Pack Well. Rome in the summer is HOT. Like 2 showers a day hot, because it is impossible not to get incredibly sticky and sweaty unless you stay in hugging the air conditioning unit, so pack accordingly. If you have the space, bring double the amount of clothes than days you're going. If this isn't possible, at least bring extra undies and T-shirts! You won't need jumpers or jeans either-pack light!* (Did I mention it was HOT?) Suncream and good shoes for walking in are also essential, plus plasters for when your shoes rub in the heat. (even the most reliable of sandals become blister-makers, believe me!) Antibac hand gel and a couple of packs of tissues are also a must have for when the loos aren't quite up to scratch.
Water. It goes without saying that you will need to drink lots of it, but the street vendors will sting you for anything from €2-€4 for a 500ml bottle. My personal solution was to buy a large 1L bottle from the airport (after passing through security, obviously) and then an even bigger bottle from the (wonderful) DeSpar supermarket once we got to Italy (I got a 2L bottle for only €0.24!) and then decant from one into the other. Lots of the bigger attractions have drinking fountains so you can fill up with deliciously cold water throughout the day, so only buy from street vendors when you have to (or when your water is just too unpleasantly warm!) and you'll save a fortune.
Do Your Research. You'll save a lot of time standing in a queue if you buy your attraction tickets beforehand. We got Vatican tickets online before we went and bought Colosseum tickets at an information desk near the main Termini train station. It might cost you a little more but it's worth it to be able to walk straight past the massive lines. We also saved money by getting the bus from the airport to Rome, rather than the train which was our original choice. (€8 for a return vs €14 each way to save about 20 minutes!).
The times that you visit places can make a lot of difference to your experience as well. When we arrived in the Vatican City at about 11am, the queue for St. Peter's Basilica was rather long-I estimate we would have been standing there in the midday sun for at least an hour if not longer. When we returned after our visit to the Vatican Museums at about 4.30, we queued for no more than 15 minutes.
Have a read around on the internet before you go, there's plenty of good advice out there.
Buy a sunshade/hat!
|Modelled beautifully by Rara, I think you'll agree|
Take Enough Money! Rome has a reputation for being expensive but it probably isn't any more so than any other capital city for the basics. I didn't spend more than €13 on a meal (not including the gelato which ranged from €2- €5) and the food was really gooood for that price. Where the expense comes in is the attractions-you have to pay to get into most of the larger ones and each is about €20. If you're planning on being a proper tourist and doing everything then make sure you budget accordingly. On the other hand, you could definitely do Rome on a shoestring-it's not too big to walk around as long as you don't mind the trek. Also, some of the attractions are free and definitely well worth a visit (eg St. Peter's and the Pantheon-Italy knows how to do spectacular churches!). Also, always make sure that you ask the price of things first before you do something-there's many a hidden cost! We had some pictures taken outside the Colosseum with some Romans which cost us €10 each for 2 photos and we didn't know until afterwards when they charged us! There is often a small ( €1) charge to sit at a table at a restaurant, so if you aren't getting a full meal it might be cheaper to take it away and eat as you wander.
|I think they make the red lights bigger to make sure people take notice of them.|
Be Assertive. Italians may come across as rather pushy to us un-confrontational British fok, and will try to sweep you into every restaurant you pass or sell you their goods when you walk past/(in most cases) around them. Don't be afraid to assert yourself a little and firmly say no before carrying on your merry way. They won't mind, and if they do then you're never going to see them again, so don't feel too guilty!
Finally, have lots of fun! Rome really is a beautiful city and there's lots to see and do there so just explore and see for yourself. Eat lots of gelato and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee your return. Say hello for me, too!
P.S Sorry Brits. No-one in Italy seems to understand how to queue or the definition of 'personal space'. You're just going to have to grit your teeth, stiffen that upper lip and tut your way through it I'm afraid!
*NB Some of the churches, esp St. Peter's have a strict dress code and will turn you away if you are dressed inappropriately. Make sure you can cover your shoulders and knees (men and ladies alike!) either with what you wear or with scarves etc. Also ladies, make sure you're not too revealing cleavage-wise!