Rome, the Eternal City, is a must-visit. Here’s what I wish I knew before visiting.
Rome, the Eternal City. A standard stop on any Italian or European trip. Alleys filled with sounds of Italian and smells of freshly made food. While it’s filled with breathtaking architecture and incredible things to see, here are the five things I wish I knew before visiting Rome.
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1. Rome is one of the most visited cities in the WORLD.
Italy is the 5th most visited country in the world. Rome is at the top of the list for Italy.
Read: It’s crowded. Like very, very crowded. It is estimated that over 4 million tourists visit the Colosseum each year. Same for the Vatican (in Vatican City, not Italy). So unless you enjoy waiting in long lines in the hot Meditteranean sun, buy a ticket ahead of time or go on a tour. Also understand that tourists come from all over the world, meaning they have different customs than you (i.e. not waiting in line).
I always recommend the Viator small group tours for a skip the line. While our Vatican breakfast tour was not a small group, we got to enjoy the Vatican without the crowds – LOVED this tour. We were done by 11 am and had the rest of the day to explore Rome some more.
2. The subways are hot and crowded.
Remember Number 1? Yeah, now take all those people and put them on a subway without air conditioning. Rome (and most of Europe) has an awesome public transportation system, but sometimes they don’t have air conditioning. Maybe it was just the stations I rode? I don’t think that’s the case, so just be prepared. We carried travel deodorant and of course my travel straightener to fix the bangs! Don’t expect to have personal space either, so keep your valuables where you have an eye on them at all times.
3. Be aware of pickpockets and schemes.
While we were not on the receiving end of this, we were witnesses to one scheme. Rome is as safe as other cities. However, since it’s filled with tourists, it is important to be alert to your surroundings. These pickpockets are not only in Rome either, so wherever you’re going PLEASE be aware.
A common one I’ve seen in a number of countries is someone offering to help with baggage and then demanding a tip. This is very common at airports or taxis. They basically won’t give you your bags until you give them money. If you’re coming off the airplane and don’t have small bills yet, then you may be handing over $10-$20 to get your luggage (yes, I’ve seen that). It’s simple enough to avoid this – just say no thanks.
Travel Tip: Research the best viewpoints in Rome to plan out your trip
Another common scheme is pretending that a salesman doesn’t have change for your bills. They take your cash to another vendor and give you back less change because you may have forgotten how much you gave them. Or they pretend that you gave them less that you did. I can’t stress this enough – keep an eye on your money. I have followed people for ten minutes to make sure I got the money I was due.
The one we got to see was the forgotten “bracelet” or ring or whatever they happen to have on them. Basically, an innocent-looking person picks up a bracelet on the ground near you and asks if you dropped it. When you say no, they examine it and say it’s worth a bit of money and tries to sell it to you for a good price – much more than what they paid for it before dropping it.
4. Tipping is not mandatory.
Typically on a bill in Rome (and throughout Italy), there is a service or table charge included. Servers in Italy receive a competitive wage (unlike the United States). The service/table charge is the fee for serving you. A tip is not expected, so you won’t see a tip line on a receipt. If you feel like tipping, usually one or two euros per person is generous.
Travel Tip: Before visiting Rome, check out these 20 tips for eating like a local! (Definitely wish I knew these!)
5. The house wine is fantastic.
Okay, so fresh pasta, delicious sauce, a crisp fresh wine surrounded by a rich history and breathtaking architecture is anyone’s Italian dream. Save your wallet and skip the bottle of fancy Italian wine – the house wine is fantastic. Italian restaurants love their wine, so when they recommend one to pair with the food, trust them. They’ll recommend a red or white depending on what you’re ordering. Their house wines were selected with care, sip and enjoy! (Your wallet will thank you!)