Rome can be overwhelming for unseasoned travelers. The Eternal City, once the center of the Western world, is one of those travel destinations blessed with so many sights to see. It is a destination on steroids, wherein one need not go inside a museum to see art.
As one meanders through narrow Roman streets, one can see priceless works of art – from elaborate fountains to intricate building facades designed and constructed by masters. There’s Nicolo Salvi’s Fontana di Trevi, Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone, The Pantheon, which was rebuilt by Hadrian, and St. Peter’s Basilica, which Banister Fletcher calls “the greatest of all churches of Christendom.”
In 2012, I went to Rome with my dearest friend Emilie. I had been there a few times before but I was quite shocked at how congested it had become. We went there towards the end of May, at the start of the travel peak season. Below is a list of things to keep in mind if you plan to travel to Rome.
1. Don’t take the hop on hop off bus.
My friend and I did a lot of walking when we were there. We spent a day touring the city but made the mistake of buying hop on hop off bus tickets. In a busy place like Rome, you would do well to just take the metro or even the public bus. There are just too many tourists who ride the hop on hop off buses, that you would waste your time waiting in line for a bus that wasn’t full.
2. Walk, don’t Segway.
You’ll see more things this way. You get to stop wherever you want and spend as much time as you want taking pictures of the countless historic and architectural wonders that Rome has to offer. Wear a pair of really comfortable walking shoes. Don’t buy a cute pair of shoes thinking you’d break them in in Rome, and how great you would look wearing them. Oh no! Believe you me, when it comes to traveling comfort always outweighs style. Your feet need to be protected, and by wearing cushioned shoes, you’re doing yourself a huge favor.
3. Take the metro.
There are basically two main lines, Linea A and Linea B. Just take note of your direction and your stop. It’s that easy. Before you exit the station, keep in mind that more often than not, there are multiple exits. Look for the exit signs. They will tell you which exit leads to your destination. If you don’t know where to go, ask. Rome is a very popular tourist destination, and you are bound to find people who speak English with that wonderful Italian accent.
4. Pay for guided tours.
When going to popular tourist places like the Vatican Museum, I suggest you pay for a guided tour. Aside from having a knowledgeable guide who speaks a language that you understand, you also get to skip the long line, which was a priority for me and my friend since we only had a few days there. We were each given a headset connected to a receiver which made it possible for us to hear our guide even from a distance. If you can hardly hear your guide’s voice, it means it’s time to look for your group.
5. Bring your selfie stick.
When you get to the Mouth of Truth and it’s closed, you can still take wonderful pictures of the famous sculpture with a selfie stick. Just stick your phone and selfie stick through the railings, and snap away. However, be mindful of others while using your selfie stick. Also, use of selfie sticks is not allowed in some attractions.
6. Tips on eating cheap
Any restaurant, bar, or cafe that is anywhere near a popular piazza, church, or museum, or structure with any historic importance is going to be expensive. If you want to eat cheap, you’d have to eat at a place where there aren’t that many people, away from the popular tourist spots.
7. Shop at outlets.
On our last day in Rome, my friend and I decided to walk to the nearby department store to kill time. But on our way there, we saw an outlet where they sold high end designer items at discounted prices. If you are into such things, Rome (Italy in general) is a good place to shop. But if you get squeamish at the thought of spending Euro 150 on a pair of Prada sandals, then maybe you can stick to souvenir shopping. You can always find countless souvenir items, religious and non-religious, everywhere you go in Rome. But always keep in mind, the closer you are to a tourist spot, the more expensive those items are.
8. Befriend a local.
My friend and I were fortunate enough to meet Pastor a Filipino staff at the Roi Hotel. I call him a local because at the time of our visit, he had already been living in Rome for over twenty years. He was very accommodating, taking us to different shopping areas, and even having lunch with us a few times. He also helped us send a balkbayan box to Manila, for we had done a lot more shopping than our airline bag allowance permitted.
This trip to Rome was indeed memorable, and I know that I have barely scratched the surface. Rome is one of those places that just keeps coming up with new things to surprise you with every visit. I hope I get to visit the Eternal City again. I’m sure I will have new and exciting things to write about when the time comes.
By: Katy Concepcion-Wiggins