Rome is the capital city of Italy and one of the most beautiful places to visit. While it is impossible to see the whole of Rome unless you spend a year or so exploring this eternal city, you can maximize the days you visit and make lifetime memories.
I spent a part of the summer of 2022 in Rome with my boyfriend, which was a lifetime trip. We both did a lot of research on what to see in Rome and how to get simple conveniences like mobile internet. So I will share with you many things that worked for us and some that didn’t, and I hope this article can prepare you for a trip to Italy.
You might need a visa.
Depending on your country of origin or the passport you are traveling with, you might need a visa to travel to Italy. Check your country’s Italian consulate website to see whether you need a visa to travel.
If you do, then you need a Schengen visa. This visa allows you to travel to 26 countries in the Schengen area. Read a step-by-step guide on how and where to apply for a Schengen visa and all the documents and fees required.
Plan a Rome itinerary .
There are many things to see in Rome; it can be overwhelming. Plan your days well and decide on the must-see places, then allocate them to the days you will be there. Some of the sites are close to each other, for example, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps; you can plan those on the same day.
Do your due diligence and see what you can plan with other sites.
We were staying at a hotel in Rome, so close to the metro station. The hotel had a good internet connection, but we needed mobile data for when we were outside.
You probably will need a mobile connection, too, because, as we will see later, you will need to use some online apps like google maps and google translator.
I checked online for the different companies that were providing mobile internet. I read the review, and ultimately, we decided to go with Holafly. This prepaid eSim allows you to use mobile data, but you can’t make calls.
I will be honest; I found Holafly to be a bit expensive compared to some competing services. However, it had the best review, and that’s how we settled on it.
In my honest review of Holafly (I am not paid to review them,) they were reliable and fast to set up. The money I paid was totally worth it since I had the internet all the time. The last thing you want is to be in a foreign place without the internet.
Popular Methods of payment.
Visa or MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere we walk, even the small pizzerias. So we mainly used cards to make payments. However, make sure you bring some cash for small purchases. Italy uses euros which you can get from a local ATM, or you can look for a foreign exchange place to exchange what you have.
We had some US dollars on us when we first flew in, and one taxi driver accepted payment in USD. I wouldn’t encourage you to use USD, but if it’s your last option, you can try to see whether the merchant accepts it.
As you will realize by day two of your stay in Italy, Italians speak Italian, and very few of them can speak English. Some will try to speak to you, especially when they realize you are a foreigner, but some won’t even try.
I think we walked to one pizzeria on our third day in Rome, and the lady running it couldn’t speak English at all. She pulled out her phone, spoke something in Italian to it, the phone translated into English, and she showed it to us. That’s how we were able to buy lunch that day.
From that day, my boyfriend and I downloaded the google translator, and that’s how we survived talking to locals and reading signages. Google translator is an online app that helps you translate from one language to another, and you have to be online to use it, thus necessitating the need for mobile internet.
Another online mobile app that I rarely use in my own country but used every moment in Rome. You will need this app to move from one sightseeing point to another and look for restaurants or other services near you. You can blind-walk in Rome and still see a lot of good and beautiful sites, but you will need to find your way back home.
Google maps were especially helpful in getting to the metro station on my way back to the hotel. Again, this requires mobile internet, and don’t forget to pack a power bank if your phone battery doesn’t last the whole day.
Walk Around Rome if you can .
Unless you are sick or extremely tired from your flight, walk around Rome when sightseeing. Rome has very narrow streets, and almost everywhere you go, there is a sculpture, an interesting building, or a not-so-popular but beautiful site.
We saw a lot of tourists on tour buses. My boyfriend’s colleague, an Italian, advised us against tour buses and mentioned that walking is the way to go if you want to see a lot of Rome.The tour buses can’t go through some narrow Roman streets, so that you might miss some of Rome while on a tour bus.
Though walking is tiring, it will be worth every sweat and wear and tear on your shoes. Do not forget to pack a pair of comfortable shoes. I found my pair of Nike running shoes helpful; I wore them daily when I was in Rome.
You will also see a lot of cobblestones on the streets of Rome, so you will thank yourself for bringing the most comfortable pair of shoes you own.
Bring an empty water bottle.
Buying water in Rome is expensive. The vendors know that every person buying the water is most likely a tourist. When you go to Rome, do as the Romans do. What I found fascinating and unique from every town and city I have been to; there are water taps everywhere you go in Rome.
The water coming from these taps is clean, fresh, and drinkable. The locals drink from them, and so can you. On our second day in Rome, we went to the Colosseum; it was hot at over 30 degrees Celsius weather. We didn’t know that we could drink off of the “street water” we bought two bottles of 500ml each of drinking water for 4 Euros.
You learn quickly when you see the locals pulling out bottles and drinking off the street taps.
Remember to bring sunglasses and sunscreen.
Remember to pack these two essentials depending on what time of the year you visit. Summers are unbearably hot in Italy. We were unfortunate to visit Italy during the 2022 heatwave in Europe.
We needed a lot of sunscreen, and it’s almost impossible to see anything in the sun without sunglasses. On our last day of the stay, I forgot my sunglasses in the hotel, and that was a huge mistake. I could barely see anything.Trying to buy sunglasses from street vendors is insanely expensive, so try to bring yours.
Get Tickets in advance.
Try to get tickets in advance. Once you devise an itinerary, check whether the places you want to visit need tickets. Some places won’t need tickets, for example, the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain.
However, you will need tickets to places like the Colosseum or the Vatican museum. Try to get the tickets in advance. The first time we went to the Colosseum, we couldn’t go in because we didn’t have tickets.
We tried buying them that morning, but they were all sold out, so we purchased them for the following week. You can buy most tickets online, meaning you can purchase them before you leave for Italy.
Try to get the tickets from the official websites of the place you intend to visit. There are many third-party sellers that try to resell the tickets and those tend to be quite overpriced.
Do not sit on the Spanish steps.
Though you might be tempted to sit on the Spanish steps because of how beautiful they look, or take a picture while seated, do not sit. There are cops manning the steps to make sure people don’t sit. You can get a fine of 400 to 450 euros for sitting on the Spanish steps.
Main mode of transport in Rome.
Rome has a good connection with public transport. Metro trams and buses are common in Rome. Scooters are also very popular and, as I mentioned earlier, walk to maximise the trip. There are beautiful pedestrian sidewalks everywhere I went in Rome, so walking is safe.
There are also different train companies in Italy. You can use either the bullet train or the normal train to move from one city to another. In our case, for example, we used Trenitalia to go to Florence from Rome.
You can buy a metro ticket at the metro station. There are different packages, so depending on the amount of time you will be in Rome, you can buy either the 24 hours metro ticket, the 48 hours one, or the weekly ticket.The weekly ticket helps you save money if you stay for a week or so. It also helps you save the time you spend trying to buy metro tickets daily.
If you want to go to a different city, say Florence, you can check up on train tickets on the website of the company you intend to use, say Trenitalia for the bullet train.
Ubers are not as popular. In Kenya, for example, it is very easy to get an uber, especially in the major cities. In Rome, getting an uber would mean waiting 15 to 20 minutes. Note that I was living in downtown Rome, where you would think users are everywhere. However, local taxis are popular but expensive. So again, if you are traveling on a budget, try to stick to public means of transport.
Get free guided Tours around Rome.
Hiring a tour guide can be expensive, but there are free guided tours in Rome. We didn’t know about those, so for the most part, we went by ourselves or used information from my boyfriend’s colleagues.
We later learned that many Italian tour guides do this for free, and you can tip them after the trip, whatever amount you wish. Free guided tours around Rome will be helpful if you are traveling on a budget.
You can check what is available online. Let’s say you want a free guided tour around the Colosseum, google free guided tour and see what options are available for you.
Bring a good camera.
This can be your phone camera or a camera. There are many things you will want to take a picture of in Rome. Make sure you have a reliable camera and charged batteries. There is no better place to shoot beautiful video content if you are a content creator.
Carry your vlogging microphones and a vlogging camera, and let the adventure begin!
Italians are not the friendliest people in the universe.
Italy was a bit cold for me from Africa, where people are welcoming. I asked my boyfriend too; he is American and said he found the larger population not as friendly. For example, when we were going through customs at the Fiumicino International airport, we tried to say hi to the customs officers, and she ignored us. She just looked at our passports, stamped them, and then continued talking to her colleague without even looking at us.
A pizzeria so close to our hotel was another example; the lady didn’t seem to care whether we bought it or not. A local bank that I tried to go to was even worse.
I can surely say that Italians are respectful; I didn’t experience any racism. It’s probably there, but I didn’t experience it. However, they are not as friendly, but that is fine.
Pickpockets in Rome.
When researching Rome, you probably have seen people saying that there are pickpockets in Rome. From experience, I didn’t experience any pick pocketing, and I felt like Rome was generally safe.
However, like any other town with large crowds of people, you have to be careful. Watch your bag, especially where there are many people, like on crowded metro trams or at the Trevi fountain.
Also, avoid any vendor that offers you something for free. Most people were trying to give ladies “free flowers.” Once you take them, they will start asking for money. So avoid “free things.”
Have as much fun as possible; try out some gelato, Italian pizza, and anything else you think will make your stay in Italy memorable. Remember to take pictures and share them with your friends to inspire them to go to Italy.
Also, don’t forget to let me know if this list was helpful, and be sure to mention anything I left out in the comment section below.