Rome – the Eternal City. This free audio travel guide takes you through the tastes, sights and attractions of Rome alongside practical info on where to stay, getting around and where to go next.
Modern Rome is huge and sprawling on both sides of the Tiber, but first-time tourists and short-term visitors will want to base themselves in “old Rome”.
The city has spread over time and is now immense, but you’ll probably want to see the sights in Piazza de Spagna, Via Veneto, Quirinal, Esquiline, Lateran, Caracalla, Aventine, Palatine, Forum, Capitol, Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, and Piazza della Rotonda, and then Vatican, Januculum and Trastavere on the west of the Tiber.
Name: Rome or Roma
Place: Roughly in the middle of Italy, near the Mediterranean coast
Population: 3.5m in the urban area
Language: Italian, and the local dialect Romanesco
Known for: The Pope, gelato, architecture, world domination and “what have the Romans ever done for us?”
Temperatures: Summer (June-August) is hot: 30°C+. Winter average is 12°C, with an occasional snowfall. Spring and autumn are the most pleasant times to visit
Airports: Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino International Airport (main airport, modern) and Ciampino International Airport (budget airport. Closes overnight, so check your transport and times carefully)
Price of a pint: â‚¬5
Price of a dorm bed: â‚¬20
Price of a public transport ticket: â‚¬1 for 75 minutes or â‚¬4 for a day
If you’re going to be spending just a short time in Rome, it’s probably best to stay near the popular sites. Find yourself a hotel or hostel near the Pantheon and Campo de Fiori. The area around the Termini station is also convenient and in the right area.
Hostel beds tend to cost less than â‚¬20 a night but — depending on the quality of the establishment — prices can drop as you move further away from the centre; in fact, they get really cheap. Although it’s one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, competition keeps prices in check for the lower- and middle- ranges of the market.
Even better value are the campsites out of the city centre, combining great facilities such as swimming pools and scenic country views with easy access by metro into the city. To see the full selection of Rome hostels on offer, check out our sponsors HostelBookers.com before you travel for user ratings, photos and detailed hostel descriptions.
FoodAlthough Italian cuisine is well-known worldwide, we tend to combine all sorts of regional specialities into a conglomerate.
Roman cuisine tends towards pasta, sauces and cheeses with lots of deliciously prepared meat and vegetable dishes. One that caught our eye was Trippa alla Romana: a dish of tripe and tomatoes.
When buying coffee or gelato, you tend to order and pay at one counter before taking a receipt to another counter where people prepare your order. It can be a bit confusing if you’re used to ordering, eating then paying. Pizza to take away is sold by weight, so let the server know how much you want by indicating where to cut. Backpacking Rome is certainly a good way to put on some weight!
Public transport runs regularly and quite often. Buses, metro and trams are all integrated in the public transport system, so you can hop on and hop off within your time period. The cheapest ticket is â‚¬1, which lasts for 75 minutes. If you’re doing more than four journeys, more than 75 minutes apart during the day, you can get a â‚¬4 daily ticket. Three, seven and 30-day tickets also exist, as do yearly passes.
The first time you use the ticket, validate it in one of the yellow machines on board. Make sure you hold onto it until you’re clear of the vehicle as ticket inspectors do operate. The same thing goes for trains, but validate your tickets on the platform before boarding.
Attractions – free
Vatican city and the Basilica of Saint Peter
You won’t need your passport to cross into the world’s smallest country, but you will need “modest” clothing as you will in most of the Mediterranean’s cathedrals, churches and mosques. Expect a long security queue then a bag search before you can enter to gaze on priceless artistic treasures and soak in the atmosphere amidst other shuffling tourists.
One of the largest and best-preserved temples in Rome, the Pantheon is built in a circular pattern which may have inspired later Roman church builders. The “Oracular” or hole in the roof lets in rain during wet weather.
Villa BorgheseWhen the city gets too much, the public gardens of Villa Borghese provide a welcome retreat. The noise of traffic fades into the trees, but never quite manages to disappear. Stands of mature trees, sculptures, and an artificial lake make it nice place to sit and relax, or wander aimlessly.
Public art and architecture; fountains, churches, bridges, sculptures, etc.
It almost goes without saying, but just wandering the streets of old Rome is a treat in itself. Squares, fountains, buildings, statues, churches — they’re everywhere and, luckily, never too far away from a good cafe or bar.
Walking the Forum
The forum was the central area for legal disputes, political and philosophical discussion and worship in the many temples. Walking it nowadays is a treat which can be spoilt by the water-sellers offering â‚¬10 bottles of warm water, mimes and actors looking to charge you for a photo, and the other dregs of popular tourist sites.
We recommend reading up on ancient Roman history; at least as far as figuring out who many of these people, places and gods are before you show up. There’s little in the way of easy-to-find information on site.
Attractions – paid
If you approach the forum by metro, which is probably the easiest way, you’ll be arriving at “Colosseo” and emerge near this icon. Built, expanded and used for gladitorial contests, it’s partially in ruins now. There are chances to take your classic photo from the outside and huge lines to get in. If your time is short, I’d advise skipping it but if you do go inside you can see the excavations which have unearthed the underfloor cages where animals and people were kept.
The Vatican Museum
The resources of the Renaissance church were thrown at bringing together this amazing collection of artwork and the design and building of what was the papal palace. The Sistine Chapel is within its walls and that alone almost makes up for the entrance price. If you go on the last Sunday of the month, admission is free.
Other tours operate around the Vatican, giving access to various places and sights.
Attractions – seasonal
Rome is always a popular pilgrim destination, but crowds swell at Easter and Christmas.
On Good Friday, the Pope leads the procession of the cross at the Colosseum; and on Easter Sunday he addresses the crowds in St Peter’s Square. At Christmas, the city is filled with nativity scenes and festive markets, culminating in a midnight mass at most churches and a blessing by the Pope in St Peter’s Square on the 25th.
If you’re brave enough to face the summer heat, you could attend various neighbourhood festivals or Saint’s days but Autumn is the party time with the cultural festival RomaEuropa, the White Night (La Notte Bianca) where art galleries and museums are open all night for free, the Marino wine festival and much more.
With a culture- and history-heavy city like Rome, you’d expect Rough Guides’sangle to treat Rome well, and it does. Time Out Shortlist Rome 2010has the best guide to nightlife and the eating, drinking, party scene while Lonely Planetprovides solid background and good on-the-ground choices and tips for getting around.
Where to next
Being the capital, you can get pretty much anywhere from Rome. Trains run in all directions; budget and legacy airlines lead all over Europe and the world.
Craig recommends heading to Sicily for island life, rich fruits and wines, hiking in Mt Etna and beautiful beaches and countryside. Linda recommends choosing a few cities to visit on the way north into Austria. Assisi, Florence and Venice are all worth a visit, but picking a smaller one to stay in for a few days is a wonderful experience – one of our favourite places in Italy is a tiny town at the end of a winding bus route called Baiardo. And there are thousands of little gems like this throughout the country.
Special thanks to Jessica Stewart from Rome Photo Blog for supplying the photos for this episode; if you’ve been watching the iTunes enhanced version you should have seen them all.
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