Rome and the Vatican

City-trips, Italy   /  
  • Piazza Navone

  • Vatican

  • Le colisée

  • Piazza di Spagna

  • Place Saint-Pierre, Vatican

  • Le château Saint Angelo

  • Le monument Vittoro Emmanuel 2

  • Le panthéon

  • Piazza de la Republica

  • Vue sur Rome depuis le Vatican

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Taste the flavor of good Italian dishes while immersing yourself in the ancient history of the Roman city . The city of seven hills, founded by Romulus and Remus can only delight you with its cultural richness and authenticity.

When to go to Rome?

Rome is known as very expensive and crowded with tourists during the summer. The good idea is to take advantage of low- season months to discover the city (as we did in January 2011). At that time of the year, you can enjoy much more reasonable rates, up to 50 % cheaper and avoid the mass of tourists. It will not take you 2 hours to enter St. Peter’s but 2 minutes , as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum (where is the Sistine Chapel). The climate is not too cold and you avoid the extreme heat of summer.

How long to stay in Rome ?

4 days are ideal for visiting the beautiful city peacefully.

BUDGET in Rome

Hostels in Rome are particularly expensive, but it is easy to eat cheaply when you have been informed about the best places. Beware though the tourist traps !

How to get to Rome ?

The Roma Ciampino airport is served by low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet. In winter, they offer really attractive rates !

The easiest way to reach the city center from Ciampino airport is to take the shuttle services that correspond with the arrival and departure of each flight. Terravision service will take you into town for € 8 one way in about 45 minutes .
The service blue Cotral Bus connect Ciampino Airport with Anagnina station and costs about € 3. Tickets can be purchased at vending machines, at coaches/buses stations or at the domestic airport. On arrival at the Anagnina, buy a metro ticket and get off at Termini (about the 15th stop). Journey time: 1 hour to 1:30 . One way ticket cost: € 1.5 + € 1 for the metro ticket from Anagnina.

IMPORTANT when you take the subway: before going in, do not forget to validate your ticket in the orange or yellow boxes !

Where to stay in Rome?

We tested two hostels during our stay :

The Twincities Hostel is an apartment transformed into a small hostel where the atmosphere is very friendly. There are only 4 rooms. The hostel is located in the heart of the University of Rome. The neighborhood seems at first a little strange. The hostel is located close to the Basilica of San Paolo ‘ Fuori le mura ‘ (where we stumbled upon the Pope celebrating Mass, yes! ). La Piramide Caio Cestio , Circus Maximus and the Colosseum are within walking distance or follow the stations of the metro line B. The Vatican is 7 stations away. The subway is not far from the hostel. Buses from Coliseum run all night. Francesco, the owner, is a young Italian is very friendly and dynamic and make sure you have a great stay. He might offer you to have a drink in the neighborhood and also give you tips on the city. Only negative point, some staff members do not speak English very well.

We do not particularly recommend our second hostel, Alessandro Hostel, which is much bigger. You can’t find better location and it was very clean. It was 5 minutes walk from Termini station… but the atmosphere was not as friendly.

Hostels near the Termini station are much more affordable than downtown. And it’s really easy to move around in the city in few minutes with the metro and buses (night buses also leave from this place).

How to move in Rome ?

The metro ticket costs 1€, there is a possibility to buy day tickets for unlimited rides at 4€. But Rome can be visited for a large part on foot. We took the subway only in the morning to go to the city and one in the evening to return. Take a day ticket if you are certain you will take it often, depending on your needs…

Termini Station is the starting point to go anywhere.
Metro line A will take you to the Vatican, the Plaza di Spagna , the Trevi Fountain, the Plaza del Popolo and Piazza della Republica.
Line B will allow you to reach the Colosseum, Circo Massim . In fact, in line B, you will find all the ancient part of Rome.

Visit Rome in 3 days

If you stay 3 days in Rome, here is the path recommended by a friend who stayed in Rome several months for his university exchange program.

First day : Visit the South of Rome

Go from Termini to Piazza della Republica, then you go to Emmanuel monument Vittoro 2, then you follow the Pallatin to go to the Colosseum.

The Colosseum: it’s worth also at night with all the lights . The view from outside is free but it is € 10 to enter inside. It’s worth it because it was a combined ticket with the Palatine hill. It is better to go right after. There are guys dressed in old Romans, but they charge 10 euros for a photo. Next door, there is the Roman Forum. To walk in, you have to pay , but there is a way to see them without paying. When down the Via dei Fori Imperiali , you can see the forums on the left side. It is a beautiful sight.

Day Two: West of Rome

Another route is to walk from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza di Spagna and its famous steps, then go to the Trevi Fountain, where tradition wants that “if you throw a coin, you will return to Rome one day.” It’s even more beautiful at night! Then see Piazza Navona with its Fountain of Neptune (one of the most beautiful in the city) and the Pantheon and then get lost  in the streets of Rome. It will take you a good afternoon or even a day because there are shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants.

Day Three: The Vatican and its Museum

It is really interesting and beautiful to see! Visiting the Vatican is free, as well as the basements where you can see all the papal tombs.
Climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica is not free, but the view of Rome and St. Peter’s Square is superb! If you are brave, there are an endless number of steps to reach the top. Claustrophobic refrain ! If you want, there is an elevator for a few extra euros. In good backpackeuses, we chose the stairs ! ;-)
Do not forget the dress code of the churches in Italy: no short skirt or shorts and a vest to hide your shoulders!

What you shouldn’t miss in the Vatican and around :

  • You can see the famous Swiss Guards and their colorful uniforms.
  • The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. You can also admire the impressive spiral staircase. For the Vatican museum , the student card will allow you to get a discount. To visit the Sistine Chapel we are forced to get tickets for the museum.
  • Continue the tour with the Castel Sant Angelo.
  • Near the church of St. Mary in Cosmedin, you can put your hand into the mouth of the truth statue but beware… he can sketch fingers of liars.

Guided Tours

Two guided tours in English are held daily.
Two companies offer this. It is interesting to have a glimpse of the city ‘s history , good to do it the first day you arrive in Rome.
Sites for free walking tour : romefreetour and newromefreetour.

The Roma Pass

There is a Pass for museums and public transport : the Roma Pass.
We did not take it because the Vatican is not included in it and we have not made ??much public transport.
The Pass is for people who plan to visit at least two monuments and museums in Rome, but even we are not sure that the cuts are really worth it. You have to compare the price of the different places to figure it out if it is really interesting (sometimes with a student card, you get even cheaper prices).

Rome by night

You have to see the Piazza Navona and the Fountain Trevir by night if you have the opportunity. There are very few tourists and the lights are very beautiful. It gives a completely different atmosphere than in the daytime. And you can take the opportunity to have a walk and a drink in the small streets around Piazza Navona, it is really lovely.

Discover Rome before going

We strongly recommend you the movie: “Angels and Demons” : it’s a nice movie and it shows a lot of places in Rome and the Vatican.

Take the Aperitivo !

Although it is more a tradition in the north of the country, you can also find places that will offer you Aperitivo. This means that you buy a drink (cocktail or glass of wine) and you can enjoy a cold buffet. If you are not really hungry, you can have a dinner with this.

Where to eat in Rome / Restaurants?

For not too expensive restaurants, go to the district “Trastevere“. Avoid large places like Navona and Pantheon. Prefer wine bars and restaurants “trattoria”.  Most wine bars in Rome offer a selection of sandwiches and appetizers that can make a meal and save you money. Make the lunch your main meal of the day because they are often much cheaper than the evening menu. Note that we do not have to tip, the minimum is just to round up the bill.

Carlo Menta” ( Via Lungaretta 101 in Trastevere ) is a very nice restaurant. We recommend the tourist menu at 13 € (not much for Rome), it includes a bruschetta tomato – arugula, a first course (pasta carbonara in particular), a second dish (veal cutlet Milanese in particular) and a dessert. The servers are all very friendly and helpful.

Here is also a list of restaurants that have been recommended but we have not had time to test :

  • L’Insalata Ricca, a snack on the Piazza Navona.
  • La Meridiana ( Via Campo Marzio, on the street behind Parliament Square, 30m away on the right side), a place frequented by Italians. You get there pizzas, paninis, but also mixed dishes (vegetables , lasagna, different meats). Fast, modern deco , a really nice place and not too expensive (20-25 euro for two).
  • Pizzeria da Remo and trattoria Da Buccatino, in the neighborhoods of Testaccio and Garbatella where many films are shot (by metro : station Piramide). Very good restaurants, typical of Roman cuisine.
  • Il Barocco (via Napoli 45-48), a quiet restaurant, smiling, very good pizza, pasta and cheap staff.
  • The Enoteca Corsi (Via del Gesoù 88, near the Pantheon). We must go for lunch : very traditional, cheap and fine wines of Tuscany (Region owners). If you’re eating for 10 €, you have made ??a feast.
  • The Fate (Viale di Trastevere)
  • Ivo a Trastevere (via S Francesco a Ripa).
  • Giulio passami the olio (via di monte Giordano ) : a neighborhood restaurant.
  • According to the New York Times in 2009, the best “trattoria” in Rome is Felice a Testaccio (Via Mastro Giorgio in Testaccio, between Trastevere and Aventine Hill). It offers a modern decor but traditional Roman cuisine. Caccio e pepe with tonnarelli is the classic dish (pasta with pecorino , olive oil). The prices are very reasonable, just a little more expensive than other trattorias.

Nightlife in Rome

Clubs and discos are concentrated in the area of ??Monte Testaccio and Ostiense . The atmosphere starts to get really festive at midnight. You can find nightclubs and bars for every taste, and you will have a chance to get surrounded by locals, the Italian way !


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