Welcome Back to our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
As many of you who follow along know, Jamie just returned from her much-anticipated Summer Family Vacation on the Celebrity Beyond! This epic cruise through Europe has taken Jamie and Fam through Italy, Greece and Turkey, and as expected, it was BEYOND amazing! Because the itinerary included so many beautiful and diverse destinations, we’ll be featuring a different location over the course of multiple “Do”s and “Don’t”s Blogs. Today, we’ll start with Rome!
So Let’s Go to Rome! But First…
Table of Contents
Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Rome, Italy!
Top Favorites, and Jamie’s “Must Do” Experiences
1. DO Plan, Purchase, and Reserve AHEAD
Rome is a big, busy, bustling city with tons of residents who call it home, and tons of tourists who come to visit from all over the world, as well as from Italy itself. As soon as you know when you plan to be in Rome, you should plan, purchase and reserve as many attraction entrances as possible. Entrances and admissions to most places you’ll want to see in Rome, such as the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel, sell out months in advance, so don’t expect to walk up to these types of attractions and wander right in.
Better yet, your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can either find or put together the perfect Rome Itinerary for you. That way, everything for when you plan to be there is all taken care of, and you just have to show up to the right places at the right times! Sometimes, depending on the attraction, your LOTMV TA may even be able to get you front-of-the-line passes!
2. DO Hire a Tour Guide
Licensed Tour Guides are worth their weight in gold, especially in a big city like Rome. Not only do they know the city so well that they can lead you around without wasting any of your precious vacation time, but they also have in-depth knowledge about everything they will take you to see.
It’s one thing to stand before a building or painting or sculpture that’s hundreds of years old and think it looks cool, and a completely different thing to know the story behind it, how it got there, the battles fought over it, or honored by it, and understand why it’s a cool thing to be looking at not just because of how it looks. Tour guides bring what’s in front of you to life! And if you’re wary because you may have had a “boring” tour guide in the past, don’t worry, your LOTMV TA will know the right tour guides and companies to give you the best experience.
3. DO Throw a Coin in Trevi Fountain
And speaking of cool places that Tour Guides can bring you, make sure you stop at the Trevi Fountain! It’s an absolute marvel in sculptural design, and happens to look even more gorgeous at night all lit up. Yes, it will be crowded, and yes, you’ll have to wait to get close enough to throw in a coin, but do it anyway! Legend says that throwing a coin over your shoulder (just one over your right shoulder, to be exact) into the Trevi Fountain will ensure that you come back to Rome one day! So don’t tempt fate, and make sure you have some change on you when you go!
4. DO Bring the Kiddos!
While it may seem daunting to bring kids to a big, foreign city, it’s absolutely worth it for them and for you, too! The WORLD is the best classroom, and Traveling can be the BEST education! Not all learning needs to “feel” like the stereotype of sitting at a desk, or even to take place in a school; in fact, some of the best learning happens unexpectedly, especially while traveling. Plus, when your kids do learn about Rome (or wherever else you’ve traveled) in school, they’ll be even more interested because they’ve been there to see it all!
Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking our kids are too young to remember something, so we question, why bother doing it at all? But I think we underestimate how much our kids can absorb when they’re little. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Travel gets in our bones, and it shapes who we are. Even if young kids don’t remember every detail, the experience will be in them forever.
We took my son to London when he was two, and he’s obsessed with Harry Potter, Freddie Mercury and the Beatles, and more recently, Ted Lasso (but really, who’s not obsessed with Ted, come on now)…coincidence? I think not. I myself went to Rome when I was seven, and I think it was that first overseas experience that ignited the spark for travel in me. Kids love traveling with us, even if it doesn’t seem like it yet, and you never know the impression one trip might make on them, and how that influence will manifest throughout their lives.
5. DO Splurge on Designer Items
Okay, maybe not a Vespa, but if you love designer brands, such as Gucci, Prada, Armani, etc., plan to make your designer purchases when in Rome (as the saying goes). Believe it or not, most designer items (European brands, anyway) are less expensive in Europe than in the United States, so it makes sense to purchase them while you’re there instead of waiting to come home. You’ll even be able to get the tax refunded at the airport if you have the proper documentation from the sale (be sure to ask the salesperson if they don’t automatically offer).
A few tips, though: try to make any big designer purchases toward the end of your stay in Rome, so you can worry less about anything happening to them. And also, as tempting as it is, try not to saunter down the street with your big designer shopping bag; tourists are pretty easy to spot, and you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Being inconspicuous will serve you much better in this situation.
Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way
1. Brush Up on the History of Rome Before You Leave
While actually being IN Rome is amazing education in itself, as mentioned under DO Bring Your Kiddos, it’s also helpful to brush up on some Roman history before your trip. Having an understanding of some basic history allows you to focus on what interests you most, and prioritize visiting those places throughout the city.
Jamie recommends the Rick Steves guide books, no matter where you’re traveling, and especially for Rome. You can also find great documentaries across all streaming services, which can be fun to watch as a family, and there are plenty of movies featuring Rome as the setting, too, including the very family friendly, Cars 2.
2. Choose Your Bags, Purses and Backpacks (and what you put in each) Carefully
While traveling to most countries throughout Europe is very safe, there are always precautions you should take when you are traveling anywhere, especially when it’s to a big, busy city, whether domestically or abroad. One of the most effective ways to keep your belongings safe is to Choose Your Bags, Purses, and Backpacks wisely.
First, you should always keep any valuables (such as wallets, phones and copies of any travel documents) in a bag or purse that is easy to carry, that has a ZIPPER, that can be worn on your FRONT, and that hugs to your body, like a cross-body bag or a belt bag. This bag should never be slid to the back (even for pictures, especially for pictures, actually), and you should be able to easily place your hand over it in very crowded places. Choose something you really like and that goes with all of your outfits, because it will be in all of your pictures.
Second, if you’re traveling as a family and/or you just prefer being prepared with certain items, a backpack is okay to carry as long as you don’t put anything in it that you’d be devastated to lose. For example, a family backpack or bag may have items such as bandaids, portable fans, umbrellas, water bottles, hats (not your irreplaceable ones), little kids’ changes of clothes (and diapers if you’re still in that phase), and snacks. You can also use an underarm tote bag for these things if it makes you more comfortable, but it should still zip closed. Everything you carry in a backpack should be replaceable, just in case.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
While we already went over how Rome is a great place to get your designer items, it’s NOT necessarily the best place to wear your fancy designer shoes, unless they are truly one of your most comfortable pairs to walk in (though most of us are not Carrie Bradshaw, even if we sometimes wish we were). If you’re visiting Rome in the summer, think about the shoes you would usually wear to Walt Disney World to walk around in all day, since you’ll likely be doing the same amount of walking and standing, or even more. And if you’re visiting in cooler months, choose wisely from your winter shoes, and be sure you can walk or stand for long lengths of time. Whether you’re personally more comfortable in sneakers, structured sandals or boots, just be sure to prioritize comfort over fashion.
Side note: if you’re traveling with kiddos, even slightly older ones who usually don’t mind walking (like in the 7-9 range), bring an umbrella stroller. Little kids will need a stroller to get through the day, just like at Disney, and those older kiddos who think they’re too old for a stroller back home will be crawling into the one you bring before the end of the first day. Plus, umbrella strollers are quick and easy to fold up and carry when you come to any steps (of which there are many in Rome). When I was seven, and in Rome, we didn’t bring a stroller, and I spent LOTS of time riding on the backs and shoulders of gracious people in our group.
4. Choose to Walk Over Taking a Taxi Whenever You Can
Speaking of shoes made for walking and strollers for kiddos, these things are necessary for your trip to Rome because you should try to walk as much as you can instead of taking taxis all over the city. Walking is one of the best ways to see the most of the city, and to discover the character-filled nooks and crannies, and to feel what it’s like to be a local there. If you’re jumping in a taxi to get from attraction to attraction, you’re missing out on all the little details of daily life in Rome that make it such a fascinating and unique experience.
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently
1. DON’T Skip the Touristy Places
Rome is chock-full of big name places that are on everyone’s Must-See Lists, and they’re on said lists for good reason, so DON’T skip them! Yes, they’ll be crowded; yes, they’ll be chaotic; and yes, they are worth it! The saying “When in Rome…” exists for a reason, so when YOU are in Rome, don’t skip out on all the touristy places and traditional attractions, because what’s the point of being in Rome if you’re going to miss pretty much everything the city is known for?
As mentioned, there are a number of “Don’t Miss” attractions throughout the city that require tickets for admission. Some of those places include: the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, and possibly soon, the Pantheon, among others.
However, there are also many attractions and areas that are open to the public that you should not miss, either. Some of these places include: The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain (as mentioned earlier), and Piazza Navona, just to name a few (Piazza Navona is particularly great and highly recommended for al-fresco dinners with a piazza view).
2. DON’T Forget to Leave Time to Wander
In between all the attractions and sight-seeing, Don’t Forget to Leave Time to Wander (which goes back to having comfortable shoes and a stroller if needed). Don’t just hop from big-name place to big-name place; leave yourself time to explore the side streets overflowing with brilliant colored flowers, and to discover quaint shops with hand-crafted souvenirs.
And especially be sure to leave time to sit at cafes and people watch every few hours, to give you a break from all that walking. Maybe enjoy an early-morning espresso and pastry breakfast, and then later in the evening, indulge in a leisurely dinner of pizza and wine. And of course, don’t forget about dessert…
3. DON’T Skimp on Gelato!
Gelato in Italy can be a dessert for any meal, or a snack any time of day. Breakfast dessert? Gelato! Mid-morning snack? Gelato! Lunch dessert? Gelato! Afternoon pick-me-up? Gelato and Espresso! Traditional dessert? Gelato! We at Love of the Magic Vacations recommend having at least one Gelato experience a day.
I bet you didn’t even know Breakfast dessert was a thing, and to that I have one thing to say: “When in Rome…”
4. DON’T Forgo a Visit to Vatican City
A visit to Vatican City is an incredibly unique experience: how many times can you say you’ve been to a city within a city? There are very few places in the world where a city within a city exists, so don’t forgo your visit to this world famous one! In addition to being able to experience the city-within-a-city rarity, Vatican City is also full of immensely famous architectural and religious attractions, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
If you want to go inside any of the Vatican buildings, pre-purchased tickets and reservations are a must, but if you’re not particularly interested in religious artifacts (whether you’re religious or not), or if you’re not super into art history, you can still at least walk through Vatican City. Just visiting Vatican City itself doesn’t require tickets if you just want to walk around, and it’s worth it to say you were there.
5. DON’T Just Take Self-Guided Tours
Although you can get a lot of mileage out of the Rick Steves guidebooks that Jamie recommends, or whatever favorite guidebooks of your own that you have, don’t ONLY rely on Self-Guided Tours for your entire experience of Rome. As mentioned above, a great Tour Guide is worth their weight in gold for their ability to bring history to life.
By spending some time brushing up on Roman history to discover where exactly you’d prefer a Tour Guide over a self-guided tour, and enlisting the help of your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor, you’ll wind up with the perfect mix of Guided Tours, Wandering Time, Self-Guided Tours, and, of course, Gelato Time.
And…that’s a wrap of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Rome, Italy!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have all of Jamie’s best advice for making the most of your time in Rome, are you ready to plan your next Italian adventure? Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!
Just like last year, in 2023, a new Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s list will come out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip! And you can find links to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap.
Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?
So far, we have:
And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month! You can find links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month.