1. Must Sees.
This the our short list of must-sees for the first time visitor. Even if you’re only in town for a few days, you don’t want to miss these four sights.
- Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. Generally the line is shorter in the afternoon.
- Colosseum. I don’t usually have enough imagination to fully appreciated ruins but there is enough left of the Colosseum that not much imagination is need.
- Villa Borghese. Gardens and art museum.
2. Best Gelato.
Our favorite Gelato shop was Fassi, a bit of a walk from Termini station. The Termini neighborhood, which we stayed in has a lot of great hotels.
Fassi gelato is quite a big space so there is lots of room to sit and enjoy your gelato there, surrounded by feasting Romans. They claim to be the oldest gelato shop in Rome. They do all the traditional flavors (tons of choices) with the traditional huge dollop of whipped cream on top (optional).
Allow a lot of time in your day to enjoy your ice creams and your meals in a relaxing way rather than rushing around. These memories will undoubtedly be your highlights of Rome and have you salivating when you think of them in the months after you leave!
3. Best Time to Go.
Winter temperatures in Rome are about 13C during the day and dropping down to 4-5C at night, so it’s a fairly pleasant travel destination even in Winter. I would tend to avoid Christmas week and Easter Week when you’ll have to deal with attractions and restaurants being closed for some days.
April, May and mid-September to mid-October are the nicest times to visit in terms of weather with temps in the low to mid 20s C.
July and August are hot (into the low 30s C). You’re likely to be more comfortable in lodging with aircon during these two months.
4. Side trips.
If you have a 10 day trip or less, we recommend just sticking to Rome + one other destination. Rome needs around 4 full days in our opinion.
Our top pick for a second Italian destination is the island of Sardinia, which has great beaches and atmosphere. There are budget flights from Rome. You could fly into Rome and out of Sardinia to minimize your travel days. Sardinia has international flights.
We’re not Venice fans but generally love everywhere else in Italy. It’s hard to go wrong. Milan, Florence, Sicily, Naples, or the Tuscany and Umbria countryside. These are all great options. Sicily and Naples are more gritty. Milan and Florence are more posh. Sardinia is relaxed but not gritty.
Doesn’t Sardinia look like a good place for a beach fix after you’ve been bingeing on museums and history in Rome?
Rome’s public transportation is really good. You’ll end up taking a mix of the metro (trains) and busses. The buses can get a bit crowded and slow in the traffic so aim to take the metro where possible and the busses occasionally.
Taking public transport to/from the airport is also very easy. Fiumicino has a direct train called the Leonardo Da Vinchi Express (how cool is that?!). Ciampino airport has a shuttle bus that connects to the nearest metro station (we’ve taken this option and it was fine).
photo credit: jonrawlinson sumo4fun via photopin cc