One key suggestion, at least in my mind. I got a lot of mileage out of my Ragazzini/Biagi Concise Italian English Dictionary. I think it was about as good as you could get for the money. I also really liked that 501 Italian Verbs book which you'd buy over here.
Bring a good grammar book. I brought my Italian 3 book, Da Capo, and was so glad to have a concise overview with me of all the major grammatical points I had learned, and I referred to it all the time. A lot of people didn't have one with them and wished they did.
An essential. If you go to any newsstand you should be able to find maps. My favorite is spiral bound, very detailed, and very well indexed. It looks like a little book and it is quite easy to flip through. Since it's spiral bound you never have to unfold a huge map. It will cost you approximately 5 dollars and it is well worth it
If you want information on concerts, art exhibits, restaurants... pretty much anything...go to a newsstand and buy Roma C'e. It is a small booklet that gives you the scoop on things to do in Rome each week. A new one comes out every Thursday, costs about a dollar, and will give you fun ideas for your stay in Rome.
The bus and metro system are pretty efficient. They are often quite cramped but much less expensive than taking a taxi.
In the end I would suggest a lot of walking. You can see much of Rome without ever needing to take a bus. If you like walking then I'd suggest going to the Centro Storico and just wandering intelligently. You will run into many of the famous sites in a rather small area.
If you want cheap lodging then you should probably stay near the Termini station. Almost all of the one star hotels and hostels are around that area. They fill up pretty quickly though so you will want to call in advance. From the Termini station it is pretty easy to get to the Pantheon/Piazza Navona area. My bus of choice is the number 40, a nice long bus that isn't always so cramped.
Make sure to catch some Italian TV! I learned so much about how the language is really spoken by observing people on TV. I especially liked watching Italian MTV which gave me a great sense of Italy's current pop culture and how young Italians talk.
The classes were great, but not easy. With such a rigorous work load it's difficult to find enough time to really explore Rome and experience Italian culture, but make time anyway! Of course you've got to get your work done, but you're there for the experience of learning the language and culture, so take advantage of it! Don't spend *all* your time buried in books when you have a new city and country to get to know first hand! I made sure to make time for walking all around the city as well as watching Italian films and television, all of which was extremely valuable for getting a sense of the culture.
My friends joke that I know my Italian cities by gelaterie and pizzerie...and it might be somewhat true. My personal favorite gelateria is the Old Bridge by the Vatican. Huge cones for cheap prices. It's always packed with Romans elbowing their way to the counter and the gelato is buonissimo! As is the panna....Gosh, I miss gelato. However, if you can't get over to that area of the city, Blue Ice makes a mean gelato...and has tons of flavors and several locations throughout the city. Giolitti and Della Palma are also very good. San Crispino is also very high quality gelato, but a bit pricey and portions are small. It's good, no doubt about it, and very pristine and sanitary, but I like to leave a gelateria sporting a cone overflowing with gelato and panna!
In my opinion the best gelato in Rome, bar none, is that of San Crispino:
I'm not sure about the Via Acaia address but the Via della Panetteria is near the Trevi fountain. It is a great little side trip. Visit the fountain. Eat the best gelato in the world. Be happy.
In Trastevere, on the sidestreet by STANDA and Frontoni (also a great place for lunch!), there is one of the best take-away pizzerias in all of Rome. I don't think it has a name...just 'Pizzeria.' OK, there probably is a name, but I don't know it and I don't think there is a sign. It is tiny, on the left hand side of the street and usually packed. The quattro formaggi con funghi pizza is sooooo good! Go around lunch time. It will be crowded, but the pizza will be fresh out of the oven.
There is a cafe off of the Piazza del Popolo called Rosati. Everything there is expensive but it is also a very cool place to sit down and relax. If you like chocolate I would recommend the Cioccolato con panna. It is truly awesome and it comes out with an elaborate setup. If you don't like chocolate then there are plenty of alternatives. Rosati is pretty hard to miss if you find the Piazza del Popolo...at the end of Via del Corso.
(Via Ostia, 9)
Another good place. It is an awesome jazz club with a very relaxed atmosphere. You can go there and hang out, drink some wine, and listen to some great music. In my opinion it is a wonderful way to end an evening in Rome. If you aren't familiar with Rome it might be best to take a taxi there, as it is just a small door at the end of a small street. Kind of easy to miss if you aren't familiar with the area.
If you want to get a table without a reservation I'd recommend arriving by or before 10 at night. The music usually starts later. If you go early you'll have to wait a while but the place definitely fills up and it will be hard to find a place to sit later in the night. Some nights Alexanderplatz hosts special artists. On those nights the admission price goes up and the availability of seating goes down. Significantly.
The number to Alexanderplatz is 06. 39742171. If you can make a reservation that is pretty ideal.
(Via Del Portico d'Ottavia)
If you can manage to find it the Forno del Ghetto is truly a must. Their specialty is the chocolate torta di ricotta. It is one of the best pastries I've ever had. If you look on the spiral bound map the Forno is located very close to Campo dei Fiori. It is relatively hard to find but the short walk there from a place like the Pantheon is well worth it. Go early in the day because they sometimes sell out. It is closed on Saturdays.
For a good walk there is a hill called Gianicolo. You can get a very beautiful view of Rome if you find your way to the top. If you get lost just ask the locals about it, they'll be able to direct you. Gianicolo is actually pretty hard to miss, but it is a little difficult to find the way up...especially for those not used to the area.
If you are in Rome for New Year's Eve, GO TO GIANICOLO!!! It is full of exuberant, energetic, celebrating people shooting off fireworks and toting bottles of Spremuta for the midnight festivities. Try to find a spot with a view of the city below for when midnight strikes. It looks like Rome is exploding with all of the fireworks being shot off and is truly one of the most incredible sights I ever seen. (Heads up for fireworks though...it can get a little crazy!)
If you have the energy you should really do an evening walk through Rome. Colosseo, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, Saint Peter's Basilica, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Piazza del Popolo. It's really all in a relatively small area. Everything seems to change at night. It is absolutely beautiful. But definitely go to Saint Peter's at night. That, I would say, is a must see. Especially around Christmas time when there is the Presepe.
You can find it almost immediately on a map. It is basically right across the river Tevere from the Campo de' Fiori zone. Shut down and deserted during the daylight hours, it has an exciting nightlife.
Cool shops, good restaurants. That is where a lot of people go at night. Very lively and lots of great places to hang out in.
Make sure Galleria Borghese is on your itinerary, next to the Vatican museum it's a must, even if you're not into art.
The Villa Borghese with Bernini's sculptures is amazing. It was by far my favorite museum in Rome. I went back for a second visit!
The Sistine Chapel is truly beautiful but it is always very full. For the art lover here is a quick tip that I heard about but never tried. Hopefully it works. First, go to the Vatican museum right when it opens. Then, as everyone else negotiates the immense museum you should head straight for the Sistine Chapel. When you get there it will be almost completely empty. While everyone else winds through the museum you can tranquilly enjoy Michelangelo's masterpiece.
Try to do as much as you can in Rome before you go out to other places in Italy, spend your weekends in the city too!
Make sure to visit Cinque Terre on the Northwest coast on one of your long weekends. It is a gorgeous stretch of rocky coastline with 5 little villages on the beach that are connected by a hiking trail with beautiful views. The towns are full of adorable colorful houses stacked up on the coast, and the people were so helpful, we didn't have any problem finding a cheap place to stay right on the spot. You can hike or take the train between the towns, but the train doesn't provide the views that the trail does. My favorite of the towns was Vernazza. Don't miss this place!!
Ma che bella citta'! It's traditional and historical, but also modern and sophisticated. The people are beautiful, the clothes, the architecture, the sites...I had some really frustrating moments during that program, but I left Rome wishing I could stay.
Last Updated: 10/12/09