6 things I wish someone had told me before I went to Rome…
1. Book tickets for the Vatican and the Colosseum in advance
-Ok, so technically someone did tell me this, what they didn’t tell me was that the night before doesn’t actually qualify as ‘in advance’. While I was too much of a hungover mess to get my act together on my first trip to Rome, I did this on my second visit and felt like kicking my past self. It just makes so much sense. If you book on the official websites the ticket is the same price (don’t bother with skip the queue companies) and the sense of satisfaction you get while walking past the mile long queue to go straight in is priceless. You’ll be wondering what the catch is.
2. Don’t book a tour with the touts outside the attractions.
-We fell for this as 30€ seemed like a fair price to pay in order to not bake in the queue for the 3 hours that our hustler was threatening. However we were pretty dismayed to be handed a 12€ ticket, and given two five minute talks that didn’t even take us up to the second level of the Colosseum, before our guide tried to ferry us off to Paletine hill. Apparently we hadn’t been bent over enough at this point as we ended up falling for the same trick in the Vatican, paying almost 50€ for a skip the queue tour, where we ended up waiting a whole hour for the guide to organise our tickets. The worst part was missing out on nearly all the art galleries in the Vatican museum as we were herded through a few of the main rooms, and out of the side entrance of the Sistine Chapel- being warned that if we went back into the museum we wouldn’t be able to use the groups entrance to skip the queue into St. Peter’s Basilica. This is a myth, as no one actually checks if you’re part of a group or not.
3.Don’t stay at the Yellow Hostel. (Rome’s most famous hostel)
-Yes, it’s a great place to meet people. The bar is one of the best in Rome and popular with residents as well as backpackers. I actually had one of my favourite nights there, and their breakfasts in the morning are lifesaving. But you can still visit whilst staying on the same street for a fraction of the price, and not pay 40€ e a night for a bunk with questionable sheets and a piss-poor shower in a dingy room where the cleaners steal your stuff.
4. Explore the riverbanks after dark.
If you only have a couple of nights it can be tempting to stick around the main squares, (and that’s fine, they’re bloody lush) but you’re really missing out if you don’t at least take a quick stroll down the river. Starting from just south of the Cavour bridge, there is a Latin American festival, which is one of the few things that goes on until 5am in Rome. Further down has an almost Southbank vibe, with quirky cocktail bars, pop-up concerts and even an outdoor cinema on Tiber island. I was lucky enough to catch the full moon rising over the oldest bridge in Rome whilst enjoying cocktais on cushions at an adorable little Persian bar.
5.Rome is not a party town.
I was perpetually disappointed with Italy because I kept expecting it to be more like Greece (How can Italians NOT be able to make a decent freddo capuccino, for a start??) But the main disappointment was trying to go out around midnight, and finding that not many places were open. After exploring all day, napping, cooking and having a few drinks, by the time were ready to head out, the metro was closed and common consensus was that the only decent options in our area (Monti) were the Irish bar or the gay bar. Don’t get me wrong, great times were had in both – but I felt that we missed out on authentic Roman nightlife, even after asking Italian students where we could go…
6. This point isn’t specific to Rome, more of a life lesson in general. If there is no corkscrew in your room/appartment, don’t try and open a bottle of red wine with a knife, in a spotless white kitchen.