Rome Travel Guide: Best Tips When Visiting Italy

Rome has a way of making you feel small as the history engulfs you, not in a discouraging way, but as a reminder that we are all part of something bigger. The Eternal City feels a bit fragile but is full of landmarks that preceded other cities a large margin.

The Italians enjoy their coffee strong and standing at the bar as they down a shot of espresso. Feel free to join in on the excitement in the neighborhood you find yourself in as a few cups may be needed to have the necessary energy to see everything Rome has to offer.  

The cafes are endless and if you have a moment during your trip it is worth sitting down and thinking of all the people that came before you. The historical figures that walked these same cobblestone streets. 

This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list of where to eat, what to do and the best places to stay when in Rome. Yet, it was one of the best trips I have ever had, and if you follow some of these tips, your trip to Italy will be full of meaningful memories as well.

The best mantra you can follow when traveling is to be where your feet are instead of scrambling to cross off every “best of” list while enjoying Rome. This list is similar to one of those old-school change jars at a convenient store taking pennies as needed only to leave a few ideas after you complete your own trip.

Here ‘s to you. Here’s to Rome and here is a rundown of what to do, where to eat, best places to stay as well as a rundown of our Airbnb experience.

How to Attend an A.S. Roma Game

Attending an A.S. Roma soccer match is a must if the team is playing during your Rome trip.

We were fortunate to be in town when A.S. Roma had a home game. When we first started planning our trip, tickets were not released. I recommend signing up (at least temporarily) for the Roma emails as we were finally notified when tickets were on sale. We were able to score third row seats along the sideline for less than $100. 

Getting inside Stadio Olimpico was one of the most complicated experiences of any sporting event I have ever attended. You would be wise to add an hour to your previously expected arrival time to give yourself plenty of time to get into the venue. 

American fans are used to entering stadiums using any gate, but that is not how it works for a Roma match. The gates correspond with the section you are sitting in so section nine means you enter through gate nine. We waited in the wrong line only to be turned away and walk around to the correct gate. Covid also made things more complicated as we had to show our vaccination cards, passports and tickets just to get inside the stadium. 

Once you get through the complicated entry process, attending a Roma match is spectacular. The concessions were minimal, at least in our section, but you can expect the typical snack foods along with, of course, Peroni.

There is a merchandise store before you enter the stadium, but we found the two locations inside the city center to have more options. I was able to find an alternate jersey on sale for about $40 but the kits at regular price run about $100. 

After the match, we attempted to find a place to eat dinner but there were not many places open. You may be better off to take an Uber back to where you are staying as there are likely more available options. 

As an aside, I found the Mytaxi app (more recently called Free Now) to be the best ridesharing app to use while in Rome. It was both cheaper and quicker to find a driver than Uber, at least when we were in Italy. I even made the critical mistake of leaving my phone in the backseat of one of the taxis. I was able to get in touch with the driver via the app (through my wife’s phone) and have my phone back in my hand within 30 minutes. Losing your phone anywhere is unbearable, but being without it while in a foreign country feels like a death sentence. 

You may not have the good fortune of A.S. Roma playing a home match during your stay. If there is a an away game, you can still get a bit of the local experience by going to a nearby bar to watch the match. Ask around for recommendations or simply type in “soccer bar” via Google maps to see which one is closest to you. I found myself at a basement bar called Highlander Pub for one of the matches and would highly recommend the experience. As an aside, there were random NFL pennants up on the wall as it also functions as an American football bar on during weekends in the fall.

A.S. Roma also offers stadium tours which is another great option if there are no home games during your stay. There are plenty of choices to experience the Roma culture even if you do not attend a match.

Where to Eat in Rome: Best Dishes & Restaurants in Italy

One of the splendid pizzas at Piccolo Buco in Rome, Italy.
One of the splendid pizzas at Piccolo Buco in Rome, Italy.

Be where your feet are. This is the best advice I could give before providing a list of some of the best places to eat in Rome. The more I travel, the more I realize that sometimes the best meals are impromptu where new friends are made at an eating establishment that just happens to be where you are at the moment. 

It is easy to spend much of your trip traveling across Rome in an attempt to find the “best” pizza, glass of wine, cup of coffee or gelato. It is exhausting and rarely lives up to the expectation you bring to the table. 

I am reminded of the scene from the Christmas movie “Elf” where Buddy is on his first date with Jovie. Buddy leads a blindfolded Jovie into a cafe where he hands her a cup of coffee. Much to Buddy’s dismay, Jovie is not fond of the average New York City coffee and appears confused as to why they are standing in the cafe. 

Buddy had previously seen a sign in the window that read “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” taking the cafe at their word. We all know that the best places are rarely the ones that gush about their accomplishments, but the internet has made recommendations more accessible than ever. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path to find your own list of places, but here are a few of mine. 

It is not a challenge to find great pizza all over Rome, but Piccolo Buco was my favorite. You will not pass the place without a line to get in, but it is worth the wait. It is Neapolitan style pizza, which tastes different than the American parlors that also boast this same descriptor. The ingredients are fresh and the crust is delightful forming a big airy ring around the pizza. 

Antico Caffe Greco may be my favorite place in Rome that we visited. You pay a premium for a cup of coffee, pastry or dessert but are surrounded by history. It is one of the few coffee shops where we found the majority of people sitting at tables enjoying their espresso. You should absolutely try the tradition of drinking a cup of coffee at the counter while you are in Italy, but Antico Caffe Greco is a great place to ease into your morning. 

Established in 1760, it is the oldest coffee bar in Rome and some of the all-time great authors surround you as you drink your beverage. The list of historic figures who sat at the same cafe include Hans Christian Anderson, Mark Twain, Keats, Goethe, James Joyce, Orson Welles, Friedrich Nietzsche and many others. This room is rich in conversations that shaped not only Italian culture but influenced the world. 

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place is to see if the late Anthony Bourdain put out any content on the city. Bourdain had his demons but brought a reverent energy to each place allowing viewers to feel like they were getting to experience the area like a local. My wife and I made reservations at Roma Sparita, one of the places Bourdain recommended in a 2016 episode of his show “No Reservations.”

Bourdain’s favorite dish was the cacio e pepe (meaning cheese and pepper in English) which came equipped with an edible bowl made of cheese which closely resembled a waffle. The meal did not disappoint, but I was also able to find a similar dish at other restaurants in Rome. While I would recommend visiting Roma Sparita, trip itineraries can get complicated and you should at least try this dish wherever your day in Rome takes you.

One of the Best Airbnb Experiences in Rome, Italy: Pizza Making Classes

Airbnb experiences, such as this pizza making class in Rome, are a great way to learn about the local culture of a new city.

One of our favorite things to do when traveling internationally is to pick out an Airbnb experience. We found a splendid opportunity in Rome to make pizza, pasta and taste local wine.

Our trip to the class locale felt like we were about to be part of a future true crime podcast. Our taxi driver dropped us off in the middle of a field, far removed from the iconic buildings in the city. We soon followed signs to a kitchen in the middle of the countryside.

The location is intentional as a chef created a pizza making class for visitors to experience the outdoors while also learning how to make Neapolitan pizza. This is also the style of pizza that you will want to try when visiting Rome and other parts of Italy.

The Italians have perfected a way to make the pizza dough puffy and tender despite using a piping hot wood-burning oven. There are no shortage of Neapolitan style pizza joints in the United States, but I have yet to find something similar to what we tasted in Rome.

We have found the Airbnb experiences to be more affordable than other sites with similar offerings. It also allows you to meet with a local, and doing one at the beginning of your trip could help you adjust plans after speaking with someone who lives in the country. I highly recommend this pizza and pasta Airbnb experience we did, but you can also take a look at the available offerings during your trip.

Where to Stay for Your Rome, Italy Trip

Many of the top hotels in Rome will put you in walking distance of historic sites such as the Coliseum and Pantheon.

We have tried both Airbnbs and hotels when traveling internationally and the option you choose depends on your needs. If you desire space for a larger group of people, there appeared to be affordable Airbnb options offering a little more room.

My wife and I tend to opt for hotels during our international trips for a few key reasons. It is sometimes helpful to have local people you can get guidance from during your trip. The location of hotels also tends to be in the heart of the cities which can be useful if you are looking to see a lot of the traditional sites. One word of caution, the big chain hotels can also be located in the overly touristy parts of town which is less than ideal.

We opted for the Dei Borgognoni Hotel which put us right in the middle of the action in Rome. It was in walking distance to most of the historical tourist attractions and just a couple of blocks away from the Trevi Fountain.

When traveling to Europe, you would be wise to be adaptablewith your expectations. Whatever level hotel you choose is likely going to be much smaller than the American equivalent.

Some of the advantages of Dei Borgognoni Hotel included a daily Italian breakfast and the location was in walking distance of any food you may want to try. I was able to walk across the street and grab a late glass of wine after my wife had gone to bed some nights. Staying at a local hotel versus one of the major chains may give you a little more of the Roman experience.

There are no shortage of options when traveling, but we have found that gives us the most flexibility when accumulating rewards. It is an extremely simple system where you get one night free after 10 days of bookings. The amount is based on the average spent during those 10 days and can always choose to spend the difference if you want something more expensive.

If you are wanting to try different places, gives you the freedom not to commit to one particular brand everywhere you travel. Another new advantage is being eligible for upgrades at certain hotels the more you travel. I have noticed during recent searches that more hotels are popping up with room credits and potential upgrade options upon arrival (if they are available).

Visiting the Coliseum, Cathedrals and Other Historical Sites in Rome

Visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome may be cliche, but it does make for a good photo opportunity.

There are plenty of in-depth guides to all the historical sites you want to visit in Rome. All of these proved to be worth visiting and truly breathtaking glimpses of old Rome. One word of caution is we opted to do a Trip Advisor guided tour of the Coliseum along with several of the other nearby landmarks.

Unfortunately, our guide was long-winded at the beginning of the tour, and the Coliseum was the final stop. We were in a time crunch because we had Covid test scheduled (at the time a negative test was required to leave Rome). The tour ran over and after the long line, we only had a few minutes at the Coliseum which proved incredibly complicated to try to find an exit.

There are no doubt incredible tour guides, but you might be wise to simply download Rick Steves’ audio tours of the places you are visiting. This allows you to go at your own pace while still getting a bit of historical context of each place.

We also did a Trip Advisor tour at the Vatican and our guide was extremely informative while moving at just the right pace. The best option will depend on your time frame and what you hope to get out of each location.

We look forward to checking out everything we missed on our next trip to Italy. As always, feel free to contact us to share your favorite places in Rome.

Leave a Reply