Known as the Eternal City, Rome is Italy’s capital and at the centre of its history. With ancient ruins and buildings visible throughout the city, it’s highlighted as an international tourism hotspot.
Founded in around 753 BC, there are over 2 500 year’s worth of culture and attractions to explore in the city – all of which are well-deserving of a traveller’s time and euros.
Rome’s tourist attractions are extremely busy, especially in the summer, so be sure to schedule ample time to visit the big landmarks, as you’ll have to fight the crowd to take those essential selfies.
City Guide – Rome
Fly with SAA to Munich or Frankfurt in Germany and then change to Star Alliance partner, Lufthansa to fly to Milan. Catch a train from Milan to Rome.
When to go
The best time to visit Rome is between September and November and then from April to May, when the crowds are fewer, days are bright and sunny, and evenings are crisp and cool.
Italian is language of Rome. However people working in the tourism industry and many younger Italians can speak English. Spanish, French and Portuguese are also understood by some people, due to their similarity with Italian.
The currency used in Rome is the Euro. If you’re traveling to Rome, you will need to exchange your Rands to Euros at a Foreign Exchange Bureaus before leaving. Alternatively you can do the exchange on arrival at local banks.
- Rome really is quite safe for European capital city, but common sense applies.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pick pockets are on the prowl in most major cities ready to take advantage of distracted tourists.
- Don’t leave valuables in plain sight and be sure that you take everything with you out of the car.
- Have copies of your important documents stored electronically, or left with family. Cancel stolen bank cards quickly.
- Avoid certain areas at night such as local parks, darkened areas around Termini and Piazza Vittorio and along the Tiber river.
- Choose secure accommodation.
- Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know and don’t leave your drink unattended.
- Know the Italian emergency numbers. General Emergency: 113, Police (Carabinieri): 112, Fire (Vigili del fuoco): 115.
Getting around Rome is relatively easy – travel by train and bus to major points and then walk your way through the rest. Walking is the only way for tourists to get into the squares where all the best landmarks are situated and navigating the narrow roads by car, trying to squeeze into the parallel parking spaces, is best left to the delivery vans and locals.
When you get to a crossing, don’t be put off by the speedy Italian drivers – they will stop for you to allow you to cross. But brisk movements and vigilance are recommended in busy areas, especially at night.
What to eat
Instead of eating out at every meal, why not try and learn to make some delectable Italian cuisine yourself? And who better to teach you to make classic Italian favourites than the person who’s got all the family recipes stored in her wooden spoon: Nonna. Cooking with Nonna classes last for around four hours and Nonna makes sure everyone leaves having heard some of her best stories and tasted some of the country’s best flavours.
Where to eat
Gelateria Della Palma
What more could you ask for than over 150 flavours of creamy Italian gelato? From sorbets to gluten-free options, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone. The variety may by overwhelming at first, but I had no trouble picking pistachio, Nutella and vanilla.
Babington’s Tea Room
Located right next to the Spanish steps, this tea-lovers sanctuary sells some of the best international teas, fine porcelain and accessories. You can also sit down to a refreshing cuppa and a selection of pastries after making the long climb up the steps. Expect a rather pricey, classic menu of English tea-time favourites.
Romeow Cat Bistrot
As you may have guessed by the name, this chic cafe allows diners to not only enjoy a cup of good coffee, but also the company of some of Rome’s friendly felines. The spot is nothing like your grandma’s lounge! Instead it offers sleek floors, modern decor and comfortable armchairs – perfect for some rainy-day reading with a cat on your lap. They also create delicious vegan dishes.
Where to go
Constructed in around 19 BC, the Fontana di Trevi is the largest fountain in the city. Although there is a lot of mythology about the famous coin tossing, our tour guide’s interpretation was that the first coin was our wish, the second was a promise to return to Rome and the third would ensure luck in romance. Be sure to toss them over the left shoulder with your right hand.
St Peter’s Basilica
This Italian Renaissance church in the Vatican City is a must for first time visitors to Rome. There are countless tours on offer for those hoping experience the whole of the Vatican City, which is the best way to access all areas. Visiting St Peter’s Basilica itself is free, from which you can see the famous balcony associated with the Pope.
As ancient Rome’s most well-preserved building, the Pantheon stands out as one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. Fantastic street performances of opera songs and rock ballots wow crowds in the late afternoons, which is something definitely worth seeing. You can also refill your water bottle at one of the city’s many drinking fountains on this square.IMG_4319
Situated near Piazza del Campidoglio, the Roman Forum was a hive of activity in ancient Rome. First developed in the 7th century BC, it was host to countless markets, political discussions and general social events. It can be viewed from above, just behind the Piazza del Campidoglio or, for a closer look, purchase a dual ticket that will get you into the Forum and the Colosseum.
Located on the Piazza di Spagna, the steps offer a great view of the bustling city. The 138 steps are relatively easy to manoeuvre, but be sure to check whether reconstruction will be occurring at the time of your visit. The Piazza de Spagna is full of high-end shops and sites such as glamorous designer shops, John Keats’ house and the stunning Fontana della Barcaccia. and you’ll find some of Italy’s best food and designer clothing along these streets but dining there is best avoided by anyone on a tight budget, so move on for lunch after visiting the Spanish Steps.
This historic site once saw over 50 000 people gather to watch the gladiators battle to the death. It was built as a gift to the people of Rome. Over the years, the Colosseum was damaged by weather, age and vandalism. Very little of the original structure remains, but reconstructions have allowed visitors to gain insight into ancient Rome.
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Hidden under the busy streets of Rome, you’ll find perhaps the most interesting cat sanctuary in the world. I say under, because it’s a good few feet below the street and you have to go down to see it – so keep your eyes peeled. This kitty haven is actually the site of Julius Cesar’s death. Visit the cats during the day or you could adopt one online.IMG_4359
Pyramid of Cestius
A pyramid is perhaps one of the last monuments you’d expect to find in Rome, but this one has been here for thousands of years. Build between 18 and 12 BC for magistrate Caius Cestius, this 30m-high building is something to behold.
Catacombs of St Callixtus
Named after the deacon Callixtus, these catacombs are the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. Those buried in it include martyrs, 16 popes and numerous Roman Christians. It’s definitely worth a visit for history buffs.