Rome is one of the world’s great cities, and has been for more than two thousand years. It is simultaneously fabulous and frustrating, a busy city that doesn’t dwell in its past but incorporates its history into a very modern existence. There is no city on earth quite like Rome, for better and for worse.
Many travelers begin or end their Italy trips in Rome, due in large part to the proximity of Italy’s busiest airport. It can be an overwhelming first stop in Italy, however, unless you’re accustomed to bustling cities and foreign languages. This doesn’t mean you should change your itinerary – it just means you should do some pre-trip research so you’re prepared when you step off the plane in Rome. Below, you’ll find some basic information about Rome, plus links to articles on this site and elsewhere that will help you learn what you need to know before you get to the Italian capital.
Read more about how to get around in Rome
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO), more commonly known as Fiumicino Airport after the suburb where it’s located, is the largest airport in Italy, serving nearly 40 million passengers annually. It’s a little more than 21 miles from the city center of Rome.
You have a few options for getting into Rome once you’ve landed at Fiumicino:
Read more about how to get to Rome from Fiumicino
The smaller Ciampino Airport (CIA) is closer to Rome, so it can be a more pleasant experience on two levels – smaller crowds to deal with and a shorter distance to cover to reach the city. If you’re flying from overseas, it’s unlikely you’ll be routed through Ciampino. If your trip includes a layover in Europe before you fly to Italy, however, you may fly into Ciampino. It’s also the airport of choice for many of the European budget airlines. Ciampino is about 7.5 miles from Rome.
Your options for getting into Rome from Ciampino are as follows:
Part of why visitors are overwhelmed by Rome is the sheer number of must-see attractions on any given itinerary. This was, after all, the center of the Roman Empire, and remains the capital of one of the most visited countries on earth. Add to that the fact that within Rome, entirely enclosed within its borders, is the world’s smallest independent nation – the Vatican. Of course your to-do list is going to seem insurmountable – because it most likely is.
In addition to your long to-do list, Rome complicates things further by not exactly being the most compact city. Some of those must-see sights are flung hither and yon all over what’s called the city center but actually covers quite a lot of ground. And perhaps you’ve heard how Rome was famously built on seven hills? That’s not just hyperbole – walking around in Rome can be exhausting with all of the inclines you’ll cover.
In other words, take it easy in Rome. Have your long to-do list, sure – and then don’t be surprised if you get through only a small portion of it. Rome will still be there when you return to pick up where you left off.
Here are some of Rome’s most popular sights – you’ll find more details about each, plus some of the city’s odd attractions, in my article on what to do and see in Rome:
There are also a gazillion other things to see and do (okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a little) that don’t make top-anything lists, from modern art museums to ancient cemeteries to expansive gardens. Any curious traveler could easily spend a week or more in Rome and not get bored. This is a city you’ll rediscover every time you return, which is part of its magic.
As mentioned, Rome is pretty spread out, even in the city center. It probably won’t be a surprise to you to find that if you’re keen on finding a hotel within a short walk of any one of the major sights listed above that you’ll be looking at much higher prices. If you’re not interested in splurging quite that much, here are a few things to consider: