The beginner’s guide to the Eternal City
"Beauty awakens the soul to act." (Dante Alighieri, Italian poet).
We have been dreaming about visiting the Italian capital city for a long time. We were super happy when we finally booked our flight from Budapest to Rome.
There are two airports where you can arrive if you come by plane to Rome. One of them is the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport that is usually used by the major lines, the other one is the Ciampino airport which is where the budget airlines usually arrive.
WizzAir and Ryanair are two very cheap airlines that have flights to Rome. Although a lot of people wouldn’t choose them because of their comfort, if you travel on budget, you can find very good opportunities with these two companies. We booked our tickets from Budapest to Rome and from Rome to Bratislava for only 60 euros.
We usually find the cheapest deals for our flights with Kiwi. Below you can find a direct link to Kiwi.
Public transport in Rome
There are two kinds of transports that you will need to use during your stay in Rome: metro and bus.
The metro is small compared to other metro systems in Europe. You can’t get lost there, the orientation is super easy. There are two metro lines: A (orange) and B (blue).
The most important stops of the A line are the following ones:
- Cipro−Musei Vaticani: The closest station to the Vatican Museums.
- Ottaviano - San Pietro: Here you can find the St. Peter's square and the Basilica.
- Spagna: Piazza Spagna and Villa Borghese.
- Barberini- Fontana di Trevi: The station next to the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona and Pantheon.
- Termini: This is the railway station (the line B also stops here).
The most important stops of the line B are:
- Colosseo: Colosseum and Roman Forum.
- Termini: Railway station and connection with Line A.
Rome has over 350 bus lines and it’s a bit complicated to find out their arrival times, from where they are coming and their destination, so it’s better to always ask the driver whether the bus takes you to your station or not. They don’t usually speak English, but they are very friendly, and they will try to let you know. Don’t forget to validate your ticket on the bus, although it seems like nobody is doing that.
One single ticket is 1.50 € for one metro ride or for 100 minutes on the buses. The 24-hour ticket is 7 €, the 48-hour ticket is 12.50 € and the 72-hour ticket is 18 €. The best option is to check where your accommodation is located, calculate how much you would spend per day and choose the best for you. We bought the 24-hour ticket just for one day and then we always purchased single tickets because every interesting place is near to each other in the center. You only need to use public transportation if you plan to move between places that are far from each other (like accommodation outside of the center or the airport).
.... we love to connect with all the places we visit: we always get something, but we also leave a little piece of our heart and our soul there. We wish we could travel far and fast, but at the same time slowly enjoying all the special moments...
"If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears." (Cesare Pavese, Italian poet).
How to arrive to the center from the Ciampino airport?
There are different kinds of buses departing from the airport and they are going either to the metro stop Anagnina (orange line last stop) or to Termini. You can buy your ticket directly on the bus, it costs around 5 euros. You can arrive to Anagnina in 30 minutes and from there you can go wherever you want to.
We arrived at Rome Ciampino airport at about 8 am, which is further from the city center than the other airport. We took the bus to Anagnina and from there we used the orange line to get directly to the Vatican.
The Vatican Museums
- Opening times: Mon − Sat: 09:00 − 18:00 & Last Sunday of the month: 09:00 − 14:00 / Sun: Closed.
- Entrance fee: General: 17.00 €, General without queue: 21.00 €, Student fee: 8.00 €
- Time spent: At least 3 hours.
- Waiting to enter time: 00:30 − 00:60 min.
People say all roads lead to Rome, and indeed it’s true! But in our particular case, our road led us directly from the Ciampino airport to the Vatican with luggage and everything. We were travelling light, so it was not so difficult.
The Vatican is amazing from the first sight, and it is because the queue to enter is huge. You need to wait more or less half an hour to enter on a quiet day, and there will certainly be people all along the queue offering you to skip the line for some extra 40 €, but we decided to wait in order to spare some money.
The exterior of the Vatican is actually very unified and brown colored, fenced with the living city. But once you’re inside, it’s a totally different world. The architecture, even if it is surrounded by tons of tourists, surprises you with its massive presence.
Most of the people visit the Vatican Museums because of the Sistine Chapel, but you can’t skip the other rooms. Basically, there is a queue inside of the museum and if you follow the sign than it leads you through the whole museum before you enter the Sistine Chapel, that is for sure the most amazing location in the Vatican.
The museum is full of artwork from all over the world and also full of history. You can also see a replica of the Pietà, the famous statue made by Michelangelo, you can observe all the details of it because the original statue is inside the St. Peter’s Basilica and it’s impossible to observe from close (after the attack that suffered in 1972).
You need to be ready to remember every detail of the amazing chapel because photos are forbidden inside. Of course, you will see a lot of people taking photos ignoring the command of the security guards, but better not to do it.
Saint Peter’s Basilica
- Opening times: Every day: 07:00 − 18:30
- Entrance fee: Free. Dome: with elevator and 320 steps: 8 € without elevator (551 steps):6 €
- Time spent: At least 1 hour and a half
- Waiting to enter time: 00:30 − 00:50 min.
Remember that even if it looks so delicious and tempting, don’t buy ice cream here, because it’s super expensive! For 7 euros, you can certainly buy at least 2 buckets of ice cream somewhere else.
Great sunset while we wait
to enter to the St. Peter's Basilica
It’s convenient for you to visit the Saint Peter’s square the same day that you are going to the Vatican, because they are next to each other. After a long queue (that is actually going fast) and after the security check you are able to submerge in the amazing inside of this catholic church, that is one of the most amazing ones that we have ever seen.
The massive temple was finished after more than 100 years (built between 1506 and 1626) of hard work and the influence of some of the most important architects and artists of the renaissance like Michelangelo and Bramante.
The original Pietà statue is visible from the entrance going to the right, and even if it is not very close, you can admire the unique work on marble. The temple gives you a breathtaking sensation, not just because the history, but also because the whole place is a gift for the eyes.
We spent so much time inside enjoying the experience that we forgot to go to the Dome, so if you want to climb up there, go earlier, because it closes 30 minutes earlier than the Basilica.
Pizzeria La Montecarlo
- Opening times: Tue – Sun: 11:00 − 23:45
- Price range: $$
- Time spent: Depends on your eating.
- Waiting to enter time: Depend on the time of the day: 00:00 – 00:15 min.
After a long day exploring the Vatican and the St. Peter’s Cathedral we were very hungry. And what is better than eating real Italian food in the capital of Italy? So, we went to the pizzeria “La Montecarlo”, if you search for it in TripAdvisor you will find a lot of positive reviews of the place, and indeed they deserve it!
The place is very well located next to the Piazza Navona, they serve very traditional food including pizzas, pastas and risotto, and of course, very good wine! We really recommend you to come here if you are in Rome. (This is not a sponsored ad, we just really liked the food there.)
Camping Village Roma
After the pizzeria we went to our accommodation, to the Camping Village Roma, that is located a bit outside of the city center, but you are able to reach it by bus and the stop is right next to the entrance of the camping. It was very convenient for us, we booked a bungalow for three people. In the camping you can also find restaurants and a pool that you can use during spring and summer, and there is a big supermarket on the other side of the road.
We got a very good deal by using booking.com, and if you also want to book your accommodation like that, you can get a 10% discount for your first booking by clicking here.
Our second day in Rome, and we were ready to continue our adventure, which is the second thing that pops in your head after someone says Rome? The Colosseum! And that was our destination.
- Opening times: Every day (except the 1st of Jan and 25th of Dec) from 08:30 to a range between 16:30 and 19:00 depending on the period of the year.
- Entrance fee: Free for −18 years old. 12 € normal fee and 7.50 € for EU members between 17 to 25 years old.
- Time spent: At least 4 hours.
- Waiting to enter time: At least 1 hour and a half. (Keep reading to know how to avoid this time!).
To arrive to the Colosseum, you need to take the blue line of the subway. If you are staying somewhere next to an orange line station, you just need to go to the Termini station and from there, change the line to Colosseo station, located on the blue line.
The Colosseum is the first thing that you see when you leave the subway (for obvious reasons). It doesn’t matter how much photographs of it you have seen, it doesn’t matter how much you have read about it or how much someone that you know have described it for you, when you have the Colosseum in front of you for the first time, it is an indescribable sensation. The experience of watching such a big and antique construction, with all the things that it has faced, is totally unique. Realizing that you have the real Colosseum just a few meters from you is one of those sensations that you will never forget.
Of course, that the queue is super long! They are actually two queues, one for the tickets and another one for the entrance. But don’t suffer and don’t buy expensive skip the line tickets. This is something that not everybody knows: the ticket that you can buy for the Colosseum is valid also for the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, and it is valid for two days for one entrance to each of the places, so you can actually buy the same ticket in every of the three places. If you buy it at the Roman Forum that is just a few meters away from the Colosseum, you will skip the ticket line of the Colosseum and save at least 1 hour in the line!
Once inside, you have the option to go directly to the first floor or explore the base first. The Colosseum is magnificent by itself, but it also has a collection of antique roman remains inside and artwork. From the top you can watch Rome between the inner arcs that shape the Colosseum and the store is also located there, facing the Forum Romanum. You can get really cool and cheap souvenirs there, we even found a 3D book in Hungarian for Zsuzsi.
Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
- Opening times: Every day (except the 1st of Jan and 25th of Dec) from 08:30 to a range between 16:30 and 19:00 depending on the period of the year.
- Entrance fee: Free for -18 years old, 12 € normal fee and 7.50 € for UE members between 17 to 25 years old
- Time spent: At least 3 hours.
- Waiting to enter time: 00:05 − 00:20 min.
After finishing the visit to the Colosseum, we went back to the entrance of the Roman Forum, it’s a very huge place, so it’s recommended to arrive early. The Forum was the religious, economic and political center of the Roman Empire during the Republic. It’s full of temples and beautiful streets with ruins of houses where a lot of important events of the history of the Roman Empire happened.
For us it was a great place to explore, it’s full of great photo spots, if you are also a photographer, or just love to take a bunch of photos, this place is a must in your trip. A lot of hidden spots are located surrounding the tricky hallways of the Forum.
You should open your eyes and search for all the beautiful fountains, if you have your water bottle with you, you can fill it there with no problem.
After we finished exploring the Palatine Hill, we were heading to the Piazza della Venezia. On the right side of the street you can also find other ruins that are actually part of the Roman Forum and also other Forums, but they are open to the public and you can take a look at them for free. At the sunset they look really amazing. So, when you arrive to the Piazza della Venezia, you find the Forum of Trajan with the Trajan’s Column on your right side and the huge Altare della Patria on the other side,
We are sure that the most perfect sunsets are always following us, after an amazing day connecting with the antique history of Rome, we finished the evening facing this great picture. You can also climb up to the top of the Altare della Patria and take a look at the city from above.
It was already dark, when we left this monument and we were heading to the city center to find a pizzeria again. If you are not very tired, you can explore the city center at night, we were very hungry, and it started to rain too, so we chose to one of the pizzerias in the city center (the waiters are inviting you to eat in their restaurants at every corner but check out the prices before you enter). So, after eating we went to see the Pantheon and then the Trevi Fountain at night, and we weren’t disappointed. The city is of course full of tourists even at night, but we got a precious look at the Trevi Fountain at night anyway.
Fun fact: This was the night when Dante asked Zsuzsi to marry him.
Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria at sunset
Rome is usually a very hot city, and everyone said that we were there during the coldest week of the year. Maybe you remember that in February 2018 it was snowing a lot in Rome, which is very unusual in this city. Anyway, unfortunately it was raining on our last day.
So, what to do in Rome when it rains?
We actually didn’t change our plans so much: we woke up early to avoid missing anything and then, with an umbrella, we decided to go to the Castel Sant’Angelo. You can buy an umbrella on the street, they are selling it at every corner.
- Opening times: Tue − Sun: 09:00 – 19:00
- Entrance fee: 50 € normal fee, and 7 € for EU citizens between 18 to 24 years old
The castle was originally planned to be the Mausoleum of Hadrian in the 2nd century but then it was converted to a military fortress in 401 AC. One thousand years later it became a castle, but it was also used as a papal fortress and a prison. Finally, from 1900 it’s a museum.
The Castle looks very beautiful in rain, so we took a bunch of photos here and unfortunately, we didn’t have time to look at the inside of the museum. We crossed the bridge and we were going to the Piazza Navona, which is one of the most famous squares of Rome, full of cafés and restaurants, and you can also find a nice tiny church there.
This square is famous for its baroque fountains. Also, here is the catholic church Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore ("Our Lady of the Sacred Heart"), which is worth a visit as well. The Piazza Navona was the competition area in the ancient Roman times and the people came here to watch the games.
- Opening times: Mon − Sat: 09:00 – 19:15 & Sun: 09:00 – 17:45
- Entrance fee: Free of charge
- Time spent: At least 2 hours
- Waiting to enter time: 00:05 – 00:20 min
We had seen the Pantheon the night before, but we wanted to visit the interior of this monument too. You can enter the Pantheon for free, and you will see a majestic Roman temple, changed into a catholic church. The original Roman temple was completed in 126 ADS by the emperor Hadrian. The dome was the largest in the world for 1300 years and until today it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world! The catholic name of the church is St. Mary and the Martyrs. Among the people buried here you can find two Italian kings and the famous renaissance painter Raphael.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is known as the most famous and beautiful fountain in Rome. A fantastic story says that the aqueduct that originally supplied the fountain with water was made after the command of a mysterious lady who appeared one night in front of the General Agrippa during the times of the Emperor Augustus. She asked him to build an aqueduct to bring the water from a source located next to the city. Years later during the XVIII century, the amazing design that we can enjoy today was designed by Nicola Salvi, who unfortunately, didn’t live enough to enjoy his own creation.
Today it can be enjoyed by everyone at any time of the day. We really recommend appreciating it by day and by night as well, the statues and details glow in a different way depending on the light.
For us it is, and it will be a very special place, because it was here where Dante proposed to Zsuzsi. But be careful with the people who take random photos of you and then they want to sell them to you even if you don’t want them.
Piazza di Spagna and Spanish Steps
The Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous squares that you can find in Rome. It takes its name from the Spanish Palace, this is the place where the embassy of the Spanish Saint Order is since 1647. The Spanish steps are the famous stairs that connect the square and the church of Trinitá dei Monti.
These stairs were the result of the donation of the French bourbons to connect the low level of the Pincio mount to the church. The mesmerizing sight from the top of the Spanish steps fuses the urban landscape with the presence of the Vatican.
Our last day in Rome was rainy and cold, but the city just showed us its colorful face with umbrellas and orange buildings. Rome is also bright in its rainy mood.
Before we headed to the airport, we stopped to watch the Piazza del Popolo (square of the people) and we entered both of the churches.
Piazza del Popolo
The square was originally designed in neoclassic style. The twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli define this big urban square a lot. The fountains of Neptune and dell’Obelisco and their neoclassical statues were constructed in the 19. century. The steps next to the waterfall lead to the Pincio park, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the park.
If you manage your time differently or you prefer doing other things, you can include other attractions in your trip such as:
- You can visit the Trastavere district and get lost in the restaurants and cafés.
- You can explore the city on a Vespa and ignore the public transportation.
Every city has a soul, an essence: Rome has a unique atmosphere, created by active, funny and kind people, beautiful architecture and history. All roads lead to Rome, at least our road will lead to Rome again one day, to see everything that we missed and to explore more of this this amazing city.
Where to stay in Rome?
You can find a very various types of accommodation in Rome. In our case, we stayed in a a very nice (but a bit far from the city) and cheap hostel called Camping Village Roma, for us it was very convenient, because we had a super market in front and a pool! (Tha we didn't use because it was still cold in Rome 😀 ).
It was a quite nice bungalow with shower, kitchen and a little bench outside, perfect for both of us.
If you're travelling with a group and you want to share the costs of an apartment, this is the best option for you. On airbnb you can also find great options if you're travelling solo or as a couple, and you feel more comfortable in room or flat just for yourself. The rooms and flats are rented by private people. Click here and get a discount for your booking with airbnb!
Booking.com is the biggest collection of hostels and hotels all over the world. Click here to explore all the accomodations in Rome and book the best deal 🙂
But if you want to find other accommodation that fits more to your needs, click on our Booking.com deals finder for Rome: