Day Trips To Europe Rome - a guide for days out, weekends, short getaways and city breaks

 

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If I could only visit one city for the rest of my life, it would be the Eternal City, Rome. Itís not just that Italyís capital is enchanting, compelling and hypnotically beautiful.

 

Itís also the worldís biggest and most fascinating outdoor and indoor interactive museum. The city is a giant archaeology park with almost 3000 years worth of history on display: much of it incredibly well preserved.

 

There are so many amazing and unforgettable things to see, itís hard to know where to start.  Put simply, Rome is an adrenalin rush for all the senses. The only problem with visiting the city is having to leave it.

 

Getting There

 

Bernini's Fontana de Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona - Click for map

Bernini's Fontana de Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona

Rome is around 2 hours from the UK and is served by two international airports. Fiumicino, or Leonardo da Vinci, is about 18 miles southwest of the city and is mainly used by the national carriers.

 

The fastest way to get to the centre is the Leonardo Express train, which leaves every 30 minutes, takes 31 minutes non-stop to Termini station northeast of the centre (map), and tickets (biglietti) cost Ä10.

 

There is also the Metropolitan FM1 train, which leaves every 15 to 30 minutes, stops at several stations - but not Termini - and costs Ä5.

 

The journey to Roma Ostia station, south of the centre, and the best hop-off point for the sights, takes around 25 minutes.

 

The SIT shuttle bus to Piazza Cavour (map) and Termini station leaves every 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day, costs Ä8, and takes 50 to 60 minutes depending on traffic.

 

There is a fixed-fare of Ä40 to the city centre, and visa versa, for a licensed Rome taxi but always confirm this with the driver before you get in. The journey takes about 45 minutes.

 

Ciampino airport is 10 miles southeast of the centre and is the main hub for budget carriers and charter flights.

 

Santa Birgitta Church in Piazza Farnese - Click for map

Santa Birgitta Church in Piazza Farnese

The SIT shuttle bus to Termini station leaves every 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day, and costs Ä6. Terravision buses to Termini run to a similar timetable and cost Ä8. Buses take 50 to 60 minutes depending on traffic.

 

You can also get a bus to the Anagnina Line A station and pick up the metro. Itís the cheapest way to get the centre - about Ä3 in total - but more hassle and the combined journey time can be over an hour.

 

Terravision tickets have to bought in the terminal or online, tickets for the other buses can be bought from the driver.

 

A taxi to anywhere within the Aurelian Walls should cost a fixed-price Ä40, and visa versa, for a licensed Rome taxi but always confirm this with the driver before you get in. The journey takes about 45 minutes.

 

National and budget carriers fly to Rome from all over the UK but the best options for day trippers are probably the following flights to from Gatwick/Heathrow to Fiumicino, and Stansted to Ciampino: arrival times are in brackets and all times are local.

 

Airport

Airline

Out - am

Return - pm

Gatwick

Easyjet

6:50 (10:20)

21:20 (22:55)

Stansted

Ryanair

6:10 (9:45)

22:05 (23:45)

Heathrow

BA

7:00 (10:40)

20:25 (22:00)

 

Victor Emmanuel Monument - nicknamed the typewriter building

Victor Emmanuel Monument - nicknamed the typewriter building

 

Eco-friendly travel - to find out how you can make your travel carbon neutral visit CarbonNeutral or ClimateCare.

 

If you'd like more information on getting to Rome, take a look at our booking and travel planning section.

 

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Sightseeing

 

Most of Romeís historical and cultural attractions are inside the Aurelian walls (270-82 AD) but these still encircle quite a large area to get around on foot.

 

And some sights, such as the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel, are at opposite ends of the city. If your time is limited you might want to restrict yourself to specific areas in the centre.

 

If you need to make the most efficient use of your time, taxis are probably the fastest way to get to opposite parts of town, and are relatively inexpensive. Most journeys around the centre will cost Ä6 to Ä10.

 

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - the not so famous end - Click for map

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - the not so famous end

The two-line metro system is fairly limited and not particularly useful for sightseeing, although it does stop at a few key attractions. Buses and trams are far more useful than the metro and there are plenty of them.

 

Single journey BIT tickets are valid for 75 minutes and can be used for one metro ride and unlimited bus and tram changes.

 

Tickets must be bought before you travel and stamped or validated at the start of your journey in the orange or yellow machines. Tickets are available from stations, bars, tobacconists and news kiosks for just Ä1.

 

One-day BIG travel cards give you unlimited metro, tram and bus travel in the Comune di Roma zone and cost Ä4 and the three-day version, a BTI card, is Ä11. For more information click here.

 

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What To Visit

 

The Colosseum is one of the most impressive and evocative sights in Rome despite repeated earthquake damage, hundreds of years of neglect and having its fabric systematically plundered for other buildings including parts of St. Peterís and several bridges.

 

This vast amphitheatre was finished in 80 AD and may have got its name from the colossal bronze statue of Nero that was build next to it in the second century AD.

 

The Colosseum from the Forum end

The Colosseum - an icon of ancient and modern Rome

 

In its heyday over 50,000 spectators gathered to watch people and animals kill each other, and maybe have a bit of a chinwag and some crisps in the interval.

 

Itís rumoured that one Emperor was toying with the idea of stand-up comedy nights, but in the end decided not to mess with a winning formula. Map

 

To avoid queues at the ticket office arrive early, buy your ticket at the Palatine ticket office, which is just round the corner from the Arch of Constantine and doesnít get anywhere near as busy, or book in advance online. The Palatine entry fee includes the Colosseum and visa versa.

 

Just to the side of the Colosseum is the impressive, but fenced off, triumphal Arch of Constantine. Itís 70ft high and 85ft wide and celebrates the drubbing Constantine gave the larger army of Maxentius in the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.

 

The Arch of Constantine next to the Colosseum

The Triumphal Arch of Constantine next to the Colosseum

 

The Colosseum and Arch of Constantine stand at the head of one of the most remarkable archeological sites in the world; the Imperial Fora and the Roman Forum.

Unfortunately, Mussolini decided it would be a good idea to build a four-lane highway down the middle, cutting the two sites in half.

 

One can only imagine how much more spectacular this area was before this modern-day act of urban planning vandalism. If you want to take in everything in this general area leave yourself at least a day.

 

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Imperial Fora - key attractions include Neroís labyrinthine, and now underground, Golden Palace; Trajanís markets, probably the worldís first purpose-built shopping and office complex; and the Forums of Nerva, Julius Caesar and Augustus. Map

 

The Roman Forum was once the heart of ancient Rome, and despite the ruinous state of its temples and basilicas, itís still an impressive sight - for a panoramic view click here.

 

The Temples of Saturn and Vespasian in the Forum

The Temples of Saturn and Vespasian in the Forum

 

Highlights include the Septimus Severus and Titus triumphal arches at each end of the Forum; the Antoninus and Faustina, and Romulus temples; the vast Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius; and the Curia. Map

 

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The best way to appreciate the scale of the Forum is to view it from the Capitoline Hill, at the side of Palazzo Senatorio.

 

The Palatine Hill above the Forum is where, according to legend, the history of Rome began with Romulus and Remus and their wolf friend.

 

Itís home to some of the oldest archaeological remains in the city including whatís left of some Iron-Age huts, and is a must-see part of the Forum.

 

The 2nd-Century Temple of Hercules in the Foro Boario

The 2nd-Century Temple of Hercules in the Foro Boario

 

Musei Capitoline - the Capitoline Hill was the heart of the ancient city and is worth visiting for its views of the Forum and Michelangeloís Piazza del Campidoglio.

 

Either side of his magnificent square are the two former palaces that are now the Capitoline Museum, and which house some of the cityís most prized artifacts.

 

Itís predominantly sculpture and bronzes but there are also mosaics, frescos and paintings, including works by Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Van Dyck and Pietro da Cortona. Map

 

Vatican City is the worldís smallest sovereign state and the HQ of the Catholic Church - for virtual tours click here.

 

St. Peter's Church in Piazza San Pietro

St. Peter's Church in Piazza San Pietro/St. Peter's Square

 

You could easily spend a day exploring the site of St Peterís martyrdom and burial, but the main attractions are St. Petersí Basilica, the lavish former papal palaces, which are now home to the Vatican museums and their unparalleled collections, and the Sistine chapel. Map

 

You can also visit the roof of St Peterís and enjoy its stunning views of the city - to see if it's worth the climb click here.

 

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Castel SantíAngelo - this vast and imposing rotunda fortress started life as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian but was converted into a stronghold in the sixth century AD.

In 1277 a passageway was built between the Vatican and the castle so that it could be a papal bolthole in times of political turmoil and general horribleness. The terrace provides excellent views over the city. Map

The Pantheon - one of the marvels of ancient Rome, this stunning building dating from 125 BC has survived more or less intact because it was given to Pope Boniface IV in 608 AD and consecrated as a church.

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotunda Rome

The imposing portico columns of the Pantheon

The imposing portico - dedicated to Marcus Agrippa, who built the original temple on the site in 27 BC - hides a vast dome with the same height and diameter, 43.2m.

Itís the largest masonry dome in Europe and at its centre is a 8.23m diameter oculus or large hole, which lets in light and the elements.

Rain can create a waterfall effect inside the building and indoor snow flurries if youíre lucky enough to be in Rome when itís snowing. Map

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Galleria Borghese - this museum and gallery is housed in Villa Borghese on the edge of its former grounds and now a public park.

 

Often described as one of the best small museums in the world, it houses several of Berniniís best sculptures together with important paintings by Caravaggio, Titian and Raphael, and works by artists such as Cranach, Rubens, Correggio, Paolo Veronese, Lorenzo Lotto and Canova. Map

 

Galleria Nazionale díArte Moderna

Galleria Nazionale díArte Moderna in Villa Borghese park

 

At the opposite end of the park there are two other museums: Galleria Nazionale díArte Moderna and Museo Nationale Etrusco di Villa Guilia. Map

 

Museo Nazionale Romano is spread over three sites - Palazzos Massimo and Altemps, and the Diocletian Baths - that are home to one of the worldís most important and extensive archaeological collections. The exhibits include frescos, mosaics, sculptures, ancient coins and precious artifacts.

 

San Giovanni in Laterano is the site of Romeís first Christian basilica. Itís the cityís official cathedral and the former papal residence and HQ of the Catholic Church before Vatican City and St Peterís Basilica - for virtual tours click here.

 

The church has been rebuilt several times, and although the present structure dates back to 1589, it retains the shape of the original forth-century church.

 

As you might expect itís spectacular inside and out, and boasts the worldís first baptistery: the blueprint for all that followed. Map

 

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Santa Maria Maggiore in the Esquiline district of the city - Click for map

Santa Maria Maggiore in the Esquiline district

Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill dates back to the fifth century and is a mix of architectural styles including Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque.

 

The relatively understated faÁade belies the eye-popping marble and mosaic interior and gilded coffered ceiling.

It is one of Romeís four patriarchal basilicas along with St Peterís, San Giovanni in Laterano and the only one of the four outside the Aurelian walls - San Paulo fuori le mura. Map

 

Santa Maria del Popolo - this fifteen-century church next to the cityís northern gate on the edge of Piazza del Popolo is crammed full of treasures by some of the worldís most important Renaissance and Baroque artists.

 

Highlights include works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Bernini, Pinturicchio and Bramante; and thereís a beautiful stained-glass window by Marcillat. Map

 

San Clemente - the striking twelfth-century interior behind an unassuming faÁade is only the first surprise of this wonderful church.

 

Underneath the street level basilica are the remains of a fourth-century church and below that, buildings that date back to the ancient city including a temple dedicated to the Persian god, Mithras.

 

Other key sights include the beautiful apse mosaic, eleventh-century frescos and the Capella di Santa Caterina. Map

 

Trinita Dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps - Click for map

Trinita Dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna - so-called because of the nearby Spanish Embassy - is a favourite meeting place and hangout for a bit of posing and enjoying la dolce vita.

 

Itís at its best in spring when the azaleas bloom and transform the steps into the perfect photo opportunity with a riot of colour. Map

 

The Trevi Fountain is the biggest and - thanks to Anita Ekburg in the film La Dolce Vita - the most famous fountain in the city.

 

It was started in 1732, took 30 years to complete, and never ceases to surprise and delight first-time visitors with its scale and beauty.

 

Itís a great place to watch the world go by and the never-ending scrum of people trying to photograph loved ones in front of it.

 

If you donít like crowds try an early morning visit, or go late evening when itís floodlit and often deserted. Toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, they say, and youíre sure to return to the city. Map

 

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The Roman theatre at Ostia Antica

The Roman theatre at Ostia Antica - still in use today

 

Ostia Antica - about 30 minutes out of the city by train are the remains of what used to be ancient Romeís main commercial port until malaria and the gradual silting up of the harbour forced its inhabitants to begin abandoning the town in the fourth century.

 

This evocative site and its well-preserved buildings retain every aspect of a thriving Roman town including temples, shops and offices, apartment blocks and houses, a theatre, basilica and the Forum.

 

Although not as extensive or impressive as Pompeii or Herculaneum, it gives a real flavour of what it was like to live in an ancient Roman city. The return train journey costs Ä2 and youíll need at least 3 or 4 hours to do the site justice. Map

 

Castello Giulio II at Ostia Antica

Castello Giulio II at Ostia Antica

 

While youíre there, itís well worth taking a look at the stunning and intact 15-century castle built by Pope Julius II: itís one of only two in Italy built with this style of triangular design.

 

The fortress is opposite the main entrance to the archaeological site and is open to the public and free.

 

The castle sits on the edge of a small medieval village, which is also worth a visit. If you want to find an address thatís not listed on this page, click here.

 

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The Vatican Museums - magnolia wasn't an option

The Vatican Museums - magnolia wasn't an option

 

Eating

 

Like any big city, Rome offers cuisine from around the world but if youíre just visiting it would probably be a missed opportunity if you wasted a meal on something you could easily get at home.

 

With so much amazing Italian food on offer, including a number of wonderful local specialties and wines, youíd have to be in Rome for an awfully long time to get bored with eating Italian. The dialling code for Rome is 00 39 - tips and service charges.

 

Lilli - this large, budget-price trattoria near the river and Piazza Navona opened in 1964 with the aim of serving traditional, simple and value-for-money Roman food, which itís still doing today. Map

 

Thereís an outside terrace and because itís in a quiet cul-de-sac you donít have to worry about traffic disturbing the experience.

 

Porta Pia - designed by Michelangelo - Click for map

Porta Pia - designed by Michelangelo

LíAntica Birreria Peroni - you donít have to be a beer lover to eat and drink at this basic and budget beer hall at 19 Via di San Marcello. The simple but delicious food has Roman and Teutonic influences and the house wines are very good value. Itís a favourite with local businessmen at lunchtime, and gets crowded and lively - 066795310. Map

 

Al 34 - for somewhere in the heart of the cityís main designer shopping district, this long-established restaurant is surprisingly easy on the wallet, as well as very handy for the Spanish Steps. A good budget Italian restaurant with plenty of atmosphere. Map

 

La Focaccia is a budget pizzeria and ristorante near Piazza Navona that does very good thin-crust pizzas and inexpensive house wines, but thereís plenty on the menu if you donít fancy a pizza.

 

The outside terrace has the Santa Maria della Pace as a backdrop and is great for people watching - 11 Via della Pace - 0668803312. Map

 

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Baia Chia - if youíre in the vicinity of Santa Maria Maggiore or the Colosseum and fancy some good seafood this Sardinian ristorante is a good bet. They also do some delicious cheeses and cured meats, and wonderful antipasto. Budget to mid-price. Map

 

The Trevi Fountain - Rome's biggest and most famous fountain

The Trevi Fountain - Rome's biggest and most famous fountain

 

Colline Emiliane - tucked away down a quiet side street near Piazza Barberini is a family-run ristorante that specializes in classic Bolognese cuisine and serves some of the best pasta and cured meats in the city. The house wines are good value and they do a superb Zabaglione. Budget to mid-price. Map

 

Terra di Siena is a short walk from Piazza Navona and offers good Tuscan cooking with ingredients sourced from producers around Siena. The atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed, and thereís an outside terrace. Budget to mid-price. Map

 

Osteria dellíIngegno - this modern wine bar and trattoria is a hop, skip and a stoneís throw from the Pantheon and a great place for a casual drink or a romantic meal.

 

The stunning interior of San Giovanni in Laterano - Click for map

The opulent interior of San Giovanni in Laterano

The food is delicious and inventive, and service is relaxed and friendly. The outside tables overlook the massive columns of Hadrianís temple. Mid-price and up. 45 Piazza di Pietra - 066780662. Map

 

Da Giggetto is a wonderful Roman-Jewish restaurant with two outside terraces and a very impressive setting, the Portico díOttavia. Specialties include fried artichokes (carciofi), dry-salted cod (baccala) and the extremely moreish courgette flowers filled with cheese and anchovy (fiore di zucca). Mid-price and up. Map

 

Vecchia Roma is a city institution with a long history and provides fine dining in elegant and historic surroundings. Superb food, excellent service and an extensive wine list make this restaurant perfect for special occasions. Expensive but well worth it. The only credit cards accepted are Amex and Diners. Map

 

Il Bacaro - in a narrow side street near Piazza Navona is this intimate Roman bistro serving modern and inventive Italian food in romantic candlelit surroundings. The food is superb and so good you may want to book your next visit before you leave. The service would put a dinner party thrown by best friends to shame and the substantial wine list has something for every pocket and palette. There's also a pleasant vine-shaded terrace outside the front door - 0039 066872554. Map

 

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Practical Info

 

Rome is generally a safe city, but you should be careful in quiet and poorly lit streets at night, especially around Termini station.

 

Violent crime is quite rare but the area around Termini after dark would probably be a good starting point if you wanted to find some.

 

Fountain Of Neptune in Piazza Navona - Click for map

Fountain Of Neptune in Piazza Navona

However, Rome does have a significant problem with pickpockets, who are often dressed as gypsies and work many of the tourist hotspots, and crowded metro and bus routes.

 

Be particularly careful on number 64 and 40 buses: these are not called the pickpocket expresses for nothing.

 

Donít flash money in public or leave valuables unattended or exposed: especially in bars, cafťs and restaurants with outside seating areas.

 

Also watch out for flocks of small children swarming round you and shoving crumpled bits of cardboard with handwritten messages in your face.

 

They may look harmless enough but they can strip you of your valuables faster than a shoal of angry piranhas can go through fillet steak.

 

August is not a good time to visit the city because itís normally ridiculously hot, and lots of shops, restaurants and bars are closed as the locals disappear on holiday for a month.

 

Like other parts of Italy, some of the main attractions are closed on Mondays, so check opening times to avoid disappointment.

 

Public transport tickets must be validated at the start of your journey by stamping them in the yellow or orange ticket machines. Although a single ticket - valid for 75 minutes - can be used for unlimited travel on buses and trams, it can only be used for one metro journey.

 

OstiaAnticaMosaics.JPG

Mosiacs from the Baths of Neptune at Ostia Antica

 

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All major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the city, and there are plenty of ATMs and places to change money. The currency is the Euro; to find out how many there are to the pound, click here.

 

Tips and service charges - if service is included, servizio incluso, itís normal practice to leave a few euros for the waiter.

 

Where service is not included, an optional tip of 10 to 15% is normal, depending on how you rated the food and service.

 

Taxi drivers wonít expect a tip for journeys around the city but itís customary to tip around 10% of the metered fare.

 

Local time and other useful information.

 

Airlines frown on over-sized carry-on luggage

Always check that carry-on luggage will fit in the overhead lockers

 

Learning the language - if you'd like to brush up on your Italian, or you'd just like to learn some basic phrases, you might find these sites useful.

 

BBC Languages - multimedia courses for beginners and the more advanced.

 

Fodors - a range of useful phrases with audio and written pronunciation guides.

 

Ielanguages - basic to more advanced Italian with pronunciation guides.

 

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