Enjoying Rome's Colosseum

Enjoying Rome’s Colosseum — creative commons photo by Titoy

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

How to Get to 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:

  • Leonardo Express – A non-stop train connecting Fiumicino Airport with Termini, Rome’s main train station in the city center. The trip takes about a half-hour one way, and trains leave the airport two times per hour during service hours. A one-way ticket is €14.
  • Local Trains – Rome’s regular train line runs to Fiumicino, too. The FL1 line connects Fiumicino with Rome’s Trastevere, Ostiense, and Tuscolana stations – but not Termini. The FL1 leaves the airport every 15 minutes and is not a non-stop train. A ticket is €8.
  • Coach Services – There are several coach services that connect Fiumicino with the city. These can get stuck in traffic, so the travel time ranges from 40 minutes to over an hour. The ticket prices also vary, depending on the company and which stop you want, from €4-8.
  • Taxis – Official taxis in Rome are white and have “Comune di Roma” on them. Don’t get into a taxi that doesn’t have a working meter. The flat fee between Fiumicino and Rome’s city center is €48 for up to four passengers and luggage. The “city center” is a very specific area, inside the old Aurelian walls – ask the driver if your destination is inside the boundaries so you’ll know if you qualify for the flat fee. Keep in mind that some of the taxis you’ll see at the airport are actually based in Fiumicino – the town – rather than Rome, and their flat fees are substaintially higher (that’s €60 one way). As long as your taxi says “Comune di Roma,” you’re fine.

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:

  • Coach Services – There are a few coach services connecting Ciampino with the city, some of which take you to Termini Station. That trip is about 40 minutes one way, and tickets are around €4 for each company.
  • Taxis – Again, look for the official Rome taxis that are white and say “Comune di Roma” on them, and always make sure there’s a working meter before you get in. The flat fee between Ciampino and Rome’s city center is €30 for up to four passengers and their luggage.

What to See & Do in Rome

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:

  • Colosseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Capitoline Hill
  • Vatican City
  • Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona

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.

Guided Tours in Rome

Where to Stay in Rome

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:

  • Lower star ratings in Italian hotels don’t necessarily mean shabbier quarters. Part of the determination in the star ranking system is how large the rooms are – and in historic buildings, rooms are often small (and can’t be enlarged). Don’t dismiss a less expensive hotel in a decent location just because it only has two stars.
  • If you’re staying further from the must-see sights, make sure there’s a tram, bus, or Metro stop nearby. You’ll be taking public transportation in Rome on a regular basis (if you’re smart), so having a stop near your hotel means it won’t feel far away from anything.
  • For budget travelers, most of the hostels in Rome are centered around Termini Station – there are some on either side of the station. This neighborhood sometimes feels a little dodgy at night, so keep that in mind if you’re particularly safety-conscious.
  • Depending on how long you’re staying in Rome, you might also look into a B&B or a short-term apartment rental. These are especially economical and convenient if you’re with a family or a group of friends.

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