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Known as the Eternal City, Rome is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. With ancient ruins dating back more than 2,500 years, over 900 churches and some of the world’s most delectable pizza and pasta, it’s no wonder this Italian capital city sees over 10 million tourists per year. Because Rome can often feel overcrowded with tourists, finding peaceful spots or off-the-beaten path activities can be trying at times, but it is possible. Here’s some TPG advice on making the most of your next trip to Rome, including tips for getting there using miles, staying there with points and ideas for fun, less touristy activities to do when you’re in town.
Alitalia, a SkyTeam partner, has a hub at Rome’s main airport, Fiumicino (FCO), though it recently filed for bankruptcy. Despite rumors that Ryanair would purchase the airline, it seems things are still up in the air for Alitalia. It’s currently business as usual, with flights operating from US getaways like New York (JFK), Miami (MIA) and Boston (BOS), but you may want to avoid booking anything too far in the future. TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig recently flew Alitalia without any issues, but it may still be best to consider a Delta flight from Atlanta (ATL) or New York (JFK) instead if you want to fly SkyTeam.
American Airlines offers nonstop flights from Charlotte (CLT), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), New York (JFK) and Philadelphia (PHL). If you have a stash of AAdvantage miles, try to find a MileSAAver Off Peak economy award for 22,500 AA miles or 57,500 in business one-way.
Another option is Star Alliance. United flies nonstop to Rome from Newark (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD). Try searching for a saver award, which costs 30,000 MileagePlus miles in economy or 60,000 in business one-way.
Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO) is located about 15 miles from the city center. One of the quickest ways to get into Rome is to take the Leonardo Express Airport train, which runs every 30 minutes between the airport and Termini Station, Rome’s central train hub (14 euros/$16.6). If you need to get to other train stations in the city, are on a budget or don’t mind if things take a bit longer, you can take the FM1 or FM5 train lines which are about half the price and make stops at stations like Trastevere, Ostiense or Tiburtina. There are also buses, and several companies will take you from the airport to Termini — Terravision is the most popular. Expect to spend between 5-8 euros ($6-9.50) for the bus. You can always take a taxi or order an Uber, and remember, tipping your driver isn’t customary in Rome. There’s a fixed taxi rate of 48 euros ($57), but more will be added on if your destination is outside of the city center (see this map).
Rome also has a second airport, Ciampino (CIA) which is about nine miles from the city center and is served by mainly inter-European flights and carriers such as Ryanair. The easiest way to get from this airport to the city center is by the Terravision bus, which costs 5 euros ($6) per way and takes about 40 minutes once you factor in traffic. It’s also possible to take a taxi or use Uber, and taxis have a fixed flat rate of 30 euros ($35.50) if your destination is within the specified city center range.
Once you’ve made it into the city, the best way to see Rome is on foot. Metro options are fairly limited — expanding is often halted because there are simply too many ancient ruins still hidden underground, but there are a few lines that will get you to certain spots in the city. City buses can be crowded, but will get you to many different places, and Uber and taxis will get you wherever else you need to go in the city that the bus or metro system doesn’t cover. Getting the Roma Pass is a great deal if you plan on spending a few days exploring Rome and its tourist attractions. It offers 48 and 72-hour options and both include unlimited access to the ATAC urban public transport network, meaning metro and bus, as well as many other entrance tickets and discounts.
Where to Stay
There’s no shortage of hotels in Rome if you’d like to use up those hard-earned points and miles. Starwood loyalists looking for a splurge should consider the St. Regis Rome. The Category 6 property is impressive right off the bat — make sure to admire the grandiose Murano glass chandeliers and marble decor as you step into the lobby. It’s also a famous landmark too, built back in 1894 by well-known hotelier César Ritz. Room rates start at 418 euros ($495) per night or 20,000 Starpoints. You can’t use points for the famed 1,400-square-foot Bottega Veneta Suite; you’ll have to fork over at least 6,000 euros per night for that luxury experience.
The Hotel Indigo St. George’s chic rooftop terrace is the ideal spot to admire Rome from above. When strolling Rome’s streets becomes exhausting, you can unwind at this IHG property’s Roman baths, which include a large whirlpool, sauna and Turkish bath. Room rates start at 164 euros ($195) per night or 50,000 Reward points.
The Marriott Boscolo Exedra Roma has a regal feel but still seems contemporary — after all, it’s a 19th-century palace that’s been renovated into a luxury hotel. Some of the suites are bi-level in this Autograph Collection property, offering a cool, loft-style sleeping arrangements. The outdoor pool is also the perfect place to relax after a long day of exploring. Room rates start at 188 euros ($223) per night or 45,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Stroll Trastevere (and parts of Testaccio) for local food, buildings and people
Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood is a charming mix of ivy-covered buildings, Italians in chic outfits riding vintage bicycles and some of the best food you can find in Rome. Grab a gelato and get lost along the winding streets, popping into used bookshops, bakeries and boutiques as you check out what living in Rome is all about. Trastevere slowly turns into Testaccio, which used to be a little shady, but now it’s very up and coming. Make sure to visit the Testaccio Market where you can sample foods like fresh prosciutto and Italian cheeses.
Prepare right for the main tourist attractions
Obviously if you’ve made it to Rome, you’ll want to get all the experiences in, such as visiting the Vatican, the Roman Forums and the Colosseum. But long lines in the hot sunshine, pushy tourists and crowded attractions can make these experiences lose a bit of their charm. If you prepare correctly, though, they can be enjoyable. Follow these three tips for the best tourist attraction experience possible:
- Buy your tickets online before going — especially for the Colosseum and the Roman Forums.
- Bring water, sunscreen and a hat. Or an umbrella. You never know in Rome.
- Try to visit the attractions at off times, like weekdays in the late afternoon so there are less people.
Dine with the locals
A lot of restaurants in Rome are overpriced and geared toward tourists. But that delicious Italian cooking is there; you just have to find it. Eating at the Testaccio Market is a great way to sample Italian fare at a very simple level — cheese, meat, wine, dried mushrooms and fresh fruit. The Eat With app allows you to book dinners, wine tastings, cheese tastings and more with local families, chefs and groups of friends — many in their own homes, so you can get a true Roman dining experience. Apps like Spotted by Locals can help you find restaurants and attractions that Roman people recommend away from the tourist epicenter.
Featured image of Roman streets by Lori Zaino.
This story has been corrected to show the actual number of tourists visiting Rome each year is more than 10 million, not more than four.
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