When we had our first international trip to plan, the finger stopped at Italy, well it had to, for its history, its people, its art and its scrumptious food.
You know how many bloggers will suggest Italy as the ultimate destination to try out but most might say that Rome is too touristy and should be left out, try the untouched, unexplored countryside instead, well most of them might be right about a lot of the other cities in Italy, but try the things I did to make my Roman Holiday interesting and my first city in Europe not so “touristy“. I plan to make you feel the Amore of this beautiful city.
1. Stay in Hostels
This was a budget backpacking trip, with only 3 lakh rupees (3659.33 EUR) for the two of us. This money included our 2 weeks stay in Italy, food, air, train, bus tickets and other ancillary costs(the internet insisted on us keeping EUR 50 as getting robbed costs). So to make most of it we decided to stay in a hostel, it was cheap, they have free breakfast and all you can drink free wine.
We stayed at Freedom Traveler, which is in the heart of the city and a 10 minute walk to the train station. It offers clean dormitory rooms or you can take a private room(book in advance), with shared bathrooms. Hostel stays are great for your pockets, the private double bedroom cost us only Rs. 900 for the night.
Meet other Travelers you stay with
The best part about traveling is to make new friends! This hostel had a beautiful backyard and the free wine (house wine) was a great icebreaker. We met June a student from South Korea, David an accountant from Mexico and Alex a tall guy from Peru (Apparently that’s uncommon) :). You’ll hear some fascinating things about their countries and share stories which you’ll talk about over for years, instead of the boring hotel rooms where you’ll probably be just to yourself.
Rome is not a cheap place especially for tourists, this hostel like many had a kitchen you can cook in, just be considerate when you use the kitchen, the hostel we put up at gave free breakfast, croissants, that you can fill up on before you head out for your site seeing.
2. Try the local food: It’s a vegetarians paradise
Italian food as they call it is bellisimo!, it might sound cliché, but when in Rome, live like a Roman, eat like one too! I’m not a vegetarian and I can get by in most of the countries I travel to, but most of my vegetarian friends complain about missing out on so much, fret not when in Rome!, the risotto and the lasagna are a must try, the huge slice of Turkish (al kebab) pizza can be lifesaver, I didn’t have much luck with the pasta, but the gnocchi and ravioli was nothing like what I had in India. For the Non vegetarians, have the chicken and beef, the seafood was ok, Rome’s one place we didn’t have to google to find a good restaurant, everywhere we went, the food was just delicious.
Try the lasagna at the Castel Sant’Angelo, it’s a bit expensive but totally worth it, thank me later!
3. Walk everywhere
Rome’s a small place and you’d cover pretty much everything by just walking around, as you go through the Basilicas and Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, you’ll see almost every Roman Ruin as you walk by, the buses are well-connected and frequent, you can get to the train station and the depots are right outside, tickets can be bought from any newspaper vendor. We walked about 15 km exploring the ruins and took the bus to go to the Vatican.
Taxis can be a tad bit expensive, but they are absolutely unnecessary, you can hire a bicycle to get about, check out https://easybikerent.it/ they are a highly rated bike hire website.
4. Stand in line, it might not be a waste of time
When we went to the Vatican, we stood in line for over 3 hours, literally, it was a pain, but I made friends with an interesting El Salvadoran couple studying in Madrid and on a holiday to Italy. So here’s what you can do, stand in line find someone you’d find interesting enough, strike a conversation, you’ll realize that 2 hours have gone by and you’ve shared so much that now it’s the end of the line. Of course, if you don’t find anyone, there are always people selling tickets for you to get into the place directly, almost the same cost as online, buy it and save your 2 hours.
5. Learn Some Italian
Before my trip to Rome, I learned some basic Italian words, to converse with the folk, remember to keep it short and concise, they all understand, although most of the time I used non capsico (I don’t understand). But it is effective and even fun when you goof up. Like when I wanted to buy a hairdryer to dry socks (weather in Italy can be unpredictable) I kept asking the vendor quanti (how many) instead of quanto (how much). With both of us baffled at what was happening, we just switched to English to make the transaction.
6. Hangout with locals at their Bars
Try out the old school bars in the city, it’s a great way to know the locals and what they do in their day-to-day lives. Romans are friendly and most of them know English, being an Indian I felt right at home with the Italian folk. They’re also one of the most traveler friendly and generous people you’ll know.
For some Practical information
Places to see when in Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica Vatican
The Roman Colesium
How do I travel
- Walk: Honestly, the best way to get around, you’ll cover so much ground and see many of the places you want to if you just walk
- Cycle: Hire a bike, make sure you lock it https://easybikerent.it/
- Bus: For far away places, like the Vatican from Rome take the 64 towards P.za Stazione S. Pietro (FL), for all buses, tickets are sold at the newspaper vendors outside the station. Just need to insert the ticket in the machine near the bus driver and press a button to stop at your destination, to signal the driver you want to get down, avoid buses in the morning, for there is office crowd, take a bus at around 10 am.
- Taxi/Uber: Uber is in Rome now, you’ll prefer that over a taxi, taxies tend to be a rip off for tourists, but honestly.
Is Rome expensive, a budget for every day?
Yes it is for tourists, so when you go to a restaurant, be aware that there are places that have a different cost for sitting outside and inside, you might want to check the costs for being seated inside a restaurant, they might be higher. For this trip, I was living out of a backpack. I had a budget for 100 Eur for two people every day for the 2-week trip. It was quite sufficient for food, sightseeing, and other costs.
Is the Food good?
The best you’ll ever have!, if your one of those Indians who eat at Indian restaurants in other countries, prepare to be ripped off, the Italian food is one of the best food you’ll ever have, it’s a vegetarian paradise, so leave aside that prejudice and try their food. Do not miss the Risotto!
Are people friendly?
You’ll feel right at home, Italians are very helpful to tourists and even the restauranteurs will be really courteous to you, conversing with an Italian, you’ll see how similar our cultures are.
All the places mentioned on the blog