Rome, the Eternal City is one of those places in the world that EVERYBODY simply has to visit at least once. While most people come here to gather for religious reasons, others dive into the rich (and sometimes overwhelming) historical and cultural heritage that has been well-preserved and that takes you onto a journey thousands and thousands of years back in time.
Yet as fantastic as all of this is, there is one thing that no one (particularly the Romans themselves) cannot deny: The city is overcrowded almost the entire year and a visit can end up as stressful as the rush hour in Tokyo´s metro.
So while a day trip from Civitavecchia (the port of Rome) is makeable yet exhausting, why not rather planning for a two or three night pre / post cruise stopover?
I have put together a few personal suggestions that will help you to get the most out of your stay while reducing your city trip stress level! So you can enjoy Rome without needing another vacation right after.
It´s true. When it comes to hotels, Rome can ruin your travel budget pretty fast. Though I find, that a decent place to stay at will not only maximise your travel experience in terms of comfort and convenience, it will also cut down travel time as a lot of sights will be in walking distance. And there is nothing more romantic than strolling spontaneously through Rome in the evenings! I recommend hotels in districts like Trevi, Pigna, Ponte or Esquilino. One site, that might be particularly interesting for you, is this one. And remember, booking on one of the large online platforms like booking.com or Trivago is not necessarily cheaper than doing it on the hotel´s website. I booked our room at the beautiful Hotel Duca d´Alba at a 15% lower rate than it was offered by a major booking engine!
Plan your sightseeing after 4pm
Particularly during the very busy summer months, on top of the vast amount of tourists staying in or outside of Rome comes the almost horrifying amount of cruise ship passengers flooding the sights in uncountable numbers of groups. On peak days, up to eight cruise ships are docked in Civitavecchia. This can easily mean up to 20,000 extra daily visitors trying to get the most out the short amount of time that they have. So if you would like to enjoy the marvelous architectural pieces like the Coliseum, the Spanish Stairs or the Trevi Fountain and not getting crushed or suffocated by the masses, plan your visits after 4pm. This is the time when most of the groups have already departed again, leaving those hotspots to the Romans and you. You can check the number of ships in port and their departure times on this link!
Eat and drink where the locals go
This rule applies to every spot on this planet. While it surely is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to dine on the most gorgeous Piazza Navona or sip your Chianti while enjoying the view onto the illuminated Spanish Stairs, your bill will show this big time! Sometimes you will just have to lurk around the corner or walk another side street to get the same (or even better quality) at a way lower price. Try to avoid restaurants with proportionally many tourists inside. We have enjoyed the most amazing Italian specialities in rather unimpressive restaurants. Italians are in general very proud of their cuisine. So even if the ambience may not suit your personal taste at first, you are most likely to be served a decent Vino di Tavola and great local foods. Two restaurants that we particularly liked are the La Montecarlo and Grazie a Dio e´Venerdi. Yummy!
Picnic at the Tiber
I am sure this is something you have not really thought of and it took me many trips to Rome to finally get this idea. No matter if you combine it with your visit to the Vatican or simply add this to your itinerary by fun, sitting down at the shore of the river and watch the ducks swim by while feasting on Italian delicacies such as Olives, Insalata di Pulpo or crisp Salami is a very intense Rome experience. The shoreline that lies right below the Castel Sant´Angelo is a quiet refuge for Romans to run errands or take a break from the hustle and bustle of Rome´s crowded streets and sidewalks. And the view is simply gorgeous! Delis can be found almost anywhere in Rome, so you don´t have to carry your “meal” around with you the whole day.
One thing at a time
Be considerate to yourself and the ones you are traveling with. Particularly, when you have made your way to here from overseas. As a famous saying states: “Rome was not built in one day”. So don´t think that you will be able to discover it in two or three days! I have posted an article some months ago about a great sightseeing route. And even though it will take you to a lot of amazing places within the city, you will be exhausted at the end of the day. So take things slow. After you have been here once, I am more than sure that you will come back, earlier or later. And since Rome is most fun to be experienced by foot, go easy on yours.
Mingle with the Romans
One particular spot that we have enjoyed every evening of our stay was the small fountain Fontana dei Catecumeni on Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. This little square is a bustling meeting place for the young and hip in the early evenings until late. The bar serves drinks in plastic glasses, so that you can step outside and cheer to life while watching the lively scenery on this picturesque piazza. Perfetto!
Dang, I am just about 1,000 words again, so more than time to stop at this point! I hope, I could give you a little inspiration for your next (or first) trip to Rome. I wish you an excellent time and if you have tried any of my suggestions, please tell me about your experience! Safe travels, folks!