Just landed home after a third city break to Rome and realizing that I still make the same mistake over and over again. It’s about wanting to see all in 3 days, by foot if possible… Remember this is a city to come back and rediscover many time.
Why a 3.5 stars destination, considering one star for over-rated and 5 stars for exceeding any expectation? The lost stars are due to the overcrowded touristic spots and the prices that are quite high, especially for tourists – food, night out, museums, accommodation in the city center and the tourist tax ( the highest I’ve seen). But this one at least goes to a city that is a living museum, so think about it like an attraction ticket.
So this is what I shouldn’t do if in Rome or going to Rome, although I still do it:
- don’t over-plan. Rome wasn’t built in one day so you couldn’t see it in 3 days. It’s an open air museum, every street has something historical, a statue, a church.
- don’t go unprepared about things to see, to eat, to do, to go out. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and you’re getting tired. Choose to see one major museum a day and check the free entries like Vatican Museums last sunday of each month, MAXXI museum that I strongly recommend
- don’t try to do everything by foot. It might look quite condensed on the map, but with so many things to visit it’s a marathon every day
- don’t use the tourist map you find in every hotel, except only for directions and only if it’s your first time in Rome.
- don’t forget that summer is very hot and winter could be rainy, so check the weather and pack accordingly. At least all the fountains have drinking water. What an amazing city when you think about water bottles in Paris sold by Pakistanis or other immigrants. Or beer cans in the evening in Spain.
- don’t over pack. They are not as fashionistas as Milanese. It came for as a surprise not to see them in general as fashion addicts. But Spanish steps area is different.
- don’t book accommodation in the Termini area as it can be unsafe at evening, or it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- don’t be fooled by everything catering to tourist – everyone trying to sell you tickets without queuing, tours, etc. Buy your tickets online, with guides and with appointment to some of the museums like Villa Borgia. Avoid crowds and is likely to avoid pickpockets.
- don’t pay for museums if going unprepared. How can you see in 3 hours ancient Rome, the kings the republic and the empire, the birth of Christianity, the renaissance Rome and the Bernini’s and Bormioni’s baroque, the Romantic Rome, Garibaldi’s Rome and the birth of the Republic. In addition to all of that Rome was the playground of the rich and powerful, and I think about popes. So choose your museums carefully and especially the artworks you want to admire.
- in my opinion the first 3 times in Rome don’t visit any museum, just walk this city and check the artworks displayed all over it. Do it by days if possible or by city breaks – do a special ancient Rome, then a Bernini vs Bormioni Rome, the churches of Rome, the modern day Rome.
- don’t be afraid about communication as Romans speak English or at least they try to. Don’t be anxious about them being so loud. At least they are polite and quite friendly.
- don’t underestimate the cost of living; eating out and nights out are expensive, supermarkets almost double than in Spain. Just to have an idea.
- don’t eat the menus for tourists. Go out of the beaten paths of the center and go to tratorias or family owned local specific fast-foods. I recommend Pastificio Via della Croce, 8, 00187 Roma RM, Italia; Pizzeria La boccaccia, in Trastevere;
- i do not recommend Pompi tiramisu near Pastificio, as I had better in not so touristic places, like Giuliani Caffe near Termini station.
- some of the attractions are pure marketing so don’t do, in my opinion, or don’t expect too much from the Aventin Hill, La Bocca della Verita, Farnese Place, walking along the Tiber river and many more.
- don’t do locks on all the bridges or even in Vatican square.
- avoid summer as it is so hot and so crowded!
- I’ve seen no public toilets ……..which is quite a big problem, so look for the Mc Donald’s, Starbucks and so on….
- don’t go without an internet access plan on your mobile phone. It helps you understand while you visit the hystory, the arts, the city.
- don’t rent a car if only for Rome and the surroundings. Parking is difficult even not so expensive at 1 euro per hour.
- don’t go without travel insurance, copies of your papers to take them when out in the city and some cash to avoid using exchange offices or ATM’s at the airport.
- don’t buy souvenirs in the airports as they are very cheap in the city and quite interesting compared to what I’ve seen usually in big tourist.
- don’t drink in public or eat on the stairs of major attractions.
It can be more to say but the list of thing to see and do is much larger that the list of DONT’s. I’ve pointed some in this post about Rome’s MUST DOS and some HIDDEN spots that I’ve personally verified.