The four days I spent in Rome for my 21st birthday were some of the best days of my life.
So many great memories, it gave me confidence that solo travel was the way forward.
Rome is great for any tourists, budding photographers, art aficionados, foodies or history lovers. Rome is even more perfect if you are all of these types like me!
Here are all of my traveller tips for Rome!
Tips for visiting museums and attractions
How to avoid the long queues at The Vatican
Ah, the age old question; when is the best time to visit the Vatican? I followed the Tripadvisor Rome forum’s advice and visited during the last few hours (after lunchtime).
The reasoning is most of the large tourist groups get there first thing (which is usually the best time to visit any other major attraction).
After lunchtime, the queues will have died down. I think I waited maybe 45 minutes max (compared to the 2+ hours I had seen others quote if you visited earlier).
Buy a Roma Pass tourist ticket
If you’re planning on seeing just a fraction of the museums and galleries Rome has to offer, then the Roma Pass is definitely worth the price. I bought the €36 pass instead of the two day pass at €28.
This gave me free entry to my first two museums and discounted tickets to the rest. Not to mention being able to skip the lines at attractions like the Coliseum! You’ll also receive a map of Rome – very handy.
Download the Rick Steves audio guide to Rome
They may only last a few minutes each, but that’s all you need to know. His walkthrough and explanation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Leonardo da Vinci added so much to my experience. And they’re free too.
Food, eating and dining tips
Eat at the Castel Sant’Angelo
The price of my lasagne and bottle of coke wasn’t bad from what I can remember, considering its an attraction and all. It was surprisingly quiet too! Sheltered from the searing sun by a trellis of leaves overhead, it was by far my favourite meal during the four days in Rome.
Find shade under the Castel Sant’Angelo cafe roof
Order ice cream in a tub, never a cone
I ain’t kidding. It was so hot, my ice cream began to melt profusely. Cones are simply out of the question – you’ll end up with sticky fingers or chocolate strains on your white t-shirt like I did (didn’t notice till I got back to the hotel).
Pack an empty water bottle with you and save your euros for extra ice cream. Water fountains can be found on many streets. You’ll need to keep hydrated in the Italian summer months. It was 30°c-35°c when I went in the beginning of June!
Grab a take away slice of pizza, or ten
Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yup, that’s my kind of place. Cheap and filling, the quality is so good too.
Get a great view of Rome’s skyline from the Castel Sant’Angelo
And while you’re there, Castel Sant’Angelo is a great photography location where you are afforded views of Rome’s beautiful architecture.
Rome skyline from Castel Sant’Angelo
Get a photo of the Roman Forum from the Capitoline Museum
I can’t remember the exact directions to the little balcony, but if you do, you’re rewarded with a view like this.
Rome skyline from Castel Sant’Angelo
Visit St Peters Basilica at night
Maybe it’s because it was thunder and lightening earlier in the day that I pretty much had St Peters Square all to myself. But if you want great photos of St Peters without the crowds, visit at night.
Also, the walk up to St Peters is pretty spectacular with the lights from the lampposts leading the way.
General travel tips for Rome
Flying to Ciampino airport ain’t that bad
Save money on your trip to Rome by flying to Ciampino airport. Yes, it may look far outside of the city centre, but the bus takes around 40 minutes and drops you off at Termini train station. Just before you exit the airport after claiming your bag, towards your right you should see a Terravision booth for where you can purchase a return ticket for €9.
Zebra crossings mean nothing
Don’t expect motorists to stop if you are standing on the pavement next to a zebra crossing – this isn’t Britain. Instead walk confidently across and they will stop (you’ll just have to trust me on this one). Or wait till a local crosses the street, could be waiting for sometime though!
I had a map and barley used it. Apart from that time it was thunder and lightning and peed it down and I didn’t know how to get back to my hotel.
While the idea of just wandering around and getting lost sounds scary, those who go off the beaten track are rewarded with undiscovered gems and food places guide books don’t tell you about.
One of my favourite finds was this turtle fountain.
Awesome turtle fountain
Watch out for scammers at The Spanish Steps
Rome has its fair share of scammers, much like any other major city.
Watch out for the classic, ‘here’s a free bracelet trick’ at the top of the Spanish Steps – they’ll demand money.
Don’t walk everywhere for 4 days
I tried to save money by walking everywhere. I was partly scared of using public transport too. Sure, Rome is small enough to walk, but after the four days of walking, my feet were in bits.
On the 4th I didn’t do much which was a waste and I heavily regret it and have learned my lesson since then to use public transport.
What are your travel tips for Rome? Tell me in the comments section below!