Monday, September 16, 2013

Tips and Tricks of Rome (mainly)

Prior to visiting Rome, I had many reservations. For one, it is a big city with so many things to see and do. Luke visited 8 years ago and wasn't as impressed with it as he hoped. But to be fair, he only spent a day roaming around. After our visit, I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it. So much that I may put it at one of the top cities I have visited. Maybe it is because I did so much planning, research, and preparing for the trip that it went fairly smooth. Anyway, before, during and after the trip, I learned quite a few things about Rome that you might find helpful if and when you plan to tackle the city.

1.) SHOES SHOES SHOES: This gets three capitalized titles because Rome is the first city where I would highly recommend wearing some sort of tennis shoes. And ones that you don't mind if they get dirty. The Roman Ruins are gravel and dirt so they will for sure get dirty. The grounds have rocks all over so sturdy shoes are highly recommended. It really felt like I was hiking through trails. I unknowingly wore sandals, and my feet were so dirty that I had to wipe them off in a bathroom afterward.
2a.) Book the Colosseum in advance: One reason why Luke was not-so-impressed with Rome the first go around was because he was unable to visit the Colosseum. Since he had limited time, he did not want to wait in the line to get in. I booked in advance, so we got to walk passed the non-reserved ticket line, which was probably close to half a mile long when stretched out. No joke.

2b.) Book the Underground Colosseum Tour: I cannot recommend this tour enough! We paid, I think, 9Euro more for this tour than for the regular ticket. It included a skip-the-line ticket (which is worth the 9Euro alone). It included a live tour guide (an audio guide with the regular ticket is 5+Euro). It included entrance to extra parts of the Colosseum such as the underground level and the very top level which the normal ticket does not allow. So worth it! The tour is 1.5 hours, and the guide allows time for you to walk around and take pictures after explanations. Lastly, the guide wears a microphone while you wear headphones so you can hear the information even if you are not right next to the guide. When booking the tour, I did practically two hours worth of research to find exactly how to book. I came across people saying certain websites were scams, and they got charged but got no booking confirmation, etc. To make it helpful for you, here is the website I used to book my tour which I got from reading this forum on Trip Advisor.

3.) Podcasts: If you have an iPhone, iPod, or are one of those people who walks around with an iPad, there are many free podcasts out there with audio guides for many of the sites in Rome (along with many other cities around the world). I downloaded a few of them, and it was very helpful to learn about some of the sights without reading (blah blah blah, who wants to read on vacation?).

4a.) Scammers: Rome is capitol of scammers, pick pockets and thieves. These scammers hang around all of the tourist attractions trying to get you to buy their hats, scarves, sunglasses, roses, water, fans, tissues, etc and really sneaky about pick pockets. If you want a souvenir, buy it from a store, not these folks. The more they sell, the longer they stick around, and they are the.most.annoying.people.on.planet.Earth. If you have been to Rome, I am sure you know what I am talking about. Luke and I are rude to them, and they get the point immediately and then leave us alone. If you try to politely tell them you don't want something, they keep trying to sell it to you. If they offer you a rose, do not take it(!) unless of course you want one and want to pay for it. I have also heard cabs will scam you, so have faith in yourself and use public transport. Lastly, if someone asks if you would like them to take a picture of you, I highly recommend not handing over your camera unless you are definite they cannot run off with it - we just used the trusty flip around and took pictures of ourselves.
4b.) Gypsies: Rome is full of gypsies, and I witnessed them in action. While Luke and I were buying our train ticket at the machine, we had two women come up and try to push the "Proceed" button on the screen. Luke slapped their hands and forcefully said "no!" After that, I did a ton of reading online about these people. The stories I read were really sad, but we have to smart travelers and not let our guard down. Gypsies all around the city try to help you without you asking for it, then they ask you for money because they helped you. They also wait around by the trains and ask to help you with your bags and/or help you find your seats... then ask you for money.

If you are interested in reading more about these dangers to make sure your guard is up, click here.

5.) Train Tickets: Luke and I took the train to Florence from Rome. I am so thankful that we stopped at the train station the day before departure to buy our tickets. The ideal train for us to take was sold out, but we were still able to get one near the time we wanted. If you know that you will be taking the train, I highly suggest looking online first for times and prices. Then go to the station early, to see if it is cheaper at the station. It ended up be cheaper on all of our trips in Italy to buy the tickets at the station.

6.) Clothing: Catholicism is the lead religion in Italy, and Catholic churches everywhere. If you plan to visit a Catholic church during your visit, be prepared to have on appropriate clothing. St. Peter's Basilica has a very strict rule of "no bare shoulders and no bare knees". The same goes for the Duomo in Florence. I saw many girls get turned away from entering the Vatican basilica due to this rule. I knew the rule ahead of time and kept a scarf in my bag to tie around my waist which worked perfectly!
7.) Water: The water in Rome is superb, and the Romans are very proud of it! Do not be afraid of the street fountains. You will see people filling up their water bottles and drinking straight from these fountains. The water is usually very cold, and it is so nice to have access to water all the time. Luke and I stayed hydrated the whole four days, when were are usually dehydrated while we travel.
8.) Wander: Rome has very few big roads. 90% of the streets are narrow and all cobblestone (tennis shoes are helpful here). The city is quite quaint. Get away from the main attractions and wander through these narrow streets. You will love how quiet it is and how no one is bothering you. And then all of a sudden, you will come across a lively Piazza just around the corner or a car will come driving down even though it seems like pedestrian only. Cafes are sprinkled all over, so you will never go more than 100 yards without coming across a place to enjoy a drink. The quaint-feel of the city is exactly why I loved Rome!
9.) Smart Cars: They are everywhere. Point and laugh at them. They are funny.
Despite the negative points I made, I really loved Rome! Thankfully, Luke changed his mind about the city! I will be going into more detail soon. Stayed tuned :-)

Other posts on Rome: General Itinerary, Roman Ruins, Vatican City

Bruschetta is pronouced "broo-sketta" not "broo-shetta".


  1. I'm making broo-sketta for book club on Wednesday. Now I'll know how to pronounce it correctly. :) Great post!

  2. Looks AH-MA-ZING...can't wait to go in a few weeks! Trying to prepare ourselves, were the "bad people" worse than those in Paris?? I'm super bummed, I already booked a different tour of the Colosseum. I understand your pain with planning an Italian vacay...hope it has been worth it!

    1. Woohooo!!! Yes, the "bad people" are much worse in Rome as compared to Paris. I'm just going to throw this out there: don't trust anyone in Rome. Bummer on the tour, but I am sure yours will be great too! You will have to let me know. I am sure the Underground Tour isn't the only good one. I hope you have fun!!!!


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