Many of my friends and acquaintances keep asking me: “I have only 3, 4 days/nights in Rome, what should I see?”. Rome is NOT straightforward, therefore it is good to have a plan, otherwise you may be disappointed. When Mum was visiting a couple of weeks ago I bought us the tickets to see an exhibition at Villa Borghese. Given that it is a high tourist season, you need to not only book in advance (a couple of days!) but also select the time of your visit. As her flight changed in the last minute and we were unable to make it during specified time, we were told that the museum according to local laws (?!) cannot refund, exchange or change our ticket. At the same time they warned us against ‘selling it to others’ as ‘police is watching’. There we were, stuck in the Italian bureaucratic labyrinth, unable to do much. Thankfully, our friends took up the opportunity to see the exhibition instead of us, but the underlying message is: you need to be informed before coming to Rome.
This takes us to another question: given the myriad of opportunities to see ruins et al., what would you, a customer, tourist, like to experience? Rome really offers pretty much everything a modern tourist would crave for, however, if you don’t know how or where to find it, you might be disappointed. And you don’t want your 3, 4 days to go pass like that. My suggestions after living in Rome for over 6 months are to do a list with key things of interest to you and stick to it for the most part. The word ‘museums’ has many meanings in Rome. How much would you like to spend on sightseeing? What kind of experience are you after? Does a mix of walking, museum tours (on time) and coffee on the side of the road sound good to you, or would you like to have a more easy-going experience with a gelato in your hand? You will probably need to think through both and select carefully.
The amount of tourists during summer season in Rome is enormous. Prices also go up for most things between June and September. Your budget is pretty important but your time is more valuable. Apart from walking shoes, a good sunscreen, hat and a bottle of water in your hand, have a plan in the other one. After visiting the most important sights on that list, step back and relax. You will definitely NOT be able to see the whole of Rome in a nutshell (it would be a GIANT one too) in a couple of days, and this is a reason to come back anyway. Above all, observe coz the Roman lifestyle is quite different from other, much smaller towns in Italy where campanilismo prevails. Rome is a large, urban and unusual city, with hidden alleyways and restaurants, shops and bars at every step. If you want to feel some glory and take part in the buzzing life of this city, look up! The rooftops are in particular interesting and much happens above as much as ‘below’ the surface. And eat one gelato for me too, too much is never enough!