I’ll be honest, I didn’t love Rome to begin with. In the first couple of days it didn’t sing to me and I was worried about spending nearly two weeks somewhere that I disliked as much as Paris. And now I’m so thankful I had all that time. Because Rome grew on me a lot and I got used to the bustling Roman way of life.
Before arriving from Stansted to Ciampino I had never set foot in Italy before. I had no prior knowledge of the culture or way of life before arriving aside from what I had researched. I don’t speak any Italian and can only do a hello or a thank you. I knew nobody in the city, hell the country. And I was going to spend six days there on my own.
I’m no expert on Rome but in the almost two weeks I spent there, here a few tips for any first time visitors to Rome.
Okay I can’t speak for Fiumicino here but chances are if you are flying from Europe or with Ryanair, you’ll land at Ciampino. Ciampino is in the south of the city and there is not a Heathrow Express type service at all.
You can get to Rome in three ways: Atral bus (buy ticket on bus) from the airport itself to Ciampino train station (buy ticket in Tabacco shop in station).
Or you can the 720 local bus (buy ticket from ticket machine inside airport) from outside the airport which will take you to outskirts of Rome to Laurentina Metro station where you can ride the Metro to another station.
Or you can get a direct ‘tourist’ bus from one of the companies inside the airport which will cost you around 5€ for one-way ticket and it will drop you at Termini. It’s by far the least stressful!
I find public transport the most stressful of ordeals wherever I go if I’m unfamiliar with it but especially abroad. Italy was awful to begin with. Public transport within the city of Rome is divided into trains, trams, Metro and buses.
The buses are the best and reach every corner of the city. You can buy a ticket which lasts for 100 minutes once validated (which you do on the bus at the yellow machines) for 1.50€ from Tabacco shops. Make sure you valid your ticket as if you get caught without, you can get fined.
I’m still not really sure how the trains work but again, you buy your ticket in the Tabacco shop. We did however pre-book our train tickets for the journey from Rome to Naples and printed out the e-ticket.
The language in Rome is Italian (duh) and unlike other major European cities, they don’t speak much English. This terrified me to begin with as asking for help was super hard. If you are like me and can only say hello, most of the staff at the major tourist attractions and in shops speak English. Public transport not as much!
Italian driving is interesting to say the least – expect to hear many car horns as they all cut each other up all the time. There are two types of road crossings in the city: ones controlled by a ‘green man’ which either have a button to press or are on a timer or zebra crossings where you have right of way.
You need to make the first move and step off the pavement as they won’t stop for you just waiting on the side of the road. Be confident, don’t hesitate and don’t let them smell fear!
Rome runs on water and there are over 2500 public drinking water fountains inside the city centre. Make sure you have a water bottle on you and you’ll never need to buy a bottle of water again whilst on your trip. The water is super cold, tastes delicious and is free.
You can also find water fountains inside attractions such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and close by others such as The Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.
Italian food is delicious. Pizza, pasta, bread, tomatoes, olives, etc etc. A lot of restaurants in Rome charge a service charge of around 1.50€ per person so that is something to be aware of when budgeting. How food is being made also has to be declared by law in Italy so you can check on the menu if the food is frozen or cooked fresh.
For dining in, the standard price for a margherita pizza is around 6-7€, anything more than that is pretty expensive. Similar with standard pasta such as a carbonara, which should be around 7-8€. My favourite area for finding cute eateries is Porto, across the Tiber from Castel Sant’Angelo as it is lot cheaper than the touristy areas around the Piazza Navonne and the Pantheon.
The currency in Italy is the euro and unlike the UK, using card is not as common. Cash machines charge you to withdraw which is a pain, minimum spend on a card can be as high as 30€ and not many places offer you the option to pay by card. I did find one free card machine in Sorrento which was outside a Poste Italiano so this might be the same for all ATMs at Poste Italiano.
I found carrying cash a bit of an inconvenience. I hate carrying cash when I’m away as it just feels more unsafe/more at risk of having something pickpocketed or lost. It is SO annoying have to withdraw money and be charged for it so I would recommend taking as many euros in cash as possible before you leave the UK and just taking a little amount out each day to see you through, leaving the rest safe in your room, hostel locker or apartment.
One of the best things about Italy is the discounted tickets for EU residents aged between 18-25. It saved me a fortune! Some places will give you a half-price ticket, others knock a little bit of the price but it is a great way of cutting costs. You do have to present a form of ID which I would suggest be your passport as they can be a bit dismissive of a UK driving license.
Another little tip is buy your ticket for the Colosseum at the Roman Forum. You get a combined ticket for the two that can be used over two days with one entry to each attraction. The queue at the Roman Forum is a lot shorter and you can always just bypass the queue the next day at the Colosseum as you already have your ticket.
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