Sarah loves to travel and has been to many places around the world. She has been to Italy, France, the UK and many places in the US.
Visiting a foreign country can be very exciting and overwhelming at the same time, especially if you don’t speak the native language. Last year I got the opportunity to visit Rome for the first time. It was amazing, but thankfully I was traveling with my friend who spoke Italian, so things went more smoothly than they might have otherwise. In this article, I will give you the best tips for traveling to Rome based on my personal experiences there.
Tip 1: Pick the Correct Airport
Pay close attention to which airport you will be flying in and out of. Someone that has never been to Rome before can easily get the two names confused since the names sound so similar. Make sure you don't accidentally go to the wrong airport and miss your flight.
Rome has two major airports. The first airport is called Ciampino (CIA) and the second airport is called Fiumicino (FCO) aka Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Ciampino is a much smaller airport than Fiumicino and only has flights to places within Europe. If you are flying from London to Rome, you would probably be flying to Ciampino.
Fiumicino is the international airport of Rome, so Fiumicino sees a lot more traffic than Ciampino, with planes flying in and out all day long. If you are flying from New York to Rome, you would probably be flying to Fiumicino. Ciampino is closer to the center of Rome where all the tourist attractions are. However, since more flights fly in and out of Fiumicino, this could be a cheaper option for you in the long run.
Tip 2: Buy a SIM Card
When traveling somewhere new for the first time, it gives a lot of comfort to know you have your phone to use. The first time I visited Europe, I made the mistake of not buying a SIM card. I was told by my friends that there is a lot of WiFi everywhere and I wouldn't need data. However, after my first day in Europe, I realized my phone was sitting like a brick in my pocket. I couldn't use my phone because I had no data and no minutes to call anyone. Thankfully I was with my friends who live in Europe but I definitely needed data to get around.
Therefore, I definitely recommend that you buy a SIM card and activate it so you will have data, texts, and minutes for phone calls. When traveling to a new city or even a new country where you don't speak the native language, you will definitely need your phone for things like Google Maps or Google Translate.
Tip 3: Know Where to Buy Bus and Train Tickets
This sounds very strange, but the first time I visited Rome, I couldn't find the kiosk to buy tickets for the trains or buses. If it wasn't for my friend who was traveling with me, I would've never known where to look for the tickets.
That's because in Rome, you can buy any tickets for transportation at any newspaper stand—including trains and buses. I was very surprised that newspaper stands sold tickets because I have never seen this anywhere else that I have traveled to.
Tip 4: Know Where to Find the Best Food
It's true that the food in Italy is amazing. When I visited Rome, every place where I had a meal was amazing! The food was always fresh and you can tell that the restaurants value quality over quantity. The food was always hot and made to order. Everything was made from fresh ingredients and nothing tasted artificial like in the United States.
Avoid Restaurants in Touristy Areas
The best food in Rome is not where you think it is. If the restaurant is located close to major tourist attractions like the Coliseum or the Vatican, then most likely that restaurant is overpriced and not of the best quality. The restaurants close to the major tourist attractions are there to make money from tourists that don't know any better and just want to be close to the attractions.
However, if you just walk five blocks away from any major tourist attractions, you will start to see more local restaurants that value quality in all the meals. These restaurants won't be overcrowded with tourists and will be a lot cheaper too. During my vacation in Rome, I found out that more local restaurants farther from the major attractions serve almost the exact same types of food as the overpriced restaurants closer to the attractions.
Avoid Restaurants With Menus in Many Languages
I also learned that many restaurants in Rome offer menus in various languages, such as English, Italian, Spanish and French. However, the restaurants that offer menus in various languages mean that the restaurant caters to tourists. The restaurant could be overpriced and not of the best quality. Try to go to restaurants that have menus in Italian. I understand this can make things difficult if you don't speak Italian but this is what your phone is for.
Tip 5: Book Ahead and Pick an Early Time Slot for Attractions
Rome is a very beautiful city, and it attracts many tourists every year. Since so many people visit Rome, it can be very difficult to see the most popular attractions like the Vatican.
My recommendation to be able to see the Vatican is to book your time slot ahead of time. You can book it the day before, but there might not be any time slots left. I recommend booking your time slot at least a week ahead so you won't be disappointed on the day of your visit.
Also, The Vatican is so popular that if you book time slots in the afternoon or close to noon, you won't be able to get pictures without tons of people in your photos. If you book a time slot in the morning, there will be fewer crowds and you will have a much easier time walking around and getting that perfect photo. When I visited the Vatican, I woke up really early and booked a time slot at 10 am. After finishing my visit, I noticed that the line was really long and it had become really crowded already at noon.
Hopefully, these tips will help you plan your future trip to Rome. Comment below with any questions or if you have any other tips for readers.
© 2020 Sarah Wong