Rome travel guide | When visiting Rome for the first time

Rome travel guide | When visiting Rome for the first time

Rome is a city that has an amazing mix of old and new. A city that has kept its stunning and historic buildings whilst moving along in the modern world. You can wander the quaint cobblestone streets with a delicious gelato in your hand whilst walking from one stunning and impressive monument to the next. It is an incredible city and when you are visiting Rome for the first time you will be amazed by how much there is to explore.

From the Spanish steps to the world-famous Colosseum and Vatican City, this city simply has so much to offer. Of course, being an Italian city, the city is also a foodie’s heaven, from the best gelato to pizza and pasta, you might come back with a few extra kilos of ‘baggage’.

Here’s my ultimate Rome travel guide for when you are visiting Rome for the first time!

Visiting Rome for the first time | ALL MUST-SEE SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS

Rome is pretty much an open theatre with stunning monuments, historic buildings, statues, cobblestone streets and just oldness everywhere. You can pretty much leave your hotel and start wandering around and you will see most of Rome’s most iconic attractions without ever seeking them out. Because there is so much, it would be impossible to list everything here, but I have tried to include some of the best and some of the most popular attractions for when you are visiting Rome for the first time

TREVI FOUNTAIN

This stunning and ever so impressive fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and depicts the sea god Oceanus with his seahorses. It was also featured in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and is still incredibly popular with the crowds. This means that you might have to wait a while before you can reach this colossal waterfront.

Make sure to throw a coin into the Trevi because legend has it that one day you’ll return to Rome.

PANTHEON

The Pantheon was built in 126 AD to honour the Pagan gods. Today, it’s the most well preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It contains the largest brick dome in the history of architecture. Super impressive to see!

Since the admission is free, it does get crowded here. Advise to go in the morning, to try and beat the crowds.

THE SPANISH STEPS

You cannot come to Rome without visiting the Spanish Steps! Everybody flocks to them! The Spanish Steps, a lively staircase of 135 steps, were made famous by Audrey Hepburn’s 1953 film Roman Holiday. They are a great place to people watch and start your window shopping.

Visit these steps on your way to Pantheon which is only a 10-minute walk away.

TREK UP TO GIANICOLO HILL

Exploring Rome off the beaten path requires some intensity and a bit of sweat. The city is beach explored on foot through all the winding streets and hillslopes. One of the most amazing walks to do is the Colle Del Giancola.

Take a walk up from the west of the River Tiber to Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi atop Gianicolo Hill.

The panoramic view of the city from the top is one of the best, and though the steep hike is a bit challenging, there are several benches and cafés along the way so you can take a breather

VISIT THE VATICAN

The Vatican is closely tied with Rome’s heritage, and it packs in a mind-blowing amount of sights, relics, and museums. It also packs in a mind-blowing amount of tourists, so expect long lines. So try to start early to beat the crowds.

TIP: A strict dress code is enforced in Vatican City. Shorts, short skirts, hats, and bare shoulders are all banned inside many of the sights. So dress appropriately also in summer.

PALATINE HILL 

Mythology suggests that Palatine hill is the birthplace of Rome after Romulus killed Remus. It is the ancient centre of Rome with amazing gardens and lots of ruins of formal palaces of great men.

It is located on the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome, so it offers excellent views of the city.

The admission for Palatine Hill is €12

ROMAN FORUM + COLOSSEUM

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!!! ARRRRRRRRRHHH! (lol I had to hahaha!) Perhaps the best-preserved of the monuments of ancient Rome and should be on the top of your list: The Roman Forum, which houses Trajan’s market, the relatively intact ancient Via Biberatica, and, of course, the iconic Colosseum.

Opened in 80 AD, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built, and it’s an attraction that really cannot be missed. Because this is probably the number one attraction in Rome, it is strongly advised that you pre-book a ticket online.

A ticket costs €12 and booking online costs an additional + €2. But with that 2 extra euros, you can skip most of the ques, so it is well worth it.

ST. PETER’S BASILICA 

Know to be one of the finest Cathedrals in the entire world, St. Peter’s Basilica is the spiritual centre of the Vatican and the product of many of Italy’s great Renaissance architects, among them Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

The entrance to the Basilica is free since it is a church. If you go on a Sunday, there will be masses being held in different languages and you can even take a glimpse of the pope in the square at noon.
Pay 10 euros to ride the elevator and then take 300 additional steps to get to the top of the basilica for some of the best views in Rome.

BASILICA PAPALE SAN PAOLO FUORI LE MURA 

This is one of four papal basilicas in Rome, and it’s one of the largest churches in the world.  This massive and magnificent basilica houses a tomb that is said to be that of St. Paul. You descend a short flight of stairs to get a view of the tomb. Visit Website.

LOCAL TREATS YOU SHOULD TRY

CACIO E PEPE |  YESSSS PLEASE! One of the yummiest and yet one of the simplest kinds of pasta out there and guess what it comes from Rome – of course! The give away is in the name Cacio, as it is the local word for the type of parmesan that is famously used in this pasta. I make it quite frequently at home but in Rome, this pasta is like a taste bud orgasm!

GELATO |  As you can imagine gelato is everywhere you walk in Rome and is one of the many reasons why you will be leaving with a spare roll or two on your tummy. With so many flavours and tastes to fulfil your every craving, this is one cliche food that I recommend and suggest that everyone must try while in Rome!

PIZZA!! | You can not leave Rome without having a Pizza, you just can’t. Ranked number 1 on TripAdvisor for most delicious pizza and #2 of 10,520 Restaurants in Rome is Pizza E Mozzarella.

BASIC INFORMATION FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS 

I am sure after all those amazing sights you might be inclined to skip this part, but I have quite a few tips for you underneath, especially if you are visiting Rome for the first time. 

Language Modern-day Romans speak Italian, of course, which is widely recognized as a language of love and romance. There are a lot of English-speakers around Rome as well.
Time Zone GMT+1
Electricity Electricity in Italy conforms to the European standard of 220V to 230V, with a frequency of 50Hz. Wall outlets typically accommodate plugs with two or three round pins
Currency Euro (€).
Tipping Not required in Italy. Most restaurants will include it already in the servizio (service charge) on your bill.
Weather Rome has a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and hot, humid summers.

MONEY

Italy uses the Euro (€) as it is currency. In pretty much all places will accept credit card. But some smaller stores or market/art stalls might will not. So it is advisable to carry a bit of cash on you at all times.

LANGUAGE 

Of course, Italian is the native language for Italy, but only around 29 % of the population also speaks English. So in case, you bump into someone who doesn’t speak English, here are a few simple basic words that you can be useful for you.

Itallian PHRASES & USEFUL TRAVEL PHRASES 

Underneath you can find some handy Italian phrases as well as some handy travel phrases that might come in handy during your time in the country.

English  Italian  Pronunciation
Hello Buon giorno Bwohn journo
Welcome! Benvenuto! Ben ven uto
good evening Buona sera bwohn ah say rah
No No No
Yes Si See
Maybe Forse For she
excuse me Scusi scu see
Thanks Grazie graht see ay
Please Per favore pear fa vor reh
Do you speak English? Parla inglese? Par lah in gley say

BEST TIME TO GO 

Rome is one of those cities that you can visit all year round, because of its Mediterranean climate.

Just keep in mind that July and August can be hot and humid, and December through March are on the chilly side. Most would agree that the best time to visit Rome is between September and November and April to May when the crowds are fewer, days are bright and sunny, and evenings are crisp and cool.

Also, check out this one week in Italy itinerary if you are planning to travel around Italy.

GETTING AROUND 

The three times that I went to Rome, I walked pretty much everywhere. So you will be able to save some money and walk to most sights if you have a hotel or Airbnb that is located in the city center. If you don’t then either the bus or Metro are good alternatives. The most convenient and economical way of getting around Rome is by far the Public Transit Bus service. Buses run 24 hrs. a day and cover the entire city.

Rome offers 2 metro lines, Line A red line and Line B blue line, and their entrances are indicated by a large red sign marked with an M.
Line A runs from Battistini to Anagnina and includes stops near the Vatican Museums (Cipro), the Vatican (Ottaviano), the Cola di Rienzo shopping area (Lepanto), Piazza del Popolo (Flaminia), the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna), Via Veneto (Barberini) and San Giovanni.
Line B runs from Rebibbia to Laurentina and includes stops near Eur, St. Pauls Outside the Walls (Basilica S. Paolo), Piramide (also the Ostiense train station), Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo), the Colosseum (Colosseo) and the Tiburtina train station.

CULTURAL TIPS

Here are a few simple tips to help you make your stay in Rome a smashing success:

  • Buying fake designer brands is illegal

    If you are heading to Italy for the first time then you might be surprised by the many market stalls and vendors who offer you Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada bags, shirts belts and so much more. Just because it is available everywhere doesn’t mean that it is legal. Many merchants carry the bags on their arms or lay them out on a sheet with a chord around that they can easily pull and run when the police are nearby. That should be a hint that it is not a legal sale.

  • Alcohol
    Even though the Italians like their wine, do not drink it in public. It is legal to drink in the streets.

  • Remember to look after your belongings
    Make sure that you keep all valuables out of our pockets and always bring a bag that zips closed so that it deters anyone from trying to get to your belongings.

WHERE TO GO AFTER VISITING ROME FOR THE FIRST TIME? 

Because of Amsterdam’s great location, there are many other amazing cities that you can check out as well. Underneath are just a couple of cool options for you:

  • Amsterdam | The capital city to the Netherlands offers some amazing history! From the Ann Frank House to the Rijksmuseum and lovely canals tours, this city has it all. You will probably need at least 2 days in Amsterdam to explore it all.
  • Rotterdam | Home to incredible architecture, amazing food and harming neighbourhoods, you’ll want at least 1 day in Rotterdam.
  • Brussels, Belgium  | Although it’s possible to do a day trip from Amsterdam to Brussels, you’ll want at least 48 hours in Brussels to see the highlights. This city is ridiculously stunning and a must-see in my opinion.
  • London, UK |  Spend 4 days in London exploring this stunning and imposing city.

Another must-see when in Italy is Cinque Terre. Check out this two days in Cinque Terre Itinerary, filled with some great tips.

If you have any questions about visiting Rome for the first time, let me know in the comments below!

PLANNING TO GO TO EUROPE SOON? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL GUIDES HERE:

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