After finally making it to Italy this year, Rome has fast become one of my favorite cities in the world. Everywhere you turn, there are streets lined with colorful buildings strung with white lights, spilling flowers and vines or billowing laundry. Cobblestones and ancient structures mix with modern sensibility in one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been. Go here. Go to Rome!
Simple Packing Tips for a Better Trip
First of all, if you travel to Rome anytime after mid-May and before September it will be hot. HOT, hot. Adding to the heat might be the humidity. But Rome is best outside, walking endless miles and gasping at every turn because it really can’t be this charming and beautiful. It IS that charming and beautiful. But the right footwear and accessories are key.
If you travel light like we do, I suggest three pairs of shoes and no more.
- Ladies, bring a stylish walking sandal you can wear with shorts, dresses, or jeans that has support. I wore Birkenstock sandals and so did about every third girl (foreign or local). They were perfect for the cobblestones that really do cover the majority of Rome. Get them in metallic gold or their simple slide style like these and you will fit right in. Any other brand that has cushioning and arch support is fine too. My friend is touring Italy right now and living in these.
- Leave all heels at home. Really. Yes, I know but do it. Anything taller than a 2″ wedge is going to send you toppling. Really. My entire week there I saw maybe five women wearing heels and they had cars. The cobblestone plus skinny heel combination is nearly deadly.
- Bring an urban sneaker you can also wear with everything. I wore Adidas Superstars and they were amazing. Vans, Converse, Puma, Veda, or Golden Goose also make fun pairs you can sport with the contents of your entire suitcase.
- Bring a nicer, flat sandal for evening or shorter walks. I had a pair of gladiator sandals I wore out for dinners.
- Bring a hat. A straw fedora is my headwear item of choice and goes with shorts or dresses. I wore mine nearly every day. Did I mention the heat?
- Pack lightweight separates in breathable fabrics if you travel in the summer. Leave the rayon at home and try linen and cotton. I lived in lightweight mini dresses, denim cut-offs with thin cotton poet tops, and maxi dresses.
- Pack light if you can. We were in Italy for two weeks with just a 22″ carry-on suitcase and another tote/duffle. It can be done! Maneuvring big check-in trolley bags on the cobblestones and on trains is a nightmare.
The quality of the food in Rome surpassed my expectations, which were already high. We are a family of foodies and Rome delivered some of the best meals we’ve had anywhere in the world.
I’d heard of tourists eating gelato daily on their Roman holidays and we quickly adopted the practice. Gelato shops are everywhere but there are some stand-outs in the city that deliver incredible quality using the finest ingredients. They also feature creative flavor combos like lavender-honey and banana-lime.
Our favorite in the older part of the city was Gelateria Del Teatro. Truly incredible and we went multiple times.
On the other side of the river, near the Vatican, we loved Lemongrass.
Yes it’s divine and, no you won’t get tired of it. The pasta in Rome surpassed our wildest dreams but there was truly a standout from all the places we tried.
Do not miss Roscioli. This family restaurant is so popular you must have a reservation, day or night. every single day. The good news, it’s easy to book a table in advance on their website. Do this a few days before your trip or take your chances after you land in Rome. We were told to stick to starters and pasta dishes here, as they outshine the mains. And they shined. This is the place to get the famous Roman comfort food special, cacio e pepe.
They make their own mozzarella di bufala here and we consider this a must as a starter. Try it with their homemade sun-dried tomatoes.
We had tons of stellar pizza in Italy but the classic Roman style pizza from Pizzeria Da Remo a Testaccio, near the charming Trastevere neighborhood, was our clear favorite. Roman style pizza is different from Naples style: wood-fired. thinner, crispier, unsliced, larger, and not over-piled.
The ingredients are simple and fresh, and we don’t know how they manage to create such magic on a pan but they do and Remo does it best. Make the charming walk across the bridge from central Rome then stop for gelato on the way back, of course! Cash only, but it’s inexpensive. Oh, and go right when they open to avoid a line.
Other Budget Smart Tips:
- Stay in an Air B&B to cut your room bill in half. Perfect for families, many units have washing machines and full kitchens where you can cook simple breakfasts and save time and money. Plus, it’s fun to live with the locals. Book early.
- Rome is filled with dozens of public water fountains. The water is clean, fresh, cold, and often tastes better than bottled water. Pack a reusable bottle and fill up as you need to for free.
- Save on lunch by popping into one of the many delis or cafes featuring cases of fresh paninis ready for heating, finger foods, or pizza slices. Shop owners will wrap your food to go. Grab a drink and sit on the church steps or a bench and people watch. For less 5-8 euros, you can have a delicious lunch and save more to spend on a nice cafe for dinner.
- After saving on breakfast and lunch, splurge on a Roma Pass. With this pass, you get unlimited bus transportation and can visit 2-3 museums, including the Colosseum and Palatine Hill/The Forum. The Roma Pass gets you to the front of a private entrance, saving you more than an hour in line at peak times. On a hot, crowded day at the Colosseum, this feature was worth every cent!
- Ignore the people peddling private tours of the Colosseum. Do not fall for their spiels and 50 euro price tags. You can download free walking tours of the most popular tourist attractions from Rick Steves. Bring a set of earbuds and play them on your phone.
- Remember my earlier tip to pack light? Do laundry easily in Rome if you don’t have a washer in your hotel or flat. Most laundromats have attendants that will start your loads, then let you leave for shopping or lunch while they watch the machines, transfer your clothes to dryers, and keep an eye on them for you. In less than two hours you can have a clean round of clothes and you can explore while someone else minds them for you.
- Where else to splurge? Private limo transfers from Fiumicino airport to central Rome will cost 50 euros per car. After a long flight and clearing customs, you will be so glad when your driver meets you with a sign, handles your bags, and drops you safely and comfortably at your hotel or apartment. Do this if Rome is your first stop. If arriving by train, easily take the subway or a taxi from one of the two train stations.
- If exploring the Vatican and Vatican museum is a bucket list item for you, spend the extra money for a private or small group tour. Your guide will share interesting historical facts, help you see the most important items and features, and get you in through a private entrance.
If you have more questions, ask away! I’ll be busy dreaming of my next Roman holiday. Ciao!