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World > Italy > Rome
City Guide Rome
General Information
The Eternal City is located on Tiber River between the Apennine Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea used to be the centre of the Roman Empire. Today it is the seat of the Italian government and of other ministerial offices. Rome is one of the most attractive cities in the world and thousands of tourists visit it every year. It is difficult to define what exactly attracts so many people to it: if it is the ancient history that surrounds you where ever you go, or the bustling city and its wonderful pleasures of good cuisine, fine clothing and modern art. It is probably the exciting combination of both, old and new at the same time. The best way to explore this vivid city is to walk down its streets and piazzas, which are full of character and historic atmosphere. If you get tired of museums, churches or art galleries, you can always take a break in one of the famous cafe’s and restaurants or just enjoy the fine fashion shops. This is one of the most historic cities, but it is very much alive today.
Rome usually enjoys a mild spring and autumn, this would be the best time to visit were it not that the city is then crammed with tourists. The weather in Rome during summer is uncomfortably hot, temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C) at midday, and Romans tend to close up their businesses during August and leave on summer vacation. Mid-winter is mild, the average temperature in December hovering around 55°F (13°C).
The official language in Rome is Italian but English is widely understood at the touristy sights.
Rome is the home of the Vatican, so naturally most people (84%) are Roman Catholic. 6% are Jewish and the rest are Muslim and Protestant.
The Euro is the official currency of Italy. Euro (€) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2, 1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
Service charges are usually included on all bar or restaurant bills at a cost of 10 to 15 percent. It is expected to tip a smll amount of money, usually to round up to the next euro. It is not common to tip taxi drivers.
The VAT can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU as long as the purchase exceeds € 154,94 (VAT included) and was purchased at one store on the same day. In order to do that, you have to ask in the store for an invoice containing the description of goods, the personal data of the non European resident as well as the particulars of his passport or of any such equivalent document. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance. In order to get the VAT refund, the Invoice should be sent back to the seller within four months. Refund will be sent in the method of your choice. Should the seller not receive the invoice in time, he shall be hold responsible by the state for the payment of VAT initially deducted from the purchase, therefore, please do not forget this last act. The invoice doesn’t need postage; all you need to do is drop it in a mailbox at the airport. Customs Information Line: +39 06 50246061
To call Rome from abroad, first dial +39 for Italy and then 06 for Rome. There can be high charges on calls made from hotels and it is generally cheaper to use a calling card. Public telephone boxes take phone cards for local and international calls, which can be bought from tobacconit’s, post office, newsstands and some bars. Telephones that take coins have become very rare in Italy and Rome. You can find them in Termini station, in some bars, hotels and metro stations.
Emergency numbers
Emergency aid services: 118 Police: 113 Fire brigade: 115 Permanent First Aid Station: open from 8 pm to 8 am; on days before holiday and on holidays. Tel: +39 (06) 58201030.
Opening times
Banks are usually open Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm. In the afternoon, the opening hours change from bank to bank but they are usually open from 2.30 pm/3 pm to 4 pm/4.30 pm. Some banks are open non-stop from 8.30 am to 4 pm and/or on Saturday mornings. In the centre of Rome several post offices are open Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 8.30 am to 1 pm. Many major museums are closed on Mondays, and on the days they are open, some close their doors by early afternoon. Most churches close at midday for a long lunch break and reopen at 3 or 4 p.m. The Forum and other major archaeological sites tend to stay open throughout the day, but in many cases they stop letting people in an hour before closing time.
Public Holidays
· January 1 New Year’s Day · January 6 Epiphany · April Easter · April 25 Liberatin Day · May 1 Labor Day · June Anniversary of the Republic · June 29 Feast Day of St. Peter · August 15 Assumption · November 1 All Saints’ Day · December 8 Immaculate Conception · December 25 Christmas · December 26 St. Stephen’s Day
Rome, like any western European capital, is a "safe" place. The only problem one can find in Rome is the presence of pickpockets. The base of the pickpockets seems to be the main train station Termini. Furthermore, the pickpockets are also very active in all public transport vehicles and by the sights, where tourists are distracted. Watch out for groups of children in scruffy clothing, often accompanied by a young woman nursing a baby. Back packs, dangling purses, and wallets in back pockets are particularly vulnerable, and anything on your person is fair game on a crowded bus or train.
Circo Massimo
The Circo Massimo used to be a chariot racetrack which could hold approximately 200.000 spectators. On the north side of the ruins of the Circo Massimo stands a building dating from the late 800s. It has been restructured and currently serves as the main office of the Roman Museums and Imperial Rome. It is located at Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 16
Discovering Rome
Rome, the capital city of Italy and often called the Eternal City, is one of the world’s most important tourist destinations. There is simply too much to see in Rome, from the Vatican to museums, monuments, city parks, opera and theatre, you just always feel there is more to see. Like any large city, Rome is a bustling, hectic, lively place with heavy traffic and at times very noisy, but do not let that put you off, as it is still full of tranquil, undiscovered squares, small serene parks and has an abundance of historical monuments and building. Tourist Information There are three booths in central Rome offering tourist information, Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10 am to 6 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 1 pm. They provide information concerning guided tours, restaurants, museums and public transportation. They are positioned at: Largo Goldoni, Tel.:+39 06 6875027 Largo Corrado Ricci (Colosseum), Tel.:+39 06 6780992 Via Nazionale (Palazzo delle Esposizioni), Tel.:+39 06 4746262
Colosseum (Colosseo)
The Colosseum was built in about 1920 years ago. It is considered an architectural and engineering wonder, and remains as a standing proof of both the grandeur and the cruelty of the Roman world. After the splendour of imperial times, the Colosseum was abandoned, and in turn it became a fortress for the medieval clans of the city, a source of building materials, picturesque scenery for painters, a place of Christian worship. Today it is a challenge for the archaeologists and a scenario for events and shows. The Colosseum is the most visited monument in Rome, and perhaps in all Italy, so it takes some time to get in the amphitheatre, especially during the tourist season. If you want to avoid the queue you can purchase tickets in advance via the website: There is also a possibility to hire an audio guide at the entrance. Opening Times: Daily 8.30 am –7.15 pm (summer); daily 8.30 am – 4.30 pm (winter), last entry one hour before closing time.
Built more than 1800 years ago by an unknown architect, the magnificent Pantheon building still stands as a reminder of the great Roman Empire. The word ''Pantheon'' signifies all the deities, and the building originated as a temple to twelve of the most important Roman gods. The sense of harmony inside the Pantheon is partly due to its perfect proportions; the dome's diameter is equal to its height from the floor, creating the potential for a perfect spere. A 9-metre hole lets in the daylight, and it's easy to see the spiritual significance that this link to the heavens would have possessed. When it rains, water cascades through the roof and slowly drains from the floor. Nowadays the Pantheon is still a consecrated church and used for occasional services, concerts and poetry readings. The Pantheon borders the Piazza della Rotonda, a rectangular square with a central fountain. It is situated in the historic centre of Rome, not far from the Piazza Navone. Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 9 am - 6.30 pm and Sun: 9 am –1 pm.
The Forum (Foro Romano)
The Forum was designed to be the centre of social, political and economic life in the city but it can be difficult for modern visitors to appreciate the Roman Forum at first, for this remains of Classical Rome has fared worse than most. Romans Forum was so looted for building materials during late antiquity and the Middle Ages that there appears, at first sight, to be little left. Therefore, a little historical knowledge and a good map will help you build the picture and realize what a magnificent place that is. Admission is free; guide tours in Italian, English, German, French or Spanish cost EUR3.20. Opening Times: Mon-Sat: 9 am - 6.30 pm, Sun: 9 am – 1 pm .
Castel Sant'Angelo
Perhaps the most pleasurable single monument Rome offers you. Originally a dynastic tomb, it was converted into a fortress, and then became a noble dwelling and finally a papal residence; between times it served as a barracks, a prison and a museum. Sant’Angelo Castle was Rome’s most important fortified area, anyone who held it had the whole town to his mercy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries it passed into the hands of the most powerful noble families. Before suffering a massive attack by the Roman people who decided to destroy it in 1379. The castle is divided into five floors: Floor I: from which starts the famous winding ramp about 400 feet long, a stupendous Roman construction. Floor II (the prisons floor): with horrible cells, called "historical" prisons, and storerooms for wheat and oil. Floor III (the military floor): with two big courtyards. Floor IV (papel floor): with the loggia of Julius II, by Bramante, in the principal part of the Castle and the papal apartment, consisting of magnificent rooms with frescoes by Giulio Romano, Perin del Vaga and others painters of Raphael's school, the Sala del Tesoro and Cagliostro's Room, the prison cell of the famous alchemist of the 18th century. Floor V (top floor): with a big terrace, dominated by an Archangel in bronze by Wersschaffelt, from which we have a fine panorama of the city. Opening times: Tue – Sun: 9 am – 7 pm.
Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Tre
This is the most famous and arguably the most beautiful fountain in all of Rome. In 1732, Pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762. Legend has it you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water. You should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain. Opening Times: Opening hours: Daily 24 hours.
Piazza di Spagna and the Spani
Piazza di Spagna is the heart of Rome's most fashionable shopping area, and it's familiar to residents and visitors alike because of the Spanish Steps ascending grandly from it. The Spanish Steps were designed in 1723-26 by Francesco de Sanctis to link Via del Babuino with Via Felice – the first great street planned by Sixtus V (1585-90). From here, spectacular views over the city rooftops more than warrant the steep climb. The Spanish Steps acquired their name from the neighbouring Spanish Embassy but the area is more intimately associated with England. This a great place to rest and watch street musicians, vendors, young lovers and other tourists. Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Villa Celimontana
This is one of Rome's loveliest, and most hidden, public gardens and one of the best spots to take a break from all the sightseeing and just having a picnic. The peaceful green park was belonged to the Mattei Family in the sixteen century and now is converted to public gardens. The Mattei Family are part of the Roman Nobility and also hereditary Roman Patricians. It is also one of the favourite spots for brides and grooms who arrive here during summer to be photographed. the main gateway is on Piazza della Navicella. Opening Times: Daily from 7 am until sunset.
Bioparco (Rome Zoo)
The Bioparco, Rome Zoo, is in Piazzale del Giardino Zoologico, in the centre of Villa Borghese. It's close to the route of trams number 3 and 19 and Subway’s "red" Line, "Flaminio" and "Spagna" stations . Alternatively you can walk across the park from the Spanish Steps or Piazza del Popolo. In keeping with the ''Bioparco'' name, each creature has a sign describing not just its name and characteristics, but the area populated by the species, now and in the past - a sad reminder of the dangers of extinction, and the preservation role of zoos like the Bioparco. The zoo provides a nice alternative activity for tourists, and entertainment for children who may be bored of static sights. Opening Times: Daily: 9.30 am – 5 pm (during winter), 9.30 am – 6 pm (during summer), last entry one hour before closing time.
Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sisti
A vist to Rome is not complete without a visit to the Vatican and espacially the Sistine Chaple. The chapel is named after its founder, Pope Sixtus IV, who had it built 1473-1477. In 1508, Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo, who considered himself a sculptor and not a painter didn’t want the job. Michelangelo couldn’t refuse, however, and began to work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in May, 1508; he finished in October, 1512. The result, however, was a masterpiece. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was originally painted with golden stars against a blue sky. This was replaced by Michelangelo who was originally supposed to paint the 12 apostles. Michelangelo thought this would be too poor and got permission for full creative freedom. The focus of the ceiling are nine stories from Genesis, starting at the back above the altar and The Last Judgment: Separation of Light from Darkness, Creation of the Stars, Separation of the Land from Waters, Creation of Adam, Creation of Eve, Fall of Man, Noah’s Sacrifice, the Flood, and the Drunkenness of Noah. Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 8.45 am – 1 pm (mid November till mid March, and mid June till the end of August). Mon – Fri: 8.45 am – 4 pm, Sat: 8.45 am – 1 pm (mid March till mid June and September till end of October. Note: closed every Sunday, except for the last Sunday of each month, unless it falls at Easter, on June 29 (St. Peter and Paul), or on December 25 and 26 (Christmas Holiday).
St. Peter's Basilica
The centre of the Roman Catholic faith, St. Peter’s draws pilgrims from all over the world. This church was completed around AD 349, but till the 15th century it was falling apart. In 1506 Pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new church. It actually took more than a whole century to build it and most of the great architects of the Roman Renaissance Baroque period helped to design it. in 1939, workers renovating the grottoes beneath St. Peter's, the traditional burial area of the popes, made a stunning find. Just below the floor level, they discovered an ancient Roman grave. It soon became clear that there wasn't just one grave, but an entire city of the dead. After many months of digging, the excavators came to a section of older graves, near the area underneath the high altar. Directly beneath the altar, they found a large burial site and a wall painted red. In a niche connected to that wall, they found the bones of a man. More than 20 years later, in 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that those bones belonged to St. Peter. The dress code is strictly enforced at St. Peter’s Basilica. No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts allowed. This applies to both men and women. Even if you get through security, the attendants will turn you away at the door. Opening Times: Daily, April – September: 7 am – 7 pm, October – March: 7 am – 8 pm.
St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Ma
The appellation of this church is confusing to many - it means that this is Rome's major or principal church dedicated to St Mary. It is the only Roman basilica which, in spite of several additional decorations, has retained its original shape. Legend claims that the plan of the church was outlined by a miraculous snowfall in August (possibly in 358). The legend is commemorated every year on August 5th, when white rose petals are dropped from the dome during the festal Mass. Opening Times: Daily: 7 am – 8 pm.
Catacombe di San Callisto
The San Callisto catacombs are the first cemetery of Rome''s Christian community and burial place of 16 popes in the 3rd century. They bear the name of St. Callixtus, the deacon hired to run the catacombs by Pope St. Zephyrinus, who was later elected pope (A.D. 217-22) in his own right. The complex is a network of galleries stretching for nearly 19km (12 miles), structured in five levels and reaching a depth of about 20m (65 ft.). There are many sepulchral chambers and almost half a million tombs of early Christians. These catacombs are often packed with tour-bus groups but the tunnels are simply phenomenal and definitely worth a visit. Visitors follow a guide in their own language, without any further recompense, but in time of great flow, groups of the same language, arriving at the same time, will be joined together in the grounds above the catacombs Opening times: Daily: 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm. Closed on Wednesdays, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and during February.
Chiesa Nuova
The Chiesa Nuova (New Church) is one part of a large complex, which was built in several stages beginning in 1575, to accommodate the work of St.Philip Neri and of the Congregation of the Oratory. Work started towards the end of the sixteenth century and the finer details, such as the facade, were finished nearly one hundred years later. The church was filled with the works of the most prestigious artists of the l6th century: Caravaggio , Rubens, Federico Barocci and Pietro da Cortona. Opening Times: Daily: 8 am – 1 pm & 4 pm – 7.30 pm (winter), 8 am – 1 pm & 4.30 pm – 7.30 pm (summer).
Trinita Dei Montei
This is one of only a very few churches in Rome with twin bell-towers and is probably the most recognized because of its location at the top of the Spanish Steps. This church was built in 1495 by the French but was later heavily damaged. There is a wonderful life-sized statue of Christ Carrying the Cross to the right as you enter the church. There are many side chapels, each decorated with Mannerist paintings, including two works by Daniele da Volterra, one of Michelangelo''s students. Nearby is a monastery that now houses a school managed by Dame del Sacro Cuore Opening times: Daily: 7 am – 12 pm & 4 pm – 7 pm.
Santa Maria della Pace
The first church here, built in the Middle Ages, was the church aquarellari, the water-salesmen who provided casks of water from the Tiber to parts of Rome that had no direct water supply. The beautiful present church was built in 1480 by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV, after the pope had made a vow to build a new church here if peace was restored between the Papal States and Florence, Milan and Naples. Pietro da Cortona added the Baroque facade in 1656, and the piazza enlarged to accommodate the carriages of the church''s wealthy parishioners. The church became very popular after Pope Alexander VII had restored it. For a long time, it was the only church in Rome that offered Mass in the afternoon on a regular basis. Opening times: Daily: 9 am – 12 pm & 4 pm – 6 pm.
Sant'Ignazio di Loyola
Cardinal Ludovisi built this beautiful church in 1626, dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola. The magnificent splendour of this chapel is typical of the period. Inside, you can admire the precious stones, gilding, marble and stucco work. Also noteworthy is the ceiling in which the frescoes do not look down at you but, rather, as you look up at them, they seem to be ascending into the Heavens. Opening times: Daily: 7.30 am – 12.30 pm & 4 pm – 5.15 pm.
Gesu Church
Construction of this massive church has begun in 1568 by Vignola and was finally finished by Giacomo della Porta in 1575. Michelangelo offered the new order plans for the first church but died before his plans could be acted upon. It is quite large and sits behind Palazzo Venezia where via d. Plebiscito and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II meet in Piazza del Gesu. You will find the tomb of St. Ignatius (its founder) buried under the altar. Also found in this church is the largest known globe made of solid lapis lazuli. Be sure to check out the exquisite ceiling painting, Triumph in the Name of Jesus. Opening times: Daily: 6 am – 12.30 pm & 4 pm – 7 pm.
Farnese Gardens
A remnant of the Farenese family''s Roman garden survives on the Palatine Hill, overlooking the Forum and near the Arch of Titus. This was one of the first botanical gardens in Europe. Most of the garden was destroyed by archaeological excavation, but now it is a beautiful spot with tree-lined avenues and rose gardens. Opening times: Daily: 9 am – 3.30 pm. Closed on holidays.
Botanic Gardens (Orto Botanico
Since the late nineteenth century the garden has belonged to Rome University. The garden is large and varied, with a huge array of species. Some plants are cared for in greenhouses, others thrive on the surprisingly wild upper slopes. Decayed fountains, ponds and staircases give a very Roman air of past grandeur, although there is nothing faded about the colourful trees and flowers. Opening times: Tue – Sat: 9 am – 3.30 pm (winter), Tue – Sat: 9 am – 6.30 pm (summer). Closed during August.
These lovely gardens overlook one of the most beautiful squares in Rome, Piazza del Popolo. This elegant park with its avenues of shady trees gets its name from the Pinci family, who owned it in the 4th century. Valadier designed the present gardens and the piazza in the early 19th century. Opening times: Daily 24 hours.
Villa Borghese
This largest public park in Rome is located north to the Spanish steps. In the 16th century, the area of the park was a vineyard. In 1605 cardinal Scipione Borghese, a nephew of pope Paul V turned the vineyard into a park. In 1903 the city of Rome obtained the Villa Borghese from the Borghese family and the park was opened to the public. This wonderful park features a lake, temples, fountains, statues and several museums. A perfect place to avoid the hectic city for a few hours. Opening times: Daily 24 hours.