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Travel tips for Rome - Eternal City essentials

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For a traveler to Rome, the sights that first come to mind are the Vatican, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, and Trevi Fountain. While these are all must-sees for the first-time visitor, you should leave at least a day for simply wandering around the historic center. Exploring the side streets, piazzas, and open-air markets is the best way to experience the authentic soul of the city.

Best time to travel

 

The best times to visit Rome are spring and autumn, when the tourist crush and summer heat have both died down. The weather in both off-peak seasons is mild and sunny. Visiting in winter has many attractions too - you can walk right to the major sights and enjoy them at leisure. In December, the city comes alive with festive decorations and winter markets.

Not to miss

 

The grand sweep of the Spanish Steps is especially breathtaking in spring, when it's covered in flowers. Among Rome’s many churches, 2 unmissable gems are Santa Maria in Trastevere, in the heart of the old quarter, and 12th-century San Clemente, with dazzling mosaics and frescoes. At Piazza Navona you can admire Bernini's Four Rivers fountain, and from there it’s a short walk to Campo de' Fiori’s outdoor market. The 2,000-year-old Pantheon is also minutes away.

 

Getting around

 

From ancient ruins and cobblestone alleys to sun-filled piazzas and outdoor cafés, Rome's attractions are best explored on foot. There are also good public transport links, and a Roma Pass will give you 3 days' unrestricted use of the network as well as concessions for museums and other sites. You'll find the Rome metro easy to navigate, with only 2 main lines that meet at Termini Station. You can get to town from Leonardo da Vinci Airport by taxi, but it's faster and cheaper to catch the Leonardo Express train, which gets you to Termini in 30 minutes.

 

Cuisine

 

The key to Roman cuisine is fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared simply. You can find exceptional cooking in unpretentious trattorias as well as in pricier restaurants. The Testaccio area is considered the best part of town for eating. Traditionally, pasta is served as the first dish in a 3-course meal, while oven-fresh pizza can be enjoyed in pizzerias or on the go from pizza shops - one of the best is Forno Campo de' Fiori. No visit is complete without a taste of Rome’s legendary gelato. San Crispino and Fatamorgana are among the top gelaterias.

 

Customs and etiquette

 

When visiting churches, be mindful of appropriate attire: shorts and sleeveless tops are no-no’s, as is bringing food or drink inside. Italians drink moderately and at mealtimes, and smoking is banned in all public establishments. Italians appreciate foreigners trying to speak a few words in their language, and per favore and grazie always go down well. You can tip at your discretion - it's not mandatory. In restaurants a 10% service charge is often included.

 

Fast facts

 

  • Population: 2.9 million
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  • Spoken languages: Italian; English is usually spoken in hotels and major tourist areas.
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  • Electrical: 230 volts, 50 Hz, plug type C, F, L
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  • Phone calling code: +39 06
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  • Emergency number: 000