If you’ve ever wanted to live your out your Lizzie McGuire and sing with an Italian guy on stage, well, we can’t really help you with that.
What we can do, though, is put you on to our tried-and-true recs, tips, and more to Rome. Sorry, Paolo.
If we had to guess, when you think of the “Eternal City,” you probably think about all the photos you’ve scrolled by on Instagram last summer—and all in the exact same spots. And while some of them are definitely worth checking out, this guide will break down exactly where to go, what to skip, as well as highlight some cool, lesser-known hidden gems—all from the eyes of someone who has called this city home since this past summer.
How To Get To Rome
Depending on where in the US you’ll be flying out of, getting to Rome can be pretty easy—but a journey nonetheless. In any event, you’ll want to do yourself a favor and pull up Google Flights. It’s truly the most helpful tool for seeing what your flight options are, as well as the prices of each.
If you’re leaving from New York, there are a ton of nonstop flights out between JFK and Fiumicino, Rome’s main international airport. For example, Delta Air Lines has a partnership with ITA Airways (formerly Alitalia). If you can swing it, I’d recommend splurging a bit more for a Premium Economy seat, since the flight is around nine hours. That extra legroom can really go a long way. Additionally, if you can grab an overnight flight leaving around 8 or 9pm, you’ll land in Rome around 10am local time, with plenty of time to make the most of your day.
Pro tip: listen to our Betches Brides episode about how to use points and miles for your honeymoon to score free flights altogether. You’re welcome).
How To Get Around
Okay, here’s the thing. Much like the infamous MTA in New York, the public transportation system in Rome isn’t always reliable. Nevertheless, it’s still usually a very convenient option when galavanting from place to place across the city (and at just €1.50 per bus ticket, that’s hard to beat). You can get bus tickets at most of the newsstands and Tabacherias in town. Even if you don’t see people scanning their bus ticket, assume that they have a pre-purchased pass. I made the mistake of not scanning mine once and ended up with a hefty €54 fine thanks to the Roman police who decided to hop on board and check, as they do every so often…apparently.
Pro tip: Download the “Free Now” app. This is the main app that Romans use to order a taxi, much like you would for an Uber or Lyft in other places. Rome does have Uber, but the taxis are far more popular and usually much cheaper and more accessible. Unfortunately, despite the name, the rides are not free. Rude.
Where To Stay
Depending on what type of experience you’re going for, you have a couple of different options here. As one of the most popular destinations in the literal WORLD, Rome has no shortage of incredible places to stay regardless of how long your trip here will be.
I found this spot on TikTok and I have zero regrets. It’s totally gorgeous and in a prime location right in front of the Pantheon. Read: Walking distance to all of the necessary tourist sites on your list. I mean, when in Rome, right
Nestled behind an old door on a narrow side street in the heart of the Regola neighborhood, Hotel Chapter Roma describes itself as not fancy, but not not-fancy. Essentially, you’ll be right in the heart of Rome surrounded by the ancient monuments, contemporary art galleries and concept stores, and authentic artisan shops. Not to mention it’s cute AF.
If you’re looking for a luxury stay on a budget, the Atlante Star Hotel should be at the top of your list. Located in Rome’s upscale Prati neighborhood, this hotel boasts 70 luxury rooms and features a truly gorg rooftop garden and bar called Les Etoiles. Prices at this terrace bar are a little steeper than what you’ll normally find at other bars or restaurants in Rome, but the real kicker is the in-f*cking-credible view you get. Being located so close to the Vatican, you’ll be in a prime spot to gaze at St. Peter’s Basilica while sipping on an Aperol spritz. Say no more.
Where To Eat
And now for the main attraction of this entire article: deciding where TF to eat. Not exactly an easy feat.
As a tourist here, it can be pretty easy to fall into some of the restaurant traps. My general rule of thumb is anything that is immediately outside of any of the major historical sites qualifies it as a tourist trap. That is not to say that these spots don’t serve a purpose, if you’re super hungry and need to stop somewhere for a quick bite or if you just want to grab an aperitivo and enjoy the view, then these spots totally work for that. However, if you want to try some genuine, authentic, handmade Roman cuisine (aka as much pasta as your heart desires, and then some), carry on
I have to admit, I did find out about this place through Instagram. But how could I not at least try it out? Just look at it. Not only does the general vibe and aesthetic of this place encompass exactly what you should be looking for when you come to Rome, the food is absolutely out of this world (and very inexpensive given the high quality.)
One of my favorite things about Rome is that you can get a delicious plate of pasta for €12 and under. Seriously. It should never cost you more than that, regardless of where you are in the city. Cucina Del Teatro has all of the classic Roman pastas you will want to try during your stay including Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, Amatriciana, you name it. Bonus: This place is open 24/7. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it again.
Alright, this place is ~low-key~ touristy. That said, it is popular for a huge reason. If you happen to walk by Osteria da Fortunata on any given day, you’ll see one of their expert pasta makers making homemade pasta in the window of the restaurant. That’s what first enticed me to this place, and the deliciousness does not disappoint. Plus, it’s located basically around the corner to Campo de Fiori, one of Rome’s biggest outdoor markets where you can grab just about anything from spices, souvenirs, fruit, etc. Just in case, you know, you need a little snack after downing a giant bowl of pasta.
This restaurant is seriously one of my favorite discoveries. With two locations in the less touristy Testaccio and Porto Fluviale neighborhoods, Ristorante Angelina is definitely a place that is favored by many of the locals here. With a gorgeous interior and a great selection of delicious primi & secondi piatti (first and second courses), side dishes, and antipasti, you can’t go wrong with adding this spot to your list of places to eat.
POV: you just walked around all of the Vatican museums, and you need to refuel. Forno Feliziani is the place to be. Located just around the corner from Papa Francesco himself, this is a quick and easy breakfast or lunch spot where you can eat a full meal that will give you the energy to take on the city for the rest of the day. There are a few tables located both inside and outside where you can sit down, relax, and plan the rest of your day while enjoying a maritozzo or Roman-style pizza (with an espresso, of course). You can legit get an entire meal including a drink and snacks for under €10. I can’t recommend this place highly enough.
Basically, IYKYK. Founded by legendary Italian chef Gabriele Bonci, this is the place to be. Bonci Pizzarium was ridiculously popular and beloved by locals long before being featured on the latest season of Chef’s Table: Pizza on Netflix. If you’re planning on stopping by here, be prepared to wait. The line is *always* out the door at either location, but you will not be disappointed. Once inside, you’ll find a selection of classic Roman food along with Bonci’s contemporary and innovative inventions like the beloved carbonara suppli, a masterful combination of dishes close to the heart of any Roman.
Where To Shop
Aside from the plentiful traditional souvenir shops that line virtually every single street you come across, there are a few hidden gems in terms of unique concept stores you’ll want to visit that are certified #cool. If you’re looking to bring back a gift for someone, or are looking to get yourself a memorable token of the city, be sure to stop by one of these places (that is, after you finally step out of the four-floor Zara)
If you’re looking for all things truly unique and truly Italian, Chez Dede is your go-to place. Nestled inside Palazzo Antonelli Capponi, this store embodies a warm and cozy home that offers a retail experience like no other. Here, you’ll be able to find everything from fashion, art, furniture, decor, books, and vintage gems. It is truly the pinnacle of Italian lifestyle curation.
Rome is More
After becoming something of an Instagram sensation amongst the locals, Rome is More has brought their witty local sayings and translated Roman dialect IRL with their concept store in Testaccio. All of your favorite Roman slang has been transferred onto all sorts of merch, including totes, candles, and magnets—the works.
Owned by Calabria native Andrea Mercuri, Edicola Erno is the chicest independently-owned newsstand in town (literally). With a curated collection of fashion, art, and design magazines, this gem located in the center of Prati is an absolute must-see. Depending on what weekend you go, you’re likely to find her participating with other local brands in a collaboration pop-up.
If you’re planning on a longer stay in Rome, make sure to grab some absolutely gorgeous flowers from the Ammano Fiori studio. Let expert florist Sole DeAngelis create the most beautiful custom arrangement for you.
Making it’s final stop in 2022 in the eternal city, you cannot miss ohBar by espressOh. The popular indie Italian beauty brand kicked off their series of pop-up shops in New York earlier this year and is rounding out the year with a temporary store & café featuring all of its beloved caffeine-infused makeup products—complete with custom furniture designed by the Roman creative studio Naessi. Stop in and enjoy a F-R-E-E cup of espresso while restocking on all of your faves from December 3rd to the 23rd at Via Belsiana 92.
My Ultimate Rome Pro Tips
Now that we’ve gone through the basics, here’s a bit of insider Rome intel for you, coming in hot.
If you’re going on a solo trip and want to check out all the major sites while getting the classic Italian experience of riding on a moped, check out Moped Tour Rome. Giorgia is an incredible host that has catered this experience towards female travelers and can be booked via Airbnb.
As much as I know you want to do everything, get ready to rest, specifically in the afternoon. Italians always rest for a few hours in the middle of the day. Most of the shops and restaurants will be closed from 1pm to 4pm. You should do the same.
If you’re going in the summertime, be prepared for a heat like you have never experienced. I don’t care if you’re “used to LA heat” or wherever else, this is by far the hottest city I have ever been in. In the summer, the temps never usually fare below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and it feels even hotter with the extreme humidity. There’s little wind or ventilation. In short: Brace yourself.
If you absolutely MUST have that photo of you in front of the Trevi fountain, go between 1am and 6am. No really, I’m not kidding. You’ll finally have the place to yourself (or mostly to yourself, at least.)
Want to party? Head straight to Trastevere. This neighborhood is filled with young people, parties, and bars. You won’t have to look hard to enjoy any of the fun that this place has to offer.
When booking tickets for any attraction, book at least 5-6 weeks in advance if possible. Rome is a popular tourist destination at every time of year (with summer being the peak), but it’s necessary to book well ahead of time to see any of the major sites.
Speaking of attractions, whatever you do, do not sit on the Spanish Steps! It’s illegal, and you will get yelled at. Trust.
When in doubt, go to a Tabaccheria. Aside from the obvious, they have just about anything you might need on a whim. Snacks, water, even bus tickets. Think of them as Italian bodegas.
Above all, the absolute best places are ones that you won’t find on any travel guide. They are often unassuming, small, not fancy, but real. One of my favorite cafés is Caffé Candia, this tiny place around the corner from where I live. The espresso costs €1, as it should anywhere. Try not to get caught up in going to every single place I mentioned here or that you might see on social media. If you want to experience the true essence of Roma, sit down, outdoors, at any one of the thousands of locally run bars here and enjoy yourself. People watch. Talk to the owner or an employee, if you can. Soak in the environment. You won’t regret it.