Tips for First-Time Travelers to Rome
There’s so much to see and do in Rome for first-time visitors. From top attractions like the Colosseum and Vatican City to authentic experiences like pasta and gelato making. As there's so much to keep you busy, it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily, we're here to help. Plan your first trip to Rome using our helpful guide which covers the best foodie spots, local hangouts, must-visit destinations, and plenty of useful tips too.
What to eat in Rome
- Pasta: Try traditional Roman pasta dishes like Pasta alla Gricia, Cacio e Pepe, Pasta Carbonara, and Bucatini all'Amatriciana. To enjoy a pasta dish near the Trevi fountain (complete with a starter and dessert), head to Agrodolce restaurant.
- Pizza: Experience buying pizza the Roman way – pizza al taglio. Choose which pizza you want from the rectangular trays, decide how much and pay by weight! Top tip: why not try Rome’s alternative to pizza called pinsa?
- Coffee: Drink coffee the Italian way at one of Rome’s many independent cafés. There are certain rules to follow, though. Just remember – no milky coffee in the afternoon. For more tips, check out our guide to eating like a local in Rome.
- Gelato: You can’t visit Rome without sampling their delicious gelato. Typically softer and silkier than ice cream, gelato is classic Italian treat you just have to try. It wouldn’t be a vacation without one.
- Cocktails: You’ve heard of Italian cocktails like Bellini, Aperol Spritz and Negroni, but where else to enjoy them than in a bar in Rome? Sip on some cocktails while taking in Rome’s buzzing nightlife at Alembic bar. Use your Go Rome pass for three drinks!
What to see in Rome
- Trevi Fountain: This is one of Rome’s most famous landmarks, and you’re sure to have seen it all over your Instagram feed. Head to Rome’s most famous fountain to toss a coin, make a wish, and get that all-important selfie.
- Spanish steps: The Spanish steps are located at Piazza di Spagna, which is one of the most famous squares in Rome. The steps were made famous in the US by the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, and they also feature in the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon.
- Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore: this is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome
- Piazza Venezia: Piazza Venezia is a beautiful square in Rome with views of the Altare della Patria monument and the Palazzo Venezia.
- Circus Maximus: this ancient Roman entertainment venue where they raced chariots has to be on your itinerary. Make time to see ancient Rome and learn all about the ancient Romans’ culture and traditions.
What to do in Rome
- Learn to make pasta: It’s not just enough to eat pasta in Rome – why not learn to make it too? Take a cooking class to learn how to make a fresh, homemade pasta dish (that you can then enjoy for lunch!).
- Learn to make gelato: Sure, you could just taste a gelato or two on your Rome vacation. Or, you could step behind-the-scenes with a gelato chef and learn to make your very own. You can also take part in an extensive tasting, for research, of course.
- Take a hop-on hop-off tour: One of the best ways to see the sights and orient yourself with the city is to take a hop-on hop-off bus. Your expert guide will tell you everything you need to know about Rome and you can either relax and take in the sights or get off and explore the city on foot.
- Roman Food market: Experience how Italians buy fresh ingredients to make their traditional dishes at the Roman Food Market. Sample tasty food and wine from various stalls and maybe buy some snacks to enjoy later.
- Attend the opera: Enjoy an Italian tradition with a night out at the opera. What better way to spend an evening in Rome?
Where to go in Rome
- Colosseum: This must-see attraction has to be at the top of your itinerary. See Rome’s most famous sight up close as you stroll around the ancient amphitheater, learning all about its history and significance.
- Roman Forum: Admission to the Roman Forum is included with entry to the Colosseum, but it’s a sight worth seeing in its own right. Wander around the ruins and imagine what the city was like way back in ancient Rome.
- Vatican City: Did you know that Vatican City is an independent city-state and at 44 hectares it is the smallest city in the world? It’s also the Roman Catholic Church’s headquarters and home to the beautiful Sistine Chapel, with the famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and St Peter’s Basilica.
- Piazza Navona: Visit Piazza Navona to see its beautiful fountains, the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone and the Palazzo Braschi. It’s also a great place to stop for lunch or coffee and see some street artists.
- Pantheon: If you can’t get enough of ancient Roman history, the Pantheon has to be next on your list. Take a tour of this former temple to learn all about its history and why it’s the most preserved building of ancient Rome.
Top tips for visiting Rome
- Travel: Rome has a metro system called Metropolitana and public buses. You can choose between buying single tickets or passes for 24, 48, or 72 hour periods, or a 7-day travel pass. Make sure you buy tickets at ticket offices or newsstands before you travel as you can’t buy tickets on the bus.
- Safety: Like any major city, Rome has pickpockets. Travel lightly and keep any important items like wallets safe inside inner pockets. Be alert, especially when in crowded areas or tourist attractions.
- The language: Most staff at tourist attractions will speak English, but if you want to make an effort with the locals, why not learn some Italian before you go? Even basic greetings and conversational Italian will go a long way.
- What to wear: Rome gets hot, especially in the summer months. Wear light clothing, but be aware that you may need clothes that cover your shoulders and knees to enter the churches. Wear comfortable walking shoes, and if you want to wear heels in the evening, avoid stilettos as they’re not suited to the cobbled streets.
- Bring cash: Most shops and restaurants in Rome, especially smaller, independent places, prefer or only accept cash. Make sure to carry some euros with you.
So there’s our guide to visiting Rome for the first time. Consider adding a few of these attractions and activity ideas to your itinerary and keep our top tips in mind when you arrive in the city. Remember, admission to many popular Rome attractions is included with Go City.
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