Updated: May 21, 2015
Guide to Planning Your Rome VacationThey call it the Eternal City. Rome, Italy. For more than 2000 years, off an on, Rome has been the center of Western civilization and religion. From the Vatican to the Colosseum, there are centuries of history, culture, and Roman art piled up wherever you look or roam (no pun intended!). For many people, planning a Rome vacation is both the dream of a lifetime and a daunting task. What are the best hotels in Rome? Where should I stay? Should I take a guided tour of Rome? What are some good walking tours in Rome? Does everyone speak English, or will I need to learn some Italian? What sites should I see? What restaurants should I visit on my holidays? In this guide we will try to answer all these questions and help in your trip planning - come on!
Arriving in Rome - Rome Airport - Rome Rental CarsThe main Rome airport is called the Leonardo da Vinci Airport, but is also known by its old name, Fiumicino. All international flights land here. The airport is located 20 miles from the Rome city center, and it takes about 45 minutes to get there via private vehicle or taxi. How much does it cost to take a taxi from the airport into Rome? The fare is around 40-50 Euros. There is also direct train service from Fuimicino Airport Station to Roma Termini station (the main train station in Rome, up the hill from the Forum area) which runs every 30 minutes from about 6AM to 11PM -- cost is 8 Euros per person. When you exit the airport terminal, you may well be approached by helpful looking men asking if you need a taxi to your hotel. There are a lot of these people operating illegal taxi services, offering to drive you to your hotel for a certain price. Look for the official yellow and white licensed cabs available from the taxi stands. We have used a private vehicle before for getting into the city, saving a few bucks, but the reliability of an official cab is generally recommended for tourists. Do I need a rental car in Rome? No, no, and NO! Just like in New York, driving around this big city is very difficult if you don't know your way. Take a cab into the city, then rely on your feet, the subway, or taxis to get around town. The official Rome Airport site is www.ADR.it - click on the Fiumicino to see a map of the Rome airport, showing Terminal A, B, and C.
Best Rome Hotels and Lodging - Maps of RomeTo get a quick overview of the city, check out a few maps of Rome. The first one shows a very high level view of the city, showing some basic landmarks like the Colosseum, train station (Stazione Termini), Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), and St. Peters (San Pietro, Vatican). Now that you have your bearing, check out this one, with a zoomable, scrollable view of the entire city, complete with all street names, and landmarks. Finding a good spot to stay in Rome means planning on spending some decent money. Rome is an expensive city, just like Paris or New York, and fine hotels will cost you dearly. For first-class lodging, you can expect to pay $400-$700 per night. For a nice, comfortable hotel, expect to spend around $250-$350 per night. It's a struggle to find cheap Rome hotels for less than $200, but their are less expensive lodging options, like pensiones, where you can get a room for around $100 (with shared, common bath). When we visit, we like to stay around the historic area, close to the Trevi Fountain. This puts you in easy walking distance of a lot of the main tourist sites c(Pantheon, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navonna, etc) that you can easily stroll around day or night, without worrying about cabs or subways to get around. In this area, consider the Tritone Hotel ($180+ twin), Delle Nazioni Hotel ($240+ twin), and the White Hotel Rome ($230+ twin). We stayed at the Delle Nazioni about 4 years ago and really liked the location. It is literally on the same block as the Trevi Fountain - you just walk around the corner and there you are. If you've seen Three Coins in a Fountain, you've seen this amazing place. It is a wash of beautiful whites and blues and seems to glow, especially at night. It occupies a huge corner, with rows of benches looking out over the fountain area -- a great place to spend a half hour in contemplation each evening, and something to be remembered forever.
The area around the Spanish Steps is also popular with tourists. Il Piccolo Di Piazza Di Spagna is a small place with just 11 rooms, the Condotti Hotel has rooms starting at $200 for twins, and the Art Spanish Steps Hotel has a good location. A few blocks north gets you closer to the Piazza del Popolo, with hotels like the Valadier Hotel, the Grand Plaza Hotel, and the Del Corso Hotel -- all in good locations with good service. Another popular area is on the other side of the Tiber River, around the Vatican. The Ara Pacis Hotel ($175+ for twin), the Atlante Star Hotel ($300+ for twin), the Isa Hotel ($140+ twin), and the Diplomatic Hotel ($160+ for twin) are all near the Piazza Cavour, just blocks from the Castel St. Angelo and a short walk to St. Peter's Square. Even closer to St. Peter's is Residenza Paolo Vi Hotel ($225+ twin), Palazzo Cardinali Cesi Hotel ($230+ twin), and the Columbus Hotel. This side of the river tends to be a little quieter with less things to do that the opposite bank. So if you are looking for more plazas, fountains, and history, consider staying closer to the historic section. For hotels near the Colosseum and Forum, consider the Fori Imperiali Cavalieri Hotel ($120+ twin), Mediterraneo Hotel ($250+ twin), and the Massimo D'Azeglio Hotel ($240+ twin). Thesea are all off via Cavour and within a block or two of the Roman Forum, and a few blocks up from the Colosseum. If you walk up the hill up via Cavour, you end up near the train station area, which is full of cheaper hotels, but not our preferred area to stay. For hotels near the train station, consider Impero Hotel, Nord Nuova Roma Hotel, Lirico Hotel, or Corona Hotel. Another hotel is the Hotel Raffaello, located about 300 yards from the Termini train station, and 1 mile up from the Forum and Via Veneto -- it is just off the major road Via Cavour. Rooms are small and dated, but the staff is happy and helpful. They even offer family rooms with 3 or 4 double beds - not always easy to find in Europe. Double rooms run around $260-$280.