Rome was never on my bucket list, despite being a mere 90-minute flight from home. So when my husband asked me if I fancied visiting Rome for Christmas, my reply was simple:
“Only if the flights are incredibly cheap.”
But he had already made sure that this trip wouldn’t break the bank, and an hour later I was brushing up on my (almost non-existent) Italian.
So, is Rome worth visiting? Here’s my honest advice.
Reasons to visit Rome
Rome is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, drawing in 7 to 10 million tourists per year. Let’s look at the reasons to visit the city.
It’s the perfect place for history geeks
Rome was founded in the year 753BC by King Romulus. The city soon become a hub of civilisation and home to one of the largest empires in the world.
Despite being a self-proclaimed history buff, the Roman Era is not exactly my forte. Neither is Italian Renaissance. In other words, I visited Rome without ever having heard of the Romulus and Remus myth, and the great sculptor Bernini.
Needless to say, I learnt quite a few history lessons while I was in Rome. In fact, I was blown away by the sheer number of architectural jewels and priceless artefacts in the city.
Another must-visit is the Roman Forum. Here, you’ll find ruins of several historical buildings, including the Temple of Saturn, the Comitium (the original public meeting space of ancient Rome), and the Temple of Caesar.
You can get off the beaten path
I could have never imagined that one can actually escape the crowds in a place like Rome.
On our last day, we somehow ended up in a forest, where the only sign of civilisation was an old woman walking out of a creepy, derelict house.
Although this (mis)adventure took place on the outskirts of Rome, on our way to Ostia Antica, we still managed to find a few tourist-free spots in the city centre.
For example, we spend an afternoon strolling through the quiet neighbourhood of Trastevere and the Jewish Quarter. We even climbed Gianicolo Hill to get some stunning views of the city and breathe in some fresh air.
While my idea of adventure involves climbing mountains and exploring little-known villages, Rome has taught me that you can still get off the tourist trail in popular cities.
Many attractions in Rome are free
As much as I hate doing typical touristy activities, I tend to make exceptions when visiting certain cities.
I mean, you can’t go to Rome without seeing the Colosseum, right? I have climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, walked over Charles Bridge in Prague, and visited Parc Güell in Barcelona. And I would do all of those things again.
However, there are also many free things to do in Rome, from exploring beautiful piazzas to enjoying a stroll by the river.
The food is divine (as is the coffee)
Rome serves up some delicious dishes. The best meal we had was in a shabby place on an equally shabby side street. My husband had the best carbonara of his life, and I had a wonderful pizza.
We also enjoyed a few lesser-known dishes, like braised artichoke hearts.
If you have a caffeine addiction, Rome will make it worse! I drank too many cappuccinos while we were there.
Reasons not to visit Rome
While Rome is a popular destination, the city isn’t for everyone. Let’s look at a few reasons why you may not want to visit Rome.
I must admit, I’ve had my best dining experiences in Rome. Except that time when we were made to pay for four slices of bread that the waitress had unceremoniously plonked on our table (even though we hadn’t asked for any).
Also, when in Rome, do as the Romans do and drink your espresso at the bar. Otherwise, expect to pay between 4 to 6 Euros for your coffee.
Shocked? Well, I certainly was when I first found out about this.
I was sitting at a table in Piazza Navona, soaking up some sun, when Douglas walked out of the café looking rather dumbfounded.
“We’re having our coffee at the bar,” he said decisively.
“Why? It’s a beautiful day,” I protested.
“Because I’m not willing to pay 12 bloody euros for two cappuccinos!”
Well, I couldn’t really argue with that.
It can feel a bit unsafe
To be honest, there were moments in Rome when I felt unsafe. I had to be on my guard at all times, mainly due to pickpockets and street scammers.
Also, some areas in the city seemed a little dodgy, especially at night. As a woman, I don’t think I would safe walking the streets of Rome on my own.
The queues are long… very long
If you’re planning to visit the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican City, expect to spend at least 30 minutes in a queue to get in. In summer, you might spend longer queuing for these attractions.
Also, if you’re planning to take beautiful shots of the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain, you’ll need excellent Photoshop skills. As you may expect, these places are super crowded during the day, so you may struggle to get any good shots (unless you go there at 5am).
So, is Rome worth visiting?
Yes! Despite the overpriced coffee and the crowds, Rome is still worth visiting.
I recommend spending at least 3 days in Rome to really get to know the city and explore the main attractions.
I also recommend that you visit between late autumn and early spring. Winters are quite mild in Rome – we were there in December and it wasn’t very cold.
Another tip – be aware of your surroundings. There are a few shady areas in Rome and pickpocketing is common in popular tourist spots like the Trevi Fountain.
Frequently asked questions about Rome
Is it worth it going to Rome?
If you’re a fan of ancient history, Rome is the perfect destination for you. Also, if you don’t mind visiting touristy places, you’ll probably enjoy Rome.
However, if you want a more authentic experience, you might prefer to visit a lesser-known city in Italy.
How many days should I spend in Rome?
Three days in Rome should be enough to see the main highlights, including the Vatican Museums.
However, I recommend spending four or five days in the city. This way, you can explore it at a slower pace and immerse yourself in the local food scene.
You might even want to plan a Rome to Florence to Venice train trip at your own pace.
Is Rome very touristy?
Yes! Expect large crowds in popular attractions like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountains.
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