Rome is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. From the ancient Colosseum to the Vatican, Rome deserves the millions of visitors that flock to her decadently marbled streets each year.
With all of the promise that the Eternal City holds, make sure you have an unforgettable visit for the right reasons.
Here are 6 mistakes to avoid when you head to Rome:
1) Visiting in the Summer months
Crowds in Rome can be colossal in the summer. Photo by Tostie14.
June, July and August are popular months to take vacations and Rome might seem like the perfect location for one.
However, between the scorching heat that melts the city and the multitude of tourists that swarm the sites, you’ll feel more like cattle visiting a market wearing an extra leather coat than a traveler wanting to immerse yourself in a sense of Rome’s ancient past.
Lines become impossibly long (restaurants and toilets included) and what should be a fun trip can quickly turn into a torturous ordeal befitting a gladiatorial battle. If you have any choice, avoid these months.
I visited in late September when the sun was still shining, but not baking, and the streets were busy but not jam packed.
2) Lining up for hours at the Colosseum
See the Colosseum without the crowds. Photo by lightmatter.
The Colosseum will absolutely be on your travel itinerary, but you don’t need to get there hours ahead of time awaiting entry. Standing in line is not what you traveled to Rome for.
Most tourists hop out of bed early and head to the Colosseum as though it’s going somewhere; it isn’t.
One of the best pieces of advice is to visit in the late afternoon when the crowds are ever-diminishing. Don’t worry, unless you have an archaeological interest, an hour or two inside should be plenty.
Another line-busting tip is to buy your ticket at the Roman Forum. Few tourists realize that the Colosseum ticket is dual entry with the Forum and can be bought at the lesser site with smaller crowds.
I visited the Roman Forum at lunchtime, hit the Colosseum at 4:30 p.m. and sailed into both sites without waiting.
3) Eating badly
There is no reason to eat badly in Rome. Photo by norwichnuts.
Italy is a country defined by food, and Rome is no exception.
You shouldn’t have to eat badly in this city. Sadly, many unscrupulous restaurants are more interested in gaining a quick buck than making their customers sigh with culinary content.
The number one tip for ensuring you don’t have a bad meal in Rome is to steer clear of the restaurants near tourist attractions and in tourist hotels.
Ask the locals or other visitors for recommendations and definitely avoid the Vatican area. You’re much better taking a short walk over the river.
If hunger catches you and you’re stuck eating at a tourist site, I’d recommend ordering something simple. Pasta is harder to serve poorly compared to a cut of meat that has probably been purchased with profits (not quality) in mind.
4) Heading home after dinner
See another side of Rome by night. Photo by rayced.
A four-course dinner followed by a nip of grappa makes most people sleepy, but instead of heading for bed, do as the locals and explore the city of Rome by night.
So long as you have your street smarts with you, wandering by night should be perfectly safe and gives you a chance to see the Rome you probably came for.
Fine lighting accentuates the beautifully Baroque Trevi Fountain, and there is arguably no more romantic spot than the Spanish Steps by night—all without the crowds.
If you’re a night owl like me, a visit after midnight means you’ll practically have the sights to yourself.
Push on through to dawn (or rise early) to see the Eternal City bathed in light at sunrise from Gianicolo Hill. I took a croissant and coffee, which completed the experience.
5) Booking a bed near Termini Station without research
Termini isn’t a bad place to stay if you know where to book. Photo by Terrazzo.
For those on a budget, the Termini area is likely to be where you base yourself in Rome. Reputed to be fume-filled by day and a seedy hangout for hookers by night, the reviews hardly lure you in.
However, much work has been done to improve the area, and if you know where to look, you can bag a budget bed without paying by the hour or feeling like you need to put a padlock on the door.
My recommendation is to stay on the side near Via Masala, which has a sprinkling of restaurants. The area is a bit more atmospheric and safer at night, especially for solo female travelers.
I stayed at The Yellow, which I highly recommend for price, location and meeting people.
6) Tempting pick-pockets
Keep your cash close in Rome. Photo by MattP33.
Of course you want to avoid this mistake in Rome, as in any city, but the key is knowing where you are most at risk.
Although tourist areas will necessarily see some pickpockets, they are not the most-targeted sites in Rome, as crowds can block the thief’s escape.
Instead, pickpockets tend to work in Termini station as well as at the metro (subway). The number 64 bus route, which is usually packed with tourists going to the Vatican, is also an infamous spot for getting your belongings nabbed.
I never carried more money than I needed and added a discreet padlock to my daypack. This allowed me to travel Rome without any problems.
With these 6 tips in mind, go forth and conquer Rome with confidence!
Have you traveled to Rome? Did you fall for any of these common traps? Let me know in the comments.
If you liked this, you might also like: 7 Paris Myths Debunked.
Main photo: Rome—one of the world’s greatest cities riddled with ancient history and beauty by Joao Maximo.