses, meats, and vegetables. You decide how much you’d like, and you’re charged by the kilo. Pair it with a glass of wine or a cold beer and deliziosa!

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SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN ROME

While nothing is more sentimental than the memories and photos you’ll take home after a tour of Rome, the shopping options are endless. Here are some unique souvenirs to seek out on our Rome tours.

  • Genuine Italian leather goods. A timeless leather souvenir like a leather-bound notebook can be used to write down memories of your visit to Rome. Many leather shops will even personalize your purchase! Check out the historic Mancini leather goods shop just around the corner from the Pantheon for the authentic stuff.
  • Italian silk ties or scarves are perfect accessories that are lightweight and easy to pack. It’s no secret that Italy is very fashion conscious (and one of our travel tips for Rome is to dress in your best!). Plus, these accessories won’t break the bank.
  • A handcrafted wooden Pinocchio doll makes for the most unique Roman souvenir. Did you know the character of Pinocchio was created by an Italian? You’ll find many artisans throughout the city take inspiration from this iconic story. Visit the family-run Bartolucci store, where you’ll find tons of personalized wooden pieces, and even get to watch a wood carver at work.
Have you ever visited Rome on tour? Have any of your own travel tips for Rome? Share your favorite things to do in Rome on our Facebook page!

Destination guides
About the author | Lara Bone
Lara majored in Art History and was hooked on traveling after studying abroad in Scotland. When she’s not assisting Go Ahead travelers, you can find Lara on the beach, watching documentaries, and adding to her collection of art books.

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